For the past week or so I’ve been reading “The Language of God” by Francis S. Collins. Dr. Collins was head of the Human Genome Project when the mapping was essentially complete and so stood by President Clinton to declare the news to the world. Reading this book, I see that it was published not because of what was written, but who wrote it.
No doubt the science of this book is quite good. Much of what Dr. Collins writes is out of my field of experience, and I lack many of the fundamental pieces of information needed to grasp his explanations of biology and genetics. The quality of writing itself is quite poor for a published book, with constant and distracting repetition of words and details already used or provided. The theology is also quite questionable, for at least two reasons.
First, Dr. Collins takes pains at the outset to set himself apart from Deists, affirming the possibility of miracles, but then for the rest of the book shudders at the notion of God as the “God of the Gaps.” As a scientist he rightly rejects the notion that anything unexplained in science ought to be attributed to God, mostly for the very good reason that another answer may later present itself. In actual practice, though, Dr. Collins states that his “theistic evolution” involves God creating the universe and the principles that would bring about evolution, but then: “Once evolution got underway, no supernatural intervention was required.” In other words, Dr. Collins ends up affirming, at least where natural processes are concerned, the deistic view of God as “hands off,” the watchmaker God who wound up the watch and then set back to let it run.
Second, it is apparently essential to theistic evolution to believe in the static view of God, at least as Dr. Collins presents it. He repeats in his book that God is beyond space and time, and knows all events past, present and future. From the way it looks, he affirms the classic view inherited from Greek philosophy and developed in church history that God, but a single will, decreed the existence of the universe and all events. For open theists, who see in Scripture that God makes plans, acts providentially and at times even miraculously to bring His objectives about, and who can even change His mind, theistic evolution makes no sense. God knows all that can be known, but as the future hasn’t happened yet, He simply doesn’t know that. In this view, theistic evolution as presented by Dr. Collins could have just as easily resulted in intelligent reptiles ruling the earth, or a life-filled world devoid of sentience.
While I appreciate the fear-filled fleeing of scientists from a “God of the Gaps” to explain the unexplained, I’m severely disappointed that they can’t seem to find the “God of the Process” who does act providentially to bring about his purposes.