The July/August issue of Books and Culture contains an interview by Karl Giberson with Francis Collins on his views of science and faith – now available on line: Evolution, the Bible and the Book of Nature.
Here is a brief taste of the article – read the whole – better yet subscribe! (pictures from wikipedia)
On the general approach Collins takes to issues of science and faith:
Giberson: You take both the Bible and evolution seriously. Did the harmony you find between evolution and your faith just come naturally?
Collins: You know, it really did. When I became a believer at
27, the first church I went to was a pretty conservative Methodist
church in a little town outside Chapel Hill. I’m sure there were a lot
of people in that church who were taking Genesis literally and
But I couldn’t take Genesis literally because I had come to the scientific worldview before
I came to the spiritual worldview. I felt that, once I arrived at the
sense that God was real and that God was the source of all truth, then,
just by definition, there could not be a conflict.
On the claim that scientists are misled by their preconceptions:
Giberson: History shows that paradigms are sometimes
misleading. For example, the paradigm that there couldn’t be change in
the heavens caused people to miss data for many centuries about new
stars. The ID scientists would say that people like you wouldn’t see
the design in nature because you work under a paradigm that excludes
Collins: Sure, we have paradigms that we use to try and
organize things, but one of our goals is to upset these paradigms. If
laboratories did experiments and said, “Hey, wait a minute, here is
some data suggesting that evolution is wrong, it is not capable of
explaining something,” that would be a lightning rod for excited
investigation. This idea would not be ignored because it wasn’t
consistent with a reigning paradigm.
On the key question – which experts should we trust?
Giberson: We are all part of social groups, and people we
trust tell us things. … But how are people
outside the scientific community supposed to navigate this complex web
of social authority, to try and figure out which voices they should
listen to, and which voices they shouldn’t?
Consider credentials. On paper the credentials of
the better creationists and id people are like yours and mine. Take you
and Michael Behe. You both have PhDs. You have both done research and
published articles. So if somebody wants to put Behe up against Collins
and say, “Well, here’s a guy and I like what he says. And here’s
another guy and I don’t like what he says. And you’re asking me to
follow Collins over Behe? Well, why should I do that?”
Collins: Well, that is a fundamental problem we’re facing in
our culture, especially in the United States. It’s why we have such a
mismatch between what the scientific data would suggest and what many
people believe about things like the age of the Earth and about whether
evolution is true or not.
If you ask about data-driven questions, about what is
true and what is the evidence to support it–you would want to go to the
people who are the professionals who spend their lives trying to answer
those questions and ask, “Is there a consensus view?” So you ask, “What
is the age of the Earth?” Well, who does that work? It is the geologist
and the cosmologists and the people who do radiocarbon dating. It is
the fossil record people and so on. So you ask, “Is this an unanswered
question?” And the answer you would get is that the issue is settled.
The age of the earth is 4.55 billion years.
What do you think of these answers – or any of the rest of the article? Lets open the discussion here.
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.