Item description for The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Walker Large Print Books) by Francis S. Collins...
Overview An instant bestseller in hardcover, this book provides the best argument for the integration of faith and logic since C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Dr. Collins continues to lead major scientific endeavors at the cutting edge of genetics. He has also become one of the country's leading spokesmen for the role of faith in modern life. His story of his own conversion, from youthful atheism to adult belief, and his logical arguments for why belief in God is more plausible than atheism, are moving and persuasive. The Language of God is destined to be read and re-read for years to come.
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Format: Large Print
Studio: Walker Large Print
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.5" Weight: 0.98 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2007
Publisher GALE GROUP
Edition Large Type
ISBN 1594151865 ISBN13 9781594151866
Availability 0 units.
More About Francis S. Collins
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is a pioneer gene hunter. He spent fifteen years as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he led the international Human Genome Project to a successful completion. For his revolutionary contributions to genetic research he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and the National Medal of Science in 2009. He is the Director of the National Institutes of Health.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Walker Large Print Books)?
Interesting synthesis of science and religion Nov 17, 2008
Dr. Frances Collins, a microbiologist in charge of the Human Genome Project, lays out his reasons for belief in God and why he believes faith and science are compatible. He discusses how he came to change from atheism to Christianity and the evidences he found of God's existence, such as "Moral Law" (the universal acceptance in all cultures of "right" and "wrong"). He also discusses the contributions of science in helping us to understand so much of the world around us. His explanation of the Big Bang and evolution are especially interesting, and cleared up some questions I had. He is critical of some currently popular concepts and movements such as Intelligent Design and Creationism, pointing out why they are baseless and counterproductive to their aims. He also tries to bridge the contentious gap between faith and science, arguing that each has its limits and how they complement each other.
I read this book expecting it to be heavier on science than religion but I felt it was the opposite. As someone who believes in God yet has always been fascinated by science, I appreciated most of all the discussions and evidences for the Big Bang theory and Darwin's Theory of Evolution (he also discusses the different uses of the word "theory"). I appreciated his conversion story and explanations for his belief, but I also appreciated his frank discussions of where many religious people go overboard. On the other side, his discussions of the contributions of science and it's limits was very enlightening. But Dr. Collins goes further to draw some conclusions which I'm not sure I can agree with or even if I fully understood. He argues for a concept called Theistic Evolution (which he proposes to rename BioLogos) which seeks to reconcile evolution with the story of creation.
Overall, a very interesting book that will be most enlightening to those who can read it with an open mind. While I don't agree with all his conclusions it has certainly given me some things to think about.
Not Convinced Yet Nov 15, 2008
I have been moved tremendously by everything I have read about Dr. Collins work, the human genome project, and the incredible information science has uncovered. What is heartwarming is that he is a seeker of God, and gives God the credit as the creator of this universe. I believe humankind will continue to discover information that will show us there is a designer behind all we see around us.
His analytical comments in the book criticizing Paley for his watch story as being childish in its reasoning, could just as well be applied to his own reasoning in putting it down.
On pages 132 when he tries to address the fossil record and macro evolution, his explanations to me are a total gloss. He goes to the finch beak story and moves quickly away from it to an example more significant to him showing macro evolution. He references "sticklebacks", as "proof" that macro evolution occurs around us all the time. Whoa!! He goes on to speak of his contacting malaria somehow, after having been vaccinated against the disease, as somehow playing into his "scientific" support for macro evolution.
I came away from the book marveling, appreciative of understanding, and respecting very highly the work of all involved in the human genome project. I also was in no way convinced evolution has occurred in the way he tries to take God out of the picture, and stick him back in at the same time.
Contribution to the body of knowledge for reconciling science and God Nov 10, 2008
Francis Collins, an acclaimed and respected scientist and leader of the Human Genome Project, offers commentary on reconciling science, evolution, deism, and the Judeo-Christian beliefs.
In the first section of the book, Collins begins by invoking C.S. Lewis (which he does throughout the book) and his "Mere Christianity" argument for The Moral Law. This concept is key for Collins and provides the foundation for his beliefs since, as a biologist, he is fully committed to the theory of the evolution. He argues the Moral Law cannot be explained by science and evolution since "It cannot be accounted for by the drive of individual selfish genes to perpetuate themselves". Later in the book he confesses "The Moral Law still stands out for me as the strongest signpost to God".
