The main thesis of Francis Collins’ new book, The Language of God, is that you can be a credible scientist and a Christian by believing in theistic evolution.
Dr. Collins has very impressive academic credentials, having done his doctoral-level studies in physical chemistry, and having received an M.D. and Ph.D. in medical genetics. He also has marvelous accomplishments as a physician and as head of the Human Genome Project, which successfully mapped the complete human DNA sequence.
I find portions of the main text to be an excellent resource for the layman—the sections regarding the information in the human genome and, especially, an appendix that gives a layman’s explanation of the science of embryonic and adult stem cell research, cloning, somatic cell nuclear transplantation, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis.
However, when Collins discusses the moral aspects of some of these areas of research, he introduces relativism by allowing for compromise solutions. In particular, regarding embryonic stem cells, he uses the situation of the formation of identical twins to invoke confusion about when the embryo acquires a soul. To me, this sidesteps the real issue, which is that from the moment of the union of the egg and the sperm, the zygote (embryo) has the full complement of DNA and is fully human—no further discussion is needed. He also ignores the very significant advances made in treating actual patients with adult stem cell line research technology, which has successfully treated more than 60 different types of problems.
His well-documented, profound, and far-reaching accomplishments in the area of observational science should not be confused with his musings in the area of origins science. First of all, multiple times throughout the book he promotes the false argument that the conflict is between science and faith in God. Dr. Collins lists various presuppositions, but accepts the big bang as if it were observed fact, and not a presupposition. He ignores the open letter to the scientific community, which can be easily found on the internet, and which is now signed by 405 secular astronomers, scientists, engineers, and independent researchers who declare the big bang to be dead.
Dr. Collins closely adheres to the assumptions and misrepresentations of Hugh Ross. For example, he dismisses Genesis as history in one brief sentence on page 83: “Unquestionably the language is poetic.” This is compounded on page 207, where he invokes allegory again regarding Adam and Eve. He writes, “Some biblical literalists insist that the wives of Cain and Seth must have been their own sisters, but that is both in serious conflict with subsequent prohibitions against incest, and incompatible with a straightforward reading of the text.”
Dr. Collins, of all people, should know that initially the human genome was free of the accumulated burden of mutations—but he ignores this because of his presupposition that Adam and Eve were the continuation of some pre-Adamic race, an idea necessitated by Collins’ belief in evolution. According to him, Adam and Eve allegorically represent pre-human beings transformed into human beings at some point in the distant past by an act of God instilling into them human characteristics such as a soul, the “Moral Law,” and the ability to appreciate beauty. Dr. Collins sidesteps the incongruity between death preceding sin, which evolution requires, and death following sin, which Scripture quite clearly states is the case in Romans 6:23: “
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” When Scripture refers to Jesus as the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), should Christ also be taken allegorically?
As for the subsequent ban on marrying very close relatives, it was just that—subsequent—decreed by God in Moses’time, in recognition of the accumulation of mutations in the genome, which began after the literal Adam and Eve. This demonstrates application of real science by God himself. Dr. Collins’ assertion that Genesis 5:4b (“
Adam … had other sons and daughters”), when read in a straightforward manner, does not explain the source of Cain’s and Seth’s wives, is incomprehensible to me.
Unfortunately, the book is filled with flaws in interpretation of observed facts, due to Collins’ presupposition of evolution. But most disappointing to me as a physician are the repetitions of disproved evolutionary canards regarding human anatomy. Research has confirmed that the design of the retina is ideal, that the spine is well designed for optimum flexibility and weight bearing, and that the appendix does have extremely important functions as part of the immune system in the earlier years of life.
Dr. Collins’ characterization of young-earth creationists as extremists by using the label “ultraliteralists” does him no credit and should give him pause to rethink his interpretation of Scripture, for one day we all will have to stand before the Lord and account for our treatment of His Word.