The Language of God by Dr. Francis Collins Uses the Belief System of a Scientist to Support the Existence of God
September 16, 2019
Dr. Francis Collins is one of the most famous and well-respected scientists in the world for his role as head of The Human Genome Project and his subsequent assignment as Director of the National Institutes of Health, which he has held for almost a decade.
He is currently the Director of the National Institute for our entire country. Very few people in the world have more impressive credentials as a scientist and a thinker. He was a key leader of the group that actually presented the entire human genome with its millions of component parts to the world, and the world of science changed in important ways as the result of that project and that work.
Dr. Collins has written hundreds of scientific papers and several books relating to his work.
He also wrote a book called The Language of God that goes beyond science and directly addresses religion.
Collins makes the point in that book that he is a devout Christian and he believes that an understanding of science at the most complex levels reinforces and affirms his personal belief in a loving and involved God as the underlying creator for all components of the universe.
He could not be more clear in his belief in God and in God’s role in the world. He believes that his understanding of science reinforces his belief in God, and that he finds many proof points in science that point with consistency to the existence of an underlying creation agenda and approach.
The Language of God has rich veins of data about the mathematics of creation and the various interlocking components of the universe, and Collins argues that there are too many wonderful proof points that the universe was created with Humans in mind for him to believe that it was an accidental or circumstantial process that created either those results or human beings as part of that universe.
He cites the extreme improbability of all of those pieces of creation flowing together in the direction they have clearly flowed without an underlying intent and guidance for the process.
Some of the elements of evolutionary creation end up with parts and pieces that are so beautiful and eccentric, and so right for their setting that a believer in intentional creation could even suspect both a sense of humor and an appreciation of beauty as part of the design process.
The book has a number of data points that reinforce his belief about the mathematical improbability of all of the things that comprise creation fitting together so well in so many fascinating and intricate ways if they are based entirely on classic Darwinism with a mixture of “survival of the fittest “and random mutations for each species functionally creating all of those interactions.
In my own life, I have had a number of experiences that have also caused me to have a sense that creation and the design elements of the world we live in are not circumstantial in the purest Darwinian sense of that word.
I am a long-time believer, practitioner, and advocate for continuous improvement engineering approaches, and I have worked very directly with those processes in a number of real-world settings. I love that tool kit. We managed to reduce the death rate from sepsis in our hospitals from more than 20 percent of the patients in many of our hospitals to under two percent in the full system of three dozen hospitals in less than three years.
We cut the pressure ulcer rate in our patients from over fifteen percent of the patients to under one percent in most of our hospitals.
The book KP Inside describes some of those processes and approaches and explains what we did to achieve those outcomes.
We created that improvement in part by carefully identifying best science and best practices in both our system and elsewhere and then rolling them out from the first hospital sites to all of our hospitals in systematic ways.
Being systematic and intentional was essential to our success.
If we had relied on each hospital spontaneously inventing and developing their own best practices for either of those diseases, then the likelihood of our entire system achieving those optimal care goals would have been zero.
We know that to be true, because our own hospitals had their own much higher rates before we began to engineer that process — and because other hospitals in this country who do not do continuous improvement engineering for those diseases have much higher rates of both deaths and disease.
I mention that because I have worked with multi-level and multi-layer processes and I know how extremely difficult that work is to do and I know that those best practices do not happen in our care sites because of the functional equivalent of random mutations that are structurally a key and core component of the Darwinian processes.
Being a practitioner of continuous improvement processes and knowing how hard they are to roll out in the real world creates a great appreciation for how difficult it would be for natural selection processes to develop a butterfly wing that closely resembles and visually mimics a flower that grows in a particular location.
The existence of massive variation in a number of organisms in very specific ways and very intricate designs in an almost infinite number of settings argues against all of that variation happening simply based on “survival of the fittest” processes and random mutations for each species that are perceived and believed to be the core tool of the pure Darwinism approach to the design and existence of life forms and the creation of species.
I had that suspicion about that particular challenge to that theory for years, and I asked a couple of highly mathematical family members to compute the likelihood that pure random mutation could come up with those species as they exist. They turned me down on doing the actual numbers but agreed that the math pointed toward improbable processes issue.