Here Collins indeed submits valid logic for Moral Law as proof for God, for refutation of Freud's assertion that God is "wishful thinking, inventing an answer because we want it to be true" and for the question of "why would a loving God allow suffering", but does not fully develop it. Basically he has just rehashed Lewis without shoring up any of Lewis' holes or adding fresh insight.
It is tempting to stop here and question his argument, but that discourse is not really what "The Language of God" is about. Instead, rather, Collins hits his stride in the middle of the book with his well-researched assertion that the Big Bang theory and evolution are not necessarily mutually exclusive with deism and even the Judeo-Christian God. Collins' subject matter expertise in biology and genetics provide the means for an effective and convincing argument.
It is during this discussion he introduces "God of the gaps" thinking which is the resorting to the explanation of specific divine action by God when scientific or human understanding fails. Way, way too many fundamentalists and evangelicals fall into this trap, and as Collins says, it does a disservice to Christianity. I have been searching for the phraseology to describe this for a long time.
In the last section of the book, Collins takes on all extremes - Richard Dawkins and the atheists, the evangelical creationists, and the Intelligent Design camp. He provided a fair summary of these views and a compelling case against their biases.
For me, what stands out in this part is the notion that as much as traditional fundamentalist-evangelical Christians want the Bible to be true, literal and inerrant (as one would think the Inspired Word of God should be), the scientific evidence inherently defeats that ... short of severe rationalization and cognitive dissonance, and quite frankly, blind stupidity. Unfortunately, the non-literal interpretation of any of the Bible puts believers on a slippery slope to eviscerating the tenets of the belief. Collins says "mature observers are used to living on slippery slopes and deciding on where to place a sensible stopping point" for liberal theology. He says "many sacred texts do indeed carry clear marks of eye-witness history" while "stories of Job and Jonah, of Adam and Eve, frankly do not carry that same historical ring." Maybe that could be a valid statement, but what is the test to determine whether an interpretation is literal or not? Collins does not offer one. Apparently he has not thought any further other than to to postulate that we *should* know.
In his final formal chapter, Collins revisits his conversion from atheism and shares some deeply spiritual moments which do not really fit the tone of the previous ten chapters. He also makes passing comments that summarily dismiss proven and documented evidence that many New Testament passages have been discredited due to poor translation or biased editing of the copyists.
"The Language of God" is a significant contribution to the body of knowledge that reconciles religion and science. Collins skillfully argues "the scientific and spiritual worldviews both have much to offer. Both provide differing but complementary ways of answering the world's greatest questions, and both can co-exist happily within the mind of an intellectually inquisitive person living in the 21st century". Unfortunately, the book is marred by under-developed logic on theology and textual criticism and some quite unexpected sappy sentimentalism. If the author had stayed on subject, I would have given a four or five star-rating, but as is, just a three.
An Honest Discussion by a Leading Scientist Nov 8, 2008
Francis Collins is perhaps the world's leading scientist. His writing defeats the myth that science and religion are not compatible. They actually are similar in methodology and in their concern for truth.
Helpful for some Christians, but generally Unconvincing and Weak Oct 7, 2008
The Language of God features the perspective of Francis Collins, a world leader in genetics and head of the Human Genome Project, on the issue of reconciling science and faith. Collins begins by explaining his own history: how he came to be interested in science, and especially how he came to confess faith in Christ after experiencing a very secular upbringing. Collins offers insights of what initially lead him to faith: patients in his medical profession asking him big, spiritual questions, and C.S. Lewis' description of the Moral Law, the dilemma regarding interpreting Jesus in his historical personage, and the innate desire in human beings that finds fulfillment only in God. Collins goes about defending these views of Lewis, and championing their logic and profundity.
The remainder of the book is Collins explaining how he personally is at peace with being both a scientist and a Christian. He goes at some length explaining what science has to say about God, describing some elements of design in the universe, and discussing the Big Bang. He also gives some evidence for macroevolution, all the while describing why the view of Young Earth Creationists regarding scientific interpretation of the world is deeply mistaken. Collins himself espouses the idea called "theistic evolution," a belief that God in his sovereign power guides evolution along, and that the natural laws are his tools. Though, Collins prefers to call this idea his coined term BioLogos. Collins even gives some of his own thoughts about how human beings could have evolved and at the same time be seen by Christians as being made in the image of God and gifted with soul. By the end of the book it is clearly seen that Collins believes that science is enhanced by a belief in God, and that science in no way threatens its Creator.
