Francis S. Collins, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”

This is a very good book, made excellent by the fact that the author is who he is:  That makes it worth giving and recommending to others.  Some notes:

  • He’s a huge fan of C.S. Lewis and quotes him repeatedly.  (No mention of Pascal, though.)
  • There’s a heading in the book (224), “Evidence Demanding a Verdict” (!).
  • It’s a Methodist minister in North Carolina who really sets him on the right road (and gives him Mere Christianity).
  • His personal path and the path of the book are similar to my “600 Words” essay elsewhere on this site.  That is, first you make the case for God and belief in God (most of his book is on this), and then ask, which God (219, 225)?
  • He has an interesting take on the Adam and Eve story (206-10), namely that what’s significant about them is not that they are the first humans biologically, but that they are the first humans whom God infuses spiritually, with the Moral Law etc. (he quotes C.S. Lewis here).

Collins believes in both God and evolution (“BioLogos”) and calls this “theistic evolution.”  He says (200) that there are “many subtle variants” of theistic evolution, “but a typical version rests upon the following premises” (and I quote):

  1. The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago.
  2. Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life.
  3. While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time.
  4. Once evolution got under way, no special supernatural intervention was required.
  5. Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes.
  6. But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature.  This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.

I did not read the appendix of examples of bioethical issues.