Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Francis Collins at Stanford

Frances Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project, spoke at an InterVarsity sponsored event at Stanford recently.

“As we study the DNA of our organisms, we are looking at the language of God,” Dr. Collins said. You may care to read the whole thing.

Regarding Collins' religious views, this is from the Wiki bio, to which I link in the first link above:

In Collins' book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (published in July 2006), he considers scientific discoveries an "opportunity to worship." In his book Collins examines and subsequently rejects creationism and Intelligent Design. His own belief system is Theistic Evolution (TE) which he prefers to term BioLogos. BioLogos rests on the following premises: (1) The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago, (2) Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life, (3) While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time, (4) Once evolution got under way no special supernatural intervention was required, (5) Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes, (6) But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.

We've looked at this before, especially by means of the link to the article by Cardinal Dulles, wherein he writes, in part:

Catholics who are expert in the biological sciences take several different positions on evolution. As I have indicated, one group, while explaining evolution in terms of random mutations and survival of the fittest, accepts the Darwinist account as accurate on the scientific level but rejects Darwinism as a philosophical system. This first group holds that God, eternally foreseeing all the products of evolution, uses the natural process of evolution to work out his creative plan. Following Fred Hoyle, some members of this group speak of the “anthropic principle,” meaning that the universe was “fine-tuned” from the first moment of creation to allow the emergence of human life.

A recent example of this point of view may be found in Francis S. Collins’ 2006 book, The Language of God. Collins, a world-renowned expert on genetics and microbiology, was reared without any religious belief and became a Christian after finishing his education in chemistry, biology, and medicine. His professional knowledge in these fields convinced him that the beauty and symmetry of human genes and genomes strongly testifies in favor of a wise and loving Creator. But God, he believes, does not need to intervene in the process of bodily evolution. Collins holds for a theory of theistic evolutionism that he designates as the BioLogos position.

Although Collins is not a Catholic, he approvingly refers to the views of John Paul II on evolution in the 1996 message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He builds on the work of the Anglican priest Arthur Peacock, who has written a book with the title Evolution: The Disguised Friend of Faith. He quotes with satisfaction the words of President Bill Clinton, who declared at a White House celebration of the Human Genome Project in June 2000: “Today we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.”

Theistic evolutionism, like classical Darwinism, refrains from asserting any divine intervention in the process of evolution. It concedes that the emergence of living bodies, including the human, can be accounted for on the empirical level by random mutations and survival of the fittest.

But theistic evolutionism rejects the atheistic conclusions of Dawkins and his cohorts. The physical sciences, it maintains, are not the sole acceptable source of truth and certitude. Science has a real though limited competence. It can tell us a great deal about the processes that can be observed or controlled by the senses and by instruments, but it has no way of answering deeper questions involving reality as a whole. Far from being able to replace religion, it cannot begin to tell us what brought the world into existence, nor why the world exists, nor what our ultimate destiny is, nor how we should act in order to be the kind of persons we ought to be.

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