An alert reader sent me a very short YouTube video of Francis Collins, NIH director, explaining the coexistence of science and evangelical Christianity. YouTube has blocked embedding of the video, presumably because it came from ABC News, but you can see it here.
Collins gives the money quote when the interviewer presses him on how he sees Biblical accounts of creation:
Interviewer: Genesis would lead us to believe that the earth is six thousand years old. And it would lead us to believe that God created two human beings—one out of the rib of the other. It’s pretty explicit stuff.
Collins: We interpret it as explicit these days. It is not a textbook of science! It would not have suited God’s purposes to lecture to his chosen people about radioactive decay, and such things as DNA. What God was trying to teach us through those words is the nature of God and the nature of humans—and that comes through loud and clear.
A bit later, Collins asserts:
. . . once you’ve accepted the idea of a God who is the creator of all the laws of nature, the idea that God might at unique moments of history might decide to invade the natural world, and suspend those laws, doesn’t become, really, a logical problem. And certainly the Resurrection is the most dramatic example of that: where God became man, walked on this earth, was crucified, and then, after death, was resurrected—that, for me, is the cornerstone of my faith. And it doesn’t present a real problem, as a believer, as long as I’ve already acknowledged that God is God.
This is embarrassing stuff, even more so coming from America’s most prominent scientist. Quick thoughts:
- The correct translation of the frequent claim that “The Bible is not a textbook of science” is this: “The Bible is not literally true, except for those places where I say it’s literally true.”
- Why is Collins so sure that he knows what God intended when “writing” the Bible, especially since other Christian sects disagree?
- How does Collins know exactly which parts of the Bible are “not science” (i.e., fiction) and which parts are? If Genesis and Adam and Eve are “not science”, why is the Resurrection “science”? There’s precisely the same amount of empirical evidence—i.e., zero—for each of these stories.
I’d be delighted to get good answers to the last two questions. Perhaps someone who agrees with Collins, like Uncle Karl Giberson, could weigh in here and explain.
113 thoughts on ““The Bible is not a textbook of science””
“It would not have suited God’s purposes to lecture to his chosen people about radioactive decay, and such things as DNA.”
Obviously. If “he” had there would be no use for him.
Egad, that man is an embarrassment.
So, god decides when to suspend the natural laws he created so that he can have a virgin give birth to an avatar of himself, so that he can ultimately fake his own death (really, how can an immortal being die?), so that he can then be persuaded to forgive mankind for “sins” that include the “sins” of Adam and Eve, who weren’t really real but merely metaphors?
Why the need for all the bloody mess, Jesus? Really. If the point of god coming to Earth in human form is the redemption of mankind and forgiveness of sin, couldn’t you as an omniscient, omnipotent being figure out some less…well…barbaric method?
Like maybe, just forgiving the fictional Adam and Eve for eating the fictional IQ-raising sin fruit? And not visiting their sins on those of all humankind?
Nutty. Christianity is just perfectly nutty.
Apparently forgiveness is only possible if someone suffers for the sins. This is not God’s fault, even though God created the laws of nature.
But at least forgiveness is possible if you punish someone other than the sinner. This is useful knowledge for parents. The next time one of your children acts up, try punishing their sibling instead.
Many dysfunctional families operate exactly like that.
Hey, it worked for my brother. He’d pull all sorts of crap and say that I did it – and he got away with it every single time.
You forgot the part about Jesus’s intestines!
Yikes! Are you saying we need intestinal fortitude?
Some things are just too sublime for mere mortals to comprehend. That’s why they’re called mysteries. And scientists are supposed to love mysteries, aren’t they? I seem to remember Sagan and Feynman waxing along those lines. Well… maybe not Feynman. I remember him saying that mysteries bugged the shit out of him.
Well, there you have it then. Feynman is sometimes called “a scientist’s scientist” or at least “a physicist’s physicist”, since he explained deep and/or seemingly simple things in understandable terms in his published lecture series.
I mean, why would Collins be impressed by his take, instead of this silent and invisible skydaddy dude!? Especially since there was only one Feynman, invisible skydaddies seems a dime a dozen. (¬_¬)
A bit of pedantry. “Waxing” isn’t another way of saying “burbling” or similar. One can wax poetic, but one can’t just wax about something.
If one can wax poetic, why don’t we ever hear about anyone waning poetic?
Think rap. [ducks]
Now that you sort of mention it, the moon does wax sans adverbs…
The moon is the only one allowed to do that. Lunar privilege.
I always suspected you were a Moonie.
What about the staff at beauty spas and such?
I’m sure they’re allowed to wax.
Did you see what I did there?
I believe the answer to the second two questions is: You’re being shrill! Don’t you know that sing with friends at church? You must believe in nothing and hate god.
oops, that should be “People sing”
Francis Collins declaring he knows what God himself, an omnimax deity, *intended*.
And atheists are the arrogant ones?
Divine pedagogy resonates at frequencies unavailable to mere infidels.
Even if none of the enlightened agree with eachother. Apparently that’s just the mystical nature of the god’s Other Way of Knowing.
“Divine pedagogy resonates at frequencies unavailable to mere infidels.”
Nice. I’m going to officially add that to my Facebook “best quotes” list.
Even Orthodox Jews can say Adam and Eve were metaphorical in the same way that fundamentalist Christians can say Noah’s Ark, the creation story etc. were metaphorical.
