Thursday, November 15, 2007

God Spoke Life into Us?

In what may be one of the nuttier efforts to reconcile the theory of evolution with religion is offered to us in a book "The Language of God" written by a former atheist and DNA expert, one Francis Collins. I was made aware of this "theory" in a Columbus Dispatch article. I will be honest with you: I have not and never will read this book for the title alone is so phenomenally uninformed that it cannot be other than a total waste of time. Even, and maybe especially, if you are religious.

The notion that DNA is a language, let alone that it is God's language, is even crazier than references to the language of music or the language of art which I dealt with in an earlier blog. First, to claim that DNA is God's language presumes that there exist entities with whom He converses. One might claim that God is speaking to persons like Dr. Collins, people who try to map the genomes of various species or obtain the DNA profile of a specific individual, perhaps a criminal. There are two problems with this idea that come immediately to mind. The first is that there is no known language in which there exists only one entity who speaks the language with all others being restricted to "listening" to him/her/it. Does God ask questions using DNA code? If so, He isn't getting any answers. I believe it is fair to say that He does not issue requests or commands in DNA. Or make statements. The other problem with this notion is that humans have been around thousands of years but only recently have we begun doing genetic research into DNA. This means that all the Biblical persons who have said that they spoke to God would have to be lying since they couldn't have spoken or understood the so-called language of DNA.

Collins appeared in Columbus, Ohio before two groups of people along with some other speakers having a similar perspective. He and these others made claims about DNA which are totally mind-boggling. In fact, the claim that DNA is a language is itself incomprehensible. I am anything but a DNA expert but I think I can safely claim that there are no properties of DNA that are linguistic in character. There is no signaling system and that in itself blows up the idea that DNA is a language for all languages, even made up ones like Esperanto have some sort of signaling system.

Collins said that DNA is is "how God spoke life into you and me." We might call this the "Shazam!" theory of the creation of life. "Shazam!" is a magic word that, when uttered causes some change in the world. It was used by a wizard to turn Billy Batson into Captain Marvel. From then on, Billy could turn himself into the adult Captain Marvel simply by uttering this word whenever he needed to do heroic things. Note that I have to resort to a comic book to find an instance in which a use of language can cause a material change in the world. I cannot, for instance, say, "Shazam!" and cause the house to be clean or the lawn to be mown.

Another mind-boggling use of language in these talks came from one Jeffery McKee who claimed that "God's writing is in the sedimentary rocks..." Try to imagine how you would make sense out of this. Notice that the striations in sedimentary rocks bear no relationship to DNA. I believe that those trying to reconcile science and religion need to get on the same page. Does God write in DNA or in rock striations or floods or whatever is happening at any given time. The scary thing is that Dr. Collins is the director of the National Human Genome Institute. That is like making a creationist a President of the USA. Oh, we have done that in the last two Presidential elections.

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Blogger Courtney said...

I've not read the book either, nor seen the article from the Dispatch you mention, but it seems to me like both of these examples are just metaphor.

I've heard phrases similar to these before, but never in a literal sense, like God is actually attempting to carry on a conversation with DNA or sedimentary rocks.

1:51 PM

Blogger handmaiden said...

Interesting. Your post reminded me of a series of lectures I listened to about the intellectual history of the 17th & 18th Century & how People like Frances Bacon & Newton helped us out of that Aristotelian Scholasticism mindset which mixed Christian theology, philosophy & science or natural philosophy.
The first thing I thought was jiminys!, are they trying to get us back into that! What ever we can't explain we'll superstitiously attribute to God.

Come to think of it, Aristotelian Scholasticism hasn't really gone away in religious circles. Christians always have & always will talk about God speaking to them. I did it when I was one. When you grow up with that concept It doesn't at all seem far-fetched.

10:14 PM

Blogger Thr Language Guy said...

The idea that God speaks to us isn't any crazier than that we speak to Him. As a youth, I decided that prayer had no efficacy since my prayers were never answered. Of course True Believers would just say, that I was praying for the wrong things. They always have a come back, as when I told my preacher on having had a chance encounter later that I had quit believing but had no fear of going to hell since we were taught that once you were saved you were saved no matter what. He said I wasn't fully saved.

7:30 AM

Blogger Paul F. said...

Why are you guys always bagging on God? Why does Satan always get a free ride. He's the biggest asshole in the world, yet everybody wants to talk about God all the time. Maybe you can do a post about how ridiculous Satan is.

4:02 PM

Blogger handmaiden said...

what I say to the fact that Christians always have a comeback is, they've had 2000+ years to hone their debating skills. The Bible, has been read & examined from front to back. Christians have argued debated & picked apart every word for centurys. Have you ever seen a "Strong's Concordance"? it illustrates the degree of pedantry Christians will dedicate to their religious text. Also, the emphasis on conversion. A couple of thousand years of "How to argue for your God." doesn't hurt.

if it wasn't for the concept of the Christian God, Satan wouldn't exist. The Christian God created Satan. Therefore, Satan is His fault. If a person thinks the Christian God is ridiculous, Satan is a moot point. For you though, Satan is prob. very real, & that's a scary thought!

10:40 AM

Blogger Paul F. said...

I don't care. I'm just stating a fact.

10:53 AM

Blogger Thr Language Guy said...

The thing is that God-oriented Christians did me damage. The Satan guys have said nothing to me at all. So, I guess what I am saying is his guys are harmless but the Right Wing Fundamentalist Christians are very dangerous.

3:29 PM

Blogger Paul F. said...

Crazy isn't it? I hear what you're saying. Believe it or not, some of the people who call themselves Christian guys are, in fact, Satan guys. Look at Dubya...perfect example of one of the Satan guys running around calling himself a Christian, and meanwhile, doing the devil's work. In my eyes, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it's a duck (in disguise perhaps).

7:19 PM

Blogger Michael Kline said...

Hey LG,
I was reading through your neologisms blog and thought you might enjoy one I've created. It's a neologisms contest. Check it out if you have a minute.

Thanks! Keep up the good word.

6:52 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Sounds to me like he ripped off Frank Herbert in choosing his title. (In Herbert's Dune series, the Bene Tleilaxu genetic wizards turn out to be secret Islamic fanatics and also refer to genetics as "the Language of God".)

I'd like to know a little bit more about what convinced Collins to convert. Some sort of dedicated spiritual attack, perhaps? :D

10:26 AM

Blogger Lilas Conuts said...

Hello from Nouméa
Very interesting thanks for sharing

3:46 PM

Blogger aqf said...

DNA is a language, but to understand why you must first understand what kind of a language it is. To get a better understanding, I would suggest you take a look at assembly language, which is converted to machine code before execution on a processor and looks like random 0s and 1s such as, "10000101010". Assembly language is not spoken, however, it does communicate what instructions a processor must execute. Similarly, DNA code communicates information to cells.

Date: 03302013

1:14 AM


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