Reviews, Paradigms & News
The Language of God by Dr. Francis Collins Uses the Belief System of a Scientist to Support the Existence of God
September 18, 2020
Dr. Francis S. 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 service as the Director of the National Institutes of Health, for the past decade.
He is serving as the Director of the National Institute of Health today.
Much of the work that is being done now to help us respond scientifically to COVID 19 is being done by people who report to him and his agency both directly and indirectly.
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 was enhanced 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.
Most scientists do not write about religion.
Dr. Collins not only wrote about religion — he wrote about his own personal religious beliefs and he said that he is very definitely and clearly a believing Christian and believes in very specific ways in God.
Dr. Collins explains clearly in The Language of God that he is a devout Christian as an anchor for his religious belief. He wrote that he personally believes that having an understanding of science at the most complex levels both reinforces and affirms his personal belief in a loving and involved God as the underlying and entirely intentional 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.
Some people believe that understanding science steers people away from religious belief. Dr. Collins goes down the exact opposite path and he states clearly in his book that he believes that his deep and constantly growing understanding of science reinforces his belief in God and persuades him that Creation as we know it functionally needed a Creator — instead of pointing him away from a Divine source for the universe.
He writes that he finds many proof points in science that he believes point with consistency to the probable existence of an underlying functional creation agenda and that also point in consistent ways to a planned and intentional approach to the universe.
He uses mathematics to reinforce his belief.
The Language of God has relevant veins of data about the mathematics of creation and about the various interlocking components of the universe. He writes about the mathematical improbability of spontaneous creation for both physical and biological realities of the world and the universe we live in as being an underpinning for his belief that it was all created and did not just happen on its own.
It good and useful for me to get the Language of God book to read those points because they create a context for thinking about those issues and topics that reinforces some other thoughts I have had in those directions.
Collins argues that there are too many wonderful and aligned proof points that the universe was created with Humans in mind for him to believe that it was an accidental or circumstantial or serendipitous process that created either those results or human beings as part of that universe.
He cites what he believes to be the extreme improbability of all of those pieces of creation flowing together in the direction they have clearly flowed without an underlying intent and underlying guidance for the overall process.
The complexity argument is an important one. As is the perception of the inter relationships that exist — for both physics and biology.
Some of the elements of evolutionary and biological creation in our world end up with parts and pieces that are so beautiful and eccentric, and so right for their settings 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.
Some aspects of creation that we can see are absolutely lovely. We have lovely vistas and locations and plants and flowers and creatures that cause us to be in awe of their beauty. A believer in intentional design could believe that has happened as an intentional part of the process and having an appreciation at a cognitive level of beauty is a shared appreciation at some level.
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 the pieces and the species that exist everywhere are all based entirely on classic Darwinism with a mixture of “survival of the fittest “screening process for everything and with actual purely random mutations for each species functionally triggering, and then creating each and all of those interactions that affect survival for each species.
In a nutshell, he does not believe that random mutations functionally could have created the entire universe as we see it today.
He is not at all anti-evolution in his approach. Evolution at some levels clearly happened and are part of the design process. His book seems to believe in a combination and blend of evolutionary processes and intentional design as the context for the world we live in and he believes that God also created the evolutionary parts and functions as part of the macro design process.
That book came at a very good time in my life for my own thinking about that topic.
I also have some to believe that there must be some intentional design elements involved in the overall creation process for a number of reasons. Pure, perfect, and ideologically rigid and absolute and total Darwinism has seemed somewhat problematic to me on a couple of levels for a while. I shared the mathematical probability questions relative to multiple creatures and species that I have been able to observe.
In my own life, I have also had a number of experiences that have situationally caused me to have a sense that creation and key design elements of the world we live in are not entirely circumstantially created — in the purest Darwinian sense of that word and paradigm.
