National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins recently shared some words about his cancer-stricken friend Christopher Hitchens:
Over these last few months, we have not talked directly about faith. He knows that I am praying for him. But my prayer is not so much for a supernatural intervention — as a physician I have not seen evidence for such medical miracles in my own experience. Instead I pray for myself and for Christopher along the lines of James 1:5 — “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” And I then give thanks for the chance to share in a deepening friendship.
In other words, God’s not going to intervene if you ask him for any favors. So just bother him with vague requests for things like “wisdom,” which can’t really be quantified or proven.
And he’s the poster boy for evangelical Christians mixing faith with science?
Give him some credit, though: At least he’s honest about there being no evidence (that he’s seen) of God working medical miracles.
Collins actually spoke with Big Think a couple weeks ago and answered the question, “Why is it so difficult for scientists to believe in a higher power?” His response was published today:
Part of the problem is, I think the extremists have occupied the stage. Those voices are the ones we hear. I think most people are actually kind of comfortable with the idea that science is a reliable way to learn about nature, but it’s not the whole story and there’s a place also for religion, for faith, for theology, for philosophy. But that harmony perspective does not get as much attention, nobody’s as interested in harmony as they are in conflict, I’m afraid.
My study of genetics certainly tells me, incontrovertibly that Darwin was right about the nature of how living things have arrived on the scene, by descent from a common ancestor under the influence of natural selection over very long periods of time. Darwin was amazingly insightful given how limited the molecular information he had was; essentially it didn’t exist. And now with the digital code of the DNA, we have the best possible proof of Darwin’s theory that he could have imagined.
So that certainly tells me something about the nature of living things. But it actually adds to my sense that this is an answer to a “how?” question and it leaves the “why?” question still hanging in the air…
In essence, he’s clearly a man of science… in the lab. But when science can’t answer a question, he thinks there are other legitimate ways of getting to the truth. Even though those “legitimate ways” have no basis in proof and are basically made up.
I don’t think you need to resort to that.
It’s not always satisfying, but it’s far more honest, to simply say, “We don’t know why we’re here” or “We don’t know why we have consciousness” or “We don’t know,” period. Maybe some of those topics will have answers in the future. If they do, the answers will come from rigorous testing and an avalanche of evidence, not from your local church.
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