Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Francis Collins and ID

Francis Collins is the director of the Human Genome Project - the project to provide a complete listing of the human DNA sequence, and identify and map the estimated 20,000-25,000 genes on human chromosomes. He is also a Christian, and has written a book called "The Language of God".

He describes himself as a theistic evolutionist. He argues (contra creationism, ID) that there need be no evidence of divine intervention in the universe after its creation. However (contra naturalism) there are aspects of the nature of the universe and humanity which are best explained by the existence of God (moral law, for example), and he considers a divine origin to be the best explanation for the existence of the universe as a whole.

He identifies ID as being distinct from creationism - although he points out that the roots of ID are tangled with creationism (yes, he mentions the notorious Wedge document). However, he argues against ID as being a more sophisticated "God of the Gaps" - the gaps being things like irreducible complexity and sudden appearance of species. He believes that, in the same way that early modern scientists regarded God as overseeing the regularity of nature in areas like mechanics, astronomy and chemistry, it is reasonable to believe that God has overseen the biological aspects of nature to bring about his purposes - that whilst science is very good at answering "how" questions, it has little to say about "why".

For myself, I think that although regularity can account for much of what we see in scientific terms, I would suggest that whilst the Genesis accounts don't set out to be a scientific explanation of what happened, they do speak of a series of divine creative events in the history of the universe. If pinned up against a wall and forced to say what I thought, I would argue that, although these are very vague and nebulous thoughts:
- day 1 represents the initial creative act - the "Big Bang";
- day 2 represents the transition from energy to matter;
- day 3 represents the move from "physics" to "chemistry", and "carbon chemistry";
- day 4 represents the configuration of the solar system;
- day 5 represents biogenesis;
- day 6 part 1 represents another subsequent creative act within the biotic sphere;
- day 6 part 2 represents a creative act which resulted in humans having their distinct "heaven/earth" nature.

In other words, I guess I am still plumping for ID, although the detail of the creative activity may be invisible in a very complex environment, so at this level of resolution, there's not much to choose between ID (the belief that intelligent agency is required to explain observed phenomena), creationism (the belief that there must have been a series of creative acts because the Bible says so) and theistic evolution (the belief that God oversaw natural processes to bring about his purposes).

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