Ethical/Scientific errors in Francis Collins' "Language of God"
A leading religious scientist is Francis Collins, head of the US's Humane Genome Project. His experience in science makes him a leading scientist, and his current religious beliefs position him to represent modern religion, at least as we know it in America. You would think then that such a person would be the perfect choice to write accurately about the harmony of science and religion, an especially important concern in light of controversial science such as same-sex procreation.
In 2006, Collins published a book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, which, sadly, betrays both science and religion by including multiple inaccurate statements about both. Even more troubling, these inaccurate statements of science and religion were lauded by others in the religious world who also are supposed bridges between reason and religion. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for example, praised the book as "A real godsend for those with questions in mind but also are attracted to things spiritual". If the arguments of Collins and Tutu are the best that modern religion can offer, then the world of faith has serious problems if it wants to question science.
What follows is a review of Collins' book, chapter by chapter, highlighting various scientific and religious errors. While few scientists will be misled by Collins' incorrect science, many believers will be misled by Collins' inaccurate religious statements. In that sense, his book betrays the very people he thought he was helping most.
A short synopsis of some of the errors and oversights that give his book a lack of credibility:
- While he admits to being a Christian, he refuses to identify which Christian denomination he belongs to (other than being an evangelical), so that he doesn't have to defend the peculiarities of that denomination, which he knows he probably can't defend. For example, is he a literalist Baptist? He admits his contempt for most denominations of religions: "Much of what I have found in the CliffsNotes version of different religions left me thoroughly mystified."
- He repeatedly refers to God as "He/Him/His" without discussing any of the misogynistic patriarchal consequences that have hurt women for thousands of years, and without discussing why it is wrong to apply these biological gender terms to a supposedly genderless entity. Why not an equal number of "She/Her/Her"? Or why not avoid misogyny and just use "God"? Worse, Collins doesn't mention how all of Christianity's misogyny flow from the writings of Saint Paul.
- He asserts that the only explanation for the creation of the universe is God - God is the first cause - without mentioning the many scientific and philosophical proofs that make this explanation illogical (e.g., if God doesn't need to have a creator, why does the universe need to have to have a creator?).
- He assumes the existence of a unique specific moral law (natural law) without defining what that law is. Nor does he mention the many critical analyses of the non-existence of a "natural law" beyond the laws of science.
- He argues that the only significant genetic/genotypical difference between humans and apes, who were both created by God, is a behavioral/phenotypical sense of morality that is written into human genes - the Language of God. He offers no proof for this, and he also doesn't mention the growing amount of scientific research that proves that some animals (such as the Bonobo chimpanzee) have partial capabilities for morality.
- He admits some religious people are evil, but ignores those passages of religious texts that condone and justify evil (such as the many instructions to kill and murder), passages that encourage these evil religious people, and thus passages that are evil aspects of religion that nurture evil.
- He ignores how science is actually truer to faith than religion is. Science demands that axioms - sets of statements (like faith) that are assumed to be true without proof - be consistent, so that no contradictions can be reasoned from them. Religion does not in any way make this demand about its own "self-evident" truths, i.e., religious faith. Religions that contradictorily state "Do not kill" and "Kill non-virgin brides" has a flawed axiomatic basis.
- He disparages atheists by calling evil people such as Stalin and Mao atheists, while ignoring what most astheists believe in - such as the importance of secular rule of law as set forth by the United States Code - is not what Stalin and Mao believed in. Collins also ignores the religious background of truly evil people such as Adolf Hitler, and the questionable morality of religious people who cut deals with evil people such as Hitler.
- He lies about historical evidence of the life of Jesus (there is almost none outside the Bible), how the writers of the New Testament borrowed features of Jesus from competing cults (such as the virgin birth and communion), and the role of truly evil rulers such as Constantine who established some of the dogma of Christianity solely for political purposes.
- He exploits being emotionally affected by the rape of his daughter, which he writes about, without commenting on biblical passages that have been used for thousands of years to justify raping women, for example, marital rape.
- He is silent about too many American politicians attacking science using religion, in order to get elected. This greatly hurts the role of science in society and business.
- He doesn't mention biblical minimalism - the lack of any evidence for much of the Old Testament up to the time of the mystical figures David and Solomon - to challenge the believers reading his book to more critically reason about their faith.
