David's Reviews > The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

The Language of God by Francis S. Collins
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's review
Feb 11, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction, theology
Read in January, 2012

Like many other reviewers, I read this book hoping to find new insight into the debate about science and faith, particularly from the point of view of an author who had headed up the Human Genome project no less. I was singularly disappointed.

On the question of faith, he largely re-presents C S Lewis's arguments from Mere Christianity, bolstered with the writings of St Augustine. In doing so he leaves out some important steps in Lewis's logical argument. For example, Lewis is very clear that what he tentatively calls Moral Law should not be confused with human systems of morality, but rather is the ideal beyond those that we all strive for. This important point is lost in Collin's rendition. After reading Collins, I went back and read Lewis. While Lewis is dated in many ways, his arguments remain much stronger than anything Collins puts forward.

I was also confused as to the audience Collins was writing to. He flip flops between trying to convince his fellow scientists that having a faith is compatible with scientific inquiry and convincing is fellow evangelical Christians that reading the latest science will not undermine their faith. In doing so, he doesn't quite achieve either well.

The best part of the book is actually his dismantling of the scientific basis for Creationism and Intelligent Design. I was interested to learn about these as specific pseudo scientific theories. Something I was unaware of, living outside of North America. However, he provides a half-hearted job of dismantling the theological basis for biblical literalism.

His proposal of synthesis of faith and science through the perspective of BioLogos is intriguing but then left largely unformed. Perhaps the close proximity of this proposal to the Gaia hypothesis and pantheistic is a little too uncomfortable. In which case it would be unfortunate, as I believe this to be a fruitful area for Christian dialogue and engagement.

I almost stopped reading at the last chapter and am I glad I did not. The Appendix is probably the best part of the whole book. Here he does provide some interesting insights into current ethical dilemmas around genetics and stem cell research. However, he again comes through on the side of reasonable science. Which is fine, but leaves me wondering if he is still figuring out what role faith has to play in these questions.

On the whole, this is book that is unlikely to advance thinking and debate in this area and will leave most readers, from what ever view they approach it, disappointed.

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