. . . says former atheist, now devout Christian Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), one of the two laboratories (the other is Craig Venter's Celera Genomics) that successfully mapped most of the human genome by early 2001. Collins had earlier developed a method for identifying disease-causing genes, and collaborated in identifying those for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, and Huntington's disease.
I read in a daily "deals" e-mail I subscribe to, from Publishers Marketplace, that Collins had signed a contract with the Free Press for a book to be called THE LANGUAGE OF GOD, "explaining how he moved from atheism to faith, and how he reconciles his faith with the science of everything from the Big Bang to the genome". Curious, especially in the light of recent conversations around here, I Googled him, and found this 2001 interview in Christianity Today. In the interview, Collins talks about the medical promise and ethics of the human genome, recounts his journey from atheism to faith (C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity played a pivotal role), and says:
I think of God as the greatest scientist. We human scientists have an opportunity to understand the elegance and wisdom of God's creation in a way that is truly exhilarating. When a scientist discovers something that no human knew before, but God did—that is both an occasion for scientific excitement and, for a believer, also an occasion for worship. It makes me sad that we have slipped into a polarized stance between science and religion that implies that a thinking human being could not believe in the value of both. There is no rational basis for that polarization. I find it completely comfortable to be both a rigorous scientist, who demands to see the data before accepting anybody's conclusions about the natural world, and also a believer whose life is profoundly influenced by the relationship I have with God. Science is our most powerful tool for studying the natural world, but science doesn't necessarily help us so much in trying to understand God; that's where faith comes in. . . .
I reject the notion that spirituality is something that will be explained by the study of the genome. The study of the genome will tell us a lot about our biological nature, about the parts of us that are mechanical, but I don't believe it will tell us why almost every human being has a sense of longing for God. I don't believe studying DNA will tell us where the sense of right and wrong we share comes from. I don't believe it will explain why we have this shared urge to do the right thing, even to the extent of putting our own lives in danger to save another, which would be exactly the opposite of what evolution would suggest we should do. All those aspects of humanity are some of the best evidence that there is more to us than chemicals and DNA, that there is a spiritual part to our nature. . . . We, as scientists, have to continually remind ourselves and the public that when you get beyond medical applications of genetics into the nature of what it means to be human, DNA isn't going to tell us everything. Free will is a very important part of who we are, and the study of the genome is not going to make that obsolete.
And on evolution:
I think evolution is a very compelling explanation for the relatedness of living things on this planet. You can't study DNA without noting the relatedness of the sequences between us and other animals, bacteria, and plants. But I don't have any problem with putting that together with my belief in God as the Creator of life and in God as one who desires fellowship with humankind. If God decided to use the mechanism of evolution to create human beings, who are we to say that was a bad way to do it? In that regard, I would be called a theistic evolutionist, as are many people who work in biology and who also believe in God.
He makes it sound so easy!