- He refuses to seriously discuss any religion other than Christianity - religions many Americans believe in, and religions with much to say on science and religion. For example, do Buddhist countries really have no problem with cloning to obtain stem cells? What is their Language of God? What is their Moral Law? Collins is silent.
- With regards to homosexuality, Collins writes nothing, despite the great social controversies in the United States. For example, is homosexuality written in the Language of God - in our DNA? Science increasingly says "Yes", while religions say "No". Collins says nothing.
In short, this is a very intellectually dishonest book. If Collins is one of the best religious scientists in the world, then science is right to ignore religious concerns about science until religions clean up their ethical problems. Reading Collins' book, you wouldn't had been surprised had Collins written something similar to:"Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise [for disobeying Moral Law]."This Moral Law statement was written by a German politician who was also found of using "Him/He" to refer to god.
What follows is a chapter-by-chapter analysis of Collins' book.
Chapter One -- From Atheism to Belief
Page 13 - "I was vaguely aware of the concept of God, but my own interactions with Him .... something I wanted Him to do for me." Very early in the book, Collins' cavalierly introduces a highly controversial usage - referring to God as "Him", without any discussion of this controversy. Some denominations of Christianity are currently removing this misogynistic language from their bibles. Why not use "Her" instead of "Him"? Collins of all people should understand the importance of gender terms, yet he says nothing, reflecting his inner misogyny. He also doesn't mention how all of his Christianity's misogyny flows from the writings of Saint Paul.
Page 20 - "If faith was a psychological crutch, I concluded, it must be a powerful one." Here he is writing about why there has to be something real about faith, if so many people feel so strongly about it. But if he is going to use the phrase "psychological crutch", he must contrast faith with other such crutches, such as drugs. Marijuana is a very useful and much used psychological crutch (as are coffee, alcohol and nicotine). But since such crutches tend to tend to be false crutches, maybe so is faith. Collins says nothing about this. How many women were killed as witches by people high on marijuana? Zero. How many women were killed as witches by misogynistic people high on faith? Hundreds of thousands.
Page 21 - "Much of what I found in the CliffsNotes versions of different religions (I found reading the actual sacred texts much too difficult) left me thoroughly mystified, and I found little reason to be drawn to one or the other of the many possibilities. I doubted that there was any rational basis for spiritual belief undergirding any of these faiths. Though this passage is encouraging, promising non-believers and believers alike insight about Collins' rationalization about faith, nowhere in the rest of the book does he provide such a rational basis.
Page 22 - "This standard is the Moral Law. It might also be called the 'the law of right behavior', ...".. Nowhere in his book does Collins specify what the, or his, Moral Law is, so scientists can check its rationality. He also does not mention the many profound philosophical criticisms of the undefined use of the word "right", and does not attempt to define it himself.
Page 23 - "... the concept of right and wrong appears to be universal among all members of the human species ... It thus seems to be a phenomenon approaching that of a law, like the law of gravitation or of special relativity." Without a definition of "right", this sentence is meaningless, because you can't compare the laws of science with the supposed laws of "right". You need a definition of "right". Collins provides no such definition.
Page 24 - "In some unusual circumstances the [Moral Law] takes on surprising trappings - consider witch burning in 17th century America. Yet when surveyed closely, these apparent aberrations can be seen to arise from strongly held but misguided conclusions about who or what is good or evil." Witch burning was not a surprising trapping - it was an evil. Witch burnings were not apparent aberrations - they were evil aberrations. They were pure misogyny, possible because like Collins people in earlier times had no definition for "right". This sentence was also a perfect opportunity for Collins to say "Most likely, time and science will show that today's hatred of homosexuals is just as much an aberration." But Collins doesn't so support homosexuals or condemn the oppression of them.
Page 27 - "Agape, or selfless altruism, presents a major challenge for the evolutionist. It is quite frankly a scandal to reductionist reasoning." Nonsense. For decades, science has reported a growing amount of evidence for the evolutionary basis to aspects of altruism. Collins mentions none of this science (he could have Googled "genetic altruism" but didn't).
Page 28 - "Shockingly, the Moral Law will ask me to save the drowning man even if he is an enemy." But why didn't the Moral Law shockingly ask Christians for centuries to give women the right to vote, or for societies to not have any slaves? Why didn't the Moral Law ask the Germans to save the drowning man, including the drowned-in-gas Jewish people?
