Evolution, the Bible, and the Book of Nature

The July/August issue of Books and Culture contains an interview by Karl Giberson with Francis Collins on his views of science and faith – now available on line: Evolution, the Bible and the Book of Nature.

Here is a brief taste of the article – read the whole – better yet subscribe! (pictures from wikipedia)

On the general approach Collins takes to issues of science and faith:

Giberson: You take both the Bible and evolution seriously. Did the harmony you find between evolution and your faith just come naturally?

Francis_Collins dsCollins: You know, it really did. When I became a believer at 27, the first church I went to was a pretty conservative Methodist church in a little town outside Chapel Hill. I’m sure there were a lot of people in that church who were taking Genesis literally and rejecting evolution.

But I couldn’t take Genesis literally because I had come to the scientific worldview before I came to the spiritual worldview. I felt that, once I arrived at the sense that God was real and that God was the source of all truth, then, just by definition, there could not be a conflict.

On the claim that scientists are misled by their preconceptions:

Karl_Giberson dsGiberson: History shows that paradigms are sometimes misleading. For example, the paradigm that there couldn’t be change in the heavens caused people to miss data for many centuries about new stars. The ID scientists would say that people like you wouldn’t see the design in nature because you work under a paradigm that excludes that possibility.

Collins: Sure, we have paradigms that we use to try and organize things, but one of our goals is to upset these paradigms. If laboratories did experiments and said, “Hey, wait a minute, here is some data suggesting that evolution is wrong, it is not capable of explaining something,” that would be a lightning rod for excited investigation. This idea would not be ignored because it wasn’t consistent with a reigning paradigm.

On the key question – which experts should we trust?

Giberson: We are all part of social groups, and people we trust tell us things. … But how are people outside the scientific community supposed to navigate this complex web of social authority, to try and figure out which voices they should listen to, and which voices they shouldn’t?

Consider credentials. On paper the credentials of the better creationists and id people are like yours and mine. Take you and Michael Behe. You both have PhDs. You have both done research and published articles. So if somebody wants to put Behe up against Collins and say, “Well, here’s a guy and I like what he says. And here’s another guy and I don’t like what he says. And you’re asking me to follow Collins over Behe? Well, why should I do that?”

Collins: Well, that is a fundamental problem we’re facing in our culture, especially in the United States. It’s why we have such a mismatch between what the scientific data would suggest and what many people believe about things like the age of the Earth and about whether evolution is true or not.

If you ask about data-driven questions, about what is true and what is the evidence to support it–you would want to go to the people who are the professionals who spend their lives trying to answer those questions and ask, “Is there a consensus view?” So you ask, “What is the age of the Earth?” Well, who does that work? It is the geologist and the cosmologists and the people who do radiocarbon dating. It is the fossil record people and so on. So you ask, “Is this an unanswered question?” And the answer you would get is that the issue is settled. The age of the earth is 4.55 billion years.

What do you think of these answers – or any of the rest of the article? Lets open the discussion here.

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

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