I have also had experiences that I attribute to steerage from another level in some important ways. I am working to learn from those experiences and from my own involvement and interactions with the world around me, and I believe that there is a legitimacy to having a belief about the origin of those experiences and steerage.
I also believe and feel that we have purpose — and I believe that part of my own purpose is that I am supposed to learn. Dr. Collins seems to have a similar sense of his own role and purpose. We both seem to believe that we are supposed to learn, and that we should incorporate learning opportunities into our lives when they become available to us, and use them to help people in appropriate and useful ways.
My day job for a couple of decades actually gave me some practical experiences that have reinforced that belief and that concern about classic Darwinian theory and processes and also gave me some very helpful and relevant insights into inter relationships that reinforce my belief in intentionality as a key component of many processes and of the overall world we live in.
I try to help things continuously improve. I have done that for a living.
I am a long-time believer, practitioner, and almost obsessive advocate for continuous improvement engineering approaches in my work settings. I have worked very directly with those processes at a number of levels in a number of real-world health care settings. I love that continuous improvement tool kit that we have available to us. It can do almost magical things in health care settings when we put it to good use.
We managed to reduce the death rate from sepsis in our three dozen hospitals from more than 20 percent of the patients in many of our hospitals to under two percent of the patients in the full system of three dozen hospitals in less than three years.
We also cut the pressure ulcer rates 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.
That was clearly an extremely intentional process for those settings.
We started that improvement in death rates and disease levels in large part by carefully identifying best science and best practices in both our system and elsewhere and then rolling the best practices out from the first hospital sites to all of our hospitals in systematic ways.
We changed beddings and dressings and medications and several processes and patient interactions, and then we measured the results, and then we changed them all again and again to make them continuously better for our sites of care.
Just like basic Darwinian biological evolution processes that have actual survival as a key component, a primary goal of doing formal continuous improvement in our hospitals was to increase the survival levels and reduce the death rates for our patients.
Being systematic and extremely intentional was essential to our success.
That is a key point to understand.
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 and the likelihood of any given site in any setting achieving either one of those success levels would have been extremely low.
We know that extremely low probability of success without intervention to be true, because our own hospitals had their own much higher rates for both death and disease for those conditions before we began to intentionally engineer that process — and because we also know absolutely today that other hospitals in this country who do not do continuous improvement engineering for those particular diseases have much higher rates of both deaths and disease in their hospitals today.
The natural state of performance in those areas in American hospitals is not good at all. Unless they do intentional things in intentional ways in each of those settings, their performance will not improve.
I mention that fairly mundane and highly functional experience here relative to Dr. Collins book and my own belief systems to explain that I have personally worked with a number of complex multi-level and multi-layer processes and I know how extremely difficult that work is to do. I also know that those best practices do not happen and would not happen in our care sites if we had relied on or used the functional equivalent of the pure and random mutations that are structurally a key and core component and ingredient for the standard set of basic Darwinian processes to make those changes happen for our hospitals.
My own practical experience has guided my thinking hugely in what I believe are legitimate and useful ways about what it takes to enhance and change a situation in a functional setting.
Being a practitioner of continuous improvement processes and knowing how hard they actually are to roll out in the real world creates a great appreciation for me personally about how difficult it would be for natural selection processes to develop an actual butterfly wing that closely resembles and visually mimics a flower that grows only in a particular location where the butterfly lives.
The existence of massive variations in a number of organisms in very specific ways and the existence of multiple very intricate designs that inter relate with each other in an almost infinite number of settings argues against all of that variation happening simply based on the tool kit created by Darwinian “survival of the fittest” processes that are somehow coupled with random mutations for each species in each setting that are perceived, believed and explained to be the core tool of the pure Darwinism approach to the design and existence of life forms and the creation of species.
I have actually had some direct suspicion about that particular functional and mathematical challenge to that classic Darwinian theory and paradigm for years. I measure processes for a living as part of my job. I once asked a couple of highly mathematical family members to compute the likelihood that pure random mutation could come up with each of those species as they now exist. The scholars in my family turned me down on doing the actual numbers but agreed that the math pointed toward improbable levels of development for any given point of significant biological change in random ways resulting in each of those species in either independent or related settings.