Page 29 - "... God's nature, if in fact He was real. Judging by the incredibly high standards of the Moral Law, ..., this was a God who was holy and righteous. He would have to be the embodiment of goodness." But what are these high standards, since Collins never formally specifies what his/the Moral Law is. Collins' Christian god, at least the Old Testament version, cannot be said to be holy and righteous with all of those commandments for murder, genocide and rape. And without a definition of "good", the sentence is meaningless.
Chapter Two -- The War of the Worldviews
Page 37 - "Instead, as we begin to come to grips with the existence of the Moral Law, and our obvious inability to live up to it, we realize that we are in deep trouble, and are potentially separated from the Author of that Law." - But what is that law? How does Collins' define that law? Without a definition, how can anyone know if he or she is living up to it? Collins' refusal to specify exactly what he means by the Moral Law violates one of the cardinal rules of science: early on, identify and define (the best you can) controversial terms.
Page 41 - "The Beatitudes spoken by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount were ignored as the Christian Church carried out violent Crusades in the Middle Ages and pursued a series of inquisitions afterward." Why did this happen? Because other equally valid parts of the New Testament in which the Sermon appears, other equally valid statements by Jesus, all provide horrible instructions to hate and kill (such as Jesus calling the Jews "devils"). It is this axiomatic inconsistency that scientists such as Collins should be discussing about their Christian beliefs. Collins doesn't discuss the Crusades legitimately following these more evil parts of the New Testament.
Page 41 - "While the prophet Muhammad never himself used violence in responding to persecutors, ...". Huh? Total historical nonsense. Heck, even Wikipedia has an entry on "Muhammad as a general". And the Koran, which Muhammad wrote, has too many writing urging his followers to kill non-believers. Yet another example of Collins' sloppy historical research in his book.
Page 41 - "Perhaps even more insidious and widespread is the emergence in many churches of a spiritually dead, secular faith." A mostly false insult of what it means to be secular. Ask most secular people, for example scientists, if their life pursuit is spiritual, and they will say YES. Depends on how you define "spiritual", which Collins refuses to do so he can then insult secular people by calling them "insidious", the same adjective used by spiritual people who persecuted and murdered Jews, women and slaves for centuries. Grow up, Francis.
Page 42 - "In fact, by denying the existence of any higher authority, atheism has the now-realized potential to free humans completely from any responsibility not to oppress one another." I can't speak for all atheists, but the vast majority of American atheists fully and freely support the United States Code, the largest body of laws to help fight oppression. Collins ignores this fact so he can unethically insult atheists by accusing them of wanting to oppress other people like Stalin and Mao did. Collins does not mention the near-genocidal oppression of North American Indians by American Christians, nor does he mention the near-genocidal oppression of Central and South American Indians by European Christians. Presumably, then, Collins approves of such oppression.
Page 47 - "Dietrich Bonhoeffer ... to do what he could to keep the real church alive at a time when the organized Christian church in Germany had chosen to support the Nazis, ...". But with the Protestant and Catholic churches both cutting deals with the Nazis, what was the "real" church? What does "real" mean? When the Vatican signed Concordats with the Fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany, did it cease to be the "real church"? And are today's churches that preach hatred of homosexuals, or ignore the abortion of the environment, not "real" churches? Collins doesn't consider this.
Chapter Three -- The Origins of the Universe
Page 67 - "The Big Bang cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that." Actually, if Collins had investigated, there are many scientists who disagree. First, there are cosmological theories that assert that there is no real beginning - that the universe is eternal. Second, such questions depend on the very controversial problem of defining "time", which Collins doesn't do. Third, Collins' solution of a supernatural force creates the question - what created the supernatural force? Something outside of whatever is outside of space and time? Collins once again neglected to do much research on the subject.
Page 74 - "Our universe is wildly improbable." If Collins had researched, he would have found a variety of physics theories in which our universe is wildly probable, that the physical constants that determine the structure of our universe are not that unlikely. To the scientists reading his book, these frequents omissions are ignorable. But Collins' betrays those of his readers who are believers, by not presenting to them any science that contradicts his assertions. That is just bad science, and Collins knows better.
