Friday, September 15, 2006

National Review: God is in the DNA

The current National Review prints a review by Michael Potemra of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 294 pp., $26) by Francis Collins. Collins disputes the idea that there is a necessary conflict between Christianity and science. His solutions will not be acceptable to many Christians or to any secular materialists. From the review:
Francis S. Collins is both head of the Human Genome Project and a believing Christian, and his new book — The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 294 pp., $26) — is a valuable attempt to reconcile these two essential human endeavors.

In Collins’s 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.” Man qua scientist explores nature; man qua religious believer worships God in the realm of spirit. Because there is but one reality, these two distinct spheres can and must be reconciled into a larger whole. “The Big Bang,” writes Collins, “cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that.” It is not the province of science to prove the existence of God, but it certainly offers evidence pointing in His direction.

Nowhere is Collins’s presentation more helpful than on the question of evolution. This Christian scientist is an unabashed Darwinist. “Darwin had no way of knowing what the mechanism of evolution by natural selection might be. We can now see that the variation he postulated is supported by naturally occurring mutations in DNA. . . . Darwin could hardly have imagined a more compelling digital demonstration of his theory than what we find by studying the DNA of multiple organisms.” The author goes on to describe how these material mutations have diversified the number of kinds of living things — among them, man. But he continues:

At this point, godless materialists might be cheering. If humans evolved strictly by mutation and natural selection, who needs God to explain us? To this, I reply: I do. The comparison of chimp and human sequences . . . does not tell us what it means to be human. . . . DNA sequence alone . . . will never explain certain special human attributes, such as the knowledge of the Moral Law and the universal search for God. Freeing God from the burden of special acts of creation does not remove Him as the source of the things that make humanity special, and of the universe itself. It merely shows us something of how He operates. ....
One problem many religious believers have with evolutionary science is its ostensible endorsement of randomness. Collins is helpful on this question as well.
If evolution is random, how could [God] really be in charge? . . . The solution is actually readily at hand, once one ceases to apply human limitations to God. If God is outside of nature, then he is outside of space and time. In that context, God could in the moment of creation of the universe also know every detail of the future. That could include the formation of the stars, planets, and galaxies . . . and the evolution of humans. . . . In that context, evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified. Thus, God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective, limited as it is by the tyranny of linear time, this would appear a random and undirected process.

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