“The Language of God” by Francis Collins

Revised August 9, 2019

This is a top-rated book (published in 2007), as apparent from a large number of reviews on Amazon. The author is a respected scientist and is the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This post is based on a review that I posted at the Amazon site back in 2012.

  • I have read numerous books trying to find solid arguments for believing in a Creator. The author has put together the best case he could also using previous ideas of C. S. Lewis and others. The main points in the book can be summarized as follows (not in the order presented in the book):

1. God is responsible for the “Big Bang,” i.e., the creation of the universe, and for creating the just right physical parameters (fine-tuning) that enabled human life on planet Earth.

2. The “Intelligent Design” theory needs to be abandoned, since it may damage the case for the existence of God.

3. Darwin’s theory of evolution does account for leading to the appearance of a “human-like” creature, even though the theory explains the evolution of more complex animals.

  • Whether this creature further evolved by itself to be human or whether at some point, God directly instilled conscience to this creature, he leaves it open.
  • Either way, God is responsible for the existence of morality in humans. He prefers to call “BioLogos,” the theory of “Theistic Evolution.”

4. The existence of “Moral Law” (the ability to differentiate right from wrong) is the fundamental basis for his belief in God.

5. The issue of “pain and suffering” was a problematic issue for C. S. Lewis, and the present author also runs into difficulties in addressing it.

My comments are as follows:

1. Proponents of the Big Bang theory say that Big Bang was not just one event, but such events are supposed to be of frequent occurrence. Thus there is no need to invoke a higher power.

  • Stephen Hawking, whose book “A Brief History of Time” that the author quoted to make a case for God’s role, has since come out with a new book “The Grand Design” (2010). In that book he clearly states that the need for a Creator God is no longer there based on new evidence.
  • Also, in the inflationary theory, Big Bangs are occurring all the time, and there is no need to invoke a fine-tuning of physical parameters; see, “The Beginning of Infinity” by David Deutsch.

2. Actually “Intelligent Design” is a somewhat better theory than the hypothesis of a God, in the sense that the proponents of that theory have put forth some formidable arguments for it.

  • Of course, I do not subscribe to that theory (which some say is making a case for a Creator God without admitting it). However, Collins does not make a better case for the Creator God hypothesis.
  • The problem with the “Intelligent Design” theory is that of course, the question arises as to how that designer came into being! That is why many people say it is the same as the God hypothesis.
  • If anyone is interested in learning about the “Intelligent Design” theory, a good book is “Signature in the Cell” by Stephen Meyer (2009).

3. The big question here is “wherein this sequence did the God instill moral values in the evolving creature?”. Is there a clear-cut transition from a robotic animal to a human with moral values?

  • The “uniqueness of a human” according to the author, is the ability to know right from wrong. Humans indeed have this quality stronger than in animals. Some animals also have at least a glimpse of this quality. If you have a pet, especially a dog, you know that it has feelings and even its mind to do things, i.e., it is not like a robot.
  • While people sometimes sacrifice their own lives to save others, there are also people like Hitler and Pol Pot who have committed unmentionable atrocities. And that was with planning (not just on impulse).
  • In Buddha Dhamma, both moral and immoral choices are in the “human psyche”; based on many complex factors (saṃsāric habits or “gati,” family, friends, and associates, etc.) people choose to be moral or immoral at different times depending on the situation. Of course, greed, hate, and ignorance play a significant role; see, “Living Dhamma.”

4. Now on the existence of “moral law”: From #3 above, it is clear that even though morality is in the human psyche, it does not have a “binding effect” on humans. Humans are, in general,  more “moral” than animals. But within the broader world described by the Buddha Dhamma, there are other sentient beings (devas and Brahmā) who are more “moral” than humans.

  • If the man is to be judged by just one life, why is it that everyone not given the same chance (including “same morality”)? People are born poor, rich, healthy, unhealthy, etc., and some die even before getting a chance to prove their worthiness.
  • These apparent “vagaries of life” are a strong argument for the case that this life is only one of many. Furthermore, the diversity that we observe is due to the effects of past actions (kamma vipāka); see, “Vagaries of Life and the Way to seek “Good Rebirths”.
  • The basis of morality (as well as immorality) comes out naturally in Buddha Dhamma. See, “Origin of Morality (and Immorality) in Buddhism.”

5. Of course, the issue of “pain and suffering” — not only in this life but in the cycle of rebirths — is the fundamental problem of existence according to Buddha Dhamma.

  • Again, the issue of “pain and suffering” is unexplainable by any approach based on just one life. Just like modern science, Buddha Dhamma has a foundation in “causes and effects.” Suffering — as well as happiness — arises due to past causes, and since most of these effects (e.g., disability at birth, poverty) are even apparent at birth, “past” means past lives.
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