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The Language of God by Francis Collins – an unscientific attempt that shows Collins doesn’t understand science

I suggested on FB the following:

If I come across a “scientist” who believes in religion, I know that he knows NOTHING. The first test of someone’s knowledge of science (medical/ engineering/ physical/ biological) is whether he/she has discarded religion.

The moment Darwin started understanding the basics of biology, he discarded religion (he started his life as a preacher). Science and religion are polar opposites.

If someone “believes” then he/she has not understood the basics of science. Science is PURELY about doubt. Ever doubtful, ever sceptical, it is impervious to belief of any sort: even in “scientific laws”.

We asymptotically approach the truth. We know that we will never reach it.

A commentator suggested that there is a “scientist”, Francis Collins (head of the genome project), who thinks religion and science are compatible. Indeed, his Wikipedia page says that he is not just a believer but an “Evangelical Christian”.

I’ve chanced upon his book earlier, but never bothered to waste time on it. Today I decided to have a quick look.

Here are a few extracts from this book, and also the point when I stopped reading further.

for me the experience of sequencing the human genome, and uncovering this most remarkable of all texts, was both a stunning scientific achievement and an occasion of worship.

Science’s domain is to explore nature. God’s domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science.

science is powerless to answer questions such as “Why did the universe come into being?” “What is the meaning of human existence?” “What happens after we die?”

a scientist who studies genetics came to be a believer in a God who is unlimited by time and space, and who takes personal interest in human beings.

I went to visit a Methodist minister who lived down the street to ask him whether faith made any logical sense. He listened patiently to my confused (and probably blasphemous) ramblings, and then took a small book off his shelf and suggested I read it. The book was Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

The argument that most caught my attention, and most rocked my ideas about science and spirit down to their founda­tion, was right there in the title of Book One: “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.”

If the case in favor of belief in God were utterly airtight, then the world would be full of confident practitioners of a single faith. But imagine such a world, where the opportunity to make a free choice about belief was taken away by the certainty of the evidence. How interesting would that be?

The great Marxist experiments in the Soviet Union and in Mao’s China, aiming to establish societies explicitly based upon athe­ism, proved capable of committing at least as much, and probably more, human slaughter and raw abuse of power than the worst of all regimes in recent times.

This is what’s happened in Collins’s case:

A man first becomes an atheist without thinking things through. Then he finds dying people with strong faith, that gives them strength in the face of much pain and suffering. He is now primed for change. He goes to a priest who gives him a book. That book “changes” this man.

Well, the problem is clear: the man did not think through issues before becoming an agnostic first (as he says); then atheist.

I am NOT an atheist since it is logically impossible to be one. Until I can rule out God’s existence, I can’t be an atheist. No scientist can be an atheist without publishing his proof of the absence of God in a peer reviewed science journal. Richard Dawkins is therefore wrong – for he has nowhere published in a peer-reviewed journal his proof of the non-existence of God. Yes, he has shown how religions are bad and wrong, but where is the scientific proof of the absence of God?

Agnosticism is the only position compatible with science.

But leaving this aside, what happened in Collins’s case is that this man – totally untutored in philosophy and in the logical arguments in favour of God (there are plenty of them!) – got “taken in” by the first such set of arguments that were provided to him.

I had a quick scan of his book and found nothing new there. All boring, routine stuff that doesn’t even REMOTELY meet the test of evidence. Waste of my time.

What put me off – and that’s the end of my “proofs” against this book – was Collins’s claim that Marxism is driven by atheism. That’s sheer drivel.

Yes, it is true that a few of the major Marxists were aggressive atheists. But Marxism is NOT about atheism. It is a COLLECTIVIST ideology about an economic system without property rights. It has NOTHING to do – in its essence – with God/absence of God/ religion.

Collins is a scientific minion who (like a clerk) followed the rules of science and did some good work on the genome project. But that’s about it. He never outgrew his status as a c clerk/ minion. He never grew up into a scientist.

I challenge anyone to scientifically prove God. (Or that “He” doesn’t exist).

Then let’s talk.

Till that time I hope not to waste time on this issue.

