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“The Language of God”

I’m almost finished with “The Language of God” by Francis Collins. I’m surprised that Sam Harris has accused it of striking a blow against science. And yet not. I haven’t read any of Harris’ books, but I imagine he would have been unable to read this book without a crippling amount of antagonism. I do have a criticism for the book which may shed some light on Harris’ reaction, but let me leave that for the end.

Collins eloquently takes down Creationism and ID, while making the same sad obvservation I’ve noted. Semantics is everything. Creationism no longer means “God created the universe.” It has now taken on a meaning that associates it only with a false premise: that the earth was created in 4000 BC.

Ami’s view, not in the book: If YE creationism is what one believes, one must also believe that God is a liar. This would make God an immoral being that can’t be trusted.

Collins said that this belief has also caused many a soul to reject God since it is so obviously false once all the data is understood that it becomes hard to hold on to the rest of the faith. I know. It was my own struggle.

ID is also shot down as a God of the Gaps theory. In the interest of fairness, I must admit that for a time Irreducable Complexity looked appealing to me, too. But I learned of this at a point where I had also begun thinking about the elegance of God’s creation. It just seemed clumsy that God would have to intervene so much. It also went against something I had been thinking about: the more God intervened, the less free will we could express. This seemed in direct contradiction to what God had in mind for us: agency to choose or not choose. So it wasn’t long before I rejected the IC gap.

Collin’s protests against ID are based on more scientific grounds than that which I have shared, though I took this path as well. Having lead the Human Genome Project and being intimately involved in genetic research, he is aware of several instances of IC claims being refuted. A naturalistic theory for the gradual evolution of IC can almost always be formulated.

I did read Darwin’s Black Box. It seems that Michael Behe has written another, the title of which is embarrassing to any religious biologist: The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. I’m not sure if I’ll read it or not.

My criticism: On the one hand, I appreciate his testimony. It is deeply thought out and sincere, though I can’t agree with all of it (I am, after all, Mormon and not Christian). On the other, I think it was misplaced in this book. In the short run, it may have seemed a good idea to be so open about his religious experience. Perhaps he feared this would be his only chance to have such an audience. But in the long run, I fear it will reduce the effectiveness of his arguments for harmony between the religious world view and Darwinism in the eyes of Atheists like Sam Harris.

Because of that, this book is most useful as a plea to his fellow Christians (including Mormons) to accept evolution and the greater scope of God’s creation that goes along with it. 

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  1. You’re Mormon “not Christian?” Don’t you believe in Christ as do other Mormons? Don’t you claim to be a disciple of Jesus? If so, that makes you a Christian.

  2. Hi Alma,

    I’ve struggled with that bit of semantics too. I am definately Christian, in that we are believers and followers of Christ, and the Atonement is absolutely central to gospel doctrine.

    But I am not a member of the same religion that espouses such paradoxes as the Trinity (God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost are all one single being but they are also three seperate) and “God can make a rock he can’t move, but then he’d be able to move it because he is All Powerful.” The traditional christian version of Heaven is frankly, abhorrent to me. As is their Hell. The idea that an innocent can die and go to Hell simply because of ignorance is another piece of doctrine that I consider immoral.

    There are deeper philosophical differences. I may write a post about it. But it all comes down to the fact that the word Christian is used to define a religion that Mormon Christians are quite different from.

    But I must also admit that if you had heard me say it, you would have noted the bit of sarcasm. Sorry for the distraction.

  3. Ami- nice spot and great discussion. Thanks for dropping by on my blog

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