In his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Francis Collins- a brilliant scientist and leader of the Human Genome Project- tries to still the waters of the wild debate taking place between religion and science. Collins, an advocate of theistic evolution, is primarily concerned with the origins debates. According to Collins, science and faith are fighting a battle that does not need to be fought- a battle that is hurting both, but especially faith.
I am in much agreement with Collins, and I think that many believers have unwisely drawn a line in the sand and refused to accept the possibility of evolutionary theory. This is indeed hurting faith quite a bit, because it presents people with a false dilemma of ‘deny evolution or deny Christ.’ I am not opposed to drawing a line in the sand, for example, one clearly cannot be a Christian if he denies that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. But there is simply no need to categorically deny the possibility of theistic evolution.
On the other hand, I am not particularly fond of Collins’ approach to this issue. He essentially claims that Intelligent Design theory, and in fact any attempt to demonstrate the existence of God on scientific grounds, commits the ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ fallacy. I’ve written elsewhere on this topic, suffice it to say for now that such a claim is less than convincing, especially because one could easily accuse Collins of committing the very same mistake. He grounds the foundation for rational belief partially on the fact that humans seem to have a strange desire to fulfill the Moral Law and have a tendency to seek after God. Yet, one could easily claim that such arguments merely commit God-of-the-Gaps reasoning; after all, science may one day reveal the underlying biological reasons for these tendencies of thought. Similarly, Collins seems to support some version of the Teleological Argument. According to this, the fundamental constants of the universe are finely tuned to allow for life, and so we have good reason to believe in a Designer. I think this is a great argument, and I have defended it against a plethora of objections elsewhere- but how does Collins suppose that this is not an example of ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ reasoning?
Once we clear away the irrelevant God-of-the-Gaps charge, Collins does actually provide a good defense of some arguments for God’s existence, and he rightly shows that there is great evidence for God’s existence even if one accepts evolution entirely. But, Collins’ discussion is necessarily brief and unsophisticated. Those who are truly interested in pursuing such arguments should probably seek other sources.
The Language of God is an accessible book, and I found it very enjoyable to read, as much for the chance to hear Collins’ testimony as to hear his reconciliation of science and faith. Christians are certainly fortunate to have such a great scientist in their camp. Whether or not Collins is convincing, I appreciate his efforts to demonstrate that science is not necessarily (or actually) antagonistic to faith.