Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Religion and Science: Friends or Enemies?

I just read a book by the guy who directs the Human Genome Project. Francis Collins is a scientist of the highest order and he’s been working on one of the biggest and most important projects the world has seen in awhile. He has been a major player in mapping our DNA, which is encoded with somewhere around 3 billion bits of information. That’s amazing.

Collins is also a very dedicated and transparent Christian. He’s a biologist–and a Christian. For some people, these two terms in the same sentence mean conflict. It’s like pushing the positive (or negative) poles of a magnet together. It just won’t happen. Collins disagrees. His book, The Language of God tells the story of his own journey from atheism to Christianity. He also wants Christians to stop fighting non-Christians (or other Christians) over evolution. He argues that evolution is, so to speak, the language of God for creating life. More importantly, science and religion really are partners in the revelation of truth. As he puts it in the conclusion, “The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. He can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His creation is majestic.”

I know this kind of language is troubling to some people. Atheists probably don’t like it any better than Christians who are convinced that evolution is false – a lie from the Devil. Still, I recommend the book. Collins is a very clear writer. If you want a peek at the science of the genome project, he does a great job of describing it to people who, like myself, can only speak the ABC’s of science. He also shares his personal story without a lot of “drama.” It’s just real. And it’s compelling.

The book reminds me that Christians ought to take the lead in asking hard questions and facing them honestly, especially about science and religion. These two fields of knowledge are not mortal enemies. God is big–and powerful. He doesn’t really need me to protect his reputation from the relatively few people who are convinced that science disproves Christianity. But I certainly need God to guide me to truth. And I need people like Francis Collins–as God’s instrument– to show me the better way.

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February 1, 2007 - Posted by | Pop Culture, Religion

2 Comments »

  1. It might just be that we just took the Church History final, but I am immediately reminded that from the High Middle Ages until the late Enlightenment Christians were on the forefront of scientific research and discovery. When did Religion and Science become so opposed? Of course, I know the answer, it was during the Enlightenment when Christianity began to be viewed as superstition. … I guess what I’m trying to say is when did the Bible become the only source of truth? Did God not also create an entire world that points to him? If we discover truth it is God’s truth.

    Comment by John | December 14, 2007 | Reply

  2. I think your question about the Bible as the only source of truth happened for that part of the church during the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy. Of course, the earliest Fundamentalists were associated with Princeton Seminary, so they were pretty well-educated themselves! I think one of the key factors in this picture is when the Fundamentalist association added a non-evolution plank to their platform. This step they took, I think in the 1920s. That’s when the Fundamentalist movement began to move outside the cultural mainstream, where they tended to stay until the 1970s (or possibly the 1950s, if you include Billy Graham, et. al).

    Comment by Steve Rankin | December 17, 2007 | Reply


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