“The Language of God,” a thought provoking ride through genetics and faith

We have recently completed reading a book entitled “The Language of God” by Francis S. Collins.  Dr. Collins is extremely gifted geneticist who was the head of the project which lead to the mapping of the human genome.  This makes him a rock star in the scientific community.  He is also a Christian, which makes him a rock star in the Evangelical Church.  In this book, his aim is to use both his personal faith journey and his revolutionary work as a geneticist to reconcile what would appear to be a long, deep chasm between the two most popular theories regarding the origin of the world:  Evolution and Creation.

Collins takes great pains to appease both camps, and ultimately ends up defending a position which theoretically appeases both:  Theistic Evolution, TE, or what he calls “Biologos.”

The concept of Biologos, as we understand it, is that the earth is indeed billions of years old, yet the process of evolution, which God chose as His creative process, has been intricately designed and nurtured by Him.  As such, it rejects both the literal seven day creation narrative in Genesis and takes it as allegory, which, given the text, may be a defensible position, as well as natural selection as the guiding light of evolution, which, again, given the mathematical improbabilities of random changes evolving into the world in which we live today, may also be defensible.

However, Dr. Collins is such a brilliant mind that, as he studies the question from nearly every angle and offers a rebuttal to the Evolution, Creation, and Intelligent Design theories, His presentation of Biologos, while an attempting to create harmony, leaves itself open to the very critiques with which He so skillfully dismisses the other theories.

Namely, Biologos appears as simply another “God of the gaps” argument which Collins so eloquently dismisses Intelligent Design on its obvious shortcoming:   If you are basing your faith in God on the fact that there are phenomena that cannot be explained, limiting God to acting in only those spheres that mankind does not yet understand, you run the danger of having your faith shaken if and when science provides an irrefutable, natural explanation for an occurence once thought possible only through divine intervention.

Dr. Collins’ rebuttal of the literal seven day creation also rang empty.  In the single page with which He addresses the theory, He fails to raise any other argument apart from the fact that there is undeniable proof that the earth has been in existence for billions of years.  He then implies, from His revolutionary work on the genome, that all living things share a remarkable similarity at the base level, which he logically extrapolates as proof that all that we see is the result of an evolution from a base form.

While Biologos may help those who cannot imagine that the very concept of time itself may be flawed to sleep at night, both His elaborate defense of the mechanism of evolution and haste in dismissing the creation narrative in Genesis leaves the 47% of us who do believe in the literal young earth creation story feeling somewhat slighted, as the crux of the question lies in two different perceptions of time which Dr. Collins discounts without addressing objections as he so skillfully does when rebutting pure evolution and Intelligent Design.

To sum up a lengthy explanation of our position, that not only the perception of time, but time itself is subjective, we ask the following question:  Is time currently flying by for you, or does it seem to be dragging on forever?

No matter how one responds, the question itself implies that the perception of time is relative when taken against creative processes.  If time is flying by, this implies that your perception of your ability to create is outstripping your perception of the time available to dedicate to creative tasks.  If it is dragging on forever, it could be said that you are creating things at a pace more rapid than you had allowed based on your perception of time.

So it is with the observance of natural phenomenon.  Evolutionary theories imply that creative processes involved in genetic mutations take place over a constant flow of time.  Anyone who has realized a creative activity will quickly recognize that the flow of work or ideas which leads to observable outputs is hardly constant, rather, there is a burst of activity, followed by a consolidation and revision, and finally an output.

Our conclusion, albiet informed by nothing more than our logic, is that evolutions that appear to have taken billions of years to be realized at a constant rate of change, are the product of a burst of creative activity which has then slowed, and consolidated since its inception.  The rates of change, observed in genetic mutuations and carbon dating, which we take for a fact now, cannot be extrapolated backwards nor forwards as constant rates of change simply because current rates of change have been observed and calculated in the past 100 years.

We must say, however, we are not a scientist, rather, a philosopher in this sense.  Our position may or may not be defensible.  Only the broken yardstick of time will tell.

Puns aside, we find ourselves in agreement with Dr. Collins’ premise that basing one’s faith in literal interpretations of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, leaves one open to any attacks on those interpretations which necessarily present a crisis of faith for those who lean on them.  In place of literal interpretations, he offers both the existence of the nearly universal moral code amongst the human race, as well as the well documented eye witness accounts in the Bible, namely the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as irrefutable evidence that God exists and has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus.

He then adds what we consider the most reliable proof of God’s existence and care for mankind, that we can have a personal relationship with our Creator.

We also enjoyed Collins’ presentation of C.S. Lewis’ brilliant argument for Christ’s diety as presented in “Mere Christianity:”

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

While the book does not go as far to settle the debate regarding the origins of the world as one might believe, the true gem of this book lies in the appendix, where Collins explores the ethical implications of his work on the human genome in a style which is truly awe inspiring.

Perhaps the most striking example is His observation that those who oppose stem cell research on ethical grounds must also oppose in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures to be consistent, for during IVF, fertilized human eggs which are in the early stages of development are routinely