But Adam and Eve are the foundation of the problem that Jesus supposedly solves. If A&E are fictional, that attacks the Jesus story in a way that taking other myths metaphorically doesn’t.
Nah. Adam and Eve represent humans. The snake is tentation, desire, and also knowledge. It talks to the woman first because the people who wrote the story were sexist, but man is infected too anyway. The original innocence is lost. It’s actually a neccesary consequence of our intelligence as soon as we turn our backs on God. Jesus’ mission would be then to restore that original innocence and harmony.
The story of Adam and Eve means that we humans are all imperfect. We’re inevitably “split” people: good/evil, self/other, internal feelings/public persona, should/shouldn’t. We can only go beyond the mundane ups and downs of this world (that includes science) and be whole people next to God.
Of course it’s still bullcrap. I was just making the point that Genesis doesn’t have to be literally true for Jesus’ mission to mean something.
necessary**, not ‘neccesary’. GAH!
I agree with you. The concept of “sin” doesn’t reply on a literal Adam and Eve (but is still nonsense).
^rely. Typos are contagious.
“The snake is tentation”
Useful out on a camping trip, then.
I would argue that it does – it simply makes no sense for Jesus to die a real, literal death in order to make up for a metaphorical crime.
Oh the crimes are real, but they’re committed by every human. There doesn’t have to be original sin, just sin in general.
Of course that brings up the question of why, if humans supposedly have free will, every single one of them ends of sinning. If I built a few thousand robots and designed each one such that it could choose to turn either right or left, and they all turned right, I would assume there was a flaw in my programming.
One thing necessarily implies the other. Right and wrong are split features product of a split personality. If you can see something is right, automatically you can imagine doing something else that wouldn’t be right. You turn a lantern on, you point at things and illuminate them. Every time you illuminate something, you also create a shadow. You can’t help it.
There is no right or wrong in heaven, only wholeness. It’s like the nirvana, or like a good salvia trip.
Sin would be real as part of ourselves. Imperfection is real. To explain to people why we aren’t perfect (morally, spiritually – why we have doubt, why we don’t know what do to, why we lie or why our feelings don’t match what would be correct to feel in some situation, why we are split persons), they resorted to a fable. It’s exactly like the ant and the grasshopper, in the sense that is a made up story with talking animals and all just to explain something that does exist in the real world.
Look it’s very simple. Accept God and your doubts will go. God will override your little worries, he will transform your human dilemmas into wholeness, and the original innocence will be restored in you.
As for Jesus, death and rebirth is a powerful metaphor for the ‘death’ of the old self and the ‘birth’ of a new person, one without sin. That’s why Jesus had to be killed (as human) and resurrect (as being one with God), as an example to us all. That’s what will happen to those who follow him. Now, this is when the religious screw up: they think the resurrection is literally true, which is silly. The empty tomb thing and all that, it’s stupid. It’s exactly the same as believing in the talking snake of Genesis.
Actually, the whole story is silly, but at least we could use some of the fables in the bible. As fables, they have some value. It’s crazy to believe they are real.
How do you spread the Gospel if it’s all metaphor? Collins was right, the death and resurrection (the first coming of the savior) are cornerstones of Christianity. They must be true, otherwise you have nothing.
That’s exactly right gillt, I agree with you. I was arguing that Genesis doesn’t have to be literally true for Jesus’ mission to mean something. But Jesus himself has to be real. In my opinion that’s where religion fails, when they start talking about miracles like the resurrection of Jesus curing lepers, etc.
Raised a Catholic, I have the ability to confuse things further.
I don’t believe Jesus was just suppose to save us from Original Sin–that’s what baptism is for.
God, in his boundless love, granted those he made in his image and likeness free will. This set humans apart from the rest of His creation, including the angels, which is why Lucifer and some others became jealous. (This bit of theology is actually murky to me because Lucifer was an angel and he clearly had enough free will to attempt a Coup). Anyway, free will also opened the door to temptation. God, in all his mercy, sent his only son Jesus down from heaven to save us from going straight to hell by dying for all of our sins; this was a human sacrifice plain and simple. Now baptizing is supposed to save us from Original Sin–which we all have as explained in the supposed parable of Adam and Eve–like one get out of hell free pass. Jesus, I think, actually granted us redemption, as long as we ask forgiveness for our sins. Apparently before Jesus nobody got into heaven.
Shorter Collins: Once you’ve jumped on the crazy train, it doesn’t matter how far off the rails it goes.
Why exactly the “creator of all laws of nature” babbled on about two schmucks in a forest — and not about the inverse square law of gravity or the speed of light or whether super-strings vibrate through our quanta or whatever — is beyond my reckoning.
A triple schizoid god with a levitating corpse for a son, and we think we’ve got problems with our kids?
I imagine Collins would answer that God didn’t inspire the Bible to teach science, he inspired the Bible to teach us how to live our lives.
Of course, the Bible is a pretty crappy guide for such a thing.
Venteer once remarked in an interview that Collins is a very competent administrator. It seems his competence in that area sure does compensate for hell of a lot other deficiencies. I mean resurrection isn’t much of a logical problem?!! Seriously?
Yeah, I like C. Venter and completely agree with him on that – Collins is an administrator. Seriously – although people unfairly credit him with the work done by numerous people on the Human Genome Project, what are Collins’s actual scientific contributions?
