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Theistic Evolution: more evolution and less supernatural than ID and creationism

Review of Francis Collins (2006) The language of God

By Gert Korthof

12 Oct 2006

Posted October 15, 2006

While reading Collins it became gradually clear to me that what he does is more than a scientist presents evidence for belief. In this book Collins presents evidence for evolution too. I was much more impressed by the second type of evidence. However, I will discuss his Moral Law argument and his plea for Theistic Evolution too.

The Human Genome

Francis Collins is well positioned for discussing the implications of the Human Genome Project for evolution, because he is the director of the project. This is (or was) an ambitious international scientific effort that completed the first draft of the human genome in 2000. So Collins has first-hand access and knowledge of the data of the human genome. The largest genome ever sequenced.

Although I thought of my self that I was rather up-to-date about the most important research findings in genetics, genomics and evolution, after reading Collins I must confess I missed a few important things. Here I select three superb examples of the surprises from the first reading of the genome. All three examples were known to me in outline, but the details and subtleness are new to me. I find them impressive. They are not the first evidence for Common Descent, because all sorts of evidence have been available since Darwin. But they are extremely enjoyable and beautiful. Noteworthy is the attention Collins gives to creationist alternative explanations. I found the examples in the chapter with the poetic title: "Deciphering God's Instruction Book. The lessons of the Human Genome" (ch5), paragraph "Surprises from the first reading of the genome" (page 124-141).

His first example starts easy with a simple and straightforward question: What is the likelihood of finding a similar DNA sequence in the genome of other organisms, starting with a human DNA sequence? (page 127).

table 1Gene sequence that
codes for protein
Random DNA segment
between genes
Chimpanzee 100% 98%
Dog 99% 52%
Mouse 99% 40%
Chicken 75% 4%
Fruitfly 60% ~0%
Roundworm 35% ~0%

The first column in table 1 shows that human genes are not uniquely human, but other animals have the same genes. A human gene can be found with 100% certainty in a Chimpanzee and with 99% probability in a dog or a mouse. This is predicted and explained by common descent (in outline). More than that. Common descent not only predicts that human genes can be found with different probabilities in other species, but more specific that the likelihood should be smaller for insects and worms. So, even at this basic level, the prediction of common descent is more subtle than just a list of different similarities of humans and other animals. The prediction is that there must be a pattern in the differences. The pattern must confirm to the tree of life.

Genes are easy. But what about DNA between genes? The second column of table 1 shows that human DNA which does not code for proteins has a far lower likelihood to be found in other animals. DNA between human genes can still be found with 98% likelihood in chimpanzees, but the likelihood drops significantly to only 52% in the dog. Why should this be so? DNA between genes is non-functional, so-called junk-DNA. Neutral mutations (=mutations that do not affect function) will accumulate steadily over time. Since natural selection has no grip on neutral mutations, they are free to go in any direction. So why do we still see similarities? Those eventual similarities can only be explained because they are inherited from the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees or humans and dogs.

And again there is a second level of specificity to this prediction. There is a pattern in the similarities and dissimilarities in this 'junk DNA'. This pattern also follows the tree of life. Roundworms and fruitflies have diverged so long ago from humans that any similarities of their junk DNA are erased completely.

That is not all. Genes are easy and genes are not easy. Interpreting similarities of genes is not easy because genes are doing useful things and they are expected to do the same useful thing in man and dog. So, same genes are expected to have similar DNA sequences. But we are lucky. Genes have dark corners. Those dark corners are equivalent ways of coding the same amino acid. Those hidden corners behave just like the junk-DNA between genes.

There are two kinds of mutations in genes: those that alter and those that do not alter the amino acid. Those that do not alter the amino acid are called silent mutations. Those that alter the amino acid can be advantageous, deleterious or neutral (=amino acid is different but does not affect the performance of the protein).

