Posted June 15, 2006
I've Found God, Say Man Who Cracked Genome
By Steven Swinford
Taken from the Sunday Times
The scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to publish a
book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God and is convinced
that miracles are real.
Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome Research
Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator and that
scientific discoveries bring man "closer to God".
His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will reopen the
age-old debate about the relationship between science and faith. "One of the
great tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that
science and religion have to be at war," said Collins, 56.
"I don't see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply disappointing
that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this spectrum have
dominated the stage for the past 20 years."
For Collins, unravelling the human genome did not create a conflict in his
mind. Instead, it allowed him to "glimpse at the workings of God".
"When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific exhilaration
because you have been on this search and seem to have found it," he said.
"But it is also a moment where I at least feel closeness to the creator in
the sense of having now perceived something that no human knew before but
God knew all along.
"When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-letter
instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all kinds of
mystery about humankind, you can't survey that going through page after page
without a sense of awe. I can't help but look at those pages and have a
vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse of God's mind."
Collins joins a line of scientists whose research deepened their belief in
God. Isaac Newton, whose discovery of the laws of gravity reshaped our
understanding of the universe, said: "This most beautiful system could only
proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful being."
Although Einstein revolutionised our thinking about time, gravity and the
conversion of matter to energy, he believed the universe had a creator. "I
want to know His thoughts; the rest are details," he said. However Galileo
was famously questioned by the inquisition and put on trial in 1633 for the
"heresy" of claiming that the earth moved around
Among Collins's most controversial beliefs is that of "theistic evolution",
which claims natural selection is the tool that God chose to create man. In
his version of the theory, he argues that man will not evolve further.
"I see God's hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God chose
to create human beings in his image and decided that the mechanism of
evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal, who are we to say that
is not the way," he says.
"Scientifically, the forces of evolution by natural selection have been
profoundly affected for humankind by the changes in culture and environment
and the expansion of the human species to 6 billion members. So what you see
is pretty much what you get."
Collins was an atheist until the age of 27, when as a young doctor he was
impressed by the strength that faith gave to some of his most critical
"They had terrible diseases from which they were probably not going to
escape, and yet instead of railing at God they seemed to lean on their faith
as a source of great comfort and reassurance," he said. "That was
interesting, puzzling and unsettling."
He decided to visit a Methodist minister and was given a copy of C S Lewis's
Mere Christianity, which argues that God is a rational possibility. The book
transformed his life. "It was an argument I was not prepared to hear," he
said. "I was very happy with the idea that God didn't exist, and had no
interest in me. And yet at the same time, I could not turn away."
His epiphany came when he went hiking through the Cascade Mountains in
Washington state. He said: "It was a beautiful afternoon and suddenly the
remarkable beauty of creation around me was so overwhelming, I felt, 'I
cannot resist this another moment'."
Collins believes that science cannot be used to refute the existence of God
because it is confined to the "natural" world. In this light he believes
miracles are a real possibility. "If one is willing to accept the existence
of God or some supernatural force outside nature then it is not a logical
problem to admit that, occasionally, a supernatural force might stage an
invasion," he says.