If I understand things…
Once you accept that Jesus was resurrected just as the bible describes, you know that the bible’s description of Jesus’s resurrection is accurate.
And if you sceptically examine biblical claims (like Adam & Eve) then you reject them.
Once you’ve accepted the idea of a God who is the creator of all the laws of nature, the idea that God might at unique moments of history might decide to invade the natural world, and suspend those laws, doesn’t become, really, a logical problem. And certainly the creation of Adam and Eve is the most dramatic example of that: where God took a bit of mud, made man, then took off a rib and made woman, then he made a talking snake who spoiled everything and then he got really mad at them and told them to get off his lawn.
Quoting, “Collins: We interpret it as explicit these days.”
Another follow-up question for Collins would be, “how do you know the mind of god, and how can you interpret his “purposes?”
Oh, that’s an easy one – god thinks and says whatever Collins wants him to. And of course EVERYONE ELSE is WRONG.
Perhaps it is a GOOD thing that Francis Collins exists. We need a prominent example of the fact that a boundless capacity for self-delusion and wishful thinking can exist even in the minds of the most successful scientists. Having the title of ‘scientist,’ or even ‘highly successful scientist’ does not automatically give one credentials for rationally discussing the compatibility of science and religion. Any truly rational person would come to the inescapable conclusion that, at some deep level, Hitchens (a journalist) understands science as a whole (and reason and logic) better than the current director of the NIH.
Well said, especially the last statement. Credentials, while helpful, don’t tell us everything. Hard to deal with in a society that so admires status.
Frankly, it would have increased my respect for the Bible a lot if it had some basic medical and scientific information in it, and information that we only figured out as we continued our advance through scientific inquiry. Why does God so concern himself with prohibiting humans from eating pork and bugs, and the various uncleanliness states of people after they’ve had a menstrual cycle or an ejaculation and yet never mention hand washing or boiling water once? If the Bible is accurate about the life of Jesus, why are there such different last words of Jesus in the various Gospels? Surely he’d fix that right, rather than have it seem the work of four different authors who had very different ideas of the story they wanted to tell.
Frankly, when you lop off the first half of the OT as metaphorical BS, the rest of it just seems rather sad. The Jews rage against tremendous empires to recapture a non-existent racially pure empire and are surprised when they are obliterated over and over again. Jesus thinks he is a Messiah and the fixer of the world, who has magical powers and gives them to others, and yet is surprised and angry when he can’t do everything and is casually executed by the Romans. If that first half isn’t real, then how do you know that God exists? Then universe is just here, and at some point, Jews wrote a book. Hardly proof to justify dying for.
Heck, would it really have been that difficult for the OT god to say that insects have six legs, not four, and that bats aren’t birds?
I do not think that that is a valid argument.
In English we say “bugs” to mean insects, spiders, etc.
Why would it be invalid for Hebrew have a similar word meaning all flyers, “birds” and “bats”?
Because they didn’t. They had separate words.
You could look it up. It’s well discussed.
And no matter what words they used – there are a hell of a lot of things that creep on the ground that have more than four legs.
I did look it up. The word used is “ohf” which is made from taking the verb “to fly” and turning it into a noun. “Tzippor” means avian, and wasn’t used there.
I write Collins a little song on the topic.
With sincere apologies to Bob Dylan.
I agree, this is an embarrasing interview. You have to wonder that people can be so intelligent yet be capable of such bizarre reasonsing. Whoever has said we were a rational species must have missed examples like this.
“What God was trying to teach us through those words is the nature of God and the nature of humans—and that comes through loud and clear.”
What is clear from the text is that god puts a talking snake in the garden and allows it to tempt some people in to doing something wrong. The problem is that they don’t yet know right from wrong. They only know that after the eat from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Despite this, god punishes everyone. That’s what comes through loud and clear. I wonder if Collins would agree?
What comes through loud & clear is that “H”e’s one mean SOB.
It doesn’t have to be a textbook of science to have simple facts right.
1) The Earth goes around the sun.
2) I’m not a textbook of science but I got it right anyway.
YouTube has blocked embedding of the video, presumably because it came from ABC News,
No wonder ABCNews only has 20,000+ subscribers. That’s awful. “Fred” has 2,000,000 and he isn’t even funny. That’s awful too. Lol.
This is where “moderate” believers drive me batty. If you’re willing to concede that the Bible doesn’t accurately report science or history (especially in the OT), how on earth can you assert that the central facts of Christianity – the Incarnation and Resurrection – are historical? As I understand the current state of the evidence, there’s no better reason to believe Jesus even existed, let alone died and came back to life, than there is to believe in Adam and Eve. I suppose the answer is, “because if I don’t believe those things are historical, I have no religion.”
“My boundless capacity for rationalization is proof that God loves and wants me to be happy.”
It seems to me that religious believers (not just Christians) discriminate between ‘literally true’ bits of religious teachings and ‘metaphorically true’ bits on a single principle:
Does it make me blush?
The bits that are too embarrassing are metaphorical. Whatever’s left over is literal and (allegedly) true.
The difference between believers then strikes me as where their personal threshold for absurdity lies.
I wonder how many people understand that Christian dogma has had as one of its central tenets, from at the latest about 325 AD, actual and literal resurrection of every single dead body of every single believer. Followed by everlasting life for those zombies.
