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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief


The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

ratings:
4/5 (38 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Released:
Jul 17, 2006
ISBN:
9780743565905
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Description

Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, is one of the world's leading scientists -- yet he is also a man of unshakable faith in God and scripture. Dr. Collins has resolved the dilemma that haunts everyone who believes in God and respects science. Faith in God and faith in science can be harmonious -- not separately but together, combined into one worldview. For Collins, science does not conflict with the Bible, science enhances it.

The Language of God makes the case for God and for science. Dr. Collins considers and dismisses several positions along the spectrum from atheism to young-earth creationism -- including agnosticism and Intelligent Design. Instead, he proposes a new synthesis, a new way to think about an active, caring God who created humankind through evolutionary processes.

He explains his own journey from atheism to faith, and then takes listeners on a stunning tour of modern science to show that physics, chemistry, and biology can all fit together with belief in God and the Bible. The Language of God is essential for anyone who wonders about the deepest questions of all: Why are we here? How did we get here? And what does life mean?
Released:
Jul 17, 2006
ISBN:
9780743565905
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is a pioneer gene hunter. He spent fifteen years as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he led the international Human Genome Project to a successful completion. For his revolutionary contributions to genetic research he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and the National Medal of Science in 2009. He is the Director of the National Institutes of Health.

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4.1
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  • (5/5)
    Excellent book. Although I have my disagreements with Collins on some of the things discussed in the book, it is an excellent window into how a scientist, who is also a Christian, is able to come to terms with both science and religion.
  • (4/5)
    The relationship between evolution and Christianity is so often framed antagonistically; it's refreshing to read a perspective that promotes harmony between the two. This book is an engaging and pragmatic introduction of theistic evolution; I'd like follow it up with more research, especially about some theological perspectives through an evolutionary lense.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book. I had a lot of issues trying to reconcile faith and science after a course I had taken on evolution with a professor who tried his hardest to convert people away from religion. After reading this book I can understand that evolution does not DISPROVE the existence of God, just shows a different method of "creating."
  • (5/5)
    Really good discussion of God and science that tries to reckon the two with one another, whole offering alternative views.
  • (5/5)
    Great thoughts on the history of the Bible and even greater explanations on science and why the two realms must continue to be relevant in the future. Thoroughly informational.
  • (5/5)
    I am not 100% convinced either way on the age of the universe or exactly how God created it. However, I am 100% convinced that God created the universe and everything in it and that science is NOT and never was at odds with that. It was awesome to finally read something rational, instead of the non sequitur old "Big Bang/Evolution; therefore there is no God," or the equally ridiculous old "God planted a bunch of red herring scientific evidence just to confuse us." This guy uses science to make a stronger case for faith than anybody else ever did to make a case against it. Far from being mutually incompatible, science and faith together make the universe a hundredfold more amazing and awe-inspiring than either does alone. I don't know if everything Collins believes is correct, but finally somebody is making some sense! Thanks, brother!
  • (5/5)
    I thought this book was excellent.

    Francis Collins clearly explains how evolution and Christianity are not incompatible with each other. Coming as it does from such an esteemed scientist, this is a very well thought out and well argued position, although some of the very science-y stuff did make it necessary to reread certain parts!

    Collins is also right in that it's only really those who have extreme views on either side of this debate who get the attention. Looking at the scientific data and Genesis, you can see that there really is no conflict between evolution and Christianity, but there is a lot of rhetoric and straw men flung about by fundamentalists on either side.

