Leading genetic scientist is a Christian believer

Shrewsbury writes:

If Richard Dawkins were dead today, he’d be spinning in his grave.

LA replies:

It’s a good article, but with a major flaw. Francis Collins, who led the team that cracked the human genome, has not “found God” recently. That is what is indicated by the article’s title and its lead paragraph: “[Collins is to] publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced that miracles are real.” “why he now believes” makes it sound as though this belief is something new in his life. In fact, as told later in the article, his conversion to Christianity occurred when he was in his 20s. Collins, according to Wikipedia, is 57.

Today’s journalists are contemptuous of factual truth, which for them is trumped by sensation. It’s so much more dramatic to suggest that Collins has had a conversion in middle age, following his discovery of the genome and his fame, than to say that he’s been a believer for the last 30 years. If not outright dishonest, journalists are unable to grasp the meaning of what they are writing, and fail to notice and correct gross contradictions.

- end of initial entry -

Derek C. writes:

Richard Dawkins is very much aware of Francis Collins’s faith. He’s debated him in a couple of forums, including Newsweek. You should note that Collins is a theistic evolutionist. He’s very critical of Intelligent Design.

LA writes:

Yes, that he believes in the inherently absurd notion of theistic Darwinism is a mark against him. But being a professional scientist, and a believer, maybe he could see no other choice.

But we have to remember that when scientists utter their mantra that “Darwinian evolution is the foundation of all biology,” this is untrue. And to the extent it is true, they are only speaking of micro-evolution, changes within a species. The conflation of changes within a species, which is a fact, which the origin of new species, which has never been observed and no one knows how it happens, it one of biggest lies in human history. It’s up there with the belief that human differences don’t matter and we can all get along.

A reader writes:

“Yes, that he believes in the inherently absurd notion of theistic Darwinism is a mark against him.”

What do you find inherently absurd about theistic Darwinism? Could you point me to the previous article(s) where that’s been discussed? I don’t find it absurd. Unlikely, maybe, but not logically impossible.

LA replies:

I’ve talked about this endlessly. Here’s why it’s inherently impossible:

Darwinian evolution says: the new information that comes into being and serves as the basis of evolution is produced by chance random genetic mutations.

Theistic evolution says: the new information that comes into being and serves as the basis of evolution is produced by God’s purpose.

Both statements cannot be true. It’s a no brainer. Once the contradiction of theistic Darwinianism has been pointed out, the only way theistic Darwinianism can be maintained is through massive doublethink.

Yet, to my discouragement, many people continue to believe in it, arguing that that something can appear random to us, but in reality not be random to God. I tell them this is double talk. If it’s random, then it’s not directed. If it’s directed, then it’s random.

As I wrote in 2006:

This “stochastic” idea is apparently that God could plant all the apparently random mutations in the mix which would still lead to fish and spiders and birds and chimpanzees. And I repeat, if the “randomness” was created by an intelligence to have certain results, then the process is not random, even if it appears random to us.

This idea is exceptionally hard for people to get, for two reasons: one, because it is so simple; and two, because they want so strongly to believe both in God and in Darwinism, and this idea precludes that. If the mutations occur randomly, then there’s no intelligent purpose behind them. If there is an intelligent purpose behind the mutations, then they are not random. Any definition of randomness that is used to get around this fundamental logical contradiction is not honest in my opinion.

Reader replies:

Well, of course Theism and Darwinism are incompatible. That goes without saying. But theism and the basic idea of evolution are not. In talking to you, I had come to the conclusion that you were just for some reason determined to call evolution “Darwinism,” as if Darwin’s reading were the only possible one, and left it at that. That’s why I assumed you meant evolution here as well, and not just Darwinism.

Thanks for the clarification.

LA replies:

First, since my statement that you were questioning refered to “the inherently absurd notion of theistic Darwinism,” you might have assumed that I meant theistic Darwinism, not some non-Darwinian theistic evolution.

It’s a little disheartening that you could have thought that by Darwinism I meant some generic evolution. I constantly say that people must define the word evolution before using it in discussion. Every single time “evolution” comes up, I clarify the fact that we’re talking about Darwinian evolution by random mutation and natural selection.

Second, you and I may feel that of course Darwinism and God are incompatible, but there are endless people who think they are compatible. We recently had a long thread in which one person after another defended the idea that mutations could be both random and directed by God. No matter how many times I said that A cannot be Not-A, people didn’t stop posting with the argument that A could be Not-A. This is because so many people believe in God AND in Darwin, so they are forced into this absurd position to maintain their two commitments.

Paul G. writes:

I’ve read Collins’ The Language of God, an excellent book on the inherent compatibility of science and faith. It’s a really good book. (He leans pretty heavily on C.S. Lewis, whose books played a major role in his conversion.) He spends the first couple chapters detailing his own conversion experience and the next several chapters discussing DNA and faith. Towards the end of the book he criticizes atheistic materialism and Intelligent Design (ID).

