Dr. Francis Collins, interesting guy.

As the director of the Human Genome Project, I have led a consortium of scientists to read out the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome, our own DNA instruction book. As a believer, I see DNA, the information molecule of all living things, as God’s language, and the elegance and complexity of our own bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God’s plan.

I did not always embrace these perspectives. As a graduate student in physical chemistry in the 1970s, I was an atheist, finding no reason to postulate the existence of any truths outside of mathematics, physics and chemistry. But then I went to medical school, and encountered life and death issues at the bedsides of my patients. Challenged by one of those patients, who asked “What do you believe, doctor?”, I began searching for answers.

I had always assumed that faith was based on purely emotional and irrational arguments, and was astounded to discover, initially in the writings of the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis and subsequently from many other sources, that one could build a very strong case for the plausibility of the existence of God on purely rational grounds. My earlier atheist’s assertion that “I know there is no God” emerged as the least defensible. As the British writer G.K. Chesterton famously remarked, “Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative.”

I can relate. Eight years at the Hubble Space Telescope project had a similar effect on me. I was never an atheist as Dr. Collins was, and I didn’t head up anything on the scale of the Human Genome Project, but examining the universe in detail through Hubble’s eye at first challenged, and then strengthened, my faith. For me, it was a supernova — Supernova 1987A, to be exact, and how its position 168,000 light-years from us makes it a TiVO writ large that we can use to figure out how large and old the universe is by yardsticking distances to it and other supernovas, eventually all the way out as far as we can see, and then rewinding back to the Big Bang. Genesis 1 turned out to be one of the most interesting and profound documents ever written, once you start to get the science of it all. The God of the Bible is the God of the genome is the God of the distant dying star. If you’re interested in the how and why of that, here’s an article I wrote a while back that attempts to explain some of it.