Then, with that macro mathematical concern about the ability of random mutation and natural selection processes functionally changing a species as a blended and entirely circumstantial process already in mind at an intellectual level, the functional realities of running a hospital system and actually designing and implementing complex and fully interactive design and selection processes in functional care delivery settings very directly reinforced and increased my existing concerns and doubts about the ability of pure natural selection and purely random and happenstantial mutations to give us the inter locking variations in life forms we see all so clearly and so pervasively all around us in the world we live in.
For our care system at work, I know for a fact that we have only managed to have every hospital in our system actually using some of the best practices for sepsis survival by figuring out best practices and then mandating that the key information be both shared with everyone relevant to that process in every site and then be used in consistent and continuously improving ways by every site.
It required clear and deliberate intentionality in the world I worked in to create that better outcome that saved all those lives and reduced all of that damage to patients in those care delivery sites.
Hospital quality improvement is a much smaller perspective issue than the creation of a new species in a biological setting — but that purely functional work experience continued to point me toward a sense of growing disbelief for classic and doctrinally pure Darwinian explanations of how everything has been created in the amazingly complex world of organisms and species that we live in on our planet.
The world we live in looks very intentional in a number of areas to me and it seems to look very intentional to Dr. Collins, and it seems to me that many of the processes that change species seem to be part of that intentionality process rather than independent and random outcomes from blended events, circumstances and processes that happen over time in each setting.
I personally 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.
My sense of intentionality for elements of our existence extend beyond biology. Some physicists seem to be thinking along some of those same lines as we unveil new elements of the macro and micro world we live in.
Quantum physics now have some ingredients that also feel like there are some higher and invisible forces shaping and affecting our cosmic interactions and processes. I have had a chance in my day job to talk to some highly qualified quantum scientists on that point. Some of the new quantum findings have undeniable internal connections between pieces that are hard to comprehend and possibly impossible to understand using any of our old beliefs and any of our existing paradigms about the nature and composition of our physical world.
It is hard to look at some aspects of quantum physics without having a clear sense that we clearly do not understand some important and relevant elements of the connectivity levels in the Universe we live in and that thinking leads in easy steps to thinking that there could well be another level of design and intentionality involved in the creation process that we might want to appreciate as part of the mystery of the universe that surrounds us — or seems to surround us.
Dr. Collins and I are not alone in looking at those biological and physical issues from the perspective of believing that we need to improve, enhance, and expand some of our old theories about some key elements of our biological reality and sense of theoretical physics and functional mathematics.
We are not alone in that space in thinking that we should be looking at some of the basic theories and beliefs.
A number of solid and intellectually objective people in our country have recently been challenging some aspects of the Darwinian paradigm in ways that were not happening just a few years ago. That has triggered some anger in some settings. Some of the believers in pure Darwinism are not used to having that theory challenged in any way by either science or mathematics.
The debate and discussion about Darwin used to be almost entirely a matter of religious belief.
Some religions challenged some basic evolution theories and some people opposed them in a way that made the people who believed in them sinners of some kind or another.
At the same time, pure believers in classic Darwin have also sometimes almost had that belief function as almost its own religious belief, and people who challenged it were also condemned by that set of Darwin believers as heretics rather than as intellectual truth seekers,
There is some irony in having both proponents and opponents of Darwin classified as heretics and sinners.
That overall debate is beginning to evolve in a very good and important way to have some levels of challenge for Darwinism perceived to be legitimate intellectual thoughts and concerns rather than just being emotional or religious beliefs.
Mathematics is becoming a useful factor in those discussions.
We now have some pure mathematical thinking that supports a level of intellectual suspicion, concern and belief about the likelihood of purely Darwinian forces and factors being functionally capable of achieving and building the universe of living things we see around us.
