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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief [Hardcover]

by Francis S. Collins
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (549 customer reviews)


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Book Description

July 11, 2006 0743286391 978-0743286398 1
Does science necessarily undermine faith in God? Or could it actually support faith? Beyond the flashpoint debates over the teaching of evolution, or stem-cell research, most of us struggle with contradictions concerning life's ultimate question. We know that accidents happen, but we believe we are on earth for a reason. Until now, most scientists have argued that science and faith occupy distinct arenas. Francis Collins, a former atheist as a science student who converted to faith as he became a doctor, is about to change that. Collins's faith in God has been confirmed and enhanced by the revolutionary discoveries in biology that he has helped to oversee. He has absorbed the arguments for atheism of many scientists and pundits, and he can refute them. Darwinian evolution occurs, yet, as he explains, it cannot fully explain human nature - evolution can and must be directed by God. He offers an inspiring tour of the human genome to show the miraculous nature of God's instruction book. Sure to be compared with C.S. Lewis's MERE CHRISTIANITY, this is a stunning document, whether you are a believer, a seeker, or an atheist.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Collins, a pioneering medical geneticist who once headed the Human Genome Project, adapts his title from President Clinton's remarks announcing completion of the first phase of the project in 2000: "Today we are learning the language in which God created life." Collins explains that as a Christian believer, "the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship." This marvelous book combines a personal account of Collins's faith and experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of more general topics of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution. Following the lead of C.S. Lewis, whose Mere Christianity was influential in Collins's conversion from atheism, the book argues that belief in a transcendent, personal God—and even the possibility of an occasional miracle—can and should coexist with a scientific picture of the world that includes evolution. Addressing in turn fellow scientists and fellow believers, Collins insists that "science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced" and "God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible." Collins's credibility as a scientist and his sincerity as a believer make for an engaging combination, especially for those who, like him, resist being forced to choose between science and God. (July 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Scientific American

A devoutly Christian geneticist such as Francis S. Collins, author of The Language of God and leader of the Human Genome Project, can comfortably accept that "a common ancestor for humans and mice is virtually inescapable" or that it may have been a mutation in the FOXP2 gene that led to the flowering of human language. The genetic code is, after all, "God’s instruction book." But what sounds like a harmless metaphor can restrict the intellectual bravado that is essential to science. "In my view," Collins goes on to say, "DNA sequence alone, even if accompanied by a vast trove of data on biological function, will never explain certain special human attributes, such as the knowledge of the Moral Law and the universal search for God." Evolutionary explanations have been proffered for both these phenomena. Whether they are right or wrong is not a matter of belief but a question to be approached scientifically. The idea of an apartheid of two separate but equal metaphysics may work as a psychological coping mechanism, a way for a believer to get through a day at the lab. But theism and materialism don’t stand on equal footings. The assumption of materialism is fundamental to science.

George Johnson is author of Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order and six other books. He resides on the Web at talaya.net


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743286391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743286398
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (549 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., helped to discover the genetic misspellings that cause cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease, and a rare form of premature aging called progeria. A pioneer gene hunter, he led the Human Genome Project from 1993 until 2008. For his revolutionary contributions to genetic research, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and the National Medal of Science in 2009. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and has a longstanding interest in the interface between science and faith. He currently serves as the Director of the National Institutes of Health. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and in his spare time he enjoys riding a motorcycle and playing guitar.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
186 of 212 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and God August 3, 2007
Format:Paperback
In this deeply personal book, Francis Collins tackles the "science vs. religion" debate. Since at least Immanuel Kant, we have known that this is a false dichotomy. However, modernity has in effect turned a deaf ear to Kant. In this book, Collins follows in the footsteps of the Kantian tradition, attempting the great synthesis of the empirical and the spiritual, the pure reason and the practical reason. Like Kant before him, Collins is sure to raise the ire of both sides of the aisle. And that is usually a good sign one is doing something right.

Collins reviews in the first part of the book his personal journey from atheism towards a theistic worldview, and the classical objections against it. His answers are mostly based on the apologetics of C.S. Lewis. This debate is much older than C.S. Lewis of course; most of his ideas can be found in St. Augustin, the Stoics, Pascal and Kant. However he does manage to present those arguments from a modern perspective, in an accessible conversational style.

The second part of the book is a popular science exposition, where Collins draws extensively on his considerable scientific background in both physics and biology and, in particular, the leading role he played in the Human Genome project.

The third part of the book is where Collins tries to reach a final conclusion about the issue of "faith in science and faith in God." He reviews his options, from Creationism to Atheism, and settles on the middle -of-the-road worldview he calls BioLogos. He expounds this theistic evolutionary view, according to which orthodox evolution theory is a fact, but also a divine means of creation. Here is where Collins slips a little, by trying to chew too much.
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205 of 238 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing July 31, 2006
Format:Hardcover
You have to hand it to Francis Collins, he is no fence-sitter, though some may mistakenly so perceive him. Some may think he is trying to win friends and influence people of all types--those who love science and those who love Scripture. In reality, a book like this is sure to displease more die-hards than please them. Evangelicals are sure to get squeamish about Collins' support for the big bang and evolution and his beliefs in a non-literal interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis. On the other hand, as previous vitriolic reviews clearly indicate the so-called loving left will and have attack Collins for daring to value Scripture and claim that believe in God, the Christian God no less, are not only faith issues, but supportable by science. So, he's attacked if he does and he's attacked if he doesn't.

