By Michelle A. Vu | Christian Post Reporter
Outspoken evangelical geneticist Francis Collins revealed that combative atheist Richard Dawkins admitted to him during a conversation that the most troubling argument for nonbelievers to counter is the fine-tuning of the universe.
“If they (constants in the universe) were set at a value that was just a tiny bit different, one part in a billion, the whole thing wouldn’t work anymore,” said Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, during the 31st Annual Christian Scholars’ Conference at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
These constants regarding the behavior of matter and energy – such as strong and weak nuclear forces, gravity, and the speed of light – have to be precisely right during the Big Bang for life as we know it to exist.
“To get our universe, with all of its potential for complexities or any kind of potential for any kind of life form, everything has to be precisely defined on this knife edge of improbability,” said the world renowned scientist.
“That forces a conclusion. If you are an atheist, either it is just a lucky break and the odds are so remote, or you have to go to this multiverse hypothesis, which says that there must be almost an infinite number of parallel universes that have different values of those constants,” explained Collins to Christian scholars of various disciplines in the audience. “And of course we are here and so we must have won the lottery, we must be in the one where everything worked.”
There are some serious scientists in the world, however, such as English theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who believe in the multiverse hypothesis.
But it is “because the alternative is that you have to see the hands of a creator who set the parameters to be just so because the creator was interested in something a little more complicated than random particles,” Collins said.
The NIH director, who came to speak for himself and not as a government official, delivered a thoughtful yet provocative hour-and-a-half lecture last Thursday titled, “Reflections on the Current Tensions Between Science and Faith.” This year, the Christian Scholars’ Conference theme was: “The Path of Discovery: Science, Theology, and the Academy.”
More than 300 scholars from 90 different universities participated in the three-day conference, June 16-18, where they were challenged to discuss and engage with one another on the topic of faith and science. The scholars interacted through 91 paper, panel or performance sessions.
During the keynote presentation, speaker Francis Collins deliberated out loud about a question that the Big Bang theory cannot answer. Although the Big Bang theory explains how the universe started, it can’t explain what happened before that.
Collins said there are unending questions of “what happened before that” with scientific theories, but the only way to satisfactorily answer what happened at the very beginning is if something not limited by time is involved.
“A creator who is not limited by time, doesn’t need to have such a beginning,” Collins stated. “The question doesn’t make any sense if you have a creator outside of time.”
Creation and Evolution
Unlike most evangelicals, Collins said he never struggled between his acceptance of evolution and his Christian faith. When he looks at evolution, he thinks it is part of God’s elegant way of creation.
But 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. The Young Earth Creationism theory is “very incompatible” with what scientists have learned from physics, chemistry, cosmology, biology, and geology, emphasized Collins, who believes the Earth is over 13 billion years old.
He noted that even though billions of years sound long to humans, if God is outside of time then it might not seem long to God.
Collins also pointed out that when Darwin’s evolution theory was first introduced, there was not unanimous protest from the Church. Many Christians saw that as an explanation to how God created the world.
“God is the author of it all and we just learn something more about the how,” said Collins. “God is an awesome mathematician and physicist … God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to achieve that, to create this marvelous diversity of living things on our planet.”
His view of evolution being a part of God’s creation plan is called theistic evolution, or another term is biologos. Bio is the Greek word for “life,” while Logos means “word.” So biologos would mean God speaking life into being.