His critique of ID is fairly strong: ID is not a legitimate scientific theory because it doesn’t help scientists make predictions (a sine qua non of such theories) and has never contributed any notable advance in the understanding of science or scientific theory the way evolutionary theory has. For natural scientists of all stripes studying life (biologists, biochemists, biophysicists, organic chemists, etc.) evolutionary theory (which is not necessarily Dawkins-esque materialistic evolution) has been the skeleton key for unlocking how and why life works the way it does. ID, as Collins points out, can’t even begin to touch evolutionary theory for that explanatory power. To me, that’s a very compelling argument and I’ve yet to see anything from an ID proponent that refutes or adequately responds to it.

LA replies:

I’ve said many times that ID is not science. ID is a rational argument, referring to scientific evidence, that points to the conclusion that intelligence is involved in evolution and thus disproves Darwinism. But ID doesn’t do anything beyond that. It is not a theory. It doesn’t claim to have any ideas on HOW intelligence is involved in evolution. I repeat: it is a rational, science-based critique of Darwinism, it is not a scientific hypothesis.

To the extent the ID people say ID is science, they are wrong. This is one of the reasons I have always been dubious about the ID movement. If ID had confined itself to proving that Darwinism is wrong, rather than trying to claim that ID is science, it would have been on much firmer ground.

You write: “evolutionary theory (which is not necessarily Dawkins-esque materialistic evolution) has been the skeleton key for unlocking how and why life works the way it does.”

First, OF COURSE they’re talking about Darwinian Dawkinsian material evolution! They are NOT talking about some generic idea that life advances.

Second, the statement that the Darwinian theory is the skeleton key for unlocking biology is a LIE. When they say, “Darwinian theory,” they are talking about micro-evolution, the changes that take place within a species. But microevolution is not Darwinism. Darwinism is about the ORIGIN OF SPECIES. Something demonstrating random variation within a species DOES NOT PROVE DARWINISM, since the essence of Darwinism is that it purports to explain how NEW SPECIES ORIGINATE. No one has ever observed the origin of a species, nor does anyone know how it happens. And there are massive problems with the Darwinian theory as everyone knows. How can this unproved and highly unlikely theory be the indispensable basis of biological science?

So the Darwinians are con artists who constantly lie when they conflate microevolution with macroevolution and say that the observed facts of variation within a species prove that Darwinism is true.

Which means they are also lying when they say that Darwinism is the basis of biological science. They tell this lie to overawe people make them agree with them. “Oh, well, if it’s the skeleton key to the biological sciences, it must be true.”

Paul G. replies:
Well, you’re correct that “No one has ever observed the origin of a species”—although, short of creating some sort of time machine it’s hard to imagine observing the origin of most of the world’s known species today. I think you’re wrong, however, when you say, “nor does anyone know how [the origin of species] happens.” The vast majority of natural scientists today think they do know how it happens: through mutations (which are mostly random) and natural selection (which is not random at all). The questions we must ask proponents of evolutionary theory are: Does this theory of how species originate correspond to most of the evidence? and, Does this theory provide the basis for explaining further scientific phenomena? The answers to both of these questions certainly appear to be, “Yes.”

Your protests about ID not being real science underscore an important point: no counter theory as yet begins to explain what evolutionary theory does. There is nothing unscientific about genuine uncertainty—if we don’t know, then we don’t know. But we don’t have genuine uncertainty here. We have a tested theory that purports (and is purported) to explain much and more of how organic life came to be the way it is today; we don’t have a theoretical tabula rasa. There is much purported philosophical evidence against so-called Darwinism; there appears to be very little legitimate physical or scientific evidence against it (so far as I’ve seen—I am by no means an expert). Anatomy and physiology told pre-modern and modern scientists much about a possible process of evolution. Close observation of organisms’ behavior told them more. The more we learn about molecular biology and genetics, the more obvious the evolutionary process’s existence appears to become.

Evolutionary theory, in its most scientific and respectable form, is nothing more than theorizing from empirical observation. It makes no claims about teleology, theology, or philosophy. It only claims to explain two things: how inter-species and intra-species differentiation. That’s it. It says nothing for or against a Creator God who starts the universe and shepherds the processes of life He’s begun. It is neutral on issues of morality and ethics. The legions of militant atheists who claim it does more than that are trying to turn an empirical theory into a religious one (in the sense that it would provide a meaning for life and a general standard for a code of conduct).

LA repliess

“no counter theory as yet begins to explain what evolutionary theory does.”

Tell me WHAT Darwinian theory explains.

If you can’t do that, then you’re just regurgitating the orthodoxy, and I’m not interested.

“[Darwinism] says nothing for or against a Creator God who starts the universe and shepherds the processes of life He’s begun.”

It’s as though you’ve read nothing of what has been discussed endlessly at this site on this very point. I don’t insist you agree with me. But for you to come along and blandly repeat a point that I have attacked a hundred times shows you haven’t read what’s at VFR on this subject.

Check this out, which I posted tonight in response to your e-mail:

Anti-Darwinism: a selection.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 07, 2008 12:59 AM | Send

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