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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

3.9 83
by Francis S. Collins

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An instant bestseller, The Language of God provides the best argument for the integration of faith and logic since C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.

It has long been believed that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. It is an irreconcilable war


An instant bestseller, The Language of God provides the best argument for the integration of faith and logic since C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.

It has long been believed that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. It is an irreconcilable war between two polar-opposite ways of thinking and living. Written for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin’s personal story of struggling with doubt, as well as the many revelations of the wonder of God’s creation that will forever shape the way they view the world around them.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Collins's argument that science and faith are compatible deserves a wide hearing. It lets non-churchgoers consider spiritual questions without feeling awkward."

The New York Times Book Review

"The Language of God is a powerful confession of belief from one of the world's leading scientists. Refuting the tired stereotypes of hostility between science and religion, Francis Collins challenges his readers to find a unity of knowledge that encompasses both faith and reason."

— Kenneth Miller, Brown University, author of Finding Darwin's God

"What an elegantly written book. In it Francis Collins, the eminent scientist, tells why he is also a devout believer....A real godsend for those with questioning minds but who are also attracted to things spiritual."

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"God gave us an opportunity through science to understand the natural world, but there will never be a scientific proof of God's existence…. God examines the natural and God stands outside the natural." Dr. Francis S. Collins, the man at the helm of the Human Genome Project, doesn't think that science and faith are foes. In fact, this world-renowned physician-geneticist regards scientific research as a reassuring counterpart of faith. In The Language of God, Collins describes how his Christian faith has worked in tandem with his search for scientific truth.
Publishers Weekly
Collins, a pioneering medical geneticist who once headed the Human Genome Project, adapts his title from President Clinton's remarks announcing completion of the first phase of the project in 2000: "Today we are learning the language in which God created life." Collins explains that as a Christian believer, "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." This marvelous book combines a personal account of Collins's faith and experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of more general topics of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution. Following the lead of C.S. Lewis, whose Mere Christianity was influential in Collins's conversion from atheism, the book argues that belief in a transcendent, personal God-and even the possibility of an occasional miracle-can and should coexist with a scientific picture of the world that includes evolution. Addressing in turn fellow scientists and fellow believers, Collins insists that "science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced" and "God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible." Collins's credibility as a scientist and his sincerity as a believer make for an engaging combination, especially for those who, like him, resist being forced to choose between science and God. (July 17) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When the head of the Human Genome Project calls the genetic code "the language of God," he deserves to be taken very seriously. In a discussion that is both broadly ecumenical and scientifically incontrovertible, Collins entertains propositions both for and against the existence of God and biblical authority, as well as the moral implications of bioethics. He personalizes the narrative by recounting his own journey from atheism to faith, portraying it as much an intellectual quest as a spiritual one. His excellent discussion of intelligent design seeks not to debunk the theory, but rather to cite its limitations and to show how a scientific worldview transcends them without, in his opinion, conflicting with faith. Finally, he talks about his vision of "BioLogos," or science and religion in harmony. An essential read, equally for readers of religious or secular persuasions. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt


On a warm summer day just six months into the new millennium, humankind crossed a bridge into a momentous new era. An announcement beamed around the world, highlighted in virtually all major newspapers, trumpeted that the first draft of the human genome, our own instruction book, had been assembled.

The human genome consists of all the DNA of our species, the hereditary code of life. This newly revealed text was 3 billion letters long, and written in a strange and cryptographic four-letter code. Such is the amazing complexity of the information carried within each cell of the human body, that a live reading of that code at a rate of one letter per second would take thirty-one years, even if reading continued day and night. Printing these letters out in regular font size on normal bond paper and binding them all together would result in a tower the height of the Washington Monument. For the first time on that summer morning this amazing script, carrying within it all of the instructions for building a human being, was available to the world.

As the leader of the international Human Genome Project, which had labored mightily over more than a decade to reveal this DNA sequence, I stood beside President Bill Clinton in the East Room of the White House, along with Craig Venter, the leader of a competing private sector enterprise. Prime Minister Tony Blair was connected to the event by satellite, and celebrations were occurring simultaneously in many parts of the world.

Clinton's speech began by comparing this human sequence map to the map that Meriwether Lewis had unfolded in front of President Thomas Jefferson in that very room nearly two hundred years earlier. Clinton said, "Without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind." But the part of his speech that most attracted public attention jumped from the scientific perspective to the spiritual. "Today," he said, "we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God's most divine and sacred gift."

