The Language of God and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
 
 


or
Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading The Language of God on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

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

Francis S. Collins
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (591 customer reviews)

List Price: $15.99
Price: $13.20 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
You Save: $2.79 (17%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Want it Monday, Dec. 22? Choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
‹  Return to Product Overview

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

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.

From Booklist

Head of the Human Genome Project, Collins is one of the most famous and important scientists working today. And he is a former atheist. Collins came to faith slowly, after giving it much thought and, surprisingly, while practicing his scientific profession. In his view, scientific and spiritual worlds aren't antithetical. Rather, belief in God can be completely rational and complementary to the general principles of science. The son of "freethinkers" in rural Virginia, Collins was homeschooled by his unconventional mother. He studied physical chemistry at Yale and there shifted from doubtful agnosticism to full-fledged atheism. But later, as a medical student in North Carolina, he read C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and reconsidered. He addresses important questions--How can a loving God permit suffering? How can a rational person believe in miracles?--and explores such topics as the origins of the universe, Darwinism and human evolution, DNA, creationism and intelligent design, and, in the appendix, the morality of bioethics. His stimulating book should provoke much conversation and may change some minds. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Collins's argument that science and faith are compatible deserves a wide hearing. It lets non-churchgoers consider spiritual questions without feeling awkward."

-- The New York Times Book Review

"The Language of God is a powerful confession of belief from one of the world's leading scientists. Refuting the tired stereotypes of hostility between science and religion, Francis Collins challenges his readers to find a unity of knowledge that encompasses both faith and reason."

-- Kenneth Miller, Brown University, author of Finding Darwin's God

"What an elegantly written book. In it Francis Collins, the eminent scientist, tells why he is also a devout believer....A real godsend for those with questioning minds but who are also attracted to things spiritual."

-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

About the Author

Francis S. Collins is one of the country's leading geneticists and the longtime head of the Human Genome Project. Prior to coming to Washington, he helped to discover the genetic misspellings that cause cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, and Huntington's disease. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and in his spare time he enjoys riding a motorcycle and playing guitar.

From The Washington Post

Here we are, briefly, under the sun, one species among millions on a gorgeous planet in the remote provinces of the universe, our very existence a riddle. Of all the words we use to mask our ignorance, none has been more abused, none has given rise to more strife, none has rolled from the tongues of more charlatans than the name of God. Nor has any word been more often invoked as the inspiration for creativity, charity or love.

So what are we talking about when we talk about God? The geneticist Francis S. Collins bravely sets out to answer this question in light of his scientific knowledge and his Christian faith. Having found for himself "a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews," he seeks to persuade others that "belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science."

As a researcher who helped discover the genetic basis for cystic fibrosis and other diseases and as the director of the Human Genome Project, Collins brings strong credentials to the scientific side of his argument. For the spiritual side, he draws on Christian authorities such as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis. His aim is to address "extremists on both sides of the science/faith divide." On one extreme are those scientists who insist that the universe is purely and exclusively matter, and on the other are literal interpreters of the Book of Genesis who reject the last two centuries of scientific discovery. Although Collins's purpose is grand, his manner is modest and his prose clear, as befits a man more concerned with sharing his views on the nature of things than with displaying his ego.

Collins writes just enough about his youth for us to learn that he was brought up in a household indifferent to religion; he became an agnostic in college and an atheist in graduate school, where he studied chemistry. Only in medical school did he reverse that trajectory, gradually accepting the existence of God and embracing evangelical Christianity -- led to belief, like St. Augustine, less by longing than by reason.

Reason persuaded him that the universe could not have created itself; that humans possess an intuitive sense of right and wrong, which he calls, following Immanuel Kant, "the Moral Law"; and that humans likewise feel a "longing for the sacred." The source of this longing, the Moral Law and the universe, he came to believe, was the God described in the Bible, a transcendent Creator, Companion, Judge and Redeemer. He found additional evidence of a Creator in the eerie ability of mathematics to map the universe and in the numerous material properties -- from the slight imbalance between matter and anti-matter in the Big Bang to the binding energy within the atomic nucleus -- that seem to have been exquisitely tuned to fashion a world that would give rise to complex forms of life.