Billions upon billions of zombies wandering about. I sure wouldn’t want to be around when that happens, that’s for sure.
Of course, bodies that were lost at sea, burned in fires, cremated, eaten by wolves, and all the rest will magically be restored…never mind that their constituent atoms are distributed far and wide.
I’ll say it again: Christianity is just plain nutty. At least the other major religions don’t believe in actual, literal, bodily resurrection.
The problem is that, to every Christian, the only definition of ‘Christianity’ that really matters is their own.
It’s a bugger of a problem.
…and I’ll say it again. Somethings are just, like, too awesome dude, y’know?
The fact that particular atoms have been used and reused in those various billions of humans would pose no problem whatsoever for such an awesome dude like the one I’m imagining right now.
If God can make Adam, certainly he can make atoms. OK, I’ll shut up now.
That’s not quite true – just look at Fred Phelps. I have no idea why Phelps is on such an anti-homosexual crusade though – the New Testament is one big gay orgy story. Jesus and 12 other men? Come on! How about the story of Doubting Thomas?
Tom: Hey Jesus, can I put my finger in your hole?
Jesus: Of course, you know I like that Tom.
Tom: Oh God!
Jesus: Jesus Christ! If it’s all over for you so soon, I’ll never come again!
2000 years later, and Jesus still hasn’t returned … But that still doesn’t match his daddy – the Jews have been waiting about 4000 years for their Messiah to bring them to the land promised to Abraham.
Yes, of course there is no reason to assume that his interpretation of the bible is any more accurate or relevant than the “literalist” one. But where the heck does something like this sentence from the interviewer come from?
Genesis would lead us to believe that the earth is six thousand years old.
Could anybody point me to the exact verse where it says “and this happened in 4004 B.C.”? Things like that show that public perception has indeed been captured by the particularly idiotic interpretation of a very narrow group of Christians. Insofar as he is trying to point that out, he has got a point. Can’t resist to advertise his own silly interpretation though, I see.
Essentially you just add up the ages of people in the Bible up to a datable historical event, like the destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Babylonians, which is attested in other sources besides the Bible.
In the words of Bill Hicks:
How fucking scientific! I can’t argue with that ‘logic’.
But I have a question. It’s a one word question. You ready?
The Bible represents all six thousand years but forgot to mention dinosaurs!
They got wiped out by the dragons and unicorns.
YECers say: “Leviathan and behemoth.”
Never mind that the external genitalia (penis and testicles) of behemoth is described and we know for certain that dinosaurs did not have them.
If I remember correctly, Leviathan supposedly breathed fire too (and lived in the sea.)
Was his name Puff? Oh, no, he lived by the sea.
The date comes from Bishop Ussher, who counted all of the “begats” and came up with what he felt was a plausible date of the origin of the universe.
October 23, 4004 BC. That’s the date that YECers believe is the first day of creation.
This is not accurate. Creation took place at 7:21 AM on October 23, 4004 BC.
Sorry to get pedantic, but you’re off by a quarter of an hour.
What time zone would that be?
Coordinated Universal Time. Of course.
Ooops–Pacific daylight, of course, because the first thing He created was California
I kinda assumed it was Mountain time since we are in the perfect time zone for watching pro football – obviously a game of the gods.
Genesis doesn’t say that. It doesn’t even really imply it. There are too many gaps in the genealogies and too many unknowns for any such estimate to be reliable even if you do interpret it literally.
Basically, the interviewer has a piss-poor understanding of Genesis – like most Christians, he has probably never read it and all his Biblical knowledge comes from Sunday School and Hollywood movies.
No. The interviewer has a good knowledge of the claims of the YEC crowd. 4004 BC.
It’s their claim. Based on Ussher’s hypothesis.
And how much “knowledge” does one need of Genesis in order to dismiss it?
Let’s see…6-day creation…nope. Instantaneous creation via magic words of every creature on the planet (and by inference, every creature now extinct)…nope. A garden of some repute…nope. A human made of mud…nope. A female human made of a male human’s rib…nope. A tree with IQ-raising sin-fruit…nope. A talking snake…nope.
How many of these things does one need to dismiss in order to chalk it all down to mythology?
Some bishop in England just counted the number of appearances of the word ‘begat’ in the english translation and figured that begatting began at 14. Or some such bullshit – I never could stay awake listening to how people estimated dates based on the lack of evidence in the bible.
Oh, I can answer all three criticisms quite simply.
1) It’s revealed truth, silly.
2) Revealed truth.
3) Revealed truth, of course.
And if the Lord hasn’t already appeared to you and revealed these truths, then the reason is obvious: He doesn’t go around revealing His truths to just anyone, only those who already believe in the One True Gospel get to have those truths revealed to them.
You may think I am being sarcastic, but the above procedure is actually airtight. I may be an atheist, but I absolutely positively guarantee you that if only you will accept the tenets of Francis Collins’ particular brand of evangelical Christianity as revealed truth, then you will find that you possess certain revealed truths that inevitably lead to the tenets of Francis Collins’ particular brand of evangelical Christianity.
Joseph Smith was actually quite explicit about this. And he was right. If you pray to the Mormon God, with “real intent”, that is, having every intention that He should communicate to you the truth of the LDS religion, and if you do it long enough… you will find yourself believing the LDS religion is true. Works every freakin’ time!
What God was trying to teach us through those words is the nature of God
Such as Genesis 2:17, in which we learn that God was a liar.