Data show that silent mutations in protein coding DNA (genes) are much more common than those that alter an amino acid. Why? The reason is the same as for junk DNA. Mutations that do not change an amino acid will not be seen by natural selection and are therefore free to change. The longer those genes have been separated in the tree of life, the greater the difference. Collins: "If these genomes were created by individual acts of special creation, why would this particular feature appear?" (p.130) The Creator would have to create pointless differences for fun or worse to misled human observers.

These remarks are significant because they are made by a theist and a Christian. In my own words: theological theories do not predict or explain these subtle observations. Only after the facts have been discovered, theists try to guess why God would have done it in that precise way. Collins is very patient towards alternative creationist interpretations. However, he does not make a full theological and biological analysis of independent creation/origin of species. Examples: Why mutations? Why would a wise, benevolent, powerful God design DNA in such a way that mutations are inevitable? Mutation would destroy his perfect designed genomes. Why? What's the point? Why jumping genes at all? What is the point of having different codes in a gene for the same amino acid? By omitting these theological and biological considerations, Collins presents alternatives for evolution far too favourable and too reasonable. I have discussed technical arguments against independent origin in Independent origin and the facts of life.

My second example is Collins' comparison of human and mouse chromosomes. This example is presented by Collins as "even more compelling evidence for a common ancestor". So if the reader wants to understand the best evidence for common descent, he must understand this one. His evidence has two aspects: how it supports common descent and how it makes independent origin an unreasonable alternative explanation. This example is not about true genes and not about truly random DNA, but about damaged copies of genes (jumping genes). Jumping genes produce several copies that are inserted at random places in chromosomes. In the past and in the present. The order of genes along a chromosome is often the same in humans and mice. This has been known for some time. This is true also for some jumping genes (Ancient Repetitive Elements). They are often found in similar chromosome locations in human and mouse. More remarkable, damaged copies also occur in the same place in human and mouse. This is new. Collins: "Finding a precisely truncated ARE [damaged copy] in the same place in both human and mouse genomes is compelling evidence that this insertion event must have occurred in an ancestor that was common to both the human and the mouse." (p.135).

Collins: "Unless one is willing to take the position that God has placed these decapitated AREs (1) in these precise positions to confuse and mislead us, the conclusion of a common ancestor for humans and mice is virtually inescapable. This kind of recent genome data thus presents an overwhelming challenge to those who hold to the idea that all species were created ex nihilo." (p.136-137).

I add: again there are a hundred other biological-technical objections to special creationism and independent origin, and some are 150 years old. Please note: Collins carefully avoids claiming that special creationism is wrong, but he hopes that the reader will see that special creationism as an explanation for tAREs is highly unreasonable.

I like the third example very much because I worked in the field of medical cytogenetics. It is about human and chimpanzee chromosomes. By way of introduction a nice anecdote I heard in the cytogenetics lab where I worked. A medical cytogeneticist (specialised in medical aspects of human chromosome abnormalities) was asked his opinion about the chromosomes of an anonymous patient. He sweated blood on the case and finally after hours he concluded that 'this patient has a serious chromosome abnormality'. Unfortunately for the cytogeneticist, the patient was a perfectly healthy chimpanzee. The lesson is of course that chimpanzee and human chromosomes look so similar that even a well trained medical cytogeneticist can be fooled. Since the discovery of chromosome staining decades ago and its application to human and chimpanzee chromosomes, it was suggested that human chromosome 2 was the head-to-head fusion product of chimp chromosomes 12 and 13 (2). However, the chromosome staining technique and microscope resolution did not allow a definite proof. Recently, the complete sequence of the human and chimp genome revealed the molecular fingerprints of the chromosome fusion event in the exact location predicted by the old chromosome staining technique (19). This is a triumph of the techniques of genome sequencing and a vivid demonstration of the progress of science. After decades, finally a definite proof of common descent of chimps and humans was established. There is no deeper level of proof than DNA. What more evidence can be asked? Collins: "It is very difficult to understand this observation without postulating a common ancestor" of chimps and humans (p.138). There are more exciting examples in Collins book (see chapter five).

What is Theistic Evolution?