Page 77 - "It could be argued, however, that the Big Bang itself seems to point strongly toward a Creator, since otherwise the question of what came before is left hanging in the air." Again, Collins refuses to refer to the many philosophical discussions about this First Cause argument for God, and the many problems it has as being a proof of God's existence. One problem is that of meaningless infinite regress: if God is the first cause, what caused God? If God doesn't need a creator, why does the universe need a creator? However you argue this, Collins betrays all of his readers by not mentioning these discussions. Additionally, because Collins is ignorant of modern cosmology, he is unaware that the Big Bang is a feature of classic general relativity theories, not the more powerful quantum gravity theories.
Page 81 - "If God exists, He is supernatural." This is the first step in a proof he offers about the properties of God. But without a definition of "supernatural", and without recognition of the misogynistic use of "He", it is a faulty first step of any proof. Indeed, his proof is just as decidable if all of the uses of "He" are replaced with "She". Only someone trying to reinforce misogyny would obsessively use "He".
Chapter Four -- Life on Earth, of Microbes and Men
Page 91 - "... some scientists ... propose that life forms must have arrived on Earth from outer space ... While this might solve the dilemma of life's appearance on Earth, it does nothing to resolve the ultimate question of life's origins, since it simply forces that astounding event to another time and place even further back." A very valid criticism of the outer space theory - what caused that cause? But it's a criticism Collins hypocritically refuses to make when he argues that God is the cause of the universe. What caused God?
Page 107 - "Evolution, as a mechanism, can be and must be true. But that says nothing about the nature of its author." Collins wisely concedes that science pretty much explains everything about the universe and life, except the initial origin. Which is why it is unethical for Collins not to have a chapter on the logical and scientific problems with any First Cause explanation of the universe. Science may not as of yet have an explanation, but at least science is willing to consider the defects of proposed theories of First Cause. Collins betrays science when he refused to mention the defects of First Cause arguments.
Chapter Five -- Deciphering God's Instruction Book, the Lessons of the Human Genome
Page 123 - "For me, as a believer, the uncovering of the human genome sequence held additional significance. This book was written in the DNA language by which God spoke life into being." Well, then, God needs an editor when God writes books, because the book of the DNA of humans has a lot of errors. There are many aspects of the human body that are not intelligently designed/written, and the genetic code is way too susceptible to horrible diseases caused by getting one letter wrong in the Book. Our DNA is a great evolved book, but a lousy designed book. Indeed, whole sections of the National Institutes of Health (where Collins works) are devoted to rewriting and correcting the book. Isn't that arrogantly defying God's will?
Page 140 - "In my view, DNA sequences alone, even if accompanied by a vast trove of data on biological function, will never explain certain special human attributes, such as the knowledge of the Moral Law and the universal search for God." - Again, a meaningless sentence without a definition of what he means by the Moral Law, to identify which aspects are special and different from evolved moral behavior seen in animals. For examples, dolphins are known to push injured human swimmers back to shore. Why? This doesn't benefit the dolphin, since the human is easily recognized as not being of the dolphin's kin, and if anything, the human is a member of a dolphin-murdering race. Yet we see this moral behavior in dolphins. Is helping someone "special" if dolphins can do it? And the search for God is not universal. At leas 20 percent of Americans are either aethiests (not searching for God) or agnostics (skeptical about God, but are still searching or don't mind watching others search).
At this point, we are halfway through Collins' book, and he has yet to define much of the key controversial terms in his book: "Moral Law", "first cause", etc. He has yet to identify what his religious beliefs are; he fails to include many references to science publications that contradict his assertions; and while using the misogynistic "Him/He" for God, he refuses to discuss this misogyny.
Chapter Six -- Genesis, Galileo and Darwin
Page 145 - "And then one church member asked the senior pastor whether he believed that the first chapter of Genesis was a literal, step-by-step, day-by-day description of the origins of the earth and of humankind. ... The pastor's carefully worded response, worthy of the most deft politician, managed utterly to avoid answering the question. This is completely unethical behavior by the senior pastor, which Collins does not condemn. The pastor was seriously asked a deeply important question, which mostly can be answered YES or NO. Ethically, the pastor must choose. Otherwise he is lying, not only to his parishioners, but also to himself. Collins doe not condemn this all too routine behavior by pastors.