Then, with that concern already in mind, actually designing and implementing interactive design and selection processes in functional care delivery settings very directly reinforced and even increased some of my earlier doubts about the ability of pure natural selection and random mutations to give us the variations in life forms we see all around us in the world we live in.
For our care system, we only managed to have every hospital actually use the best practices for sepsis survival by mandating that the information be both shared with everyone and then used by every site.
It required intentionality in the world I worked in to create that better outcome in those care delivery sites.
That is a much smaller perspective issue — but it continues to point me toward a sense of disbelief for classic Darwinian explanations of how everything has been created in the world of organisms and species. It looks very intentional to me. I believe that there has to be some level of intentionality in the world we live in to create all of those relationships and interactions — down to the level of atomic particles, physics, and both macro and micro biology — to actually explain what we have around us in our Universe.
Quantum physics have some ingredients that also feel like there are higher forces shaping thosehigher forces. Some of the new quantum findings have internal connections that are hard to comprehend using any of our old beliefs about the nature of our world.
A number of solid people have been challenging those same issues. We now have some pure mathematical thinking that supports that suspicion, concern and belief.
The actual origin of species is actually a good process to look at from a mathematical perspective because the Darwinian theory involves interactions that can be counted or at least estimated for several parts of the process.
One research mathematician estimated that the likelihood of pure “survival of the fittest” processes, and random and pure periodic biological mutations could somehow functionally align and combine to create an entirely new species that by definition involves multiple DNA strands of usable, well-shaped, and highly intentional protein configurations all at the same time to create the new species is about one in ten to the seventy fourth power of probability.
That math may or not be accurate, but even more conservative estimates looking at the probability math for any species spontaneously building multiple complex protein strands of DNA and then testing each strand for survivability at a volume needed to actually create a new species is lower than the likelihood of winning a lottery.
People do win lotteries, but those winners represent a very small portion of our population — and the number of species that exist on earth today might be a million species.
Having something that requires one in ten to the seventy fourth power process happening a million times is a very low likelihood — and the odds are even greater when we look at an amazing array of relationships — like species of ants that can only survive on particular species of trees — and the mathematical and functional reality is that those huge odds would have to happen multiple times for both the ants and the trees to happen.
Dr. Collins points out, as a scientist, that his understanding of both the probability tables and the component parts of the universe that he can see, points science more in the direction of proving that God exists rather than disproving the existence of God;
That math about the creation of just one new species reinforces Dr. Collins’s contention in his Language of God book that his review of the science and the math is that it points both to the existence of a Creator and to a Creator who had humans in mind as a key beneficiary and even reason for the entire process.
I share his sense that we exist as humans and as people as part of that overall process and that we have a role to play in existence that is a worthwhile, meaningful and even good role.
I also believe that we should each and all be doing things as people to make life better for other people as part of our reason for existing.
So that is a clearly religious belief.
It believes that we are part of a wonderful, intricate, amazing, constantly delighting inter related universe and that we can use science to understand how that universe works and how to use it for our own purposes.
That belief welcomes, includes, celebrates, and endorses science — and believes that we humans have minds for the purpose of both understanding our world and shaping parts of it in beneficial ways.
As a Christian steered by the teaching of Jesus Christ, I believe strongly in stewardship at multiple levels as part of our accountability and role, and I believe we should each help to make life better for the other people we share this planet and existence with.
That is the first time that I have mentioned that belief or those thoughts in these books or website.
Religion is actually not entirely a new topic for the Institute for InterGroup Understanding thinking or theory. Nor is a clear belief at a religious level in the processes we see around us.
Earlier versions of the InterGroup Institute books about the impact of instincts on human behavior said that it was entirely possible to believe in both divine involvement and science.
Those early efforts written in the early 1990s discussed the fact that some people in some religious settings and some religious traditions do not believe that evolution exists and those early drafts discussed the fact that some people with some religious affiliations believe that we need to believe in either evolution or in God — but that we cannot and should not believe in both.
I disagreed then with that conclusion and I continue to disagree today.