ADDENDUM

The Strange Case of Francis Collins

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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25 thoughts on “The Language of God by Francis Collins – an unscientific attempt that shows Collins doesn’t understand science
  1. Ajay FSM

    // I am NOT an atheist since it is logically impossible to be one. Until I can rule out God’s existence, I can’t be an atheist. No scientist can be an atheist without publishing his proof of the absence of God in a peer reviewed science journal. Richard Dawkins is therefore wrong – for he has nowhere published in a peer-reviewed journal his proof of the non-existence of God. Yes, he has shown how religions are bad and wrong, but where is the scientific proof of the absence of God? //

    The way science works is, that when you make a proposition, you have to show the proof behind it. Till then it has no value. The idea that someone has to prove the absence of God in a peer reviewed journal makes no sense, because the equivalent position for that would be, I won’t disbelieve in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, till someone proves it and publishes it in a peer reviewed journal.

    There are no atheists, there are just rational people who’ve rejected the hypothesis of a God, based on the fact that the claims are backed by no evidence to support it.

     
  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Sorry, God issue is not the same as any other imaginary object. The idea of God is pretty standard: the creator (at a minimum).

    This converts into a **very** concrete question – to demonstrate how energy came into being. If we can demonstrate that energy can create itself, – including the observed quantity of energy in the universe, etc. one could made a beginning towards proving atheism.

    Proving atheism requires the POSITIVE proof of everything. Most of it is relatively clear (since the origin). What’s missing is the origin.

    To simplify, let’s say I make a building. You can deny that I made the building only by proving how it came into being on its own.

     
  3. Ajay FSM

    //Sorry, God issue is not the same as any other imaginary object. The idea of God is pretty standard: the creator (at a minimum). //

    Are you saying that because a certain idea is widely prevalent, that has to be considered a standard?

    //This converts into a **very** concrete question – to demonstrate how energy came into being.//

    Aren’t you making the assumption here that energy has to COME into being. i.e be created?

    //To simplify, let’s say I make a building. You can deny that I made the building only by proving how it came into being on its own.//

    A building is a structure known to be created. We have only observed buildings when they have been constructed by humans. We have not come across a building that happened to just land itself in a certain configuration of bricks and cement. Therefore we arrive at a seemingly logical conclusion that a building requires a human to build it.

    How can you make a similar analogy or assumption about the universe, the mechanics of which we are yet trying to understand? Isn’t that presumptuous on your part to assume that the universe requires a creator i.e God ?

     
  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    The assumption that energy is ever present begs an important question: why?

    Why is there something, and not nothing? That’s a question that we need to address very specifically and scientifically. Assuming existence is not going to work, unfortunately. Maybe you’re happy with assumptions of this sort. But that’s the same as people’s assumption that “God” created it. No difference in outcome: just two different assumptions. Neither has precedence over the other. There’s a stalemate. If two assumptions lead to the same outcome, then one of them is true. We don’t know which one. I need empirical proof.

     
  5. Prem Chand

    This argument revolves around a false dichotomy: either the Universe was created or it has always existed. It is possible that the Universe came into existence on its own ie naturally rather than through intelligent intervention. We dont have proof of this yet, but there are some clues. For example, quantum mechanical events happen without a cause. A radioactive nucleus may decay on its own, randomly with absolutely no cause. Thus the assumption that everything must have a first cause is wrong.

    Although there is no proof for atheism, assuming that God doesn’t exist is better supported by evidence and logic. God cannot be the answer for ‘How did the Universe come into existence?’ because it brings up the question of who created God. Thus, introducing God into the equation merely extends the problem by an extra step and explains nothing making it a useless assumption.

    When there is absolutely no evidence for God’s existence, the reasonable option is to discard this notion. As Hitchens said, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence”.

     
  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I am not able to accept the possibility that the universe could have come into existence on its own. No matter which way you look/ think, the idea of something from nothing doesn’t make sense. Energy could, however, have existed from time immemorial.

     
  7. Prem Chand

    I agree that it offends common sense to say that the Universe could have come into existence on its own. But science is counter-intuitive like that. Relativity, quantum mechanics are all counter-intuitive. If we approach the problem expecting an answer that satisfies our simple brain and limited senses, we are going to be disappointed.

     
  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    By all means prove your case. Else your hypothesis is no better than someone speculating God.

    Re: simple brain, etc. – that’s precisely the arguments used by “spiritual” people. Now you are clearly going off the rocker.

