Monday, November 27, 2006

"The Language of God"

Stephen M. Barr, in a review of The Language of God by Francis S. Collins in the December First Things, writes:
It was in medical school that his [Collins'] atheism suffered a blow: "I found the relationship [I] developed with sick and dying patients almost overwhelming." The strength and solace so many of them derived from faith profoundly impressed him and left him thinking that "if faith was a psychological must be a very powerful one." His "most awkward moment" came when an older woman, suffering from a severe and untreatable heart problem, asked him what he believed. "I felt my face flush as I stammered out the words 'I'm not really sure.'" Suddenly it was brought home to him that he had dismissed religion without ever really considering - or even knowing - the arguments in its favor. How could someone who prided himself on his scientific rationality do that? He was deeply shaken and felt impelled to carry out an honest and unprejudiced examination of religion. Attempts to read the sacred scriptures of various religions left him baffled, however, so he sought out a local Methodist minister and asked him point-blank "whether faith made any sense." The minister took a book down from his shelf and handed it to him. It was C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

Lewis gave Collins a simple, though crucial, insight: God is not a part of the physical universe and therefore cannot be perceived by the methods of science. Yet God speaks to us in our hearts and minds, both in such "longings" for the transcendent as Collins had himself experienced and in the sense of objective right and wrong, "the Moral Law."...
Barr later writes:
It is interesting that Collins, a biologist, should take most of his "evidence for belief" from physics. ... One notes, by contrast, that some of the biologists who are most outspoken in their atheism have come from a background in zoology rather than the physical sciences. It may be that the scientists most susceptible to crude materialism are those who know the least about matter.
The review is not yet available online. It is not entirely uncritical, but makes the case that Collins' book is a real contribution to the Science v. Religion debate.

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