What I wrote in those book drafts on that point was that I personally believed that God not only could use evolution as a tool, but clearly had done so.
I was a bit judgmental and inappropriately even a bit snarky about people who had that belief, and I wrote in those early drafts that anyone who challenged the ability of God to use whatever tools God preferred to use in any sense clearly had an almost insulting and demeaning and inappropriately limited view of the power limitations and capacity of God that made no sense to me at any level.
I wrote that their position against evolution and those areas of science struck me as a weak and even disrespectful foundation for an important religious belief and for intellectual and belief grounded decision making about the world we live in.
I suggested that some of the people who made that point tended to say that they believed strongly in an all knowing and all-powerful God, but then said in the same breath that they believed God did not have enough power and did not have the ability to choose to use evolution as a tool kit for the creation of our planet.
That combination of beliefs made no sense to me, because it implied at an intellectual level that they believed in a very limited God, and my own faith and my own personal belief system at that point in time included the belief that God could use any tools that God wanted and chose to use. I believed that my role in the process should be to help figure out, discern, and learn what those tools were, rather than to deny God the choice of having used them.
A learning process ensued.
I believe that discernment, learning and intellectual growth is a kind of gift and blessing — and I believe strongly that we should aspire to build a better world for each other by figuring out the best available tools we have for doing exactly that.
I was raised in a Lutheran religious tradition, and that gave me an interesting pattern of accepting that we can be both saints and sinners and be the same person. Martin Luther was a rebel, and that was encouraging to my thinking in the earliest days of thinking about religion because that history of one of our leaders being a rebel made it acceptable for me to challenge beliefs without being a non-believer.
As Lutherans, we studied the Bible extensively. Lutherans are a Bible based set of people, and we were encouraged in my branch of that faith to both know the Bible and to challenge our interpretation of it.
Later, in attending a Lutheran College, Concordia, I studied comparative religions and found that study to be both affirming and enlightening. I have read extensively about other religions since that time — with a particular focus on Buddhism.
I subscribe to Buddhist magazines and have a number of Buddha statues in my homes that is reinforced by one Buddhist theologian who wrote that each Buddha statue was a prayer in itself to the oneness of the universe, and who said that we did not need to be Buddhist to have those statues if we were extremely respectful of each statue and honored that belief.
Like all religions, there are other people in that religion who probably do not share that particular piece of the theology, but I found it useful for my life and I have found the presence of those statues to be calming, grounding, peaceful, and affirming of my belief that the universe is a package and we are all part of it.
I am Christian by belief, like Dr. Collins, and I also fully accept and encourage the faith traditions of other people. I have developed a high level of personal comfort and internal credibility for accepting Christianity as the way that I can understand my own role in the religious process, and figure out my own role and responsibility for my life.
I am not a literalist.
As a Lutheran student of the Bible, I have believed for a long time some sections of the Bible are useful, in a generic way, but my belief has long been that the entire book was given to us to be a learning opportunity and not to be literally taken for every piece and part.
As a student of instinctive behavior, I have found multiple sections of the
Bible that reinforce pattern of instinctive behavior — with some of the tribalism described in those stories clearly showing that we fall into Us-Them patterns of behavior at multiple levels and have done that for a very long time.
I am Christian now because I believe that the teachings of Christ are the single most important messages of the Bible for me and I believe that there is a great wealth of values, moral beliefs, and intended behaviors that are easily discernable in those teachings that steer my own thoughts and values at multiple levels today.
So I believed that we could accept an understanding of both Evolution and developmental science as a tool kit used by God when I wrote the first drafts of the InterGroup books, based on my knowledge, beliefs, and faith levels at that point in my life, and I now also believe that we live in a world with clear and intentional design and that some of those interactions that seemed to be created by evolution three decades ago are probably the result of a more intentional process..
The teachings of Christ still point me toward my own faith and beliefs, and I am entirely comfortable today to follow Dr. Collin’s lead in both acknowledging that belief and approaching the intellectual challenges and opportunities of the universe in that context.
I did have some of that language in the first drafts of what have become the InterGroup books — but I decided to take them out of those books.
