The Language of God
Francis Collins; 2006
Evolution and the Science of Creation
Bill Nye; 2014
These books speak on the topic of Religion vs Science and how it plays into our beliefs of evolution and faith. The books have some contrasting views but not completely opposites. Bill Nye relates more to the Darwinistic view whereas Francis Collins takes a more religious theistic evolution view.
Bill Nye’s book is a follow-on to a debate he had with Ken Ham, a well known advocate of the Young Earth Creationist movement. Therefore, his book takes more of a Creation vs Evolution narrative. Bill Nye is an Atheist but did grow up with religion around him. He shares how this affected him and his path into becoming an Atheist. He also discusses how he thinks some religious views such as Creationism will negatively impact the next generation of scientists. Some of these groups are influencing the public school system and Bill Nye finds this concerning to children’s education. A majority of Bill Nye’s book discusses the evidence towards evolution and that the Creationist beliefs are misleading and wrong.
Francis Collins’ book is a more general view of religion versus science and discusses more than just beliefs in creation and evolution. Collins was an Atheist but later converted to Christianity. He shares how he came across that path and some of the influences he had from both his beliefs in science and questions he had in the supernatural. Francis Collins is mostly known for leading the Human Genome Project in the 1980s and 90s. His strong background in science gives him a lot of similar beliefs as Bill Nye, in particular to the process of evolution. His book actually discusses many of the same cases and evidence discussed in Bill Nye’s book and both disagree with the Young Earth Creationist’s beliefs stating that it is irrational based on the evidence. Francis Collins also talks on the questions raised by skeptics, like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, on how religion and science are opposites and therefore a true scientist would abandon religion as it would be seen contradictory. To Collins, he finds his religious beliefs and science beliefs not as contradictions but rather complimentary to each other.
Both authors state that we can gather a significant amount of truth from the science we know so far. Where the two authors differ is what they believe for those things that are outside of science. These are the areas of the unnatural, where things cannot be scientifically measured or predicted. For example, the authors differ in their belief of morals and where it comes from and why it is important. Bill Nye discusses altruism and how through the evolutionary process humans were able to define morals. Francis Collins also discusses this but shares evidence against altruism being part of the evolutionary process and that regardless, it doesn’t completely explain morals.
Though I personally relate better to Francis Collin’s views, I particularly enjoyed Bill Nye’s humorous writing (been a fan of his growing up!). Through these books I’ve come to know more about Evolution and specifically the areas of Darwinism, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Theistic Evolution. The remainder of this post are my personal notes in each of these areas. Note that these subjects get very deep, and my notes are very generic.
Also known as the Darwinian Theory, this is the evolution theory developed by Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley in the mid-1800s that states organisms adapt and survive based on natural selection. It is the base for which we get our modern evolution theory from and the explanation for species mutations as well as the origins of life. When looking at Darwinism from a theistic point of view it is generally accepted as a secular, or the atheistic stance, in particular to the origins of life. Some atheists such as Richard Dawkins say that all scientists are Darwinists and one cannot believe in both evolution and religion at the same time. On the contrary though, Charles Darwin was a Christian himself and often compared what he found in evolutionary science to the stories and explanations from the Bible. Though it should be noted – he also had many questions and doubts between the two as well.
Shortly after the term Darwinism was publicized (~1860s) people began creating the other theistic view points as discussed below in this post. Before Darwinism, the general population believed either in some form of Creationism or were agnostic (few records of atheist as well).
This is the religious belief on divine creation, most often seen in Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. The term “Creationism” actually did not exist until the term “Darwinism” was publicized during the mid-1800s. The two terms came into popularity together as a contrast of the new evolutionary science that was discovered by Charles Darwin. In the most generic of definitions – Creationism simply states that there was a divine creator of life and the universe. However, in most recent years the term has been narrowed and applied specifically towards the Christian religion and how God had direct interaction in creating each species and the natural world. Furthermore, this Christian view includes two sub-groups, the Young Earth Creationists and the Old Earth Creationists. These groups have a differing opinion on the book of Genesis from the Bible – specifically the first chapter on the creation of life. The Young Earth Creationists take Genesis as a literal translation and believe the world was created in a matter of days and that the current age of the Earth is less than 10, 000 years old. The Old Earth Creationists take a more poetic translation of Genesis and how the word “day” actually has a similar meaning as the word “age” and therefore the creation process could have taken millions of years. Both groups believe God had a direct interaction in the creation process with a specific point in time in which God created humans. Both groups offer evidence for their views, which in it of itself is a field called Creation Science.
Before Darwinism, its been recorded that people generally fell into one of these two groups of Creationism – if they were not agnostic or atheist. As the term of Creationism narrowed, other ‘creationist’ views began to rise during the 1900s. Two of the most significant groups that have emerged are those believing in Intelligent Design and those in Theistic Evolution. These are discussed further below.
This is a branched group of Creationism that believe in a single divine creator. However, they also recognize some of the evolutionary science and believe in events like micro-evolution. Intelligent Design view does not believe in macro-evolution. It states that the parent species were created by God, or designed to be the start of its species, and through micro-evolution the sub-species branched out. In this view, humans do not share a common ancestry as apes.
Another key difference in the Intelligent Design view is that humans will always be limited in their understanding of evolutionary science, and science as a whole for that matter. This is because God was the ultimate designer of life and it is impossible for us to completely understand God. Therefore, we will always have some complexity in science that cannot be explained. Some of the immediate criticism towards this belief is that they are focusing the lack of scientific knowledge or discovery at this point in time. But this would mean that through time, as knowledge increases, the divinity of God would decrease, and critics state this makes the Intelligent Design view self-refuting.
The Theistic Evolution view also branched from Creationism and believe in a single divine creator. However, it also believes in all aspects of the Evolution Theory including species mutation at a micro and macro level. When compared to the Intelligent Design view both agree that a divine God would have ultimate knowledge and the complexity could be more than human capable. But where Intelligent Design uses these knowledge gaps as proof of God, Theistic Evolutionist instead recognizes God through the knowledge known. Therefore as these knowledge gaps decrease and knowledge gained increase, it is more reinforcing of God.
In short, Theistic Evolution believes that a divine creator, God, designed and started the whole evolutionary process. This means God could have created everything through the Big Bang. God had a design where he knew through that process it would lead to life and humans. God also knew that humans would be able to gain this knowledge and created it to be so. In this case both evolution and creation can be believed without contradiction. Francis Collins argues that there is nothing in science that requires God not to exist. But if we believe God also created our ability to understand science then our increasing knowledge actually reinforces God. Francis Collins argues this is the strongest position anyone could take as it reflexively supports itself – God to science and science to God.