One cannot discuss Theistic Evolution (TE) if you haven't defined it. Collins provides a useful definition (but it has unresolved internal contradictions: see my comments):

  Theistic Evolution according to Collinsmy comments
1The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago 
2Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life(my emphasis) This is the Theistic part of TE. Please note that Collins does not say 'tuned for humans'. Either he must assume that the origin of humans is inevitable or assume supernatural intervention. However, intervention contradicts 4. The question whether human origin is inevitable is open to empirical investigation and cannot be decided in advance.
3While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of timeNote: no claim of supernatural intervention. Collins is agnostic about the origin of life (contrary to most creationists and Intelligent Design Theorists). This view cannot conflict with future research outcomes.
4Once evolution got under way no special supernatural intervention was requiredAgain contrary to creationists and Intelligent Design Theorists. However, point 6 contradicts this claim, because the Moral Law is a divine intervention.
5Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apesThis is mainstream science. But still an important claim since ID advocates are usually remarkably 'agnostic' (unsure) about this point
6But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.See: Moral Law section. Future research can and probably will disprove this view.

Collins gives a theological solution to the incompatibility of neo-Darwinian randomness and the predetermined outcome of evolution (the human species): "Evolution could appear to us driven by chance, but from God's perspective the outcome would be entirely specified." (p.205). I cannot understand this theological claim, because I cannot place myself in God's position. I don't know how to think like God. Apparently, Collins can.

Intelligent Design

Francis Collins shows that one does not need to be an atheist to accept evolution. That is important. Also, it is good to hear from a Christian that a Christian need not subscribe to Intelligent Design. Collins rejects YEC and ID because it is in conflict with good science. Furthermore, Collins argues that to deny evolution would make God a Great Deceiver. This is the Great-Deceiver-argument and he also used it against a YEC interpretation of the human genome data. ID examples such as the human blood-clotting cascade, the eye and the bacterial flagellum fail in the light of new research. Genome research has contributed to the refutation of ID claims. ID is a God of the gaps theory. ID damages faith. Similarly, one could ask what would happen to faith when Collins' own irreducibly complex Moral Law were explained by natural processes? His discussion of ID is short and his list of references to the literature is short too (3).

The Irreducibly Complex Moral Law

The Moral Law is very important for Collins. He describes The Moral Law as 'the denunciation of oppression, murder, treachery, falsehood and the injunction of kindness (16), almsgiving (5), impartiality (15), and honesty (4). He defends it at all costs as a unique character that separates humans and animals. No Mother Teresa among animals. Furthermore, for Collins the Moral Law seems to be the last and only surviving proof for the existence of God. Why? Having accepted the evolutionary origin of humans without supernatural intervention, for him the Moral Law is the only property that cannot be explained and will never be explained (!) by Darwinian evolution and the human genome. "Selfless altruism presents a major challenge for the evolutionist" (p.27). Is this true? And if true, so what? The Moral Law is evidence for God according to Collins. Why? Because all religions of the world endorse the Moral Law. It is overwhelmingly documented in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics according to Collins. A number of serious problems arise here.

The first problem is a problem of meaning. Collins uses quite different meanings of 'the Moral Law'. Even worse, he switches meaning without noticing. One meaning he uses is the Moral Law as an "altruistic impulse, the voice of conscience"; a second meaning is "a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way". To test the first meaning demands empirical evidence of actual altruistic behaviour. To test the second meaning one would simply investigate religious texts. Concerning actual behaviour, Collins focuses on extreme and rare forms of altruism (Mother Teresa) and what I call 'suicide-altruism' (4) and dismisses moderate but more common forms of altruism. If altruism is an inborn impulse, the Moral Law is apparently weak and easily overruled by selfish instincts and has low specificity (see: witch burning below). To test the second meaning one would simply investigate religious texts. Collins used a second-hand quotation from the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (6). However, this second meaning has its own problems. The Moral Law as quoted by Collins is a highly selective list of injunctions and denunciations. For example, on one page of the Old Testament high moral principles of peace, justice, and respect for people and property are promulgated, and on the next page raping, killing, and pillaging people who are not one's "neighbors" are endorsed (7). If his list is biased, it cannot be used as a good test of the existence of the Moral Law. So Collins fails where it should be most easy to prove the Moral Law: religious texts.