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
In Genesis 3:4-5 we learn that the serpent is more honest than God:
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
To quickly sum up the rest of the story, they ate the fruit, they did not die that day, and they did come to know good and evil.
Yeah, if God was trying to teach us the nature of God, then we can only conclude that God is an insecure control freak, the serpent is the Promethean hero of the story, and women are smarter than men.
So there’s truth in the Bible after all!
The bible still doesn’t explain how people can do evil if they don’t know what’s good and what’s evil. That’s very important to the law in many places; people who genuinely don’t know the difference are not usually sentenced the same way unless they’re a member of an ethnic minority.
“What God was trying to teach us through those words is the nature of God”
Why would dog have to “try”? As the all-powerful being it surely is no effort to teach us something would be needed.
But then we wouldn’t have the sublime mystery of a revealed truth that looks exactly like it was made up by humans.
Francis Collins, in my opinion, reveals himself to be an unabashed coward…a coward that cannot accept the fact that his existence anywhere and everywhere will end when his body and mind cease to function. At an earlier time, he did understand the finite nature of man’s biology and the finite nature of the conscious self. In my opinion he required this basic knowledge to have written his 2010 “Language of Life” book. But, because of whatever Fear, he has cowardly chosen to self-delude, and put his brain into unwavering delusional mode. I conclude that Francis Collins has adopted an absurd and unsupported philosophy to assuage his fear of death, the anguish that those that have died are irretrievably lost, the reality that 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses contained in every adult human have fleeting to zero signifigance in the Universe.
In my opinion there is no other possible judgment of his action but this: disgusting.
“Perhaps someone who agrees with Collins, like Uncle Karl Giberson, could weigh in here and explain.”
I doubt that Karl or any of the BioLogos folks will accept this invitation. Why should they? We must remember that the Children of the Coyne, the Peezeeites, etc., are not Biologos’ target demographic. Nobody from “this side” will be drawn to the BioLogos position, but many folks, particularly young students steeped in fundamentalist, anti-evolutionist anti-intellectualism, will find comfort in BioLogos’ big science-faith tent. Such folks are generally not going to immediately gravitate toward a secular Jewish, atheist, evolutionary biologist of considerable renown, but will listen to a noted scientist who speaks the evangelical language. The big challenge for BioLogos is to keep the front door wide open and the back door closed.
Not even a secular Jewish, atheist, evolutionary biologist of considerable renown with flash boots??
Don’t forget the kittehs.
Well, I certainly am impressed with the flash boots and kittehs, even though my ostrich boots are a bit tight and I am allergic to the kittehs.
Francis Collins: Director of the National Institute of Hooey.
“There’s precisely the same amount of empirical evidence—i.e., zero—for each of these stories.” (J. Coyne)
The adherents of revealed Christian theology will argue that there are trustworthy historical testimonies which justify the belief in the truth of the biblical stories.
“[T]he testimony of others that there is a God also provides good reasons for believing—so long as everyone tells us the same thing, and we don’t know of any strong reasons why they might be mistaken.”
(Swinburne, Richard. /Is Jesus God?/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. p. 15)
Sorry, the title of Swinburne’s book is not /Is Jesus God?/ but /Was Jesus God?/.
Oh boy, here’s the correct quote:
“[T]he testimony of others that there is a God also provides a good reason for believing—so long as everyone tells us the same thing, and we don’t know of any strong reasons why they might be mistaken.”
(Swinburne, Richard. /Was Jesus God?/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. p. 15)
Too bad for Swinburne that not everybody is telling us the same thing. Sometimes it’s even wildly different and contradictory.
He also won’t accept the testimony of others that there are 30 million gods.
This is what most apologetics appears to be like: excuses to continue a belief that you already have, not reasons to start believing. And Swinburne is even considered one of the better apologists…
“What God was trying to teach us through those words is the nature of God and the nature of humans—and that comes through loud and clear.”
It’s clear as mud and as loud as an earthworm to me.
What I will never get is why is Christianity appealing to so many. Even if it was true, Christians should be horrified of its tenets. Instead, they hug this wretched pile of stinking merde to their little masochistic-sadistic chests, and sigh, so beautiful. As I am fond of saying, Christians, keep dangling those crucifixes around your unethical, gullible, cowardly necks so I can run in the opposite direction.
The practice and cleaving to this suffocatingly inane perspective is what teaches us what human are into. They are fond of deluding themselves, of thinking black is white, and groveling.
That is the lesson about humans that flies over Collins’ head.
There is no empirical evidence for either; there is no experimental or observational evidence and no practical experience. Maybe he just “feels it” like Falk felt God last year. He feels the resurrection but can’t feel Adam and Eve(ooops). I’ll stick with the REASON of Paine and Marshall Gauvin and neither were modern scientists.
Well, guys, I’m not an atheist, but I certainly agree with what you are saying about Collins here. He is being very inconsistent. I believe God created the heavens and the earth in 7 days just like He said. I’m not threatened by evolutionists who have eliminated God from the get go and thus arrive at a totally naturalistic explanation for the existence of the universe. Collins is threatened and therefore he makes these kinds of compromises that make him look silly. Of course, my view will look silly to all of you as well, but c’e la vie.
Christians will never be able to prove God’s existence. God gives us enough evidence to make His existence probable, but He requires faith. If you have 100% proof, that does not require any faith at all.