The God in whom Collins believes is no aloof Prime Mover who set the show in motion and withdrew to watch. He's a deity who intervenes (albeit rarely) in the course of things. Why God permits the suffering of innocents is a puzzle Collins does not pretend to solve, although he speculates, following C.S. Lewis, that we may need to suffer in order to learn. The resurrection of Jesus is, for Collins, the key intervention by a God "who takes personal interest in human beings." Late in the book, after a lucid account of genetic research and a spirited defense of evolutionary theory against proponents of creationism and "intelligent design," he reveals that on his path toward faith, Jesus was a crucial "bridge between our sinful selves and a holy God."

One can respect his belief in the divinity of Jesus without agreeing that such a belief logically follows from his argument for the existence of God. Likewise, Collins goes beyond the evidence when he speculates that "God's intention in creating the universe" may have been "to lead to creatures with whom He might have fellowship, namely human beings." Many readers will doubt that all 10 or 15 billion years of cosmic history merely prepared the way for us, a pack of inquisitive primates pondering the starry expanses from our speck of planetary dust. Still, it's bracing to be reminded, in our disenchanted day, that an eminent scientist can read the genetic code as sacred speech.

Reviewed by Scott Russell Sanders
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

INTRODUCTION

On a warm summer day just six months into the new millennium, humankind crossed a bridge into a momentous new era. An announcement beamed around the world, highlighted in virtually all major newspapers, trumpeted that the first draft of the human genome, our own instruction book, had been assembled.

The human genome consists of all the DNA of our species, the hereditary code of life. This newly revealed text was 3 billion letters long, and written in a strange and cryptographic four-letter code. Such is the amazing complexity of the information carried within each cell of the human body, that a live reading of that code at a rate of one letter per second would take thirty-one years, even if reading continued day and night. Printing these letters out in regular font size on normal bond paper and binding them all together would result in a tower the height of the Washington Monument. For the first time on that summer morning this amazing script, carrying within it all of the instructions for building a human being, was available to the world.

As the leader of the international Human Genome Project, which had labored mightily over more than a decade to reveal this DNA sequence, I stood beside President Bill Clinton in the East Room of the White House, along with Craig Venter, the leader of a competing private sector enterprise. Prime Minister Tony Blair was connected to the event by satellite, and celebrations were occurring simultaneously in many parts of the world.

Clinton's speech began by comparing this human sequence map to the map that Meriwether Lewis had unfolded in front of President Thomas Jefferson in that very room nearly two hundred years earlier. Clinton said, "Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind." But the part of his speech that most attracted public attention jumped from the scientific perspective to the spiritual. "Today," he said, "we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God's most divine and sacred gift."

Was I, a rigorously trained scientist, taken aback at such a blatantly religious reference by the leader of the free world at a moment such as this? Was I tempted to scowl or look at the floor in embarrassment? No, not at all. In fact I had worked closely with the president's speechwriter in the frantic days just prior to this announcement, and had strongly endorsed the inclusion of this paragraph. When it came time for me to add a few words of my own, I echoed this sentiment: "It's a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God."

What was going on here? Why would a president and a scientist, charged with announcing a milestone in biology and medicine, feel compelled to invoke a connection with God? Aren't the scientific and spiritual worldviews antithetical, or shouldn't they at least avoid appearing in the East Room together? What were the reasons for invoking God in these two speeches? Was this poetry? Hypocrisy? A cynical attempt to curry favor from believers, or to disarm those who might criticize this study of the human genome as reducing humankind to machinery? No. Not for me. Quite the contrary, for me 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.

Many will be puzzled by these sentiments, assuming that a rigorous scientist could not also be a serious believer in a transcendent God. This book aims to dispel that notion, by arguing that belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science.

This potential synthesis of the scientific and spiritual worldviews is assumed by many in modern times to be an impossibility, rather like trying to force the two poles of a magnet together into the same spot. Despite that impression, however, many Americans seem interested in incorporating the validity of both of these worldviews into their daily lives. Recent polls confirm that 93 percent of Americans profess some form of belief in God; yet most of them also drive cars, use electricity, and pay attention to weather reports, apparently assuming that the science undergirding these phenomena is generally trustworthy.