    Kindly stick to rock solid empirical proofs.

    If what you are saying is true, then, there’s a probability that ONE atom inside my head could one day, randomly, blow itself up to the size of the universe. Kindly prove it.

     
  9. Iniyavel Sugumar

    Sir,

    That was what was being discussed by various scientists in the BBC Documentary: “What happened before the Big Bang”.

    And for Prem Chand, the Universe was initiated by the Big Bang and scientists are looking at how it began. I’m willing to discuss ideas here.

    These short videos are interesting to see:

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uabNtlLfYyU

    2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyc3bDFk84w

    And this channel has some interesting videos on the origin of the universe:

    https://www.youtube.com/user/tdarnell/

    The “something out of nothing” theory was proposed by NY based Futurist Dr. Michio Kaku.

    In the very weird world of quantum mechanics, which describes action on a subatomic scale, random fluctuations can produce matter and energy out of nothingness.

    The universe had protons, electrons, energy and dark matter during its initial years. It takes several millions of years to form into stars, galaxies, universes, multiverses, etc. Molecular hydrogen would be the building blocks.

    I agree with you regarding quantum mechanics, but I personally believe there must have been some other constant factor at play there to start the universe. Like, say, sound. Because the name of the phenomenon is “Big BANG” I believe there must have been a constant/variable factor of sound at play there, even if insignificant. This is just my thought as an alternate explanation for the start of the universe and/or the multiverses.

    If scientists can predict the end of the universe, then the same universe had a start. That is standard.

    I’m open to more ideas. Again, I’ve just started out on this field of Quantum Mechanics due to my interest in astronomy and would like to get more ideas and clarity.

    Thanking You.

    Iniyavel Sugumar
    ..

     
  10. Prem Chand

    I have already agreed that it is not proven that God doesn’t exist. My point is that atheism is a more reasonable summary of available evidence than belief in God’s existence.

    My point re simple brain is that humans, having evolved from primates are not capable of intuitively grasping concepts like quantum mechanics. Any biologist will attest to this fact. It is not a religious idea.

    Your understanding of Big Bang Theory is vague. The idea is that the Universe began from a very tiny point of space, not an atom. So no, an atom in your brain will never “blow up” into an alternate Universe. On the other hand, the Universe is always expanding, even currently. The only reason we dont feel it (like in our brain) is because of gravity.

     
  11. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Sorry, you need not worry about my understandings. Prove your case, then publish it in a peer reviewed journal, then let there be extensive evidence adduced.

    Mindless speculation of your “atheistic” type is no better (indeed worse!) than the speculation of theists/ pantheists/ deists.

    s

     
  12. Prem Chand

    A good understanding of physics is necessary when talking about the origin of Universe. You asked me to prove that a new Universe cannot blow up from an atom in your brain which I just did. This is a trivial application of current knowledge of physics. Such things are not published in physics journals.

    Anyway, please explain how this is worse than a belief that the Universe was created in seven days (Christianity) or from Brahma’s navel (Hinduism).

     
  13. Iniyavel Sugumar

    Sir,

    I found an interesting website (CFA Harvard) that demonstrates how the universe evolved through 14 billion years.

    https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~ejchaisson/cosmic_evolution/docs/splash.html

    This shows step-by-step how the universe evolved since the Big Bang happened 14 billion years ago.

    However, scientists are speculating what happened before the Big Bang. And a documentary by BBC called “What Happened Before the Big Bang” gives an insight as to what scientists have thought out about it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT3iDoiL7YA

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVArbgZtC7Y

    One of them predicted that the universe came out of nothing. Another of them pure energy. Another predicted a Big Bounce instead of a Bang.

    Quantum fluctuation always happens due to nature of energy, the Big Bang was the product of the last Quantum fluctuation. We will never know how many Universes failed previous to current one and this one by chance formed in balance to exist. And this too will eventually end.

    And I post some articles of interest that might give us an answer to what happened before the start of the universe.

    https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/a-mathematical-proof-that-the-universe-could-have-formed-spontaneously-from-nothing-ed7ed0f304a3

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1404.1207v1.pdf

    Quantum fluctuations formed many universes before and including the current one.

