In his bestselling book, "The Language of God," Francis Collins the scientist who led the National Institutes of Health's Human Genome Project attempted to harmonize the findings of scientific research with Christian belief. In this response to Collins's work, fellow geneticist George C. Cunningham presents a point-by-point rebuttal of "The Language of God," arguing that there is no scientifically acceptable evidence to support belief in a personal God and much that discredits it. Written with admirable clarity for the nonscientist, "Decoding the Language of God" covers much of the same ground addressed by Collins in his book.
Cunningham also devotes chapters to the unreliability of the Bible as a basis for belief; the conflict between naturalistic explanations of reality, which are anchored in scientific research, and supernatural interpretations, which are not; and the many difficulties in conceptualizing the origins of the universe in terms of a personal God. Unlike recent hostile attacks on religious belief, Cunningham's respectful, well-reasoned discussion will appeal to open-minded people across the whole spectrum of belief and unbelief.
Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer?
, MD, MPH
Prometheus Books (2009)
Reviewed by for Reader Views (06/10)
In 2007, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” was written by a renowned geneticist Francis Collins. In his book, he argues that science proves that a personal god exists. Uniting scientific beliefs with faith-based ideas is comforting for many moderate Christians because it enables them to believe in both science and a personal god. This would be a god who desires personal interaction with people.
George C. Cunningham, MD, MPH, has written “Decoding the Language of God,” to provide a critical analysis of Collins’ ideas. While he accepts the scientific information by Collins, he addresses his concerns regarding his religious ideology. Cunningham also notes that only the ideas of a Christian God are discussed, other faiths are not; this rules out discrepancies in beliefs between Christians and those of other religions, without even having to involve any scientific ideas. Cunningham finds it difficult to understand how a scientist can base his scientific beliefs on proven theory, yet in contrast have religious beliefs that are faith based, or considered supernatural. He feels that presenting faith without evidence is not valid for an argument in proving the existence of God.
Cunningham does a critical analysis of the ideas presented by Collins and presents what he feels are inconclusive statements. In doing so, he explains the proper way to do a critical analysis. “Decoding the Language of God” is written with respect to the author of “The Language of God.” This author simply explains what information he feels is incorrect. Every chapter is heavily referenced, which helps provide information to back up Cunningham’s claims.
For myself, I found it very interesting to have an opportunity to see a discussion about questions that have passed through my mind. These are inquisitive thoughts that I have rapidly tried to dismiss for fear of retribution by a Higher Power for my doubts. These irrational fears go back to my strict Catholic upbringing. I found it interesting that the author had the same religious background as myself, and also experienced some of the same thoughts. I enjoyed reading his thoughts about the questions that I have shared, yet felt afraid to ask the nuns in high school and college. As I read, it dawned on me that a confident religion should have no fears of being analyzed and questioned because they should know that they have real evidence to back up their beliefs. In all honesty, I don’t think that I can name a religion that can actually do this.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is not a fast read because it involves a lot of processing, however, it is a very intelligently written piece of work that involves an extensive amount of critical thinking and an analysis of the reader’s self, so that they let go of their fears to get a clear understanding of how and what they believe. “Decoding the Language of God” would make an excellent textbook for a college critical thinking class. I highly recommend that professors consider using this book for that purpose.
Readers who are seeking deeper meaning in what is happening on our planet, will also really enjoy being able to sink their minds into this book, “Decoding the Language of God.”