Page 150 - "'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.' implies that God always existed." No, it just implies that God existed for at least the moment before God did the creation. GodGod could have created God seven days before God created our universe. And GodGodGod could have created GodGod seven days before GodGod created God. Or God could have created the universe, wished the universe well, and then God could have disappeared. All equally valid alternative explanations that Collins ignores. Collins once again is abusing logic.
Page 151 - "If a literal description was intended, why then are there two [Genesis creation] stories that do not entirely mesh with each other? Is this a poetic and even allegorical description, or a literal history?" Collins' choice of two possible explanations is illogical. There are multiple explanations, for example, that the inconsistent Genesis creation stories are not the word of God but rather the word of two different men inventing a religion at different points in time, with the latter writer not bothering or caring to read the earlier account to maintain consistency.
Page 153 - "Despite twenty-five centuries of debate, it is fair to say that no humans knows what the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 was precisely intended to be." Yes, because the first two chapters were written sloppily, for example, leaving too many terms undefined (such as "good"). In science we have a phrase for this - "bad science written by a human". It seems reasonable then to say that Genesis 1 and 2 are bad religion written by humans. Also, without realizing it, Collins is admitting that he is not a biblical literalist, since literalists have Moses writing Genesis over 3000 years ago, whereas Collins unwittingly puts the beginning of the debate at 500 years later than that with his estimate of merely 25 centuries of debate.
Page 155 - ".... Psalm 93:1 - 'The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.' ... Today, few believers argue that the authors of these verses were intending to teach science." But there was only one author of the Bible, God - Collins' use of "authors" denies this. And if not to teach science, what else is the point of this phrasing? If the point is about how impressive the Earth is, isn't there clearer (yet still poetic) language on the Earth's enormity? Here is a Gregism - "All the elephants in the world are but a mustard seed on the skin of the Earth.", which also is a bit of New Testament sarcasm (the New Testament has Jesus wrongly stating that the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds).
Chapter Seven -- Atheism and Agnosticism, When Science Trumps Faith
Page 164 - "But evil acts committed in the name of religion in no way impugn the truth of the faith; they instead impugn the nature of human beings, ...". - False. If the truth of the faith, such as the words of the Bible, contains evil, then the evil acts flow from the evil aspects of the faith. When Christians killed women, Jews, and slaves across the centuries, they often did so using explicit commands from the Bible to justify the killing. The truth of the faith includes some evil, so that the acts rightly impugn the faith. If your pastor tells you all passages of the Bible are equally true, and one passage says to kill witches, then you evil in so killing flows from the evil of the passage and of the faith.
Page 169 - "Science cannot be used to justify discounting the great monotheistic religions of the world, which rest upon centuries of history, moral philosophy, and the powerful evidence provided by human altruism." False. Science can be used to analyze the consistency of the faith aspects (axioms) of such religions, which is desperately needed where you have religious texts that say both "kill" and "don't kill", an inconsistency which is only possible with an inconsistent axiomatic basis for your faith. Science can be used to analyze the centuries of history of evil acts committed by religions, to separate those evil acts that wer caused by evil people, and those evil acts caused by evil words in the texts of the religion. And science can be used to distinguish forms of human altruism that have evolved from those forms that might need a specia design. Collins the scientist knows science can do all of this, but instead insults any possibility of scientific analysis of religion: "It is the height of scientific hubris to claim otherwise." - he writes. No, it is the height of cowardice to fear what might happen if science independently analyzed religion, for Collins to then insist science can't analyze religion. With this contempt for science, Collins does not belong at the NIH.
Chapter Eight -- Creationism, When Faith Trumps Science
Page 175 - "Would it have served God's purposes 3,400 years ago to lecture to His people about radioactive decay, geologic strata and DNA?" Well, if such things are important today, why weren't they important 3,400 years ago? Indeed, an important biological problem in Genesis is the origin of Cain's wife. Was she his sister, cloned from Adam, from another family (maybe the real first family before Adam and Eve), etc.? A good opportunity for God to teach a bit of biology in Genesis, and not even complicated biology. And other simple aspects of science could have been taught - even evolution.