The mathematics that result from the key and core paradigm outlined in “The Origin of Species” can be a useful place for us to think about some of those issues and processes.
The actual functional origin of real species in the real world is actually a good process to look at from a mathematical perspective because the pure and doctrine based Darwinian theory that is outlined and partially codified in Darwin’s wonderful, extremely insightful, important and very well written books involves a number of actual real-world functional interactions that can be counted, measured, calculated or at least estimated for several parts of the process.
Let’s Look at the Mathematics
What are the mathematical realities involved in a species being created?
That is a legitimate question for an intellectually curious person to ask, and it also is a possible question to provide at least a contextual answer.
How many things need to happen for a species to emerge?
We need to understand how many moving parts are involved in each species, and we need to do the math of having them both happen and change to better understand that process.
One research mathematician estimated that the likelihood that pure “survival of the fittest” processes, and the likelihood that random and pure periodic and sporadic biological mutations could somehow functionally align and combine to create an entirely new species that by definition and measurement 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 reality for any species spontaneously building multiple complex protein strands of DNA and then testing and creating and building each strand for survivability only through the use of pure Darwinian survival-based selection mechanisms 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.
That’s a lot of lotteries.
That basic mathematics reality deserves to be recognized and understood in evaluating what we each and all believe about the biological world we are in. If we are committed to absolute intellectual honesty and to doing functional mathematical reviews of the world around us, then we owe it to ourselves to look at and think about the actual relevant numbers.
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 of DNA related species design would have to happen multiple times for both the ants and the trees to happen.
Those levels of probability are resolved for all of those complex and very real and obvious species interactions to exist if we assume that there are intentional design elements that link all of the connected and situationally relevant species and that intentionally cause them to be perfect fits for one another in each setting where they exist.
Some of those relationships are absolutely lovely. We have some sets of bees that exist only in some forests and that pollinate only some plants and flowers in those settings, and it is absolutely clear that those species have those relationships now and they are extremely important to each species.
How did that happen? It does look very intentional when we look at what exists in those relationships.
Said another way — without intentional design of some kind at some level, the pure mathematics point toward extreme improbability for all of those settings.
DNA is always part of the tool kit for each species in those settings.
Francis Collins ran the first major DNA project and initiative for America. No one understands DNA more than he understands that topic. In this particular book, Dr. Collins points out, as a DNA focused scientist, that his understanding of both the probability tables and the component parts of the universe that he can see, actually points science and scientific thinkers more in the direction of both our basic math and our physical science functionally proving to us now that God exists rather than having science functionally disproving the existence of God.
That math about the creation of just one new species echoes Dr. Collins’s clearly stated personal contention in his Language of God book that his review of the science and of the math is that his personal review for all of those areas of our world points both to the existence of a Creator for the universe and also to a Creator who actually had humans in mind as a key beneficiary and even the key reason for the entire process.
Dr. Collins, as a Christian, believes that we exist as people for a reason. He states in his book that the universe we are in gives us all a highly intentional context and opportunity for achieving our reason to exist.
He believes that he personally exists to both understand things and to achieve things, and he writes that role has been an important personal guide to his own life.
I happen to share elements of that belief about our role and about our reason to exist.
But even if we do not accept the belief that we humans were included in the process in intentional and positive ways and if we believe that we humans are just circumstantial and situational consequences of the overall processes, the pure macro math and the obvious functionality we see around us both point toward some underlying design elements that have clearly intentional components.
My own belief — and I think that it shared by Dr. Collins-- is that we all should have a function for our lives and that we should all try to figure out what that overall process and reality means for each of our lives and then steer our lives in that direction.
Some people challenge the intentionality goal and the people related components of the process by pointing to the very long timeframes that we believe have existed for the universe — and ask why it took billions of years for Us to exist as humans if a key component point of the whole process was to create a universe that was a good fit for us and one where we had a legitimate role as thinking and aware beings.