Of course, evolution has so many holes in it starting with the origin of life, that it takes faith to believe in it as well. Even though you cannot explain how it happened, you still believe that it happened. That is faith in chance.
At least Christians have a more reasonable explanation for their faith – an Intelligent Designer – as opposed to evolutionists, who have to rely on blind, meaningless, directionless chance.
Creation IS a miracle as is the resurrection. It is not science, but science should reveal the design that exists in the universe. Science can show us that matter could not have arisen out of nothing all on it’s own. Science can tell us that the universe is not eternal – it had a beginning. Science can show us that things do not naturally organize themselves, rather tend towards disorganization. Science can show us that codes do not write themselves and that information arises only from intelligence.
Science is not the end all of knowledge. When you eliminate God as a possible explanation from the start, it would be foolish to think that science has found the truth. And this is especially so in light of all the discoveries of science, especially micro-biology over the past 50 years. It gets harder and harder to maintain faith in chance as the complexity just keeps growing and growing. We’re so numb to it now that no level of complexity, no evidence is enough to cause scientists to question evolution.
Remember when they found 65 million year old dinosaur red blood cells? Remember how everyone said “There has to be a mistake because we know red blood cells could not last 65 million years.”? Then when it was confirmed, what happened. They were forced to believe a totally illogical fact. Now the response is “Who woulda thunk it possible?!” Instead of re-evaluation the age issue, they change what they know to be true – that red blood cells could not last for 65 million years. Talk about amazing faith.
Jim May, thanks for coming on board this site and adding your point of view. I would like to correct a couple of misunderstandings you possess. I would not intend to pile on my point of view with the intention of attempting to make you abandon yours; after all, as the Greek philosopher said in 1400 BCE, “A man believes what he WANTS to believe.
In my opinion, here are two misconceptions you hold: (1) non-mathematical “proof”. Although the term is used in law, as in “proving beyond a reasonable doubt” one would think it can be freely used in any metaphysical or scientific argument. This “free use” is wrong. A mathematical proof relies on a closed system: mathematics. Legal systems utilize “proof” because of a closed system ; you cannot assert ideas or concepts beyond the constructed system boundaries (e.g. you cannot assert the proximity of elephants as a defense for deciding to rob a bank). The American legal system is different from the Soviet legal system and may have different requirements for “proof”.
So do not use the term “proof” about the existence of gods or the supernatural: it is fallacious in a realm/viewpoint/universe where a priori, omniscience means anything has the possibility to cause anything else. Such an open system cannot use the term “proof”. Leave “proof” to mathematics. And lawyers.
(2) Worse, for this website, is equating evolution with “chance”. Evolution does not proceed by “chance”. I see this same equation in a recent flyer handed to me by a jehovah witness advocate. “Chance” is not what evolution is predicated upon. Neither is “survival of the fittest”. These are poor observations by supernatural advocates, akin to watching people on a merry-go-round and stating, “The weight of the people on the horses pushes down on a crankshaft, pushing the whole apparatus around in a circle.” That type of observation conveniently ignores the rapidly spinning motor in the middle of the merry-go-round. Similarly, the idea of “chance” ignores the real tenants of evolution.
Thanks for the courteous response free of ridicule. I appreciate that. I think the quote you gave by that Greek philosopher is pretty close to accurate. In the end, I think I would have to agree with that.
I understand your point about the word “proof”, but my use of the word is a common use of it. Yes, it is different than a mathematical proof for sure, but if God were to appear to both of us right in front of our very eyes, I would take that as actual proof for His existence. Perhaps you would not, I don’t know. But, when I use the word proof, I mean verifiable. If something is verified, can’t I say that I have proved that it exists? I realize there is no way to absolutely prove or disprove the existence of God. I do believe though, that there is evidence that points to the logical deduction that He exists. That does not mean that His existence is verifiable though.
How would you rather have me state the fact that there is no way to absolutely prove or disprove the existence of God? Would the word verify be satisfactory to you? Just curious. Thanks.
Point number 2: the equation of evolution with chance. My understanding may be faulty, but as far as I understand it, the new information to code for new traits (feathers, lungs, bone, etc.) has to arise by chance, so evolution relies on chance at its core. You may say that natural selection selects for fitness, but natural selection did not purposefully cause the new information. It arose randomly, right? Is there any evolutionary process that can produce design, order, information in a non random way? If there is, I am not aware of it.
Perhaps you can show me why my understanding of the role of chance in evolution is mistaken. Thanks.
Plus in the real world, information increasing mutations seem to be extremely extremely rare, if they exist at all. For evolution to take place, these types of changes that produce the new information to code for the new traits being produced would have to be abundant. It doesn’t seem this is the case as far as I know.
Perhaps you could be so kind as to read our host’s book before continuing this discussion…
“Science can show us that matter could not have arisen out of nothing all on it’s own.”
It’s not clear to me how science could show that such a thing is impossible. Obviously, science could show that something is possible. As a matter of fact, science has shown that matter could have arisen out of nothing at all.
“…no level of complexity, no evidence is enough to cause scientists to question evolution.”
Complexity is the type of thing that evolution explains perfectly. Previously unseen levels of complexity is not a discovery that challenges it just as the building of a new tallest building in the world does not cause us to doubt the validity of engineering as an explanation for building.