The second problem is that actual behaviour in humans never counts against the existence of the Moral Law, which makes the Moral Law practically irrefutable. When discussing the Moral Law in humans, Collins preferentially uses the Moral Law in the meaning of a 'divine command' or an impulse and only in the meaning of 'actual behaviour' when it supports his thesis. The effect is, that no matter how large the gap between actual behaviour and the command, this does not affect the existence of the Moral Law in humans. But in humans there is a huge discrepancy between knowing what is good and doing what is good (8). The gap between knowing and doing is so huge that it leads to the infamous "problem of pain". "It is widely agreed that what C. S. Lewis termed "the problem of pain" is one of the most significant obstacles to Christian belief" (9). Collins himself writes "that a large fraction of our suffering is brought about by what we do to one another" (p.43), which establishes again the discrepancy between the Moral Law and our actual behaviour. This would necessitate more modest claims about the Moral Law.

When discussing the Moral Law in animals, Collins uses it in the sense of actual behaviour. He cannot do otherwise, because one cannot ask animals about their knowledge of right and wrong. In animals there is only actual behaviour to observe. But this creates a double standard. Above that, it is not right to expect from the theory of evolution to explain an ill-defined and biased list of religious denunciations and injunctions regardless real-life behaviour. The theory of evolution is concerned with actual behaviour. In a sense Collins is right that "Selfless altruism presents a major challenge for the evolutionist" (Darwinist). Indeed, the mainstream view is: "As it was realized that natural selection should favour behaviours that benefit the individual rather than the species it belongs to, explaining the occurrence of altruistic behaviours has become one of the central problems in evolutionary biology." (17). However, contrary to Dawkins' selfish pitiless universe, the actual behaviour of animals towards genetically related individuals can certainly be altruistic and, famously, this has been theoretically derived from Darwinian principles by W. D. Hamilton. A recent overview of all theoretical models of cooperation and altruism in animals is: (18). Finally, it is just as easy to come up with anecdotal examples of true altruism in animals (see Frans de Waal: 11), as to come up with rare or unique cases of true altruism in humans such as Mother Teresa. However, even a million Teresa's still amounts to less than 0,1% of the human population. Let's not forget that even an extreme altruist is an egoist because he/she has to kill in order to stay alive. Humanity does not need extreme forms of altruism, but it does need the ability for peace-making, conflict resolution and forgiveness. "Forgiveness is sometimes touted as uniquely human, even uniquely Christian, but it may be a natural tendency for cooperative animals" (14).

The third problem: Collins does not clearly distinguish between the supposed inability of Darwinism to explain Moral Law and the proof that God placed the Moral Law in humans. The divine origin of the Moral Law does not logically follow from the hypothetical inability of Darwinism to explain altruistic behaviour. That would be a variant of the God-of-the-gaps explanation. Collins rejects that type of explanation when dealing with ID. So, it is amazing that he involves it here. What is ultimately the difference between Michael Behe's Intelligently Designed Irreducible Complexity and Collins' Moral Law? Collins could escape the failure of indirect evidence by providing direct evidence. What is the direct proof that the Moral Law derives from God? Is it derived from God because the Bible and other holy texts state the Moral Law? Then he has to prove that God directly inspired the Bible. Unfortunately, Collins knows "that the tools of science are not the right ones to learn about Him. (...) the evidence of God's existence would have to come from other directions, and the ultimate decision would be based on faith, not proof." (p. 30). Anyway, do we need God to be moral? In pre-Darwinian times philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) already argued that we do not need God to behave morally.