And what does he do? Using his personal faith in God and his professional expertise as an internationally-known scientist, Collins presents a case for the integration of science and Scripture. Both disciplines require the use of reason and logic, as well as faith and experience. Both must interpret the evidence. In Collins' skillful hands and able prose, "The Language of God" is sure to challenge the intellectually honest reader who will read it with an open mind, rather than a defensive heart.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction."
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149 of 177 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good as far as it goes... January 14, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Collins' book is a good introduction to its subject matter but is unlikely to be satisfying to anyone who has spent any time reflecting on the issues discussed. If you are an atheist/agnostic who assumes belief in God is irrational or a Christian who assumes that Darwinism is incompatible with your faith, the book makes some thought-provoking arguments to jog you from your "dogmatic slumbers." But for people in both camps who have already spent some time reflecting on the issues, Collins' superficial treatment is disappointing. One question that both atheists skeptical of Christianity and Christians skeptical of Darwinism might want an answer to -- and the reason I bought the book -- is the question of how a process of evolution fraught with death, suffering, sub-optimal "design" and waste is compatible with the existence of a loving God. Collins doesn't even bring this question up, despite his discussion of Christian objections to Darwinism. Given his scientific stature, I encourage Collins to write a second more scholarly book to flesh out the arguments begun here.
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517 of 631 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great science, decent theology July 16, 2006
By Jeremy
Format:Hardcover
I read Dr. Collins' book with great anticipation, because of the his scientific reputation (one of the most respected research scientists in the world and the head of the Human Genome Project). I figured he'd offer a balanced approach to scientific and theological issues. I think that's why many people will read this book.

So, to the text. A large portion of the book is devoted to the basics of science such as the Big Bang, the theory of evolution, etc... In my opinion, this part of the book is probably one of the better overviews of the contentious issues in science today. Dr Collins makes an extremely convincing case for the plausibility and likelihood that the Universe was created through the Big Bang and that life on earth was created through evolution. This is the part of the book I have no qualms with.

The second part of the book is where my quibbles begin. At the beginning of this section Dr Collins lays out the case for the "Anthropic principle", a hypothesis that points to various aspects of the universe and suggests that they may point to God. Many of these points are very interesting and make for some thought-provoking discussions.

The more dubious part, to me, is where Dr Collins points to parts of the human psyche as evidence of Godliness. While initially deploring any explanation that suggests "God's in the Gaps", Dr Collins continues on to suggest that the human altruistic drive along with the collective search for spirituality is evidence of God. With this, Dr. Collins falls prey to the very philosophy he deplores, the "God in the Gaps" theory. It's unclear to me if he realizes that he's fallen prey to it, as he does not address this potential problem in his philosophy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Creator God Operates Apart/Above Natural Laws
The premise, "Creator God", requires us to recognize God - not only as creator of our known physical universe and life, but the natural laws that hold it all together. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Les Nordlund
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing
Expected it to be more dynamic; certainly the course materials were there to work from. I don't really like having to plod through a book that has the potential to be more... Read more
Published 9 days ago by kathy1509
5.0 out of 5 stars DNA made understandable,
I loved this book. He took a very complicated subject and spoke on my level.. Agenious speaking to regular folks
Published 10 days ago by thomas j. smith
1.0 out of 5 stars stupid stupid book
Do not be misled by the title of this book. THe author is a jesus freak who delves into the finer points of christianity,less than halfway in the book. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Zelalem Dawit
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
Praise God. Thank you to science for uncovering His genius. The Glory of God is magnified through the microscope and affirmed through reason.
Published 19 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound Argument Made for the Existence of God
The "Language of God" by Francis Collins makes a profound explanation/case for the existence of God which any unbeliever would have to take seriously.
Published 20 days ago by William Knoester
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy, to the point and not combative
I read this as an unapologetic agnostic. If you are looking for lots of hard data and examples for or against a belief system, this may be something you should skip. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Mickey M
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book
This is the very best book I have read on evolution and religion. The author hit the nail right on the head that science and religion are totally compatible. Read more
Published 21 days ago by Flexsteel
2.0 out of 5 stars I feel lied to
Being a scientist of sorts, a medical doctor, I was excited to read this book. I will say up front I have held to Intelligent Design because I doubted the science behind evolution. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Chris Psychi
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Inspiring and insightful, this is a book I will definitely recommend to others. Which I had picked a copy earlier.
Published 27 days ago by Angel Avila
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Why Believe in God? Here's Why!
Speaking of science (as opposed to pseudo-science) and Francis Collins, I just saw Collins interviewed on Charlie Rose about the book.

Collins says that human altruism and sense of morality absolutely cannot be explained by evolutionary theory. He thinks God tweaked human evolution to give... Read more
Jul 27, 2006 by B.K. |  See all 30 posts
Human "morality" is explained elegantly by evolutionary science
Human "morality" is also explained elegantly by Christian faith. It would seem that there are (at least) two "theories" here that explain the same phenomenon rather well. Short of proof for (or against) either one, which ever mantle we take up is dependent upon faith.... Read more
Jul 15, 2008 by C. Lambeth |  See all 5 posts
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