Francis Collins

Posted By on March 19, 2008

Or
“A Scientist Presents Rationalizations for Belief”

.: Francis Collins was supposed to give a talk at Baylor today about his book, The Language of God: A Scientist Agrees with C.S. Lewis. Richard Dawkins was also supposed to talk today about his book, The God Delusion: No Subtitle Needed. Dawkins, of course, was not going to be at Baylor, but rather 100 miles south at the University of Texas. I opted to stay in Waco to see Collins for the simple reason that I wanted to ask him a question, and I saw no point in telling Dawkins, “I agree.”

.: Unfortunately, the weather gods demanded Collins stay trapped in an airport, and he couldn’t give his talk. Had I checked my email obsessively like I normally do, I would’ve seen the cancellation notice a few hours earlier, and then I could have driven down to Austin in time to see Dawkins speak. However, I stupidly spent most of my day in the book store reading Collins’s book, searching for any objectionable bits that might serve as question fodder. I found several, but I only wrote down one. It’s a claim that several others have made before (a theme throughout his book), but it’s worth a response.

.: On page 34 he writes:

If the case in favor of belief in God were utterly airtight, then the world would be full of confident practitioners of a single faith. But imagine such a world, where the opportunity to make a free choice about belief was taken away by the certainty of the evidence. How interesting would that be?

.: Imagine such a world: people would be compelled to accept the evidence as presented. The horrors!

.: Let’s try shifting the scenario from the theological to the scientific. Is it okay for some scientists to reject the HIV theory of AIDS in face of all evidence that supports it? Are we not all confident practitioners of a single belief in gravity? Is science less interesting because some theories have attained a degree of certainty such that nobody seriously doubts their truthfulness?

.: If someone makes an airtight case for a specific hypothesis and backs it up with hard, undeniable evidence, nobody is going to complain about the need for a plurality of beliefs in different hypotheses. Scientific truths are the same for Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Pastafarians, and I don’t see anybody making the claim that science is less interesting because of it.

.: So why are theological claims let off the hook? Why is it okay for the world to be awash in incompatible and contradictory beliefs? I agree that it’s interesting, but not the way Collins thinks it is.

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