Animals whose complexity is inexplicable in terms of stages of mutation and selection would challenge it for those species, such as the discovery of a crocaduck. A wheeled animal would be unexpected.
“…if God were to appear to both of us right in front of our very eyes, I would take that as actual proof for His existence.”
That is not something you are capable of discerning. The best you can reasonably say is something like “If I saw a bright figure I couldn’t bear to look upon, and hard a booming sound like a voice from all directions telling me to burn a goat as a sacrifice, and the people with me said they had the same experience, and all the first-born males suddenly dropped dead, etc. I would take that as excellent but defeasibile evidence for the existence of a supernatural.”
“…information arises only from intelligence…”
What does that even mean?
“It gets harder and harder to maintain faith in chance as the complexity just keeps growing and growing.”
That’s a silly way to object to something. Evolution requires mutation and selection, saying that it is unreasonable to believe in chance as an explanation for evolution is like saying that it is unreasonable to believe in oxygen as an explanation for fire because with just oxygen there is no fuel.
“Plus in the real world, information increasing mutations seem to be extremely extremely rare, if they exist at all.”
What do you know about sexual recombination as a source for variation? What relevant definition of “information” could you possibly be using?
Thanks for your interaction.
Me: “Science can show us that matter could not have arisen out of nothing all on it’s own.”
Scott: It’s not clear to me how science could show that such a thing is impossible. Obviously, science could show that something is possible. As a matter of fact, science has shown that matter could have arisen out of nothing at all.
ME: OK, point granted. I should have said “Science can show us that it would be very unreasonable to assume that matter could have arisen out of nothing.”
You say: “As a matter of fact, science has shown that matter could have arisen out of nothing at all.”
Listen to yourself! Do you really believe this? Have you ever seen it happen? How can you say that? No one has ever observed that happening? Yet science can show us that it could have happened? Come on. I suppose you are referring to quantum mechanics where some cosmologists claim that a vacuum, under some circumstances, can give rise to matter. I freely admit, that is a bit beyond my level of understanding, but you are still starting with something – a vacuum. A vacuum is still something and can be made to appear and disappear.
The idea that the whole universe simply burst onto the scene out of nothing defies all known logic and all laws of science. What happened to the law of cause and effect? All logic predicts that if you have nothing, nothing will happen. You are happy to place faith in a vacuum, but refuse to consider the role of a Creator. Hmm.
Even if it could have happened, which I will not grant you, that still is not proof that it did happen. You still have to take it in faith that it did happen that way because no one knows or saw it happen. Hence, you are outside the realm of science here.
One of the hallmarks of the scientific method is observation and experiment and verification. I know of no such experiment that has ever been done in which matter has arisen out of nothing. I don’t know how you could devise such an experiment. It only happens in the hypothetical situation that scientists devise in their minds. Therefore, it must be taken by faith. That is why I said the Christian’s faith in God makes more sense and fits the facts better than the atheist’s faith in nothing + chance.
Are you prepared to accept the corollaries or your faith? If the universe came from nothing and from nowhere, this means that you are forced to accept that nothing (which has no mind, no morals, and no conscience) created reason and logic; understanding and comprehension; complex ethical codes and legal systems; a sense of right and wrong; art, music, drama, appreciation of beauty, comedy, literature, and dance; and belief systems that include God. These are just a few of the philosophical implications of that idea. Plus, it would also mean that the universe, including human life, is totally meaningless in an ultimate sense. I’ll stick with logic here.
ME: “…no level of complexity, no evidence is enough to cause scientists to question evolution.”
SCOTT: Complexity is the type of thing that evolution explains perfectly.
Previously unseen levels of complexity is not a discovery that challenges it just as the building of a new tallest building in the world does not cause us to doubt the validity of engineering as an explanation for building.
Animals whose complexity is inexplicable in terms of stages of mutation and selection would challenge it for those species, such as the discovery of a crocaduck. A wheeled animal would be unexpected.
ME: Wow, Brian. You truly are a man of faith to be able to say that stuff with a straight face. I have two words for you here.
To start with, life itself is reducibly complex. Forensic scientists(Origin of Life researchers) are totally stumped here because they cannot consider the role of intelligence in the emergence of life.
Back in the 50’s when DNA was discovered, scientists were amazed and astounded to find a code at what was thought to be the genetic foundation of life!
This kind of complexity was NOT predicted or even thought to be possible. In fact, Darwin thought the cell was a simple blob of goo for lack of a better term.
Evolution cannot explain chirality or the existence of even one protein from chance, let alone the thousands of proteins that we find in life today.
It seems though that the genetic code wasn’t enough to shake your faith.
How many codes are necessary for that to happen?
How about the histone or the nucleosome code?
That’s not enough either?
Well then, what about the mistaken idea of “junk DNA”?
Or how about the existence of yet another code attached directly to the transcriber RNA Polymerase II?
But my guess is that no amount of codes or layers of complexity would be enough to shake your faith. Evolution can explain anything and everything it seems.
OK, I’ll watch my wording here.
Observation and logic tells us that codes do not just appear on their own. Would you agree with that?
Intelligence is involved in the origination of every code that we can investigate.
However, it seems that in spite of this fact, you believe, and you want others to join you in your belief that not only the code, but the information itself, the machinery to encode the information and decipher the code all happened to simply pop into existence.
I think this is another example of irreducible complexity.
What good would a code be if it was only half written?