Page 178 - "Let me conclude this brief chapter [in which he argues that creationism is false], therefore, with a loving entreaty to the evangelical Christian church, a body that I consider myself a part of, ...". Finally, 178 pages into his book, he finally partially defines what kind of Christian he is - an evangelical. But there are many evangelical church denominations with different forms of faith. But the coward that Collins is, he refuses to specify which evangelical church he belongs to, so that others can analyze his true beliefs. Page 1 of his book should have stated at some point: "To give you context of my beliefs, I am a member of the ________ Christian church."
Chapter Nine -- Intelligent Design, When Science Needs Divine Help
Page 184 - "In Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe outlines these arguments [for intelligent design] quite persuasively." Actually, most scientists have condemned Behe's books on intelligent design as having both bad science and bad logic, persuasive of nothing. Collins concedes this on page 187 - "Intelligent Design remains a fring activity with little credibility within the mainstream scientific community.". That's trues within the massive National Institutes of Healt where Collins works. Indeed, Collins admits on page 193 that Intelligent Design is scientific nonsense: "So, scientifically, ID fails to hold up, providing neither an opportunity for experimental validation nor a robust foundation for its primary claim of irreducible complexity. So why did he start this chapter by saying Behe is "quite persuasive when he later concedes Behe is an idiot? Why the initial deception?
Chapter Ten -- BioLogos, Science and Faith in Harmony
Collins attempts to reconcile science and religion by supporting a theory called "theistic evolution" - basically, that God created the universe including the genetic code about 14 billion years ago. Everything since then is evolution, but the initial design was done by God. Indeed, this is a view held by the Founding Fathers of the United States (who did not have our modern knowledge of science) - that God created the universe, and then walked away. But Collins offers no direct proof of BioLogos. He ignore all of the problems with First Cause theories, as well as the many defects in the human genetic code written by Collins' perfect God. Collins bases his support for theistic evolution on one point of theistic evolution, and uses it to justify his inner desperation:
Page 200 - "But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and points to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history."
This sentence is meaningless drivel without a definition of what Collins means by "right" and "wrong". And according to his theory there can only be one such definition, since there can only be one moral law if it is written in our DNA, which is 99% the same for all humans. But that is nonsense - there are many legitimate, disjointed sets of moral laws in human civilization. Which is the "right" one? Collins offers no proof of the existence of one unique moral law, and without such a proof, theistic evolution is just good old boring theism with discredited First Cause illogic.
Worse, Collins refuses to provide references to any of the scientific literature (work often funded by Collins' NIH) that proves the existence of various types of primitive morality in animals, suggesting that human morality is just an evolved version. Such science can be found in articles recently publicized in national media, including: "Scientist finds the beginnings of morality in primate behavior" and "Is 'Do Unto Others' written into our genes?", and there are many more.
This is reprehensible and completely unethical omission for Collins the scientist. He gives the impression to non-scientists reading his book that no such science exists. Why is he afraid to mention such science?
Page 201 - "God intentionally chose ... and a desire to seek fellowship with Him. He also knew these creatures would ultimately choose to disobey the Moral Law." God, where do I start with the problems of this sentence? First, enough of this women-hating, misogynistic "He/Him". Why not "She/Her"? This Christian use of "He/Him" has caused thousands of years of misery for women. Why is Collins supporting such misery by continuing to use inappropriate and illogical gender references? Second, once again, what is this "Moral Law" Collins is obsessing about - what does he mean by right and wrong? Third, God isn't much of an intelligent designer if God was incapable of creating creature (humans) who could resist disobeying "Moral Law".
Page 205 - "How is this consistent with the theological concept that humans are created 'in the image of God'? Well, perhaps one shouldn't get too hung up on the notion that this scripture is referring to physical anatomy - the image of God." What an unethical hypocrite Collins is, since he gets completely hung up on the notion that God is a "He/Him" with his endless uses of "He/Him", which is a term solely of physical anatomy. And while he calls himself an evangelical, most evangelicals would disagree with his waving away of the meaning of the masculine "image of God".
Page 210 - "In that context, I find theistic evolution, or BioLogos, to be by far the most scientifically consistent and spiritually satisfying of the alternatives." But how can Collins conclude this if he ignores all of the scientific evidence (with more to come) of the existence of moral behavior in animals? And how good is this Moral Law written in human DNA if Christians and other religious believers, after thousands of years, are still fighting wars against each other and against themselves? Isn't it simpler to conclude that religious texts are just the flawed works of men, texts that have been exploited to commit evil, texts that need to evolve?
