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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief Paperback – July 17, 2007

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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)
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Paperback Edition edition (July 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416542744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416542742
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (647 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,533 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

221 of 254 people found the following review helpful By Math Enthusiast on 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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230 of 265 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Kellemen on 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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105 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Random Bimms on April 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book, hoping it would describe, in detail, hard scientific reasons to believe in God. The cover, with its picture of DNA, led me to believe this.

It did not. Instead, it recycled the old arguments of C. S. Lewis. Don't get me wrong, I love Lewis and he largely helped me to remain Christian in college. But I have never been convinced by the particular argument that Collins recycles here.

I can summarize the main argument quite rapidly: We have a sense of morality within us. Therefore, God supposedly exists.

Collins tries to argue against the so-called "God of the gaps" fallacy. What people don't seem to realize is that if the gap is large enough, so that there is simply no way for blind natural forces to jump across it, it is not a fallacy to point this fact out.

There happen to be multiple huge "gaps" that there is simply no way for blind forces of nature to bring into existence without God's help. It is not a "fallacy" to point out these huge gaps. For example, it has recently been calculated that the absolute minimum size of DNA required for the simplest life forms is roughly 180,000 base pairs. And without God, supposedly dead chemicals just happened to randomly arrange themselves into the correct sequence? This is a major huge gap, and it simply points straight to God.

If you are looking for serious, hard science to back up your belief in God, I recommend that you read two books that made lifelong atheist Antony Flew recently convert to Deism. The two books are:

"The Wonder of the World" by Roy Varghese.

"The Hidden Face of God" by Gerald Schroeder.

The above two books are excellent, giving you nothing but hard science and great scientific details. This book by Collins pales in comparison, even if Collins happens to have impeccable scientific credentials.
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