Was I, a rigorously trained scientist, taken aback at such a blatantly religious reference by the leader of the free world at a moment such as this? Was I tempted to scowl or look at the floor in embarrassment? No, not at all. In fact I had worked closely with the president's speechwriter in the frantic days just prior to this announcement, and had strongly endorsed the inclusion of this paragraph. When it came time for me to add a few words of my own, I echoed this sentiment: "It's a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God."

What was going on here? Why would a president and a scientist, charged with announcing a milestone in biology and medicine, feel compelled to invoke a connection with God? Aren't the scientific and spiritual worldviews antithetical, or shouldn't they at least avoid appearing in the East Room together? What were the reasons for invoking God in these two speeches? Was this poetry? Hypocrisy? A cynical attempt to curry favor from believers, or to disarm those who might criticize this study of the human genome as reducing humankind to machinery? No. Not for me. Quite the contrary, 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.

Many will be puzzled by these sentiments, assuming that a rigorous scientist could not also be a serious believer in a transcendent God. This book aims to dispel that notion, by arguing that belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science.

This potential synthesis of the scientific and spiritual worldviews is assumed by many in modern times to be an impossibility, rather like trying to force the two poles of a magnet together into the same spot. Despite that impression, however, many Americans seem interested in incorporating the validity of both of these worldviews into their daily lives. Recent polls confirm that 93 percent of Americans profess some form of belief in God; yet most of them also drive cars, use electricity, and pay attention to weather reports, apparently assuming that the science undergirding these phenomena is generally trustworthy.

And what about spiritual belief amongst scientists? This is actually more prevalent than many realize. In 1916, researchers asked biologists, physicists, and mathematicians whether they believed in a God who actively communicates with humankind and to whom one may pray in expectation of receiving an answer. About 40 percent answered in the affirmative. In 1997, the same survey was repeated verbatim — and to the surprise of the researchers, the percentage remained very nearly the same.

So perhaps the "battle" between science and religion is not as polarized as it seems? Unfortunately, the evidence of potential harmony is often overshadowed by the high-decibel pronouncements of those who occupy the poles of the debate. Bombs are definitely being thrown from both sides. For example, essentially discrediting the spiritual beliefs of 40 percent of his colleagues as sentimental nonsense, the prominent evolutionist Richard Dawkins has emerged as the leading spokesperson for the point of view that a belief in evolution demands atheism. Among his many eye-popping statements: "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.... Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion."

On the other side, certain religious fundamentalists attack science as dangerous and untrustworthy, and point to a literal interpretation of sacred texts as the only reliable means of discerning scientific truth. Among this community, comments from the late Henry Morris, a leader of the creationist movement, stand out: "Evolution's lie permeates and dominates modern thought in every field. That being the case, it follows inevitably that evolutionary thought is basically responsible for the lethally ominous political developments, and the chaotic moral and social disintegrations that have been accelerating everywhere....When science and the Bible differ, science has obviously misinterpreted its data."

This rising cacophony of antagonistic voices leaves many sincere observers confused and disheartened. Reasonable people conclude that they are forced to choose between these two unappetizing extremes, neither of which offers much comfort. Disillusioned by the stridency of both perspectives, many choose to reject both the trustworthiness of scientific conclusions and the value of organized religion, slipping instead into various forms of antiscientific thinking, shallow spirituality, or simple apathy. Others decide to accept the value of both science and spirit, but compartmentalize these parts of their spiritual and material existence to avoid any uneasiness about apparent conflicts. Along these lines, the late biologist Stephen Jay Gould advocated that science and faith should occupy separate, "non-overlapping magisteria." But this, too, is potentially unsatisfying. It inspires internal conflict, and deprives people of the chance to embrace either science or spirit in a fully realized way.

So here is the central question of this book: In this modern era of cosmology, evolution, and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews? I answer with a resounding yes! In my view, there is no conflict in being a rigorous scientist and a person who believes in a God who takes a personal interest in each one of us. Science's domain is to explore nature. God's domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul — and the mind must find a way to embrace both realms.

I will argue that these perspectives not only can coexist within one person, but can do so in a fashion that enriches and enlightens the human experience. Science is the only reliable way to understand the natural world, and its tools when properly utilized can generate profound insights into material existence. But science is powerless to answer questions such as "Why did the universe come into being?" "What is the meaning of human existence?" "What happens after we die?" One of the strongest motivations of humankind is to seek answers to profound questions, and we need to bring all the power of both the scientific and spiritual perspectives to bear on understanding what is both seen and unseen. The goal of this book is to explore a pathway toward a sober and intellectually honest integration of these views.

