I've Found God
- The Sunday Times - Britain
The Sunday Times June 11, 2006
I've found God, says man who cracked the genome
THE scientist who led the team that cracked the human genome is to
publish a book explaining why he now believes in the existence of God
and is convinced that miracles are real.
Francis Collins, the director of the US National Human Genome
Research Institute, claims there is a rational basis for a creator
and that scientific discoveries bring man "closer to God".
His book, The Language of God, to be published in September, will
reopen the age-old debate about the relationship between science and
faith. "One of the great tragedies of our time is this impression
that has been created that science and religion have to be at war,"
said Collins, 56.
"I don't see that as necessary at all and I think it is deeply
disappointing that the shrill voices that occupy the extremes of this
spectrum have dominated the stage for the past 20 years."
For Collins, unravelling the human genome did not create a conflict
in his mind. Instead, it allowed him to "glimpse at the workings of
"When you make a breakthrough it is a moment of scientific
exhilaration because you have been on this search and seem to have
found it," he said. "But it is also a moment where I at least feel
closeness to the creator in the sense of having now perceived
something that no human knew before but God knew all along.
"When you have for the first time in front of you this 3.1 billion-
letter instruction book that conveys all kinds of information and all
kinds of mystery about humankind, you can't survey that going through
page after page without a sense of awe. I can't help but look at
those pages and have a vague sense that this is giving me a glimpse
of God's mind."
Collins joins a line of scientists whose research deepened their
belief in God. Isaac Newton, whose discovery of the laws of gravity
reshaped our understanding of the universe, said: "This most
beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an
intelligent and powerful being."
Although Einstein revolutionised our thinking about time, gravity and
the conversion of matter to energy, he believed the universe had a
creator. "I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details," he
said. However Galileo was famously questioned by the inquisition and
put on trial in 1633 for the "heresy" of claiming that the earth
moved around the sun.
Among Collins's most controversial beliefs is that of "theistic
evolution", which claims natural selection is the tool that God chose
to create man. In his version of the theory, he argues that man will
not evolve further.
"I see God's hand at work through the mechanism of evolution. If God
chose to create human beings in his image and decided that the
mechanism of evolution was an elegant way to accomplish that goal,
who are we to say that is not the way," he says.
"Scientifically, the forces of evolution by natural selection have
been profoundly affected for humankind by the changes in culture and
environment and the expansion of the human species to 6 billion
members. So what you see is pretty much what you get."
Collins was an atheist until the age of 27, when as a young doctor he
was impressed by the strength that faith gave to some of his most
"They had terrible diseases from which they were probably not going
to escape, and yet instead of railing at God they seemed to lean on
their faith as a source of great comfort and reassurance," he
said. "That was interesting, puzzling and unsettling."
He decided to visit a Methodist minister and was given a copy of C S
Lewis's Mere Christianity, which argues that God is a rational
possibility. The book transformed his life. "It was an argument I was
not prepared to hear," he said. "I was very happy with the idea that
God didn't exist, and had no interest in me. And yet at the same
time, I could not turn away."
His epiphany came when he went hiking through the Cascade Mountains
in Washington state. He said: "It was a beautiful afternoon and
suddenly the remarkable beauty of creation around me was so
overwhelming, I felt, `I cannot resist this another moment'."
Collins believes that science cannot be used to refute the existence
of God because it is confined to the "natural" world. In this light
he believes miracles are a real possibility. "If one is willing to
accept the existence of God or some supernatural force outside nature
then it is not a logical problem to admit that, occasionally, a
supernatural force might stage an invasion," he says.