Atheist Biologist, Christian Geneticist Square Off

An atheist biologist and Christian geneticist recently engaged in an intensive debate arranged by Time Magazine over the compatibility of God and science.


Francis Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, represented Christianity and defended God against the attacks of Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, the atheist.

Collins, who headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that helped map the 3 billion biochemical letters of the human DNA, said that God’s existence cannot be answered as a scientific question using tools of science.

“From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God’s existence is outside of science’s ability to really weigh in,” said Collins in the most recent issue of Time.

The scientists’ differences were most evident in the topic of creation versus evolution.

Collins believes evolution and faith in the existence of God is compatible and explains that God during creation could have “activated evolution, with the full knowledge of how it would turn out...”

Opposing that view, Dawkins commented, “I think that’s a tremendous cop-out.”

The Oxford professor added that he finds it “slightly odd” that God would choose an “extraordinarily roundabout way” of creating life and humans, noting that God had to wait 10 billion years before life began and then another 4 billion years until humans were “capable of worshipping and sinning…”

“Who are we to say that that was an odd way to do it,” responded Collins. “I don’t think that it is God’s purpose to make His intention absolutely obvious to us…would it not have been sensible for Him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation?”

During a discussion on conservative Protestants’ opposition to evolution based on the Book of Genesis, Collins said that he does not agree with believers who interpret Genesis 1 and 2 in a “very literal way that is inconsistent, frankly, with our knowledge of the universe’s age or of how living organisms are related to each other.”

The Christian geneticist used St. Augustine’s writing as support that it is not possible to understand what was being described in Genesis.

“It was not intended as a science textbook,” said Collins. “It was intended as a description of who God was, who we are and what our relationship is supposed to be with God.”
Collins also said St. Augustine “explicitly” warns against having a “very narrow perspective” that might lead to our faith “looking ridiculous.”

“If you step back from that one narrow interpretation, what the Bible describes is very consistent with the Big Bang,” concluded the defender of God and science.

In his closing statement, Collins emphasized that his faith in God “in no way compromises” his ability to “think rigorously” as a scientist. Instead, his faith has helped him accept that there are questions unanswerable through science which can be answered in the spiritual realm.