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Jonathan Witt Reviews Francis Collins

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Touchstone now has Jonathan Witt’s review of Francis Collins’ The Language of God in their online archive: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=19-08-032-f.

Christian Francis Collins is happy to accept ID in cosmology, an area outside his own personal expertise. Agnostic Paul Davies who has recently moved to the US, now holds that ID does not apply in cosmology or in biology. This better suits his latest world view. "I have this idea of the universe emerging from what John Wheeler called higgledy-piggledy in which, from the fuzzy maelstrom of the Big Bang, not only does the universe congeal but its laws congeal alongside" http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2006/1777528.htm# Dr Collins believes that the God of Christianity is not a fiddler when it comes to biology. This is clearly a philosophical preference and not an empirical conclusion. It is also held by Darryl Falk. ID embraces things that are difficult to make philosophical and theological sense of, because that is where we see the evidence leading. idnet.com.au
Why can F. Collins strongly refute ID but at the same time argue in ID terms? IMHO the reason is quite simple: most people involved in biological researches simply are not yet ready to discard NDE paradigm of life, whereas they are happy to use ID in other realms. For the same will not be the case for young researchers I see very good future for ID. kairos
Jonathan Witt: "What if the creator likes to stay involved? What if he doesn’t want to wind up the watch of the cosmos and simply leave it to crank out everything from supernovas to sunflowers? What if his relationship to the cosmos is also like a gardener to his garden? What if he wants to get his hands dirty?" Indeed. Materialists are befuddled because in their minds they hold an either-or concept of the Creator. Either there is no Creator, or he is Omnipotent. Of course, they got this from the classical theists. And most materialists seem content on having such a simplistic and dichotomous view. And the materialists make some good points, IMO. However, the classical theists could be wrong. There is a spectrum of possibilities here. Perhaps the "Most High" commanded the job done, and some (lessor) one(s) carried it out? To use Christian terminology, maybe the Father gave the order, the Son worked out the basic design, and the angels were the proximate executors of the plan. And maybe the plan had some opposition, powerful enough to do some interfering with the optimal design at various points. Who knows? The materialists chastise the anti-Darwinist for not having enough imagination. Perhaps everyone could stand to open their minds a bit here. Reality, whatever it is, it undoubtably far more bizarre than we can imagine. Anything is possible. mike1962
Perhaps the man knows instinctively that invoking design on the other side of the Big Bang (or in its "the first three minutes" ) will garner far less flack than finding design closer to home. You could draw up a hierarchy of opposition. At the head would be design, say, in the human genome, or in a nonmechanistic explanation of free will and consciousness, or perhaps in the origin of species, later in the Cambrian explosion, then in the origin of life, lastly in the laws of physics. Rude
Ekstasis said: So, I wonder how and when he hypothesizes that human development went from having one sole development method — RM+NS — to adding the dimension of moral law, the image of God (clearly beyond biological attributes, since God is spirit), and free will. Having read the book, and heard the man speak, I'm confident that he would tell you that God *did* intervene at various points in the story. For example, no TE supposes that the *soul* evolved in a naturalistic way. Collins affirms a miraculous intervention by God in which Adam (whatever Adam signifies) is endowed with a soul, and becomes "moral man". This is his (and others) explanation of the ubiquity of moral law. But he's clear in pointing out that this is a *theological* induction, not a scientific one. Collins, like Gingerich and others, don't *forbid* intervention by God in the story. Rather, they see the hyper-interventionist model that OECs and others must suppose as... clumsy. Stepping in at the appropriate point to endow proto-man with a soul and a moral conscious, creating "man" in the holistic sense is one thing. Interventionist "designing" if each of myriad flavors of bacteria that will go extinct millions of years before man even shows up is another. God's certainly capable of either or both; Collins point is that evolution exalts God as an *executive* rather than a handyman. An executive still gets involved -- deeply involved -- but at a different level. And it isn't simply a matter of personal preference. If the data supported and suggested a "handyman" creative process, I've no doubt Collins would be endorsing that. The facts on, and in the ground point strongly toward God as an "executive" Creator. -Touchstone Touchstone
Mentok, Good point. Besides, if Collins argues that God would not jump in at various points in time with divine intervention, than how does he explain the miracles, prophecies, and the resurrection of Christ? Seems like an untenable dichotomy, the logic of which is just waiting to tumble. Ekstasis
Caroline Crocker and several IDers that I know were TE's for a long time before coming around. Collins said recently, in his visit to GMU, that he would embrace ID if it were true. He had kind things to say about the sincerity of the major ID proponents: I greatly respect William Dembski Sal scordova