I took all of those thoughts about religion and belief systems out of the first Instinctivism books, because discussing and possibly debating the role of religion in an extensive explanation and exploration of pure behavioral science seemed to me to be one bridge too far at that point relative to a major belief system roll-out about inter group behavior that I wanted to support and enable relative to an important paradigm change process about our interactions with one another.
I wanted the focus of the books and Institute to be on the theory and practice of understanding and managing instinctive behavior and not on the underlying belief systems about the underlying creation of it all.
So I dropped the topic of beliefs and God until now.
The Language of God.
A friend who is a friend of Dr. Collins recently gave me Dr. Collins’s wonderful and articulate book about his belief in God — and reading that book inspired me to raise the issue of the role of God in the process one more time in the InterGroup thought piece and to talk about my own somewhat parallel set of beliefs.
It seemed to make sense to discuss and explain my own points about religious beliefs by doing this book review of his book on the Language of God and then presenting it on the InterGroup website.
Thank you, Dr. Collins, for giving me that context and opportunity.
I like his sense of a higher calling for us all.
Dr. Collins believes that we humans, at our finest levels, can both be self-aware and intelligent, and he believes that we can and should both grow intellectually and morally in the process.
He believes that we should each exhibit higher levels of Moral Guidance that can tie us to God in our behaviors and beliefs, and that growing and acting along those pathways should be part of our lives and commitment to the world and to each other.
He believes that God created people to have one other element of the universe other than God that had self-awareness, and an intellectual sense of itself and of the world around us.
Dr. Collins has great data in his book about the mathematical and logistical improbability of us existing as people on this planet without Devine intention that reinforced the data mentioned above about the mathematical improbability of a species arising from pure mutations in an interactive way.
That approach does not oppose science. It celebrates science. And scientists.
Dr. Collins believes we humans are intellectually special and that we are uniquely empowered and enabled to do scientific things, and he believes that that the science that we do helps us understand and discern how creation functions and why it exists.
Awareness is key and central to his belief system.
He believes that only God and Us are truly aware.
He believes that no other part of the universe has that level of intellectual self-awareness that we do and that no other part of the universe has either the ability or the need to think about the purpose and the meaning of anything at all other than to do things that fit the instinctive or chemical and biological roles built into each living thing.
Collins is deservedly an icon in the scientific world for his extremely important work on DNA. He believes that his ability to do that work as a learning process at a purely intellectual level to understand what he calls The Language of God fits into our role of figuring out how to create the best pathways for each of us in our interactions with the universe and each other.
The cover of his book has DNA as prayer beads. Beautiful image.
Some religions and belief systems do believe and state that God created people because God was lonely and wanted some other element of the universe to also be self-aware. He is not alone in that belief.
I have been looking at multiple religions for decades since my very first classes on comparative religion at Concordia College, and I know that theme of God not wanting to be alone in the universe is part of the foundational beliefs of several religious approaches. Dr. Collins seems to explicate a parallel belief and he points out in his book that the relevant processes of evolution have both formed and limited our self-awareness as people in a way that gives us both a unique role in the universe and an obligation as a result of that unique role.
That belief is a good fit for the work that The Institute for InterGroup Understanding is trying to do.
The Institute for InterGroup Understanding paradigm describes that we all interact with one another in all of our settings in a constant context of our evolutionary components — and that our own self-awareness, thought processes, and basic sets of emotions have deep roots in our core packages of instincts. The Institute package of books explain that process and suggest ways of dealing with those issues and opportunities.
Primal Pathways explains the dozen key sets of instincts that we all have that guide many of our inter group and inter personal behaviors.
Dr. Collins similarly seems to believe that the other species of primates and mammals who are ancestors to us or who share common ancestors with us all have been part of the process that created our own DNA composition — and that some of the key core components embedded in our DNA clearly give us patterns of behaviors, emotions, and instinctive functions that shape who we are as people and as groups of people.
The patterns of instinctive influence are obvious when we look at those behaviors.