The fourth problem is an awfully embarrassing one: the Moral Law leads to a justification of witch burning. Amazingly, this happens on the same page (page 24) right after the definition of the Moral Law! I give a full quote of the passage in order not to misrepresent Collins' view:

"In some unusual cultures the law takes on surprising trappings - consider witch burning in seventeenth-century America. Yet when surveyed closely, these apparent aberrations can be seen to arise from strongly held but misguided conclusions about who or what is good or evil. If you firmly believed that a witch is the personification of evil on earth, an apostle of the devil himself, would it not seem justified to take such drastic action?"

The scary things I observe here are that witch burning apparently follows from the Moral Law, and that firm belief in highly abstract concepts is a justification for torture and killing. Shockingly, Collins highest priority seems to be to show that witch burning does not refute or invalidate the Moral Law and he does not bother to tell his readers that he is unconditionally against all torture of all human beings or against the death penalty. The 'aberration' seems to be that they burned the wrong people and that the Moral Law they tried to follow is good. The implication would be that Christians today more accurately know which people they have to burn. At the time they only got a few minor details wrong. The existence and the value of the Moral Law is not refuted. Collins completely overlooks that witch burning is not an aberration of otherwise clear and sound concepts and principles. In my view the aberration is in the abstract and fictional nature of the religious concepts such as 'witch', 'personification of evil', 'apostle of the devil'. There is the problem. There is the danger. An ordinary criminal could have been imprisoned or have a painless and quick death penalty. What is the harm done by witches to their neighbours? In order to burn people alive one needs: 1) religion 2) a powerful church and 3) abstract concepts like 'witch' in the first place. It seems that Steven Weinberg was right: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." Collins provides on these pages the best evidence of the dangers of fictional, abstract concepts so characteristic of religion. He completely fails to attempt a scientific analysis of this kind of behaviour, instead he is part of the problem and he is completely carried away by abstracts concepts himself. Witch burning could be a case of xenophobia, turn a single individual of ones own community into an enemy and dehumanize it in order to kill it in the most brutal way (10). The most mysterious thing is that he is the same person who spend a year of his life in Africa as a medical doctor to cure sick people and was the discoverer in 1989 of the mutation that causes the genetic disorder Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which opened the way to a cure for that potentially fatal disorder.

The fifth problem: Collins implicitly makes animals morally inferior because only humans received the Moral Law (from God). Animals did not receive the Moral Law (12). Otherwise, humans would not be unique in that respect. This is an inescapable logical conclusion from Collins view of the origin of the Moral Law. Moreover, I think it is a fundamental dogma of the Christian religion that humans are morally superior to animals; that humans did not invent that morality, instead it came out of the blue sky; and that there are no precursors in animal behaviour. The problem with this anthropocentric view is that it is a dogma and is not open the empirical findings. Research of animal behaviour shows there is continuity between animals (primates) and humans. Animals do show altruistic behaviour and cooperation (12). This should not surprise Collins, because he knows that continuity exists at the genetic level between humans and other species. Amazingly, Collins problems with the Moral Law arise out of a failure to accept that humans are an evolved species including their behaviour characteristics. For me this animals-are-inferior-view is another deep (emotional) reason to reject Christianity (13). Francis, please read for a start Frans de Waal's Our Inner Ape (11). The search for human-like behaviours in primates is quite similar to your search for human-like genes in animals! Frans de Waal wrote: "Christianity urges us to love our neighbor as ourselves, clothe the naked, feed the poor, and tend the sick. It is good to realize, though, that in stressing kindness, religions are enforcing what is already part of our humanity." (p. 181) and as Michael Shermer described it succinctly: "Evolution created these values in us, and religion identified them as important in order to accentuate them" (14)

Conclusion

I don't know of any other Theistic Evolutionist with such a superb defence of evolution and such an unambiguous rejection of YEC and ID. Collins does not claim a supernatural origin of life. Theistic Evolution is a more science-friendly form of religion then YEC and ID, however Collins still has strong disagreements with the Darwinian explanation of altruism. He needs to rethink his Moral Law argument, which is not a coherent argument and ignores animal behaviour research.

Notes

(1) Truncated AREs are truncated at a precise base pair at the time of insertion; they are dead genes.

