- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

Dr. Francis S. Collins, author of “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” is the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.

The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Collins:

Question: Why do you think faith and science are so often at odds?

Answer: There have been some very outspoken, articulate holders of opinion that have occupied a lot of the stage, putting forward the agenda that faith and science are incompatible worldviews based on arguments that don’t resonate with the majority of people that have looked at the evidence, but still have attracted a lot of attention. On the one hand, we have very outspoken evolutionary biologists, someone like Richard Dawkins, who has taken the perspective that evolution proves that there is no more need for God. Dawkins does so by mischaracterizing what faith is all about and then finding it very easy to dismantle the cartoon that he has drawn.

On the other side, we have those who take an ultra-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. … It is entirely possible, and comfortable and rewarding and satisfying to find a synthesis between science and spirit that occupies this happy, harmonious middle ground.

Q: Why do you believe in God?

A: I was an atheist until my mid-20s. I didn’t grow up in a home where faith was practiced, so I didn’t have that foundation to build on. … I believe in God because I think it’s true. … A reasonable person would have to conclude that it is more plausible to believe than not to believe. That was my conclusion. That has been the conclusion for major intellectual thinkers down through the centuries. Nothing science has discovered or is likely to discover will really change that. The existence of God is not a scientific question. If you’re going to answer that, you have to approach it from another direction than measuring aspects of nature. …

I don’t think nature could have created itself. … That seems to require a Creator who is not part of nature, namely God. When I look at the way the universe is tuned, when I look at the way mathematics actually succeeds in describing it, that seems to me to be an elegant and beautiful aspect of what we see around us and one that calls out for a designer to have put things together that way. … I find this puzzling thing called the moral law, which is characteristic of all humans, and not other species. I don’t see an explanation for that in biology. The moral law calls me to do things that are contrary to what evolution would expect of me, to propagate my DNA and not let somebody else propagate theirs.

That moral law seems to me quite compelling as a signpost as something outside of nature, something that is good and holy and that is calling me to be the same. That sounds very much like God, and not a God who is disinterested in humans, but a God who is personally interested in each one of us.

Q: Do you believe in miracles?

A: Once one accepts the possibility of God then the possibility of miracles follows very quickly afterward. If God is outside of nature, there is no reason that natural laws have to apply to God and there is no reason that God could not stage an invasion of the natural world, which to us would appear as something miraculous. For me having come to a specific faith in Christianity, the specific miracle of Christ’s resurrection is the cornerstone of my faith. … Christ, as the son of God, as a divine being, could suspend those laws of nature if it suited God’s purposes to do so.

Q: What role does the Bible play in your life?

A: The Bible is an absolutely fundamental part of my life. It is a place for wisdom and guidance. There is a verse in James that I’m fond of that says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

How is it given? In many instances, it is in the pages of the remarkable document that describes the nature of God, the nature of Christ and the nature of who we are in the midst of God’s creation. I look to the Bible when I’m puzzled about something, and I’m looking for guidance. I don’t look to the Bible as a scientific textbook. I don’t think that’s how it was written, but I certainly look to it for answers that science is powerless to provide.

Q: Why has evolution become such a controversial topic?

A: It’s tragic that evolution has become such a defining point for disagreements. Certainly of the principles of Christian faith that I hold most dear, the interpretation of Genesis 1 is not on the short list. The principles of the faith that I count as most significant are the love that God represents, the love that He calls us to demonstrate to other fellow humans, the importance of seeking out and developing a relationship with God, and the person of Christ, as having stepped into the gap between our very imperfect nature and God’s perfection.

How someone interprets the first chapter of the first book of the Bible seems not really to occupy center stage in anyone’s really serious consideration of what faith stands for, but it has become a rallying cry for those on both sides who are seeking to promote an agenda that says you have to make a choice between science and faith. I think that’s terribly unnecessary choice and one that drives many young people to walk away from both.

Q: How has St. Augustine inspired you?

A: St. Augustine was probably the most brilliant theologian of all time, who started out as an atheist. He became converted to Christianity, then was almost obsessed with Genesis 1 and 2, and wrote five books on the interpretation of those, ultimately concluding that there was really no way to know what the author of those verses had intended, if it was a literal description or something that happened instantaneously, as opposed to over six days, or over a much longer period of time.

Augustine has numerous warnings in his writing to people interpreting those verses, not to attach themselves so strongly to a single view that if subsequent discoveries challenge that view, then they are made out to look foolish, and faith is made out to look foolish as well. I wish those warnings could be sounded again today, because I think the battle that is currently going on is not only bad for science. It’s bad for faith. It’s unnecessary. It distracts from people focusing on the true meaning of what faith is all about.

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