Some sets of our own packages of instincts clearly have their equivalent functions and impacts on a number of other species on the planet. Our maternal instincts look very much like the instincts of multiple other sets of mammals and primates in the love and attachment that mothers have with their children and that children have with their mothers.
Likewise, when we study the behaviors of a number of other species, we clearly see instincts creating hierarchies; territorial possession and dominance; alpha, beta, and theta instincts; pecking orders; sexual attractions; family alignments; and emotions that include love, anger, jealousy, loyalty, traitor rejection, and various levels of consistent and predictable inter group interactions and behaviors.
Discernment and enlightenment can result from that understanding. All of those instincts can help us figure out who we are, what we are doing, and how to be the very best version of who we can be — given the situations and settings we are all in.
Like Dr. Collins, I believe we have a higher calling as people, and that we should very clearly interact with one another in loving, caring, respectful, supportive, and fully informed ways.
I believe that we have the ability to understand our instincts and to make choices about achieving them — and to basically decide as a people to create enlightened values and beliefs and behaviors, and then make those behaviors key to who we are as a people.
The Institute for InterGroup Understanding bookThe Art of InterGroup Peace outlines both those beliefs and those group interaction and alignment processes at what is intended to be a useful level for creating inter group Peace in any setting.
I do not know if we can achieve the level of enlightenment that Dr. Collins calls for as an entire planet, but I believe strongly that we Americans need to achieve that level of enlightenment as a country — or we will have a future for our children and grandchildren that will be horrible; where evil will manifest itself in their lives at far too many levels.
The books on InterGroup Understanding explain that we all have the ability to be saints and we all have the ability to be evil, and that both sets of behaviors feel all too right to people when they are the activating sets of values in each of our heads.
The choice is ours.
We should choose saint.
We should choose enlightenment.
We should choose collective caring and protection and support, and we should aspire to and create both individual and group wellbeing.
Peace in Our Time outlines what some of those inter group interactions can look like in real settings.
Religion does not need to be part of that paradigm in order for people to understand instinctive behaviors.
It is entirely possible to share those beliefs about our instinctive emotions, thoughts, values, and behaviors with one another and with us all as a country — with absolutely no sense of God being part of the process.
I believe that there are other schools of religious thought that can also easily accept the basic instinctivism beliefs into their approaches to achieving their goals and the objectives.
I invite everyone to look at our instinctive behaviors and at the possibility we have of making enlightened value decisions, and choose enlightenment over the slippery slope to tribalism and inter group conflict, whether or not you believe that God exists or is relevant to the process.
For those who have a religious belief of any kind, I encourage inclusion of this thinking and these values in that belief.
We have seen far too many settings in the world where our very powerful tribal instincts align with group belief systems and with religious group beliefs and identities to create evil and highly damaging inter group behaviors where each group doing evil says their religion wants that to happen.
Sri Lanka and parts of Syria, even Northern Ireland and more than a hundred other inter group settings all give us examples of how much damage can be done when people hate other tribes and use their religion as one reason for the hatred.
I do not believe that God takes sides in sporting events, and I really do not believe that God is pleased with what is happening in Chechnya or Sri Lanka along religious lines. We can rise above those beliefs and behaviors and we should help other people do that as well because the damage done when we don’t do that can be so extensive and bad.
I believe that we have now been given insights into our instinctive behaviors to stop those evil behaviors from happening in all of those settings when people recognize that the behaviors are instinctive and not actual inherent evil by the other group. The InterGroup books and website help share that insight.
We need to start with our own country and we need to build a model for the world for inter group interactions that fit and satisfy our very best instinctive behavior patterns rather than being led down the slippery slope into behaviors that fit and satisfy our worst instincts in our cities and settings.
The choice is ours.
Dr. Collins’s book encourages us to make the right choice and he reinforces his encouragement with a belief in God that points to enlightenment rather than to damage and despair.
It is a very good book.
Jesus Christ calls for us to love one another and to accept one another and to come to each other’s aid in loving and supportive ways — and the world we live in today makes those directions very much the right thing to guide our lives.
Dr. Collins would argue that it is what we are here to do.
He may be right.
It’s worth doing because the alternatives are so damaging and grim.