If the point was actually or largely us, why did that piece of the process that ended with us take so long? Some of my own offspring have raised that question in response to this piece.
That’s actually a good question, with a couple of possible and intellectually credible answers.
One answer to that question about why it took so long to get to here might be that time is a perception and it is entirely possible that those billions of years actually happened simultaneously and the perceived time frames were actually functionally irrelevant.
Our perception of time might not be relevant to actual time.
Another answer might be that God is entirely above time and in no hurry.
Another answer might be that God does things in sequence for a reason, and the reason for the times frames and process might be that the entire sequence that includes us now is, in itself, part of the achievement.
We don’t need to wrestle with the Time issue as a major barrier to believing in intentionality. Time is obviously currently including us. We live now. Now is the time for us.
We need to understand what we can and should actually do now relative to both the universe and the immediate world we live in.
I share Dr. Collin’s sense that we exist as humans and as people in an intentional way as part of that overall process of creation and I believe that we people have a role to play in existence that is a worthwhile, meaningful and even good role for us to play.
Carl Jung once wrote a fascinating book suggesting that God is evolving through our existence. The Answer to Job is a fascinating and once terrifying book. I don’t believe Jung was right, but I understand why he wrote the book and it jarred me years ago when I first read it.
I also enjoyed the incredible ego of a man who decided to psychoanalyze God.
Dr. Collins believes that our lives do have purpose — and that part of that purpose is to help one another and to continuously improve as people both individually and collectively in ethical and enlightened ways.
I share the belief that we should each and all be doing things as people to make life better for other people as part of our own reason for existing.
I also believe that Dr. Collins is right, and that we are supposed to individually and collectively learn. And that we have minds to use to both learn and to create tools to help us learn.
That particular issue of learning tools faces us at a very special and unique time in our history.
Our minds allow us to build boats that can take us on water and to build airplanes that take us into the air and to build computers that take us into calculations and thoughts that will let us achieve major levels of discernment about the universe and ourselves that we cannot achieve any other way.
Artificial intelligence now exists in computers.
Artificial intelligence done by computers is a tool just like airplanes and boats — a mechanism for us to travel intellectually to new places with the goal of understanding important things about us and about everything around us that we can only understand with that tool.
If we are here as people to discern and to learn, that tool will clearly help us achieve both goals — and we need to use it well with that goal in mind.
Believing that the universe was all created for us is a clearly religious belief that is extremely and unashamedly self-centered for Humans at a foundational level. It feeds on both our paradigm building instincts and on our survival instincts in obvious ways.
Dr. Collins does not mention artificial intelligence in his book, but my own sense is that he would find it to be acceptable as a learning tool as part of that agenda.
Dr. Collins does believe that we should help each other and that we should support each other in our time of need when need happens as a consequence of our overall belief in our sacred role as people included in creation.
Personally, as a Christian who is steered very directly by the explicit 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.
Choosing a religion is an interesting and challenging process, and it sometimes leads to conflict and to destructive beliefs and behaviors.
The InterGroup books talk about instinctive inter group behaviors. It is an extremely sad truth that far too many groups do evil and damaging things to other people and do it in the name of their religion.
Cusp of Chaos talks about the Shia and Sunni and Kurd wars, and about the damage that was done to millions of people in India and Pakistan in the name of religious alignments, and about the more than one hundred current inter ethnic wars that are happening on our planet today.
We humans have powerful tribal instincts — and the InterGroup books explain how we damage other people with no guilt in many intertribal settings. That is particularly sad when the people doing that inter group and tribal damage invoke God as a reason for their evil deeds.
So even though I believe in both intentional design and God, I recognize that religion can be used for both good and evil — and I believe we need to act and think in very intentionally and in enlightened ways to each channel our religion to doing good things and to not damaging each other.
We each need to steer our own religious group to more enlightened thoughts and behaviors on those issues.