    Hopefully this intelligent and well argued book will go some way to showing that science is not at war with religion, and in fact they can and do complement each other.
  • (4/5)
    I picked this book up because I thought it would be interesting to read about the religious views of the head of the Human Genome Project. What does someone who has his scientific credentials think about God and spirituality? Some of the reviews attempt to attack perceived fallacies in his arguments and prove him “wrong,” but I was less interested in that than I was getting inside his head and listening to his personal story, whether I agreed with him or not. The Language of God is a well-written, easily-read rumination on the conflict between science and religion and why the author (along with many in the scientific community) feels this conflict doesn’t need to exist. Despite arguing from a believer’s point of view, Collins spends quite a bit of time shooting down creationism, Biblical literalism, and Intelligent Design. He advises against using God to “fill in the gaps” in current scientific knowledge and instead encourages believers to base their faith on something more stable. He points to history to illustrate that current arguments that require a literal reading of the Genesis are relatively new and that pre-Darwin religious thinkers didn’t hold the same views that current conservative religious folks do.The only downside from my point of view is that Collins is Christian; I feel like I've spent enough time reading about how people arrived at their faith in Jesus. I'd love to read something written from the perspective of someone who became just about anything else, just for the sake of hearing some different experiences. To Collins' credit, though, in the few times he discusses the Bible, he refers to the original Hebrew. He also acknowledges several times that although his exploration of his personal beliefs brought him to Christianity, that every person will find what is right for them. A strike against him, though, is his use of the phrase "Judeo-Christian" several times, especially in reference to religious texts. That phrase needs to be disposed of and never used by anyone ever again.The book ends with an appendix detailing some current bioethics concerns, and while it's interesting (especially since a bioethics class I took with Lori Andrews was one of my more interesting law school classes), I'm a little puzzled about its placement in this book.
  • (4/5)
    More and more,if you are willing to open your eyes, you will be confronted with those who have differing views and beliefs than your own. The temptation is great to simply dismiss any idea or worldview that seems contrary to the one you already hold. My brother characterizes, and to a degree caricatures, the typical Christian response to contrary ideas as that of a petulant child putting his fingers in his ears and repeating, ?I CAN'T HEAR YOU? to drown out the sound of anything that might question what is held so dearly.

    As a Christian,who deals with many Christians, it is hard to not acquiesce to his diagnosis. So often, those who should be genuinely searching out truth wherever it lies (seeing as how all truth is God's truth) will allow ourselves to remain ignorant out of fear that our beliefs will come crashing down and our God with them. If this fear is not present,then the possibility of ever having to admit some degree of error in our interpretation of the Bible or of the world or of our self is more than our pride can stand.
    Labels abound. If you believe in health care for all or government based social services then you are a ?communist?. If you believe that some of the Bible is not to be taken literally, you're a ?liberal? who does not believe the Bible. If you preach grace you are ?antinomian? and if you preach responsibility and fidelity, you are a ?legalist?. The word ?heretic? gets thrown around on anyone not conforming to ?the Bible? which would be more accurately and honesty communicated as ?my interpretation of the Bible?.

    All these labels do in most cases is perpetuate ignorance and division, making it more convenient and efficient for us as we sit in God's seat of judgment on any who might not submit themselves to what we ?know? as truth. Enter Francis Collins. Talk about a guy getting it from all angles. Collins was the head of the Human Genome Project, the scientific research to map out the human genome. The work done under his leadership has led to us have a genetic map of human beings. The benefit of this in the war against disease and defect is incapable of being overstated. The work God has done through this man and his leadership is amazing.

    And therein lies the reason he receives such criticism. Collins, a biologist, stood in the Oval Office with then President Clinton and nodded approvingly when President Clinton remarked that we could now see the ?language of God? used in creation. How a professional biologist could hold to an ?inherently unscientific? belief in God and approve of such theistic speak offended many in the biological community. That a committed Christian could believed in the ?inherently atheistic? doctrine of evolution, offended many in the Christian community.

    That is the backdrop for the book, The Language of God by Francis Collins. Collins work is one part biography, one part scientific treatise and one part apologetic. Collins spends time going over his life, and his own path from atheism, to agnosticism, and finally to his firm belief in the theism of Biblical Christianity. The biographical aspects of the book are all centered on how he has related his lifelong love of science with his lifelong struggle with faith,and it is quite engrossing.

    Even as the biographical aspects of the book focus on Collins' own personal path, the way he presents it is overtly apologetic. He constantly goes over how he was convinced of the truth of theism and eventually the Christian truth claim, not simply recounting the fact that he was convinced. The way the apologetic is intertwined with the biographical narrative reminds one of reading C.S. Lewis when he deals with the same subject. Based on the references to and quotes from Lewis, this may not have been intentional but certainly it is without shock that some of Lewis' writing style was adopted by Collins.

    The apologetic nature of the book is not limited solely to a defense of the Christian faith. The idea of this book is how to rectify a belief in current scientific trends and the Christian faith. In doing so, Collins argues that Darwinian Evolution is true and that it is NOT contrary to the Christian faith. With so much teaching for and evidence of evolution, Collins' devotes a chapter to each of the possible responses to evolution. These chapters are Atheism and Agnosticism (When Science Trumps Faith), Creationism (When Faith Trumps Science), Intelligent Design (When Science Needs Divine Help),and BioLogos (Faith and Science in Harmony). Collins is basically fair in his assessment of the opposing views, but throughout the chapters it is clear that he is building to what he holds as truth by dismantling what he holds as false(or even silly). Collins closes with pleas to believers to not abandon science and scientists to not abandon faith.
    As I read the book I had to remind myself that Collins is not a theologian, he is a biologist. His interpretation of some Christian doctrines is off what he seems to hold as essential is debated amongst Christians. Some of the history he cites is incorrect and the citations could have been more thorough, especially on some instances where no citation was given. Also, there were times where Collins began speaking exclusively to his peers, losing the reader with limited scientific knowledge in the process.