    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2015/02/-messages-from-the-big-bang-confirms-quantum-origin-of-the-universe.html

    There’s no need of a supernatural entity to create the universe or start it, just like other universes that existed (some of them failed too) before our current universe.

    Iniyavel Sugumar
    ..

     
  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    You are welcome to your unproven beliefs. “A good understanding of physics is necessary” – do recall that I have a qualification in physics, and have done a fair bit of maths. But you are not into proving your case, are you? You are into speculation.

    Speculation of any sort doesn’t interest me. Sorry but your atheism is not proven, as much as anyone’s theism is not proven.

     
  15. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I know about these ideas – and have discussed them elsewhere on this blog. Just like string theory, however, these are mere hypotheses, with zero proof.

    Unless there are genuine laboratory based proofs, I’m afraid I’m not persuaded about any of these non-big bang theories. They need to find ways to demonstrate evidence.

     
  16. Ajay FSM

    //I am not able to accept the possibility that the universe could have come into existence on its own. No matter which way you look/ think, the idea of something from nothing doesn’t make sense. Energy could, however, have existed from time immemorial.//

    Matter can be converted into energy and energy can be converted into matter.
    Also how could energy have existed from time immemorial? Where is the empirical proof for that? Isn’t that a theory as well?

    If the concept of God as you define it, is some sort of a creator for the universe, because the universe has to be created, then the logical extension of how did the creator come into existence automatically destroys the proposition of God that you propose.

     
  17. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Sure. These debates have long occurred. I’ve not said there IS a God. I’ve merely said there’s no proof – yet – that there is no God.

     
  18. Biswarup

    –I am not able to accept the possibility that the universe could have come into existence on its own. No matter which way you look/ think, the idea of something from nothing doesn’t make sense. Energy could, however, have existed from time immemorial.—

    You are not able to accept that universe could have come into existence on its own.( 1.Self created origin argument) .But in that case can you accept the other possibility that universe was created by an intelligent creator who came into existence on its own.(2. Creator created origin argument) Of course there is another possibility that universe is always present albeit in different forms which may have been always evolving and may be the past forms can not be predicted or understood by current level of Science .(3. No origin argument) According to me there can be no other possibility on the origin of Universe, correct me if I am wrong. I don’t understand if you can not accept the first possibility there is always the third possibility which can be accepted with out falling into the trap of fallacious argument of second option.

    –By all means prove your case. Else your hypothesis is no better than someone speculating God.—

    You really think the hypothesis of God is no better than other two hypothesis of origin of universe?

     
  19. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I have no particular preference among hypotheses. The God hypothesis is particularly weak, though.

    My point is no one has yet conclusively proved anything, at a level that I’m willing to accept as the final truth.

     
  20. Biswarup

    –The God hypothesis is particularly weak, though–

    Is it weak or is it fallacious and self contradictory which can be ruled out.

     
  21. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Not fallacious at all. Explain to me why there is something, not nothing. And why a particularly large “amount”. Both hypotheses have some plausibility; none are conclusive.

     
  22. Biswarup

    There is mathematical model from quantum field theory which explains how something can be created out of nothing. Nothing is unstable so nothing will give way to something. But it can be argued that this nothing still has properties which gives rise to something. So its not a true nothing. You have to define what is exactly “nothing”. And why do we need to assume that something has to be created from nothing. Something can be created from something else.
    Any way if we do not have an answer for this (Why there is something rather than nothing?)how does it lead to God hypothesis.
    God hypothesis is fallacious because it tries to solve the problem of origin of the creation by assuming that explanation of the origin of creator is beyond the domain of enquiry. It does not add any value to this investigation and should be discarded.

     
  23. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    “mathematical model from quantum field theory”

    Models are dime a dozen. Empirical proof is the ONLY thing that matters.

     
  24. Prem Chand

    Certain things can be proven/disproven without empirical evidence. For example, I know without proof that all bachelors are unmarried. This is Philosophy 101. Russell’s teapot: An argument advanced by Bertrand Russell that he cannot disprove the existence of a teapot orbiting between Jupiter and Saturn but he can discard it based on its extreme unlikelihood.

     
  25. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    This is a poor argument to consider the question of God. Pl. be assured I’ve reviewed all evidence and literature, and do not agree any side has conclusive proof in their favour.

     

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