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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Language of God, Chapter 2, by Francis Collins

A previous post gives the contents of Chapter 1, and the bibliographic and author information for The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

Chapter Two considers four common arguments against faith in God (and against the validity of religion in general) with rebuttals.

The first argument is that religion is just wish fulfillment. Collins, following C. S. Lewis on this topic, says that, if religion were really wish fulfillment, the god we imagine would be much more indulgent than the God of the Bible. He also says that just because we may wish for a god, that does not prove that there isn't one.

The second argument is that there is a lot of harm done in the name of religion. Collins does not deny that, but points out that there is also a lot of good done in the name of religion, for example the story told in the film "Amazing Grace." He also points out that great evil was done by a supposedly atheist society, the Soviet Union. Finally, he says that it is not reasonable to judge the truth of religion solely by its human adherents. He asks "would you judge Mozart's The Magic Flute on the basis of a poorly rehearsed performance by fifth-graders?" (p. 42)

The third argument is the evil that exists. How could God allow it? Collins has a personal story of great evil done to an innocent person. I'll let readers of the book discover that story for themselves. He follows Lewis (and many others) in pointing out that much evil is the result of God's allowing humans free moral choice, and our choices being bad. He also says: . . . if the most important relationship we are to develop on this earth is a relationship with God, and if our existence as spiritual creatures is not limited to what we can know and observe during our earthly lifetime, then human sufferings take on a wholly new context. We may never fully understand the reasons for these painful experiences, but we can begin to accept the idea that there may be such reasons. (p. 46)

The fourth argument is about miracles. How can a rational person, a scientist, believe in them? Let's put it this way. Collins is a scientist's scientist, and he believes in them. He does say that we use "miracle" much too often, and that we should not assume that everything we can't explain is due to divine intervention, but he sees no reason that a scientist cannot believe in miracles. Nothing in science can disprove them, as they are outside the purview of science.

Collins won't convince a reader who refuses to be convinced, but he makes a good case.

Thanks for reading.


elbogz said...

I have enjoyed his book. I think more people should stand up and say it is time for a truce between science and religion. But I agree with your last statement most. Collins won’t convince people that refuse to be convinced.

As he discusses later in his book, his talks to religious groups cause a lot more scowls and gnashing of teeth than any other group. Even in my own family the mere mention of “Darwin” causes a reaction like a just dropped the ‘F” word. My wife want’s to know with all my geology background why I never talk of Noah’s flood. I tried to explain that for whatever reason, the evidence of Noah’s flood has been hidden from us. I think the same is true in the world of Science and faith. One side, (Science) the facts are there to be seen. The other side (Faith) the facts are not laid out in front of us. They are only found in one place, and that is within our own hearts.

Martin LaBar said...

You are sadly right, and the fact that Christians won't accept scientific evidence, or lack thereof (as in the case of Noah's flood), means that those who do pay attention to such evidence will pay even less attention to Christianity.

Here's a former Young-Earth Creationist's telling statement about the geological evidence for "Flood Geology."


elbogz said...

I have read Glen Morton's writings more than any other authors. What had the greatest impact on me were the stories of the young earther’s that walked away from the church completely. They tossed around the idea of, ok, I still believe in God, for a while, but eventually realized the lie they were told was too great.

I see that today. Young people aren’t stupid. They are going to see that what the church tells them about geology or biology or Darwin or any other ‘ology, was untrue. It’s my fear that the entire generation will then just walk away from the church after learning of the lie they were told.

Martin LaBar said...

It's mine, too.