Life is full of questions. Two of the world’s most prominent scientists, Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins believe virtually the same things about the facts of science. But when it comes to faith, or God, they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Why is that?
Dawkins is an eager spokesman for atheism. He describes his childhood as "a normal Anglican upbringing.” He embraced Christianity until halfway through his teenage years, when he concluded the theory of evolution alone was a better explanation for life's complexity, and he ceased believing in a god. Besides his scientific publications, he has written several books criticizing belief in God, one of which is entitled, The God Delusion.
On the other hand, Francis Collins was raised in a family that had nothing to do with church or religion. But as he pursued advanced studies in molecular biology and genetics, he was amazed at the elegant complexity he saw in living things. As a mature person with exquisite scientific knowledge, he came to believe that God was the best explanation for the existence of such a wonderful and complex world. Besides his many other scientific publications he also wrote The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.
Each of these intelligent men has a level of scientific understanding beyond the reach of most ordinary citizens. If we do an internet search, we find they are both widely respected across the world. Time magazine listed Dawkins as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2007. He is now retired from his last post as a professor at the University of Oxford. By comparison, Dr. Francis Collins is a geneticist who directed the Human Genome Project and currently heads the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins is an outspoken Christian who has said God is quite capable of performing miracles and that religion and science are “entirely compatible.”
So, the early believer became an atheist and the early nonbelieiver became a Christian. This is not a debate between two people who disagree on evolution, the age of the earth, or any of the established facts of scientific inquiry. But one of them looks beyond the apparent surface and sees the revelation of God in Christ Jesus as the perfect compliment to scientific knowledge that helps make sense of it all. On the other hand, the other person has made it part of his life’s work to criticize the very nature of faith and various beliefs that Christians hold true, and similarly disparages the beliefs of other religions, as well.
Perhaps you, too, have struggled with the need to make sense of it all as I have. The older I get, and the more I know about life, the world, science, or any other area of inquiry, I find deeper mysteries revealed. It seems every scientific discovery, every time a big question gets answered, it opens up a new question, like one of those little Russian boxes inside boxes that hold something special in the tiniest box. Only in the real world the boxes go on and on.
So what am I to do? For myself, I keep reading about scientific research, and philosophic conversations as well, to the degree that I am able to understand them, but I also make it a habit to read something from the Gospels every day. There I am confronted with a peculiarly confident man who told stories I cannot imagine anyone else telling, who healed people who were sick, and called people to live in the Kingdom of God, to live his kind of life, and trust in the God who was/is his father. That confrontation, along with the unfinished work of science always leaves me trusting in our faithful and loving God to fill in the gaps in my own life.
© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer
Next week Part II - What are the gaps in my life?