How Francis Saw the Light
From his book, 'Divine Alignment', author SQuire Rushnell shares how a scientist opened his mind to the existence of God.
BY: SQuire Rushnell
Divine Alignment: How Godwinks Moments Guide Your Journey by SQuire Rushnell. Excerpt courtesy of Howard Books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Sometimes we have to open our minds to evaluate an idea that appears audacious, and completely contrary to things your friends are telling you, the way Francis Collins did.
Before I tell you the story, however, let me explain who Dr. Collins is today.
As of this writing, he is the sixteenth director of the National Institutes of Health. The first time I saw Dr. Collins on the news, he was standing between the president of the United States and the prime minister of England, being introduced at the White House as the leader of the Human Genome Project that was mapping the DNA of the human body. This code of human cells in the body was so extensive that if it were to be read out loud, at the rate of three letters per second, it would take thirty-one years to articulate. (Try saying “ABC” in one second; then imagine continuing it for three decades.)
President Clinton told us that Dr. Francis Collins, a rigorously trained scientist, was leading the team “learning the language in which God created life.”
A scientist? Coexisting with God? I wondered.
Dr. Collins then spoke. “It is humbling to me,” he said, “and awe inspiring, to realize we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, known previously only to God.”
My eyebrows lifted as I stared at the TV.
Dr. Francis Collins, most will agree, is a distinguished, intelligent man of science. Yet his beliefs that God and science are compatible are held by only about 40 percent of the scientific community, in his view.3 During an earlier period in his life, Collins’s beliefs about the origin of man were in lockstep with the other 60 percent of scientists: he was an atheist, unable to entertain the thought that human beings could benefit by speaking to an unseen God.
It all changed when a grandmother from North Carolina asked him, “What do you believe?”
Until that time, says Dr. Collins, “I found myself, with a combination of willful blindness and . . . arrogance, having avoided any serious consideration that God might be a real possibility.”
But the question the grandmother had asked haunted him. Does a scientist draw conclusions without considering the data? he thought.
He thus decided that he should approach the question “Is there a God?” without bias, as a scientist. “Although at first, I was confident that a full investigation of the rational basis for faith would deny the merits of belief, and reaffirm my atheism,” he confides.
Dr. Collins studied many books, including one called Mere Christianity by former atheist C. S. Lewis. Avenues of thought about “Moral Law,” never before traversed, suddenly turned his thinking upside down. He found himself concurring with Lewis’s premise, simplified here, that man’s ability to discern right from wrong affirms that there must be a God.
“The concept of right and wrong appears to be universal among all members of the human species,” concluded Collins. Moreover, “the force we feel from the Moral Law [is] the altruistic impulse, the voice of conscience calling us to help others even if nothing is received in return.”
Dr. Collins was astonished with these conclusions: “This Moral Law shone its bright white light into the recesses of my childish atheism, and demanded a serious consideration of its origin,” he said. “Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.”
He discovered that U.S. space scientist Wernher von Braun held similar views. “The knowledge that man can choose between good and evil should draw him closer to his creator,” said von Braun, who had also become a believer.
Francis Collins was forever changed. He deduced that there is someone up there listening to us, a benevolent Creator who cares about each of us, and who genuinely hopes we will use the free will He’s given us to communicate with Him regularly. By opening his mind, Dr. Francis Collins made a discovery more important in his own life than any scientific achievement credited to him. And he, like such unparalleled scientists as Wernher von Braun and Sir Isaac Newton, believes that one does not have to choose between science and God, but that the two are compatible.
“I found great joy in being both a scientist studying the genome and a follower of Christ,” he says.10 And in light of overwhelming scientific evidence of evolution, Dr. Collins states, “In my view evolution might have been God’s elegant plan for creating humankind.”
“I become, I am born, to come into being.” — THE ORIGINAL GREEK DEFINTION OF GENOME