I am personally a Christian with direct beliefs that listen to and try to follow the direct teaching of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible. I believe that we have been given that stream of teaching about Jesus Christ in intentional ways — and that the fact that it feels very right to me personally at a deep personal and ethical level is enough for me to accept that learning and that guidance as a gift from God to my life.
That belief works for me.
I do not fault or challenge or question any other religious belief or choice. I believe we each have a context that allows for us to become believers — and I hope that everyone can find a path to a belief system that works for each person and that allows for freedom of religion and multiple supports for us all.
My belief on that point is that we each are born into a context and we should each figure out a religious belief that works for our setting and our context that leads us to do the right things for all of the other people and groups of people in our world.
I also believe for all of the people who do not find a religious context for their lives, that we should simply choose to rise above our inter group conflicts and we should agree on a humanist context that supports enlightened and caring values, beliefs and behaviors and that we should live accordingly in every setting with full respect both for other people and other groups of people in our world.
We do not need everyone to have the same religious belief. But we do want everyone to have similar and enlightened inter group and inter personal behaviors that have positive values at their core.
I personally have read a lot of Buddhist materials and books and I find several aspects of the Buddhist context both inspirational and enlightening. I am a Christian, rather than a Buddhist, but I find many aspects of that set of beliefs to be positive and beneficial.
I personally do not think that the Christ I perceive from the Bible I read would find my thoughts in those areas to be anything other than supportive of my own core beliefs.
Earlier and unpublished versions of the InterGroup Institute books about the impact of instincts on human behavior said that some people with some religious beliefs were attacking Darwin and evolution and all of the things that it was teaching us as evil thoughts.
My answer then was that it was entirely possible to believe in both divine involvement and functional and archeological and biological science and believe that we live in a world where both streams of thought are useful, legitimate and functionally true.
Some people with some religious affiliations seem to believe that we need to believe in either evolution or in God — and some people seem to believe that we cannot and should not believe in both.
I disagreed then with that conclusion when I first heard it and I continue to disagree with it today.
What I wrote in my early book drafts and thought pieces on that point was that I personally believed that God not only could use evolution of various kinds in various ways as a tool, but clearly had done so. That particular issue, I said, was already settled by God, by clearly using the tool.
The evidence for some aspects of evolution having an impact on our world is extremely clear. The record of species change exists at multiple levels. What I told my believer friends at that time — and still say today to some fundamentalist believers, is that if you personally believe that God created the universe, then you have to believe that those evolutionary realities and processes were created by God because they are obviously included in the universe.
I challenged the thinking of people who did not believe that God could use evolution as a tool., I wrote that anyone who challenged the ability of God to use whatever tools God preferred to use in any sense clearly had an potentially insulting and demeaning and inappropriately limited view of the power limitations and capacity of God that made no sense to me in my own view of the world or the powers of God to shape the world.
That combination of beliefs from that set of people about evolution being impossible implied at an intellectual level that those people believed in a very limited God, and I wrote that 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 on some levels. Dr. Collins believes in God, and he personally ran the primary first major project that uncovered key elements of DNA.
We exist to learn.
We exist to discern and learn.
I believe that discernment, learning and intellectual growth is a kind of gift and blessing. 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 and then using those tools in intentional and skilled ways to achieve those goals.
I have my own personal belief in Jesus Christ primarily because I was raised in a Lutheran religious tradition, and that obviously gave me a heavy leaning in that direction.
Being a Lutheran also 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 own interpretation of it.
Later, in attending a lovely and intellectually accepting Lutheran College, Concordia, I studied comparative religions and found that study of other religions to be both affirming and enlightening. Concordia advocated Christianity but did it in a way that welcomed and accepted other religions as possible and respected other paths to God.
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 and settings.
Having the statues in my homes and settings even though I am not personally a Buddhist by belief has been 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 if we honored that belief about it being a prayer.
