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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents…
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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Francis S. Collins

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2,052505,718 (3.76)26
An instant bestseller, The Language of God provides the best argument for the integration of faith and logic since C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. It has long been believed that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. It is an irreconcilable war between two polar-opposite ways of thinking and living. Written for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin's personal story of struggling with doubt, as well as the many revelations of the wonder of God's creation that will forever shape the way they view the world around them.… (more)
Member:mhhza
Title:The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
Authors:Francis S. Collins
Info:Free Press (2007), Paperback
Collections:Your library, Currently reading
Rating:
Tags:Christianity, creation, evolution, genetics, science

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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins (2006)

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Big disappointment. Collins believes in God, but does it believe in creationism. He believes in “theistic evolution.” ( )
  lynngood2 | Nov 30, 2020 |
The author, Francis Sellers Collins, is an American physician-geneticist who discovered the genes associated with a number of diseases and led the Human Genome Project. He is director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Despite the subtitle of this book, Collins presents little in the way of actual evidence for belief in God; rather, he asserts the somewhat less ambitious argument that science and religion are not incompatible and that belief in God is not necessarily irrational.

His principal reason for believing that God exists is the prevalence of what he calls the “Moral Law.” Collins asserts, “the concept of right and wrong appears to be universal among all members of the human species (though its application may result in wildly different outcomes).” Collins borrows the concept and the vocabulary of the Moral Law from C. S. Lewis, but idea strongly resembles what Aquinas called “natural law.” Interestingly, Aquinas did not assert that natural law implied the existence of God; rather, he saw natural law as a natural (naturally) consequence of people living together in society. Collins, on the other hand, finds his Moral Law exceedingly difficult to account for as a result of evolution, and hence in need of some extra-scientific (supernatural?) explanation.

[Here Collins elides over the huge field of scientific study into evolutionary biological altruism; that is, the phenomenon of individual organisms behaving in a way that benefits others of its group, at a cost to themselves. By behaving thusly, the altruistic organism reduces the number of offspring it is likely to produce itself, but boosts the number that other similar organisms are likely to produce. Yet somehow, this trait is reproduced continually. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out, altruistic behavior is common throughout the animal kingdom,]

Collins also argues that modern cosmology points toward something like the Creator described in Genesis. He states: “The Big Bang 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.”

He does not seem to be aware that David Hume showed that the concept of ‘cause’ is an empirical one that does not necessarily apply to the process of bringing something into existence ex nihilo.

Collins also argues that the anthropic principle points to God’s existence. The anthropic principle observes that human life could have evolved only in a particular type of universe. The principle states that 15 constants of nature, such as the speed of light and the force of gravity, seem to be fine tuned to allow man’s presence on earth in the universe in that human life could not have evolved if any one of those constants differed even by a small amount. Although Collins recognizes, that “no scientific observation can reach the level of absolute proof of the existence of God,” he still finds that “ for those willing to consider a theistic perspective, the Anthropic Principle certainly provides an interesting argument in favor of a Creator.”

Collins is a biologist, and he is most comfortable in dealing with how the theory of evolution affects belief in God. Interestingly, he uses his understanding of genetics and evolution to refute two common arguments for God’s existence.

The first, which was famously articulated by William Paley in 1802, is the argument from design. Collins asserts that developments in paleontology, molecular biology, and genomics can account for the complexity of life without an appeal to a designer.

A second, related, argument is that the formation of the macro-molecules DNA and RNA, and hence life, could not have arisen spontaneously without violating the Second Law of thermodynamics. Collins responds:

“But this betrays a misunderstanding of the full meaning of the Second Law: order can certainly increase in some part of the system…but that will require an input of energy….In the case of the origin of life, the closed system is essentially the whole universe, energy is available from the sun, and so the local increase in order that would be represented by the first random assembly of macro-molecules would in no way violate this law.”

Collins does not discuss another concept that contravenes the argument from design. Emergence theory adds a whole new dimension to the questions of what can and cannot arise “spontaneously.” Complex systems self organize; the resulting entity has properties its parts do not have on their own, but that emerge only from their interaction.

Collins goes into substantial detail to explain the molecular and genetic mechanisms of evolution in order to assuage the fears of believers that modern science makes God unnecessary. However, in the end he relies on the Moral Law rather than science, design, emergence, or complexity to discover God:

“The comparison of chimp and human [DNA] sequences…does not tell us what it means to be human. In my view, 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.”

