often—in fact, with tireless repetition—we are told that the really
top-name scientists are not Christians. That intellectual rigor and
religious belief cannot coexist in the same person.
suspect that what is really the case, is that there are many more
believers who are scientists, but who fear the inevitable public
ridicule (perhaps, headed up by some of their colleagues) for making
their beliefs known.
That makes Francis Collins book, The Language of God,
all the more extraordinary—as an act of courage, one that will no doubt
empower many other believing scientists to brave the glowering of
secular ideologues, and declare their faith as well.
enough, Dr. Collins was not always a believer. He grew up (in his own
words, "the son of freethinkers" for whom faith "wasn't very
important." While he attended an Episcopal church as a young lad, it
was more of a social gathering, than a profound act of worship. "Faith
was not an important part of my childhood," he remarks. He was, at
best, "vaguely aware of the concept of God."
this vagueness soon faded. By the time Collins went to the University
of Virginia as an undergraduate major in chemistry, "I became convinced
that while many religious faiths had inspired interesting traditions of
art and culture, they held no foundational truth." He became an
agnostic, and then an atheist during his doctoral studies at Yale.
Yale, he went to the University of North Carolina to get an M.D., and
became ever more fascinated in the study of DNA. During his rounds as a
doctor, a very simple (but very wise) woman with an incurable disease
asked him a disarmingly simple question, "What do you believe?"
was stung. He believed he already had the answers, but suddenly
realized he'd never really asked the questions. "I had never really
seriously considered the evidence for and against belief".
brought him out of the muddle? The great Christian apologist C. S.
Lewis, who was himself, at first, an atheist. Collins read Lewis'
classic Mere Christianity, and he realized that "all of my
own constructs against the plausibility of faith were those of a
schoolboy….Lewis seemed to know all of my objections [against faith],
sometimes even before I had quite formulated them. He invariably
addressed them within a page or two. When I learned subsequently that
Lewis had himself been an atheist, who had set out to disprove faith on
the basis of logical argument, I recognized how he could be so
insightful about my path. It had been his path as well."
sum, Lewis argued him into a corner. "Finally, seeing no escape, I
leapt." A leap of faith, yes, but by no means irrational or one that
conflicts with science, least of all with his own area, the study of
DNA. "The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. He can be
worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His Creation is
majestic, awesome, intricate, and beautiful—and it cannot be at war
war with itself? As we mentioned above, many secularist spokesman (like
Richard Dawkins), and many well-intentioned Christians, assume that
science and religion are locked in a dual to the death. Collins rejects
this. For him, there cannot "be a real conflict between scientific
truth and spiritual truth. Truth is truth." The intricacy and beauty of
nature, from the amazing and elegant workings of DNA, to glory of the
heavens, declare their Maker—a truth Dr. Francis Collins is not afraid
to declare himself.
we must add, Dr. Collins' faith is not of the thin, theistic variety
that might be considered respectable among the intelligentsia. It is
robust and very Christian. He believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of
God, not as a vague principle, but a real person, God become man, who
was crucified, died, and resurrected.
There is something more interesting about Dr. Collins. He converted before he
became the Head of the Human Genome Project. When he was asked to take
over the Project, he did not immediately say "yes." He first "spent a
long afternoon praying in a little chapel, seeking guidance about this
wonders. What if the ACLU were peeking through the windows of that
chapel? Would they have tried to stop his appointment on grounds of
separation of church and state? If the media had caught him coming out
the chapel doors, would they have howled about his intellectual
backwardness, and his obvious unfitness for the position?