Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dr. Francis Collins - The Language of God: Intellectual Reflections of a Christian Geneticist

A thought-provoking lecture by Dr. Francis Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. He is currently the Director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins presents the case for harmony between faith in science and faith in God, and shares his personal intellectual and spiritual journey from agnosticism, to atheism, and to Christianity.

Collins had this to say in a debate with noted atheist Richard Dawkins: "Barring a theoretical resolution, which I think is unlikely, you either have to say there are zillions of parallel universes out there that we can't observe at present or you have to say there was a plan. I actually find the argument of the existence of a God who did the planning more compelling than the bubbling of all these multiverses. So Occam's razor - Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward - leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination."

As an agnostic, I don't agree with Dr. Collins' conclusions, but then I don't agree with Dawkins' conclusions either (Collins rightly points out that agnosticism is only a principled position if an agnostic can state that neither side has made out their case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is indeed the position that I take). Nevertheless, I respect his thoughtful open-mindedness, his commitment to ethical research in science (and the need to consider the moral implications of that research), and his search for personal truth. In a society where we have an increasing number of zealots on both the believer and disbeliever sides of the debate about the existence of "God", who spend their time talking past each other as opposed to with each other, Collins offers a refreshing example of reasoned and rational discourse, where he is willing to engage in a meaningful and respectful way those he disagrees with.

Paul Kimball

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