The Language of God

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The Language of God

#1

Post by Canuckster1127 » Mon Aug 21, 2006 7:38 am

Book Review by Rich Deem

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetic ... e_god.html
Book Review: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
by Rich Deem

Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project, has written a book presenting his case for belief in theism. Having read the pre-reviews, I was looking forward to reading a fellow biologist's viewpoint on the evidence supporting the existence of God. Although Collins presents much of the evidence supporting a Christian worldview, he discounts nearly all of it in his discussions. For example, although Collins fully accepts the anthropic principle (and devotes an entire chapter to it in The Language of God), he rejects the origin of life as requiring any input from God. Collins present the standard high school textbook version for the naturalistic origin of life and seems unaware of the wealth of evidence that contradicts all naturalistic scenarios, saying "this is not the place for a thoughtful person to wager his faith." Collins goes on to reject creationism (but seems to restrict the term primarily to the young earth variety), relegating virtually all of Genesis (other than Genesis 1:1) to being "poetic" and "allegorical." Another chapter is devoted to criticizing intelligent design, indicating that it is a "God of the gaps" approach "ironically on a path toward doing considerable damage to faith." Ultimately, the entirety of Collins's appeal for faith falls upon the design of the universe (which is covered rather superficially) and the existence of "moral law" among human beings. Collins rejects the idea that moral law is not universal, although he does not mention that things such as human sacrifice were once widely practiced among different societies.

Collins proposes that God designed the universe with such precision that humans would be the end result. Thus, although Collins believes in "theistic evolution," the only part he accepts as being theistic was the original design of the universe. All subsequent events were the result of naturalistic processes (although the end result was guaranteed to result in the evolution of humans because of God's specific initial design). At some point in the process (Collins identifies it as occurring ~100,000 years ago) God put a soul into a group of hominids, creating modern humans. This kind of creation would be indistinguishable from naturalism and, therefore, would provide no evidence for God's existence. Also, it could never be falsified. Collins calls it "BioLogos" ("bios" through "Logos"). Accordingly, "BioLogos is not intended as a scientific theory. Its truth can be tested only by the spiritual logic of the heart, the mind and the soul." Although Collins calls it "spiritually satisfying" and "intellectually rigorous", I think most believers would find it biblically troublesome and scientifically irrelevant.

Collins experience in coming to faith was interesting and is detailed in the beginning and end of the book. He grew up in an agnostic family, and knew at an early age that he wanted to be a scientist. At first, he was interested in the physical sciences, since "biology was rather like existential philosophy: it just didn't make sense." However, nearing the end of a Ph.D. program, Collins took a biochemistry course and was hooked. He applied for and was admitted to medical school, from which he graduated and began genetic research and a clinical practice. During one clinic, Collins was confronted by a Christian patient who asked him about his spiritual beliefs. He didn't really have an answer, but determined that he should confirm his atheism by studying the best arguments for faith. A pastor directed him to Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. Collins found the arguments compelling, and cites C. S. Lewis as the principle basis for his conversion. Why did Collins choose Christianity over all the other monotheistic religions of the world? Although he came to faith on the basis of evidence that is generally agreed upon by deists, Collins rejected deism because of the presence of the moral law, which seemed to represent God's personal involvement with His creatures. He recognized that the presence of moral law meant that God was holy and righteous, but was extremely concerned about his inability to live up to the demands of moral law on the basis of his best efforts. The answer that seemed best to him was Christianity, which is the only religion that claims to have a solution to the problem of sin that makes one absolutely righteous and justified before God.

Although The Language of God is an interesting book to read, I don't think it will be satisfying to believers or convincing to non-believers.
Dogmatism is the comfortable intellectual framework of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is more decadent than the worst sexual sin. ~ Dan Allender

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Re: The Language of God

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Post by cslewislover » Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:03 pm

I read this book not too long ago and was pretty disappointed. At first, I was very excited because Collins discussed CS Lewis and the text was very well written. But the further I got into the book, the more it seemed like Collins was kind-of two faced. There are things about his faith and about other Christians that I thought he should have said differently, or not at all. His view of the creation of humans, explained above, is very unsatisfying. Not that reality should be there to satisfy me somehow, but Collins' view just didn't seem to jibe with my understanding of God as a personal God. I mean, it just seems too strange that God would create the universe and just leave until we were "baked" enough, and then he'd come back and "put the icing on." Besides these things, Collins just doesn't provide enough info to back up the theories presented or his claims.
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Re: The Language of God

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Post by Canuckster1127 » Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:15 pm

This is the review I gave the book on Amazon.