(2) Humans and chimps have a different number of chromosomes. Chimpanzee: 2n=48 (n=24); humans: 2n=46 (n=23). The human haploid set consists of 23 chromosomes, but there are 24 different chromosomes, because the sex chromosome pair XY consists of two different chromosomes: X and Y. The sex cells (germ cells) have either an X or a Y chromosome, so sex cells have 23 chromosomes. Because, in the haploid state, two chimp chromosomes fused into one, humans have in the haploid state one chromosome less, and in the diploid state two chromosomes less. The chromosomes fused after the human lineages diverged from chimpanzee, gorilla, and orangutan.

(3) Absent is: Matt Young and Taner Edis Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism and recent evidence: Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke (2006) "From The Origin of Species to the origin of bacterial flagella". Nature Reviews Microbiology, published online 5 September 2006

(4) The Moral Law is described on other pages as: the existence of human altruism (p.169); "the law of right behavior" (p.22); "the Moral Law - the altruistic impulse, the voice of conscience (p.25,27); "a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way" (p.29); "instilled this special glimpse of Himself into each one of us" (p.29); "the Moral Law within" (p.57) quoted from Immanuel Kant; "inner voice that causes me to feel compelled to jump into the river to try to save a drowning stranger, even if I'm not a good swimmer and may myself die in the effort" (p.28). This last type of altruism I call 'suicide-altruism'. Well, obviously Collins ignored his inner-voice because he is still alive. It would be stupid to jump into the river: what would happen to his family? Think about the long-term effects of everybody jumping into a river before starting a family.

(5) Almsgiving is included in the Moral Law. Recently, almsgiving has been observed in the bird species jackdaw (Corvus monedula)! See: Animal Behaviour (Aug 2006). The other unique human properties awareness of right and wrong, language, self-awareness and the ability to imagine the future (Collins page 23) are found also in animals. See Frans de Waal book below.

(6) Collins quotes C. S. Lewis saying "a lie, a good resounding lie" (page 24). Calling an opponent a liar is unheard of in a scientific publication. Something weird is going on here. Maybe this style of thinking has something to do with the fact that Lewis is not a professional theologian, but a self-thought man. It is puzzling that a professional scientist bases his most important conclusions and decisions on a self-thought theologian.

(7) from Michael Shermer (2006) Why Darwin Matters, page 133. Steven Pinker adds: "The Bible contains several injunctions from God to the Israelites to slay the occupants of towns they covet - except for the young women, whom they are to take as unwilling wives. Since then, religions have given the world stonings, witch burning, crusades, inquisitions, holy wars, jihads, fatwas, suicide bombers, gay bashers, abortion-clinic gunmen, child molesters, and mothers who drown their sons so they can happy be reunited in Heaven", page 143 in Intelligent Thought. The Bible describes infanticide: Exodus 1:16 tells us Pharaoh commanded Shiphrah, Puah, and other Hebrew midwives to kill all male children at birth. Much later King Herod "sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all its borders from two years old and under" (Matthew 2:16), quoted in Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.

(8) Mother Nature, p.241. It is well known to Muslims, Christians and Jews that Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son and he was willing to do so. So God ordered infanticide and Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son. Collins would do better by being more modest about the Moral Law. Yes, infanticide is opposed to child care. But raising ones own children is also the opposite of the adoption of foreign children. The fact that the majority of people do not opt for adoption, but instead opt for having and raising their own children is predicted by Darwinism.

(9)"it is broken with astounding regularity" (p.23); "the Moral Law, and our obvious inability to live up to it (p.37); "We use this ability [free will] frequently to disobey the Moral Law" (p.43). That makes it not easy to establish the existence of the Moral Law because its absence can simply be explained by our obvious inability.

(10) quoted by McGrath (2005) Dawkins' God, p.74.

(11) Xenophobia is also known in chimpanzees. Frans de Waal (2005) pp 139-142.