The consideration of such weighty matters can be unsettling. Whether we call it by name or not, all of us have arrived at a certain worldview. It helps us make sense of the world around us, provides us with an ethical framework, and guides our decisions about the future. Anyone who tinkers with that worldview should not do it lightly. A book that proposes to challenge something so fundamental may inspire more uneasiness than comfort. But we humans seem to possess a deep-seated longing to find the truth, even though that longing is easily suppressed by the mundane details of daily life. Those distractions combine with a desire to avoid considering our own mortality, so that days, weeks, months, or even years can easily pass where no serious consideration is given to the eternal questions of human existence. This book is only a small antidote to that circumstance, but will perhaps provide an opportunity for self-reflection, and a desire to look deeper.

First, I should explain how a scientist who studies genetics came to be a believer in a God who is unlimited by time and space, and who takes personal interest in human beings. Some will assume that this must have come about by rigorous religious upbringing, deeply instilled by family and culture, and thus inescapable in later life. But that's not really my story.

Copyright © 2006 by Francis S. Collins

What People are Saying About This

"What an elegantly written book. In it Francis Collins, the eminent scientist, tells why he is also a devout believer.... A real godsend for those with questioning minds but who are also attracted to things spiritual."
-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"The world respects Francis as a brilliant scientist responsible for breakthrough discoveries benefiting mankind. For a decade I have been privileged to admire him as a devoted family man and talented musician with a charmingly sharp wit. This intellectually honest, spiritually grounded reconciliation of God and science helps answer your greatest questions. I was profoundly enlightened and believe this important book should be required reading."
-- Naomi Judd

"Francis Collins, one of the world's most distinguished scientists, treats the relationship of science and religion with reason and reverence. Collins's mix of clear technical exposition and personal reflection is infused with an intellectual and spiritual honesty. Everyone who questions how religious faith could be reconciled with scientific knowledge, everyone who fears that modern science attacks the heart of religious faith, everyone interested in an enlightened discussion of a crucial issue of our time should read this book."
-- William D. Phillips, 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics

"In today's world, scarred by cultural warfare, it is rare for a scientist to offer a testimony of faith in God. For that scientist to be one of the world's most renowned is rarer still. For his testimony to be so lucid and compelling, combining reason and revelation, science and spirit, is unheard of. The Language of God belongs on the shelf of every believer and every seeker."
-- Dr. Robert H. Schuller, Founding Pastor, the Crystal Cathedral

Meet the Author

Francis S. Collins is one of the country's leading geneticists and the longtime head of the Human Genome Project. Prior to coming to Washington, he helped to discover the genetic misspellings that cause cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, and Huntington's disease. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and in his spare time he enjoys riding a motorcycle and playing guitar.