Collins goes further than merely making an argument for God’s existence—he even asserts that the Bible, at least Genesis, can be read allegorically in a manner consistent with modern scientific thought. I can’t resist being a bit captious in criticizing his biblical exegesis. He says Genesis “implies that God always [emphasis added] existed.” Rather, Genesis implies that god existed before the rest of the universe, but that is not necessarily “always.” Collins also (like Augustine) interprets the act of God in Genesis to be creation ex nihilo. But the actual language is ambiguous: it can be interpreted to assert that God started with a pre-existing “formless void” in which “darkness covered the face of the deep” and that God sent a wind “over the face of the [pre-existing] waters.” But in the end, recognizing that Genesis should not be read literally, Collins concludes:

“Despite twenty-five centuries of debate, it is fair to say that no human knows what the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 was precisely intended to be.”

Amen.

It may also be fair to say, as both historians and theologians have, that the writers of the Bible were a diverse group who were no more “authorities” on God than Collins is, and who had a political and cultural agenda they were pursuing that structured the stories they canonized.

Collins cites the example of the Galileo controversy as a cautionary tale for believers to avoid attacking scientific findings on the basis of religious beliefs. In that, he follows in the footstep of Augustine who warned in the fifth century:

“If [nonbelievers] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe these books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason?”

Collins has a great deal of trust in the scientific method’s ability to discover some kinds of truth, but he does not fear that science will disprove or obviate religion. He says, “If God is outside of nature, then science can neither prove nor disprove His existence.” On the other hand, he acknowledges that “rational argument can never conclusively prove the existence of God.” His principal message in writing this book is that in the absence of proof either way, “serious thinkers from Augustine to Aquinas to C. S. Lewis have demonstrated that a belief in god is intensely plausible.” Ultimately, he rests his own belief on what he calls mankind’s “universal search for God.”

But is that yearning a “universal search for ‘God’”, or is it in fact a universal desire to understand death and calamity, with many cultures analogizing from human patterns of organization that there must be a powerful being “somewhere” who is overseeing the whole business?

Furthermore, there is, in addition to the desire to understand these issues, the desire to control them. If there is in fact a powerful being, mightn’t one pray to such a being to alter the course of events? This doesn’t seem to me so much a search for “God” that establishes its truth (because everybody believes it? - that hardly constitutes proof), as an appeal to wishful thinking.

This is a thoughtful book by a thoughtful man who is also a distinguished scientist. Nevertheless, his belief in God rests on a perception that what he calls the Moral Law and the search for God are shared by all men. My perception is that not all men share that yearning. Cf., America’s president from 2017 to 2021 and millions of others. With that observation, I must conclude that Collins’s belief rests on pretty shaky grounds.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Nov 13, 2020 |
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.
  Fellowshipwc | Aug 8, 2020 |
Francis S. Collins is a scientist. At first, I put the word scientist in quotes, but I realize that he actually is a scientist according to a lot of different people. While the man seems to know his stuff, he expects me to take the idea of God on faith. This is something that isn't acceptable to me. I know that a lot of things are out there where people just shrug their shoulders, but that has always seemed like a cop-out. While an impressionable young man and a doctor, Collins spent time in South Carolina or some other place with a lot of faith. He talked to a woman with angina (I assume he means a chest pain) and realizes that he doesn't have any answers about God. So this young impressionable man goes and talks to a minister friend or the local minister and he pointed Collins to C.S. Lewis.

With C.S. Lewis Collins finds an argument so compelling and persuasive that he includes them in the book. One of them was a little gem where the gist is that the want of something implies its existence. So you see boys and girls, God must exist because everyone has the desire for something higher than one's self. You could also subscribe to the Anthropic Principle. This is the idea that all of the Universe was made specifically for man. This argument actually is compelling though, so I will type a bit of it out. If some of the parameters of the universe were just slightly off, we would not be able to exist. We live in a Goldilocks zone where everything is just right.

It still isn't enough to take down my raging atheism, though it was quite easy to read this book. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Genes, science, faith ( )
  aron124 | Jun 22, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Francis S. Collinsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cappelli, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feddersen, ArneÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuentecilla, EricCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hagelberg, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
IndexstockCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mock, DavinaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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An instant bestseller, The Language of God provides the best argument for the integration of faith and logic since C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. It has long been believed that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. It is an irreconcilable war between two polar-opposite ways of thinking and living. Written for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin's personal story of struggling with doubt, as well as the many revelations of the wonder of God's creation that will forever shape the way they view the world around them.

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