A Scientist's case for God

I recently heard that Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, and author of the book The Language of God, has been appointed by President Obama as head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (I know, I must have been under a rock).

Not surprisingly, some of the "new atheists" - such as Sam Harris in a New York Times editorial - have criticised this move, suggesting that Collins, because he is a believer in God, is by that very fact disqualified from holding this position of leadership in the scientific/medical community. I think that critique is very interesting since it seems to be the case that behind what Sam Harris is saying is this: unless a person thinks as he thinks on this question of God's existence, then that person should have no place in the scientific conversation. It looks to me like an ideological power-grab, the very kind of dialogue-squelching that religious institutions have too often been guilty of in the past (the Galileo affair comes to mind).

Naturally, I believe that in so far as scientific discoveries and Christian faith both give insight into various aspects of the real world as it truly is, there is no necessary incompatibility between the two. All Truth is God's Truth, however it is discovered or revealed. Unfortunately, too many narrative crafters in American society (both in the media, the academy, and in the Church) have endlessly spoken of the "conflict" between "religion" and "science" (whatever those terms mean in the abstract).

I think that narrative needs to be vigorously challenged by Christian (and other) intellectuals and culture-shapers. To that end, I am happy to share this radio interview in which Francis Collins speaks of his own faith as one who is both a moderate Evangelical Protestant Christian and also an emminent scientist.

On the substance of the interview - I thought it was very good. I would love to have heard a little bit about the different sorts of "evidences" that are used in different disciplines (the criteria for evidence used to support a claim is quite different depending on whether one is an historian or a physicist, for example). Christian belief can be supported from various disciplines - the historical investigation (using rigorous standards of historical evidence) of the event of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth seems to me to be the most straight-forward (and N.T. Wright's book The Resurrection of the Son of God is among the most significant statements of the historical case for the Resurrection).



Blogger Nance said...

I suppose Mr. Harris would is disappointed in the Oxford for having allowed Dr. Polkinghorne to teach the sciences there for so long...

10:02 PM, September 14, 2009  

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