(12) Frans de Waal (2005) Our Inner Ape. A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are, paperback 288 pp. Recommended! For example he points to the error of believing that since natural selection is a cruel, pitiless process of elimination it must produce cruel and pitiless creatures." (page 34-35). Also relevant are: by Frans de Waal Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved and: Lee Alan Dugatkin (2006) The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness. A general and very attractive introduction is: John Alcock (2001) Animal Behavior. An Evolutionary approach. See also: Gary Steiner (2005) Anthropocentrism and its Discontents. The Moral Status of Animals in the History of Western Philosophy; See also: Steven Pinker (2006) "Evolution and Ethics" in John Brockman (2006) Intelligent Thought.

(13) A dilemma for Collins: does he agree with Christians who believe that the movie The March of the Penguins "passionately affirms traditional norms like monogamy, sacrifice and child rearing"? (see: here). If so, did God implant these norms into penguins or is there a natural explanation? If God did implant these norms in penguins, then humans are no longer unique. On the other hand, if there is a natural explanation, why not invoke it for humans as well?

(14) An exception seems to be Joan Roughgarden (2006) Evolution and Christian Faith, page 141, where he/she talks about the Christian responsibility to care for God's creation. Furthermore, Christians are not known for their altruistic behaviour towards animal and plant species. E.O. Wilson (2006) proposes an alliance between science and religion to save Earth's vanishing biodiversity in his The Creation: A Meeting of Science and Religion to stop the destruction of nature. Would Collins agree with extending altruism to all species of the earth?

(15) Frans de Waal (2005) Our Inner Ape, page 151.

(16) Frans de Waal (2005) Our Inner Ape: "It is quite the opposite of the view that fairness was an idea introduced by wise men after a lifetime of pondering right, wrong, and our place in the cosmos." (page 221).

(17) Frans de Waal devotes a whole chapter on Kindness (chapter 5) in the same book.

(18) M. Van Baalen and V. A. A. Jansen (2006) "Kinds of kindness: classifying the causes of altruism and cooperation", Journal of Evolutionary Biology, September 2006, page 1377.

(19) L. Lehmann & L. Keller (2006) "The evolution of cooperation and altruism - a general framework and a classification of models", Journal of Evolutionary Biology, September 2006.

(20) See for the details: this figure. For a discussion and more figures see: here. For a free pdf see:
Yuxin Fan, Elena Linardopoulou, Cynthia Friedman, Eleanor Williams and Barbara J. Trask (2002) Genomic Structure and Evolution of the Ancestral Chromosome Fusion Site in 2q13-2q14.1 and Paralogous Regions on Other Human Chromosomes, Genome Research 2002 12: 1651-1662.

Other reviews

  • David Klinghoffer The Human factor. A man of science faces Darwin and the Deity. (aug 14 2006). Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. Comment: Klinghoffer did not tell why ID is true. Klinghoffer ignored chapter 5, where Collins presents the most beautiful evidence for common descent!
  • Sam Harris: The Language of Ignorance is a review by philosopher Harris, which attacks Collins' philosophical and theological views and completely ignores the important fact that Collins provides superb creationism-resistant proofs of common descent, and that Collins rejects ID! Harris' review is ill-considered, and unbalanced.
  • Robert Pollack (2006) "DNA, Evolution, and the Moral Law", Science 29 Sep 2006 Vol 313 pp.1890-1891.
    Pollack writes: "I consider myself a religious person". He reads Collins' Moral Law as "the presence in himself and others of "the Moral Law". He does not notice the two different meanings of ML Collins uses. Further: "surely I would not want to make of this subjective emotional experience [Moral Law], however ubiquitous, evidence of the sort that a scientist marshals to confirm a hypothesis." (against Collins), but later he states: "The Moral Law may well be Godís presence among us" (agreeing with Collins). "The Moral Law ... cannot be reduced to a DNA sequence, not even to the whole human genome." "But if the Moral Law were not written in DNA, then why would DNA be the 'language of God' at all?". [good point!] "Collins has done a brave thing in laying out his own religious convictions in a way that permits him to appeal to his fellow evangelical Christians to cease their war with nature and to accept the facts of life as discovered through science." [good point!]

Further Reading

Discussion