“The Language of God” by Francis Collins

Revised August 9, 2019; August 28, 2022; January 25, 2024

This is a top-rated book (published in 2007), as apparent from many reviews on Amazon. The author is a respected scientist and director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

  • I have read numerous books to find solid arguments for believing in a Creator. The author has put together the best case 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 must be abandoned since it may undermine the case for God’s existence (a scientist actually says that!)

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.

  • He leaves it open whether this creature further evolved to be human or whether, at some point, God directly instilled a conscience in it.
  • 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 problematic for C. S. Lewis, and the present author also encountered difficulties addressing it.

My comments are as follows:

1. Stephen Hawking, whose book, “A Brief History of Time,” the author quoted to make a case for God’s role, has since published 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 occur constantly, 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 because its proponents have put forth some formidable arguments for it. For example, see Stephen C. Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell,” which provides a scientific analysis.

  • 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 about how that designer came into being! 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 question is, ” In this sequence, did 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 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, people like Hitler and Pol Pot 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, 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, other sentient beings (Devas and BrahmāS) are more “moral” than humans.

  • If the man is to be judged by just one life, why is 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 (and immorality) comes naturally in Buddha’s Dhamma. See “Origin of Morality (and Immorality) in Buddhism.”

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

  • Again, the “pain and suffering” issue is unexplainable by any approach based on just one life. Like modern science, Buddha Dhamma has a foundation in “causes and effects.” Suffering and happiness arise 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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