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The Language of God 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Over the last hundred years a battle between Christian fundamentalists and evolutionists has been greatly intensified. As more and more scientific evidence for evolution has been revealed, many Christians (including myself) started to feel that science was attacking their beliefs. In response to this attack, they have closed their eyes, ears, and minds to the overwhelming facts that point to evolution as the process that created mankind. In his book The Language of God Francis S. Collins, who directed the Human Genome Project, writes to both sides of the argument arguing that Christianity can, and does, work in perfect harmony with evolution. For most of my life I have included myself as a follower of young earth creationism, a group of people Collins calls a ¿well-meaning, God-fearing people, driven by deep concerns that naturalism is threatening to drive God out of human experience.. I, along with the rest of this group, often fill gaps in our knowledge of the formation of the world with God. When science then fills those gaps, the foundation that we have set our beliefs on crumbles, and often our faith crumbles with it. Collins urges Christians to change their foundation to science, whose rules were made by God, and will only support the argument for his presence and his creation of the earth. In a time where science seems to be attacking religion from all angles, the brilliant Collins raises a clear, intelligent voice that speaks up for believers of both religion and science. For Christians and seekers alike, The Language of God can give harmony within by showing the harmony that exists between science and God.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a non believer, I am sort of attracted to this opposing point of view. However, this book had a greater affect on me and I am starting to reexamine the possibility that I may have been arrogant to be so certain of my position. This is a difficult realization to have as a very well established scientist myself. Congratulations, Dr. Collins.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I assumed the tag line "A scientist presents evidence for belief" meant the author would present (or at least try to present) scientific evidence for belief. The only thing the author points to as evidence is what C. S. Lewis called the "Moral Law". While that might be compelling to some, I read this book hoping to be presented evidence informed by the author's amazing career. With that said, this was a fun read about genetics and it was cool to learn about the Human Genome Project and the author's own faith journey. But again, nothing new as far as evidence for belief
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not a book looking to indoctrinate Intelligent Design upon the reader. Rather Dr. Collins rejects the ID concept entirely. Rather he proposes the concept of theological evolution (BioLogos), which was a revelation to me and one that I was entirely unaware of. Dr. Collins offers amazing insight into the compatibility of science and faith. Dont be intimidated by the subject matter. In a world that frequently marginalizes faith as a fairy tale or mythology Dr. Collins offers hard science as a means to counter those that reject God and forces them to realize it takes a leap of faith of their own to back their own belief system. Challenge yourself no matter your belief and read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We continue to fight the battle of Creation: Evolution vs. the Bible. Collins in this short but thorough treatment has shown us that science and religion can reach the same conclusions, there is no reason for the constant bickering. He presents powerful scientific evidence to support the concept of evolution while at the same time giving strong support to faith and a belief in a Divine Creator. His arguments are cogent and his data lend strong evidence to his argument. He says, in effect, "Let us reason together." He gives equal weight to the values of both science and religion. Perhaps some of the most convincing evidence comes late in the book in the words of Darwin himself. Collins is trying to bridge the gap between the two warring factions and points out the strengths of both sides. To him, there is no reason for the dispute. "Blessed are the peacemakers..."
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is well written and does have value but its argument for belief is extremely weak. Dr. Collins' conversion from atheism to belief is clearly based on C.S. Lewis' argument that morality is proof of God. This Moral Law argument is based on very simple analogies, the assumption that all humans have the same moral values, and seriously flawed logic. In my eyes, Dr. Collins loses credibility by embracing the Moral Law with such enthusiasm and his failure to critically analyze C.S. Lewis' argument. The book does pose a serious threat to those that believe in Intelligent Design. Dr. Collins' comparison of the DNA of humans and animals clearly supports Darwinian evolution. He argues that the second human chromosome is a fusion of the second and third chromosome in primates, convincing him that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor - not exactly the kind of information that will be embraced by the literal readers of the Bible. This observation is clearly not the 'evidence' promised in the subtitle as it does more to advance the cause of atheists and agnostics. Dr. Collins ultimately settles on a belief system that he calls BioLogos, a renaming of Theistic Evolution. This is nothing more than Deism with more scientific understanding. It promotes the view that God 'who is outside of space and time' got the universe started, jump-started life and then evolution took over. This view has no need for theology, the Bible, a belief in Jesus, or any of the dogma of the world's religion. It is a view that has so little claims that there is no need for proof or no logic to analyze. It is, in my opinion, a very lazy approach to religion with no room for critical analysis. In summary, Dr. Collins gives much 'evidence' of evolution but does not offer any for God - nor does his belief system require any. His aim does not seem to be to prove that God exists but to say that science and faith can exist together in harmony. I agree that science has not proved that God does not exist but Dr. Collins does not give any 'evidence' that He does either. Because of this, I find the subtitle misleading. Dr. Collins may have 'belief' but what that belief relates to is not necessary the God believe in by the Abrahamic religions. For those interested in evolution, I strongly recommend Part Two. Part One and Three, however, hold little value to the believer or the skeptic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a very powerful novel written discussing the relationship of science and religion with reason. Collins is finally the voice of reason we have long awaited. Collins discusses how evolution and faith are compatible. Collins a former atheist, discovers god and sees his faith in a new light. He discusses the bond between science and faith. As well as the great questions of Human existence, and the origins of the universe, and our existence on Earth, and in the end lessons of the Human Genome. In the end Collins leaves you with the discussion of Faith in Science and Faith in God. A book that is a must read for anyone wishing to look deeper into their faith and believe in a new repect.
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
The language of God had a profound effect on me. As a corporate director for a fortune 500 company I continually strive to incorporate spirituality in the workplace. Not as an in-your-face endeavor, but rather as an example. With the way the world is becoming and indeed, our own nation, I find this to be an ardous task.

This book, helped me over some rough spots. Having recently read the God Delusion and God Is Not Great, I was in dire need of a refreshing view from my side of the fence.

This book will fortify what you already know and will be a great comfort to you as you live out your life in this changing time.