What good would a code be if there was not a corresponding machine that was programmed to read that very code as opposed to another code?
It all has to be in place for the code to be properly communicated.
I’m sorry, but I think you are going to have a lot of trouble getting people to believe in miracles like you seem to believe in.
Intelligence as the source of the codes makes much more sense. Again, I’ll stick with logic.
ME:“…information arises only from intelligence…”
Scott : What does that even mean?
ME: It means that the Achilles heal of evolution is that it cannot account for the origin information in the original cell nor for the continual need for vast volumes of new information in the cell to code for all the new body parts, etc that is necessary for common descent to take place.
According to L. Lester and R. Bohlin, two biologists who wrote The Natural Limits to Biological Change, “DNA is an information code. . . . The overwhelming conclusion is that information does not and cannot arise spontaneously by mechanistic processes. Intelligence is a necessity in the origin of any informational code, including the genetic code, no matter how much time is given.”
There is no known law of nature or any natural process or known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter so this means that any hypothesis or model meant to explain how all life evolved from lifeless chemicals into a complex cell consisting of vast amounts of information also has to explain the source of information and how this information was encoded into the genome.
ME: “It gets harder and harder to maintain faith in chance as the complexity just keeps growing and growing.”
“Plus in the real world, information increasing mutations seem to be extremely extremely rare, if they exist at all.”
SCOTT: That’s a silly way to object to something. Evolution requires mutation and selection, saying that it is unreasonable to believe in chance as an explanation for evolution is like saying that it is unreasonable to believe in oxygen as an explanation for fire because with just oxygen there is no fuel.
What do you know about sexual recombination as a source for variation?
What relevant definition of “information” could you possibly be using?
ME: But you are assuming evolution in this illustration. That is the question we are considering so assuming it happened and then saying that that proves that chance is the explanation doesn’t cut it for me.
No, I don’t think it is silly at all to object to evolution on those grounds. The mutations are totally random and as such evolution depends on chance mutations to produce new genetic information. The evolutionary process is totally undirected. We all know that mistakes in computer programs do not make the program better. Bugs are not beneficial! The software in the cell is far more complicated than any computer program we know of.
Besides, almost all mutations are harmful or at the very least, neutral. Yet, evolution needs trillions and trillions of random genetic mistakes(that hopefully escape the error correcting machinery of the cell) in order to work. They should be popping out all over the place in studies and yet scientists are hard pressed to come up with any undisputed beneficial mutations that didn’t result in a loss of genetic information – ie beetles on a windy island losing the flight gene because flying beetles are carried into the water by the wind) Even creationists believe in this kind of evolution.
What is my definition of information?
I guess I would use the word in the same way that the evolutionary origin-of-life expert Leslie Orgel did in his book entitled “The Origins of Life”.
He says there are three distinct concepts that make up information;: order, randomness and specified complexity:
‘Living things are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals such as granite fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; mixtures of random polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.’ [L. Orgel, The Origins of Life, John Wiley, NY, p. 189, 1973.]
Even an open system with an energy source is not enough to explain the increase of specified information that we see in the world. The energy would have to be directed in a particular way.
There is a difference between the order found in crystals and the complexity found in life.
A crystal is a sequence with little information, but is repeated over and over again. If a crystal is broken, smaller but otherwise identical crystals result. Conversely, breaking proteins, DNA or living structures results in destruction, because the information in them is greater than in their parts.
Here is an example of a random signal that is complex, but not ordered: DKNCCHU DHYYFGAWELNCX. But it is random and so it contains no useful information.
A non-random non-repeating signal—specified complexity— like ‘I love you’, may carry useful information. However, it would be useless unless the receiver of the information understood the English language. The message has no relationship to that letter sequence apart from the agreed upon language convention. The language convention is imposed onto the letter sequence.
Proteins and DNA are non-random non-repeating sequences. The sequences are not caused by the properties of the constituent amino acids and nucleotides themselves. This is a huge contrast to crystal structures, which are caused by the properties of their constituents. Proteins are amazingly versatile and carry out many biochemical functions, but they are incapable of assembling themselves without the assistance of DNA. This means that the sequences of DNA and proteins must be imposed from outside by some intelligent process.
You brought up sexual recombination.
To be sure, a new organism receives half it’s mother’s genes and half it’s fathers genes, but the information it is able to receive is limited to what already exists in it’s parents gene pool. A fish will not suddenly be born with two arms because that kind of information is not in the parent’s genes. And recombining the genes that do exist will not do it either.
If the mother’s genes are represented by the numbers 1-10 and the father’s genes are represented by the first 10 letters of the alphabet, the possible combination of genes the offspring inherits will be limited to that information. It is not going to receive a Chinese character in it’s gene pool out of no where.
Sexual recombination is one of the ways the Creator designed for animals to have great adaptability for changing environments. But in the end, you still have a finch, no matter how long or short it’s beak may be.
Natural selection only culls the unfit. It eliminates the weak, but it is not progressive in that it has no ability to create anything. The Creator made each organism with a genetic make-up that was designed to produce much variety in the animal type in order to aid adaptation. The key being that the information was already present in the genome so this has nothing to do with evolution.
Even creationists believe in natural selection, but we don’t see it as a creative force. This really has yet to be demonstrated. In fact, like Behe’s recent book “The Edge of Evolution” shows, it is looking more and more like it has been falsified.