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
by Francis S. Collins
Edition: Hardcover



2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Not Quite what I expected but still very Good, February 1, 2008


When I purchased this book I took it somewhat at face value and imagined that it would be a strong treatise on the Human Genome from the man whose efforts primarily coordinated the accomplishment of cataloguing the entire human genome. Further I was hoping for some clear evidence for belief, just as the cover states.

My expectations weren't entirely met in that regard and I have to confess to a certain disappointment and sense that perhaps Dr. Collins or his publisher, decided to make that claim to sell books, rather than accurately represent what this book is.

What this book is, in my opinion, is still a very valuable thing. This is an apologetics book that gives the autobiography of a very intelligent and successful scientist and explains very well, why science as a discipline and faith in the existence of God as revealed through Christianity, need not result in cognative dissonance.

It is engagingly written. It addresses many of the main points needful in such a discussion today. It is a statement of faith from a man in a community often resistant to the idea of faith and from which it seems more statements of attack on faith come than support.

The average reader will find the discussions on DNA and the genome educational and catch some of the awe and wonder of a scientist who is prepared to accept both the existence of God as well as deal properly with science and working with the evidence it provides.

The advanced science reader already familiar with the basics of the field will not find a great deal of new material. The appendices address more in this realm than the main text itself.

Francis Collins is a Theistic Evolutionist. This is not a new position. Collins personal story tells of how he moved from atheism through the writings of C.S. Lewis, who himself was effectively a theistic evolutionist, although for some different reasons perhaps than Dr. Collins. He gives a very good and reasonable defense for his position which helps, I believe to counteract the Young Earth Creationist movement's hijacking of the framing of the discussion and demonstrates that faith need not equate to intellectual suicide.

That's a far cry however, from Evidence for his Belief.

In that regard, Theistic Evolution is not about evidence so much as how one understands and interprets evidence. Important, but not what is claimed.

It's still a worthwhile read and very thought provoking. I just wish it was presented more accurately as to what it is.

4 Stars.

Bart Breen
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Re: The Language of God

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Post by cslewislover » Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:45 pm

Nice. Even though I love CS Lewis, I needed to catch up on what he thought about evolution. I had actually seen quotes of Lewis' that indicated that he believed evolution was true, and that it was not (!), so I wanted to find out more. Then I forgot about it until just now, reading your review. I purchased Will Vaus' Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C.S. Lewis (InterVarsity Press, 2004), and I'd like to quote a couple of paragraphs:

"Perhaps one reason why Lewis does not have any religious difficulty with accepting the biological concept of evolution is because he believes that creation is taking place at every moment, not just at one point millions of years ago. The reason Lewis views creation in this way is because of his understanding of God being outside of time. He explains that there is no question of God, at one point of time, adapting the material history of the universe to free acts that human being perform at a later point. To God, all the physical events and all the human acts of time are present in an eternal Now. The liberation of finite wills and the creation of the whole material history of the universe is, to God, a single act. God did not create the universe long ago; rather, he creates the universe every minute" (p. 68). Pretty neat, but I'm not sure I agree with it! I guess because we know so much more now about the material universe, and can see it; I don't think God would change things before our eyes (in time as we know it) in the process of ongoing theistic evolution. I wonder what Lewis would say today?

"Whether the biological theory of evolution is right or wrong was irrelevant to Lewis. If it were found to be wrong or right, either way, it would have had no effect on Lewis's Christianity. What Lewis wanted to do as an apologist was to show that there was no final conflict between true science and the Bible. The value of Lewis's theistic evolutionary stance, whether one agrees with it or not, was that it allowed Lewis to focus on what he considered to be more important issues and to lead his readers to consider what he thought to be more vital religious questions" (p. 69). That's neat too, but it's gotten to the point now where people don't think the other religious questions are vital unless they know that there's a God involved with the whole thing to begin with.

Thanks for posting more Canuckster. By the way, if it makes you feel any better, my reviews on sites like Amazon are usually short and less than half the people like them!
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"I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." C.S. Lewis

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