Reconciling Religious and Scientific Worldviews

Can a modern scientist embrace religion? In his book, The Language of God, Francis S. Collins answers a resounding, "Yes!" In the book, Collins (who currently serves as director of the National Institutes of Health), chronicles his own journey from unbelief to faith and his career path from chemistry to medicine, including his role as leader of the Human Genome Project, a massive undertaking that unraveled some of the mysteries of DNA.

Collins writes, "For me the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship."

He goes on to assert, "The principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science." At a time when media reports seem to depict science and religion as fierce opposites, Collins's call for their unification is a welcome and refreshing voice.

As Collins reports, the history of tension between scientific inquiry and religious tradition is not new. He notes that Augustine of Hippo, writing in The Literal Meaning of Genesis (around the year 400), exhorted his hearers to become informed about the workings of the natural world and to report facts accurately. Augustine reasoned that people who were not members of the faith community would simply laugh at religious teachers if they were discovered to be ignorant regarding natural phenomena. History gives evidence regarding the wisdom of this warning. The well-publicized spat between Roman Catholic officials and Galileo about whether the earth or the sun stood at the center of our solar system serves as an example.

In our own day, the level of intensity in the argument between some religious people and some people of science seems to have escalated. According to Collins, one reason can be found in the emergence of strident proponents of an atheistic worldview who proclaim that science demands a renunciation of religion. In response, some factions within the religious community have become defensive and seek to counter the atheist voices by adopting a more narrow and ultra-literal interpretation of holy writ.

In The Language of God, Collins sorts through current evidence to explain from a position of positive knowledge why atheism is not a rational choice. He also explains why religious positions that reject the findings of science ultimately harm the faith, "Church leaders often seem to be out of step with new scientific findings, and run the risk of attacking scientific perspectives without fully understanding the facts. The consequence can bring ridicule on the church, driving sincere seekers away from God instead of into His arms."

Ultimately, Collins calls for peace as society moves forward. Regarding the war between the two sides he writes, "Like so many earthly wars, this one has been initiated and intensified by extremists on both sides." He observes, "Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible."

Pier Press® has added The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, by Francis S. Collins, to our bookstore because we believe the knowledge produced by scientific inquiry and faith in God reinforce each in other a profound way.