Like all religions, there are other people in that religion who probably do not share that particular piece of that 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.
So 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 also 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.
An early Minister advisor to me on the issue of whether the first part of the Bible was perfectly literal or actually directional down to each level of detail pointed out to me that being perfectly and rigidly literal would not have provided spouses for the sons of Adam and Eve without incest being involved.
I found directional and figurative interpretation of all of those pieces to be more useful than absolute literal belief in each number, date, and event in those parts of the Bible.
As a highly focused and long-term perpetual student of instinctive behavior, I have found multiple sections of the Bible that reinforce and illustrate clear patterns of instinctive behavior — with some of the tribalism described in many of those stories clearly showing that we fall into Us-Them patterns of behavior at multiple levels and we have done that for a very long time. We need to understand those impacts because we need to do better today in many of those behaviors.
I actually own a very well made and solid Canaanite spear point now that I purchased in Jerusalem from an Palestinian antique store there to remind me of how long people of various groups have been fighting over that particular territory and turf and how difficult it will be to solve those issues until we recognize the underlying instinctive emotions, beliefs and behaviors that drive each of the groups even today in those settings.
I am Christian today 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 direct teachings from Christ that steer my own thoughts and values at multiple levels today.
I now also believe that we live in a world with clear and intentional overall design and that some of those interactions between what exists that seemed to be created by evolution three decades ago are probably the result of a more intentional process and they exist in part because that process has steered them to that reality.
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 intentional design context.
To share that learning to other people through the Institute for InterGroup Understanding tool kit, it seemed to make sense to write a book review of his book on The Language of God and then run that review on the InterGroup website to help create context on the website for those topics and issues. This is that review of that book.
Thank you, Dr. Collins, for giving me that context, inspiration, insight, and opportunity.
I really do love the book.
I very much like his sense of a higher calling and purpose for us all.
I like the fact that Dr. Collins believes that we humans, at our finest levels, can both be self-aware and intelligent, and I like the fact that he believes that we can and should both grow intellectually and morally in the process.
I very much like his belief 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 our commitment to the world and to each other.
His origin theory is clear and useful.
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, as the genius scientific leader who guided our national DNA project to a successful result, 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.
The cover of his book has DNA as prayer beads. Beautiful image.
Some religions and some other 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 about the fact that we should have a purpose for our lives and should help each other into a future of understanding and Peace is a good fit for the work about instance driven inter group interactions and inter personal interactions that The Institute for InterGroup Understanding is trying to do with this website.
The Institute for InterGroup Understanding foundational paradigm describes how we all interact with one another in all of our settings in a constant context of our core instincts for both emotions and thoughts — 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 that can allow us to live both in inter group Peace and in a context of enlightened behaviors and beliefs.
Primal Pathways explains the dozen key sets of instincts that we all have that guide many of our inter group and inter personal behaviors and explains how to use our intellect to steer our instincts into enlightened behaviors.
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 to create both inter personal and inter group support and Peace.
The Institute for InterGroup Understanding book, The 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.
I strongly believe and hope we decide to 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 obviously 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 both religious thought and non-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 to 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 about positive and caring interactions with other people from all groups 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, division and despair.
It is a very good book.
In my own personal set of beliefs — I believe that 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 and that we should avoid the slippery slopes to inter group evil and conflict by doing the right thing for the right reasons for people in every setting.
Dr. Collins and his book, The Language of God, would clearly argue that it is what we are here to do.
I believe he is right.
It’s worth doing because the alternatives are so damaging and grim and our children and grandchildren will have ugly and damaged lives if we do not get some key things right now.
That’s why we need a Peace Movement now, and why I invite you to seriously consider joining together to achieve Peace — as either an extremely enlightened secular goal or as the fulfillment of a higher calling that is channeling us in that direction.
Mother Theresa would say that a very best prayer is to help someone who really needs you to help them at the moment they need help.
Beginning with our kids would be the right thing to do.