Review: The Language of God- Francis Collins
by Francis Collins
Paperback, Pocket Books 2007
Interesting, but tries to cover too much ground
Dr Francis Collins is one of the worlds leading scientists, heading up the Human Genome Project’s successful sequencing of human DNA, arguably one of the greatest scientific and human achievements in recent times. This book is a kind of autobiography, tracing both his journey into medicine and genetics, and from Atheism to Christianity, as well as the issues of science and faith that came up in the process.
Despite the subtitle, this is not really a book of apologetics per se, but rather the evidence he presents is in the context of explaining his own journey rather than trying to convince anyone else. He seems to spend more time arguing for evolution than strictly for the Christian faith. If one is looking for apologetics, this is not the right book (as many of the arguments referenced are quoted from C.S. Lewis, go for Lewis instead,), but it is an excellent discussion on the interaction of science and faith.
The strength of this book is pointing out the error of the common idea that science and faith are in competition, and in particular the issue of evolution and how that relates to Christian belief. Collins critiques both Young Earth Creationism and Intelligent Design, and offers a kind of theistic evolution which he calls ‘Biologos’. The other major strength is the exploration of DNA, with a section which serves as ‘DNA for Dummies’, and from which he looks at how this human building ‘code’ points to a creator. At the heart of Collins’ conviction is contemplation of what Kant called ‘the starry heavens without and the Moral Law within’.
This book is probably not going to do much in the way of persuading anyone of God’s existence, but it does show how faith does not require one to check their intelligence at the door, and that scientific exploration leads to bigger questions that science in unequipped to answer. Collins does a good job of showing that science and faith are far from being in conflict.
Overall I felt that he was trying to cover too much ground with one book. I would like to see several of the issues expanded; for example, the appendix on medical ethics only scratches the surface of the issue, and Collins could presumably write a whole book on what he calls ‘Biologos’. Never-the-less, it was enjoyable and an insightful look into the mind of one the world’s top scientists.