Tuesday, 8 May 2007

science & god

I have only just come across this.

Late last year, Time magazine published parts of a discussion between famed atheist and biologist, Richard Dawkins, and christian biologist, Francis Collins. Dawkins is a professor at Oxford University and is the author of many books, including recent best-seller The God Delusion. Collins is the head of the National Human Genome Research Institute in the US where he has headed a 2,400-scientist team that has mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint, and author of the best selling book The Language of God.

Two scientists with impeccable credentials, two totally opposite beliefs about God.

The discussion covered such matters as whether religious faith is compatible with science, in particular evolution (Collins is an evolutionist); whether the occurrence of a universe 'fine-tuned' for life is best explained by God, or a natural explanation; the resurrection of Jesus; the origin of our moral sense; and the ethics of human stem cell research (which Colllins supports).

Comments on the discussion have tended to label it a "debate" and make judgments on the "winner". Even sceptics admit that Collins came over as the more pleasant, but believe Dawkins "won" the intellectual debate.

But I don't see it that way. It wasn't a debate, just a discussion (for example, neither scientist got to choose the topics - they were each asked specific questions - so criticisms of either for not proving their (dis)belief in God miss the point). I felt both explained their views clearly and that Collins did not lose anything in comparison.

Such a brief discussions can never be more than rudimentary, but on three matters, I felt Collins was quite convincing.

  1. He is living proof that a top scientist can also believe in God. It seems silly to say otherwise.
  2. On the question of the design of the universe, Dawkins' two options of either the "multiverse" (the theory that there are literally zillions of universes, and we were the one in a zillion that had the right conditions for life) or alternatively that perhaps "these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle" still do not convince me.
  3. I thought Collins demonstrated an approach to ethics more in accordance with what we generally experience and believe than did Dawkins.

But you can check it out for yourself. Read excerpts of the debate from Time magazine, a review by an atheist and by a christian. You may also like to read about recent interviews with both men.


  1. Thanks for the link, AND for offering a balanced perspective (at least in that you offered links to both atheist and Christian). :)

  2. amanda,

    Thanks for your comment. If you have followed up the links and have found anything that particularly interested you, perhaps you'd come back and share it with us please?


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.