Time magazine recently hosted a debate on God and science. The participants were scientist and committed atheist and philosophical materialist Dr. Richard Dawkins, author of the recently released book The God Delusion, and Dr. Francis Collins, committed Christian and Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.
It’s worth reading all of this if you have the time since it’s very uncommon to see two such articulate spokespersons on opposite sides of a contentious debate actually talk to each other rather than past each other. I think you’ll agree that this article represents a rare sighting of civility in the American public square.
If you’re pressed for time, here are some money quotes. First Dawkins:
I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. What I can’t understand is why you invoke improbability and yet you will not admit that you’re shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God.
And now Collins:
There are sincere 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. St. Augustine wrote that basically it is not possible to understand what was being described in Genesis. It was not intended as a science textbook. It was intended as a description of who God was, who we are and what our relationship is supposed to be with God. Augustine explicitly warns against a very narrow perspective that will put our faith at risk of looking ridiculous. If you step back from that one narrow interpretation, what the Bible describes is very consistent with the Big Bang.
Reading over this, I was reminded of how my professors at Harding University did an excellent job of preparing me to live as both a Christian and a scientist. At that school, we were taught early on not to hold too tightly to a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of Genesis. This allowed room for the belief that God might have created via evolution over eons of time rather than “zapping” everything into existence in seven 24-hour days. Expressing this belief has landed me in a little hot water over the years and still does–and probably will again.
I’m also reminded me that you gotta have faith–no one walks this earth without it. The answers to the “ultimate questions” will always tease and taunt us, lying as they do just over the horizon from our natural eyes and the reach of science.
Richard Dawkins has his faith, and so does Francis Collins. So do you, whether you believe in the Judeo-Christian god or not. If you want to walk away from God, you can come up with many compelling reasons to do so; if you want to believe, there are equally compelling reasons to stay.
The questions then become: which faith do you want? Indeed, which faith will you choose?