Page 218 - "After twenty eight years as a believer ...", beliefs that he doesn't specify, "... the Moral Law still stands out for me as the strongest signpost to God ... a God who is infinitely good and holy." But what is this Moral Law, this right and wrong? In 28 years, Collins has made no progress trying to define these terms to any extent that he could write about them. Talk about wasting 28 years of his life. What does he mean by "good" that good in some circumstances can be "infinitely good"? And what kind of infinitely good God writes in his religious texts that under some circumstances, it is good to kill and rape women?
Page 220 - "Into this deepening gloom came the person of Jesus Christ." So Collins is a born-again Christian. Fine, but he should have been honest and stated this on page 1 of his book, not page 220.
Page 223 - "But the more I read of biblical and non-biblical accounts of events in first-century Palestine, the more amazed I was at the historical evidence of Jesus Christ. First of all, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were put down just a few decades after Christ's death." Actually, outside the New Testament, there is little to no evidence of Jesus Christ. From a Wikipedia entry - "There are passages relevant to Christianity in the works of four major non-Christian writers of the late 1st and early 2nd centuries .... However, these are generally references to early Christians rather than a historical Jesus." Thus you have to rely solely on the Gospels.
But not only are the four Gospels inconsistent, but probably have lies about the life of Jesus. For example, Matthew's gospel includes a lie about Jews accepting guilt for Jesus' death, a lie that caused thousands of years of misery. If Matthew (or whoever wrote Mathew) lied about that, what else did he lie about, including aspects of Jesus' life? Collins mentions none of this - he must be easily amazed!
Page 223 - Repeating his quote: "But the more I read of biblical and non-biblical account of events in first-century Palestine, the more amazed I was at the historical evidence of Jesus Christ." Yeah, evidence of the lack of bioethics on the part of Jesus or the false evidence of the apostles. For example, one historical event involving biology in Jesus' life that so impresses Collins appears in the book of Mark:Now I ask Collins, how completely immoral is it for Jesus to condemn and curse a tree for not bearing fruit out of season? That's how God designed the biology of trees - no fruits on trees out of season. So why does Jesus forever curse a tree for being a tree? It's nonsense biology. It's nonsense ethics. It's nonsense bioethics. If it one of Jesus's parables, about the Jews being fruitless and predicting they will wither away, well it is a false prediction since 2000 years later, the State of Israel has a thriving Jewish culture and is in the top 30 of countries with the highest GDP per capita. A perfectly flawed New Testament passage for Collins to comment on science and morality (e.g., with the simple explanation that Jesus never said this, but rather was one of the anti-Semitisms invented by the Apostles). But he says nothing. Indeed, the book of Luke has Jesus teaching the bioethical way to help a fig tree thrive, with Luke explicitly saying it is a parable of Jesus:On the following day, when they came from Bethany, [Jesus] was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And [Jesus] said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." Mark 11:12-14Then [Jesus] told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir', the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down." Luke 13:6-8
Collins could also explain some of the explicit contradictions of the quoted Jesus. For example, the Book of John 10:30 has: "I [Jesus] and the Father [God] are one." but John 14:28 has: "... for the Father [God] is greater than I [Jesus]". This is a simple scientific contradiction (G = J versus G > J) that Collins must address, if, as a scientist, he is so enraptured wit Jesus.
Finally, it's extremely disturbing that Collins is so enamored with these accounts of first-century Palestine because of their anti-Semitic nature. Part of the lauded historical evidence of Jesus is the following quote from Jesus that appears in the Book of John, 8:42-47:Gee, Francis, is this part of the historical evidence that so amazes you? Jesus, the perfection of morality, childishly insulting Jews? That amazes you?Jesus said to [the Jews]: ... You belong to your father, the devil, ... you do not belong to God."
Some Web pages with good critiques of the First Cause proof of the existence of God. One wonders why Collins the scientist didn't include this contrary data in his book.God did not create the universe
Theistic Arguments: (Problems with the) First Cause
Does the universe require a First Cause?
The First Cause argument
Problems with the First Cause argument (nice YouTube video)
Grandfather Paradox and the First Cause