From reading the review it appears that Collins has a purpose in writing his book. It appears that he is trying to preach to two audiences. To the atheists and agnostics it appears that he tries to give reasons to believe in god using the same arguments most atheists and agnostics have already heard i.e the fine tuned universe, anthropic principle etc. Will repeating these old ideas make any new converts? To the people who believe in god he is trying to convince them that ID is wrong and that evolution is supported by a mountain of evidence. Will that make any converts? In reality appearences can be deceiving. While it appears that he is preaching to two audiences I believe he is really only preaching to one. I am sure he knows that there are many authors who have written about the fine tuned universe who are better qualified then he is to write on the topic. His speciality is in biology. He is using the book to preach to the religious community that it is not only scientifically preferred to accept evolution, but it is also theologically preferred. It's interesting to see the juxtapositioning of the fine tuned universe theory with his rejection of a god who interferes with the universe after it's beginning until the arrival of mankind. You would think that someone who argues for the existence of god via the fine tuned universe theory would not have overlooked the fine tuned earth which is needed to support mankind's existence. The logical holes in Collin's theory are enormous. Life on earth is sustained by very special circumstances. For instance if there were no insects then mankind could never have been able to feed itself because plants need insects for pollination. Insects also provide other services which sustain the eco-system and without which the world would be unlivable. The Earth's Moon acts as a stabiliser that holds our planet at just the right angle to produce the seasons and keep water liquid across most of the planet. Without our Moon the Earth would be as dead and solid as Venus. There are countless examples of a fine tuned Earth and a fine tuned Sun and a fine tuned Galaxy. But apparently if Collins is arguing the same argument as catholic priests Coyne and De Chardin then god had nothing to do with our fine tuned Earth or solar system. Everything which needed to come together in order for earth to be habitable just happened by chance, but the physical laws of the universe argue for a designer? Apparently Collins also repeats the standard theo-evolutionist canard: "ID portrays the Almighty as a clumsy Creator, having to intervene at regular intervals to fix the inadequacies of His own initial plan for generating the complexity of life. For a believer who stands in awe of the almost unimaginable intelligence and creative genius of God, this is a very unsatisfactory image." This stunning bit of brilliance foresees a god who apparently is easy to understand and obvious in his ways by the simple fact presented by the idea that a god by definition must be, and act, in the way that makes sense to you. Since it makes no sense that a god would create a world to tinker with, then god didn't create this world and didn't tinker with it. Any tinkering by god on Earth would reveal a "clumsy creator" according to Collins. Others might see such an entity which could in fact create the earth and all life to be something other then clumsy. Theology apparently isn't Reverend Collins' strong suit or so it would seem. As pointed out in the review by Jonathan Witt; the explanation of ID by Collins is shoddy at best. There was evidently either no effort to present ID accurately due to a shoddy research ethic, or it was purposefully done as part of a propaganda effort. In my estimation any scientist who writes a book extolling the virtues of evolution and denigrating the virtues of ID in today's world has to purposefully ignore the mountains of evidence against evolution and purposefully distort or ignore to one degree or another the actual arguments from the leading ID proponents. In fact that is what is done routinely in those types of books. The only difference with Collins is that is he trying to convince religious people that he is one of them and to be trusted. Clearly the content of his book belies that trust. mentok
I hope Dr. Collins comes around. Like the article mentions, he already employs design arguments in some cases, but then turns around and calls those arguments invalid when applied to biology. Hopefully he will read the review...that should remove some strawmen from his thinking. Atom
I just don’t understand this Collins fellow. He seems very intelligent, but if you believe God created the universe, and believe Darwinism fails to explain certain aspects of life, then why on Earth would you believe that evolution is an unguided process? If the universe itself is guided/created by intelligence, why believe the most important thing in it (life – although some may disagree) isn’t? Sounds like strong personal philosophy meets appeasement strategy is you ask me. shaner74
"His appeal to the Big Bang and the fine-tuned cosmos form two of his key design arguments. (The third, discussed below, looks at the moral law found across cultures and the fact of human altruism, features that Darwinism fails to explain but which are explained well by the claim that humans were created in the image of God.)" So, I wonder how and when he hypothesizes that human development went from having one sole development method -- RM+NS -- to adding the dimension of moral law, the image of God (clearly beyond biological attributes, since God is spirit), and free will. Ekstasis

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