Now I only need for the author to continue the tread and write several more books. I can assure you that I will buy and cherish all of them.

Michael L. Gooch, SPHR
Guest More than 1 year ago
I usually hate the Christian non-fiction selection of books, but this one was intelligent, thoughtful, and portrayed an acurate view of what science is and is not. More importantly is shows how Christians should not be afraid of science, even more, that they should encourage their children in the sciences as much as any other school subject. Dr. Collins shows that you can be an evolutionist and still a faithful, God-honoring, Biblically based Christian. Yeah!
Mason Smith More than 1 year ago
It seemed like it took forever to explain a christians belief in evolution through biologos but it was deeply satisfying and an excellent thought provoking read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first saw Dr. Collins at a scientific lecture, at which time he mentioned that later that evening he would be presenting a lecture on Science and Religion. I found him a dynamic speaker and decided to buy the book. This book presents insightful and thought provoking arguments for why Science and Religion are not truly at odds with themselves as many would like you to believe. A portion of it was his journey from atheism to faith as well as the experiences of several other believing scientists, which lightens the reading to keep it from being to much like a textbook. The rest of it analyzes how the big bang theory, evolution and other hot-button topics in relation to religion. It is written so that someone without a strong scientific background can understand both the theory and the reason that the theory is not incompatible with faith. One of my favorite quotes from the book is a quote from Galileo, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
Guest More than 1 year ago
very good investment of your time and money. One of the best things I've ready in a long while - If you liked Blink or Tipping Point by Gladwell - you'll like this even more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is rare. A first rate scientist relates his scientific understanding and his faith in terms which can be understood by those not formally trained in the laws of chemistry and physics.Science helps my faith walk with Christ. It does not hinder.
Rendfest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Of course it matched up pretty well with my own ideas about how religion and science co-exist. If you didn't enjoy Biology class this book might be a bit heavy.
GarycUT More than 1 year ago
One of the worlds top bio scientists explains his change from an agnostic thru a wondered to a careful consideration about the wonders of all living things. He is not preaching any single religion, but shares his amazement at the complexities of DNA & what it means & implies. Very carefully thot out, should be a "must read" for all who think about life & it's meaning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the most powerful aspects of the author's arguments for a harmony between faith and objective science center on debunking the most popular theological perspectives that oppose Evolutionary Theory. Arguments like Intelligent Design are carefully and gracefully swept out of the way in favor for the author's own creationism meets evolution narrative. Ironically, the author seems to do more to forward the case for an atheistic point of view by dispmissing the creationist perspectives of today with the most strength and following. Relying of C.S. Lewis, the author rests the foundation of his premise on the claim that all people have a preprogrammed sense of Morality that is universal across all people and which cannot be explained by evolutionary theory. The moment the reader discounts that, as many before have discounted C.S. Lewis' arguments based on recent anthropopical findings on the metabolite of moral law across cultures, the author's argument falls flat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Evolution is a lie , this book presents powerful case for creator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ria bela More than 1 year ago
love this it. books
Go4Jugular More than 1 year ago
All books that seek to reason a way to belief in God (or a god) suffer from the same problem, which is that ultimately you can't prove what must be a faith-based decision. However, Collins does a good job of looking at the juxtaposition of faith and science, and how each seeks to address the greater questions of life. He then looks at four different world-view options, and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each. The strength of this book is actually in his explanation of the scientific perspective, but as a believer he represents that position well, and one can learn a great deal about both science and religion without feeling either side is overrepresented.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book shows -with an easy to understand language- how rational the belief in God can be. Francis Collins is one of the greatest modern scientists in the world, and a Christian. So no surprise if he is absolutely convinced about theistic evolution. As a scientist, I was so happy to read about a faith so similar to mine. Corrado Ghinamo (author of "The Beautiful Scientist")
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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whataboutthekurds More than 1 year ago
This guy sure likes to wear his rdeligion on his sleeve. I don't care what he believes. A dr. knows no more about God than a starfish. As for "Faith", it's anhj emotion, not a mkaterial thing. I wish everyoneb would getn that through their heads. Faith means nothing more than hope. It's not a real measurable thing. Should not be used in language like it's some kind of gem or something. Religionists have been getting away using that word like it's gold forever. It should stop. Faith doesn't warrant "respect". No more than a comfortable chair. It's just a good feeling. No5thing more. Like this: "I believe it because I have "faith". See? Itn means hope. Nothing more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Simply an exceptional book.