An Evangelical Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

Francis S. Collins, Ph.D.

Free Press 2006

Dr. Francis Collins, a world renowned geneticist and biochemist, was head of the much-heralded Human Genome Project, as run by the U.S. Government, which has done much to mark, code and qualify the human genome and DNA.  He is also a devout “evangelical Christian”, as he relentlessly re-affirms in his text.  He was raised in a passively Christian home, became an agnostic and later an atheist, but, thereafter, converted to evangelical Christianity. Despite his firm belief in Christianity, he believes that Christians do themselves a disservice by ignoring irrefutable evidence of evolution and trying to overcome same with arguments that cannot succeed in the long run.  Christianity can best preserve itself by fitting the newly discovered facts into God’s plan in some logical way, rather than holding to untenable contrary views.  He cites “Intelligent Design” (which indefensively “portrays God as a clumsy Creator”) as an example, and he notes the “Young Earth Creationists”, who assert that there is insufficient evidence to support evolution, are, in effect, arguing that 2 + 2 does not equal 4.  (He even notes that the human eye likely evolved over time, and he gives evidence in support.)


The key points of this Evangelical Christian include:


No serious scientist today doubts the theory of evolution.”


DNA connects “bacterial, mustard weed, alligators and your Aunt Gertrude…

Evolution can and must be true.”  (Ch.4, pp. 96-107)


There is a “compelling evidence of a common ancestor” for all of life’s forms. (Ibid)


To argue against such a preponderance of data, he says, is ludicrous and can only embarrass Christianity.  Even Pope John Paul II conceded as much.  Even Pope John Paul II wrote, in 1996, that “evolution is more than a hypothesis.”


Collins urges Christians to embrace evolution and still be firm believers in God.


The title of his book, Language of God, refers to DNA and the human genome.  The list of supporting books is too long to exhaust.  Collins takes the offensive and gives God the credit, and says, “Evolution is God’s elegant plan.” He repeatedly states that scientific evidence, to support evolution (including fossils and DNA) is simply “overwhelming”.  Evolution is God’s “elegant plan” and is “the language of God”.


Such refreshing candor does much to close the gaping chasm between religion and science.  Collins postulates that God “endowed humans with intellectual abilities” and that God would not be “diminished or threatened” by what we have learned, or will learn, about evolution. While “Rational argument can never prove the existence of God…[it can however show] that a belief in God is intensely plausible.”  He then presents many pages of “evidence” to support his belief in a Creator, which evidence is more philosophical than scientific[1] and begs the Big Questions.[2]


He ends his Language of God with a scholarly Appendix (“The Moral Practice of Science”) in which he defends genome research, stem cell research, etc., as they offer the keys to curing so many of mankind’s illnesses.  He doesn’t want Christians to burn the books that offend them or to reject out of hand their arguments, as has been the practice of religious devotees for centuries, and his last sentence is a plaintiff plea for rationality:  “We desperately need both voices [religion and science] at the table and not to be shouting at each other.” Collins’ honesty and blending of disparate religious and scientific views makes a material contribution to the survival of Christianity.  I am indebted to my daughter-in-law, Chris, who gave me this eminently rational book.

[1]  Examples of Collins’ “evidence”: (1) Altruism exists, therefore so does God.  (2) Since God is outside our world, he/she/it can never be understood by human reasoning.  (3) Since human reasoning can’t answer the Big Questions, the only choice is the leap of faith.  (4) The fact that God allows human suffering does not prove that God does not exist; it simply proves that God is “not a coddling God”.  (5) Mercifully, he is loathe to cite “visions” and “after death experiences” as “evidence” of God.  (6) The fact that we wish for something better beyond this life is “a pointer to God”.  (7) Without religion, men would be even more violent.  (This is, perhaps, the best of all arguments to support religions.)  (8) It is man’s “free will” that produces all of the evil.  (This ignores natural disasters, the birth of deformed babies, etc., or the troubling question, “Why would a loving God create (or tolerate) creatures capable of the incomprehensible pain and suffering and death that most creatures impose on all weaker than they?)

[2]  Who created the Creator?  Why does It allow such horrid natural disasters that kill millions every year and permit such pestilence, poverty, suffering and death, for example, that pervades so much of the world, e.g.,Africa?  Why would it have created such imperfect and carnivorous creatures that endlessly consume each other?  Why does life end in so many diseases (that have nothing to do with “free will”) and endless, excruciating physical pain for so many, including the most devout?  Why did all forms of life evolve from such violent beginnings (the Big Bang) and why are they virtually certain to end violently (in a Big Crunch) and possibly reemerge eons later into a similar cycle, emerging once again from primordial ooze?