While reading this book, I found myself very disappointed, especially during the first half in which it seems as if Collins is trying to convince the reader that it is very rational to believe in God, and that there is evidence that is very defensible. Personally, I am under the philosophical (rather Kierkegaardian, to be more specific) conviction that faith in God is something that is inexplicable, and that there is no amount of evidence that should be able to move a person to faith. In other words, if faith is founded on evidence, and if it can be destroyed if incontrovertible evidence existed in opposition to it, then it never was faith to begin with! Faith is the persistent and hopeful belief in the absurd. It is quite silly especially to go about proving the existence of God from nature, because the existence of God is only important for us if we prove the existence of a God who cares about us and wants to communicate with us, and nature can never, in any circumstance prove such a "romantic" thing! And proving that there may have been a "designer" is irrelevant to our lives; the god postulated is absolute nothingness unless it is described by a theology that comes about only by faith! So therefore, the only way one can say something important about God is if the person already has some sort of descriptive or at least intuitive faith, so it is pointless to say anything about God from mere observations of the world.
I not only disagree with the intentions of Collins in the first half of the book; I also disagree with many of his arguments. The subtitle for the book "a scientist presents evidence for belief" is not fulfilled in the slightest. First of all, in his discussion of Agape being a stamp of the divine on humanity, he very flippantly dismisses all evolutionary theory on this matter. Sure, it may be a more difficult element to explain by evolution, but it is not impossible! Here Collins falls into the "god of the gaps" mode of thinking, though he argues against this mode later on. Indeed, natural selection can accomplish much diversity in form and function via direct and indirect means. It is not unfeasible to propose that caring for others and developing an ethics is a byproduct of the high cognitive and problem-solving abilities of humans evolving over time.
There are other problematic arguments that Collins makes. First, he is not a very good theologian, and has no education at all in metaphysics. He relies heavily on the works of C.S. Lewis, and C.S. Lewis never claimed to be more than a reflective, amateur theologian. The Moral Law is a heavily debated issue that the history of philosophy has struggled with since the ancients, and Collins not only seems to attribute it to Lewis, but describes it so simply with little rebuttal. Also, Collins affirms Lewis' argument from desire, which claims that we were meant for another world if we have a desire which something in this world cannot satisfy. The criticisms of this argument are huge, as the argument is not even considered a proof! Just because we desire something does not mean that something exists, and it is easy to see that such a desire (a byproduct of evolution perhaps) can easily lead to construction of God.
In addition, to put down the psychoanalytic idea that belief in God is just wish fulfillment, Collins asks, why would we want a God who curbs our freedom? Collins answer does not make sense metaphysically, as there is no freedom for mankind unless there are limits: Freedom would be meaningless and contentless without its contrary: limitation. Therefore, we would want there to be a God for meaning, so that we can be free. The psychoanalysts are not refuted.
By the end of the book, however, I did come to an appreciation of Collins' work. I think that while his book was not necessarily for me, it definitely could benefit a wide audience, most especially people of faith who fear science. The simple theology he uses, his congenial tone, and the clear conviction in his writing that what he believes is the most sensible and fruitful view of God and science is enough to get a more general audience to open up their minds a bit and become more informed concerning this age-old debate. Collins writes clearly with many personal anecdotes and reflections to keep the reader interested. He was also the man to do it: as both a Christian and leading scientist, he commands attention and respect from the general audience by default. He did a great job pointing out the types of questions science is supposed to ask, and the types of questions theology is supposed to ask, but then again, there are many books out there that say the same thing. I would not necessarily recommend this book to a scientist who has a repugnance for belief in God, as I think Collins does a meager job at building a straw man, but I would recommend it to someone who is struggling with how his or her faith can cope with scientific discovery.
So what do I think of this whole faith vs. science controversy? If it, by chance, has not shown through above, I believe that my faith has little bearing on the observations of scientific inquiry and vice-versa. I am very pleased with the idea that God created the world by whatever means he did, and that the natural laws, discoverable by science, are his movements. I do not believe that God had to ever use "supernatural" intervention, necessarily: even the resurrection of Christ from the dead could have been a "natural" law in a sense, but one that science has not been able to describe and predict! Genesis I interpret as a myth, but a quite important one that teaches us how we relate to God and He to us. I am content to know that my faith needs no evidence, and that science can never disprove God anyway. As for the raging controversy in the mainstream, however, I just encourage more respect, more books and more conversations that clear up the issues and use demystified language. Eventually, however, people will come around. They surely did about the Earth being round!