And what about spiritual belief amongst scientists? This is actually more prevalent than many realize. In 1916, researchers asked biologists, physicists, and mathematicians whether they believed in a God who actively communicates with humankind and to whom one may pray in expectation of receiving an answer. About 40 percent answered in the affirmative. In 1997, the same survey was repeated verbatim -- and to the surprise of the researchers, the percentage remained very nearly the same.

So perhaps the "battle" between science and religion is not as polarized as it seems? Unfortunately, the evidence of potential harmony is often overshadowed by the high-decibel pronouncements of those who occupy the poles of the debate. Bombs are definitely being thrown from both sides. For example, essentially discrediting the spiritual beliefs of 40 percent of his colleagues as sentimental nonsense, the prominent evolutionist Richard Dawkins has emerged as the leading spokesperson for the point of view that a belief in evolution demands atheism. Among his many eye-popping statements: "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.... Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion."

On the other side, certain religious fundamentalists attack science as dangerous and untrustworthy, and point to a literal interpretation of sacred texts as the only reliable means of discerning scientific truth. Among this community, comments from the late Henry Morris, a leader of the creationist movement, stand out: "Evolution's lie permeates and dominates modern thought in every field. That being the case, it follows inevitably that evolutionary thought is basically responsible for the lethally ominous political developments, and the chaotic moral and social disintegrations that have been accelerating everywhere....When science and the Bible differ, science has obviously misinterpreted its data."

This rising cacophony of antagonistic voices leaves many sincere observers confused and disheartened. Reasonable people conclude that they are forced to choose between these two unappetizing extremes, neither of which offers much comfort. Disillusioned by the stridency of both perspectives, many choose to reject both the trustworthiness of scientific conclusions and the value of organized religion, slipping instead into various forms of antiscientific thinking, shallow spirituality, or simple apathy. Others decide to accept the value of both science and spirit, but compartmentalize these parts of their spiritual and material existence to avoid any uneasiness about apparent conflicts. Along these lines, the late biologist Stephen Jay Gould advocated that science and faith should occupy separate, "non-overlapping magisteria." But this, too, is potentially unsatisfying. It inspires internal conflict, and deprives people of the chance to embrace either science or spirit in a fully realized way.

So here is the central question of this book: In this modern era of cosmology, evolution, and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews? I answer with a resounding yes! In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us. Science's domain is to explore nature. God's domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul -- and the mind must find a way to embrace both realms.

I will argue that these perspectives not only can coexist within one person, but can do so in a fashion that enriches and enlightens the human experience. Science is the only reliable way to understand the natural world, and its tools when properly utilized can generate profound insights into material existence. But science is powerless to answer questions such as "Why did the universe come into being?" "What is the meaning of human existence?" "What happens after we die?" One of the strongest motivations of humankind is to seek answers to profound questions, and we need to bring all the power of both the scientific and spiritual perspectives to bear on understanding what is both seen and unseen. The goal of this book is to explore a pathway toward a sober and intellectually honest integration of these views.

The consideration of such weighty matters can be unsettling. Whether we call it by name or not, all of us have arrived at a certain worldview. It helps us make sense of the world around us, provides us with an ethical framework, and guides our decisions about the future. Anyone who tinkers with that worldview should not do it lightly. A book that proposes to challenge something so fundamental may inspire more uneasiness than comfort. But we humans seem to possess a deep-seated longing to find the truth, even though that longing is easily suppressed by the mundane details of daily life. Those distractions combine with a desire to avoid considering our own mortality, so that days, weeks, months, or even years can easily pass where no serious consideration is given to the eternal questions of human existence. This book is only a small antidote to that circumstance, but will perhaps provide an opportunity for self-reflection, and a desire to look deeper.

First, I should explain how a scientist who studies genetics came to be a believer in a God who is unlimited by time and space, and who takes personal interest in human bei... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

It is possible for the ability to do serious science and the holding of devout religious belief to co-exist in the same person. This is the fundamental point of this book by one of the key scientists involved in the Human Genome Project, the mapping of the complete human DNA sequence. Collins goes beyond a discussion of DNA and records his own spiritual journey, which takes its inspiration from that of C.S. Lewis. Collins is adequate as narrator, neither overly professorial in the academic sections nor too emotional in the personal ones. His diction is not entirely crisp, but this is only a small distraction. An extra CD provides more than a dozen charts and diagrams. R.C.G. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
‹  Return to Product Overview