    While this book is far from perfect, it is a great read. It would benefit anyone involved in the evolution debate(that would be anyone who has any religious, secular or scientific interest....everyone) to read this book and consider the arguments made and data presented
  • (2/5)
    A lot of Dr. Collins book is simply C.S. Lewis replayed through the filter of genetic science. The appendix, a discussion of bioethics, also struck me as fairly flat and not that helpful. It is more profitable to read CS Lewis.
  • (2/5)
    Honestly... not that impressed. His last chapter on medical ethics was the most engaging. The others just seemed... forced. I love, however, his desire to to help the scientific community see that faith is not incompatible with intelligence.
  • (5/5)
    Collins does a magnificent job of explaining that science and faith are not the natural nemeses of each other that many in America have come to believe (thank you politics). His personal journey as an atheist believer and scientist to a Christian believer and scientist is inspiring. He was strongly influenced by another atheist-to-Christian convert - C.S. Lewis - and references to Lewis abound in The Language of God.
  • (4/5)
    Not a bad book, a well renowned scientist who is a Christian presents his argument for the existence of God and how it reconciles with science. Pretty good stuff. He is a old earth, God inspired evolutionist or something like that. I did not agree with everything he said but his position is well thought out.
  • (5/5)
    Current-day proponents of the New Atheism like to push the idea that atheism is the only rational belief, and believers are weak-minded non-thinkers who hide from science. This just simply isn't so. Some very accomplished scientists in many different fields are believers.Here's one. Francis Collins is a devout believer and distinguished scientist (he is the head of the Human Genome Project) with a questioning mind and a reverence for reason ... and for the merger of science and religion. From the cover flap, "In short, Dr. Collins provides a satisfying solution for the dilemma that haunts everyone who believes in God and respects science. Faith in God and faith in science can be harmonious--combined into one worldview. The God that he believes in is a God who can listen to prayers and cares about our souls. The biological science he has advanced is compatible with such a God. For Collins, science does not conflict with the Bible, science enhances it."That's a pretty intriguing claim, and it aroused my curiosity. In this book, Collins wrestles with questions like "What came before the big bang?" and "How did life originate?" I should set things in perspective before continuing; Collins is not promoting some flaky version of pseudo-science. He's for real. He praises Darwin and admits that no serious biologist today doubts the theory of evolution. "The relatedness of all species through the mechanism of evolution is such a profound foundation for the understanding of all biology that it is difficult to imagine how one would study life without it." A lot of effort is spent explaining "biological truth," and in a chapter titled Deciphering God's Instruction Book, Collins introduces--no, not the Bible--the lessons of the human genome.Still, Collins respects the Bible. He dives into the debate about what Genesis really says, and why we have contradicting versions of the creation in the Bible if this poetic and allegorical writing was really meant to be read literally. Young Earth Creationism just simply isn't compatible with modern science; neither, really, is the trendy Intelligent Design explanation. Thankfully, Collins finds an ultra-literal interpretation of Genesis unnecessary. Collins proposes a solution for compatibility, which he calls BioLogos. He finds harmony between science and religion in "theistic evolution."Finally, having dispensed with our concerns regarding the science-versus-religion conflict, he brings up the crux of the matter. Regardless of where else we are to read the Bible nonliterally, evidence supports the fantastic story of a unique individual, Jesus, who lived, died, ... and rose from the dead! Collins leans a bit on C. S. Lewis as he builds toward the climax: he, a rational scientist, logically concludes that the Jesus story is true and literal. God came down to earth in the form of a person. Wow!While not convincing enough in itself, and leaving many other questions about the believability of the Christian God unanswered, I do highly recommend this book! It will never turn a nonbeliever into a believer, but it will definitely refine the faith of believers, helping them to overcome the dogmatism of outdated theology. Besides, it's a fun, educational read!
  • (3/5)
    Collins' treatise telling his personal journey of faith and bringing his scientific perspective to the philosophical wars regarding evolution and creation. Collins robustly argues for the theistic evolutionist perspective, going after both the materialist and creationist perspectives. His scientific credentials are impressive and he does well at explaining the scientific difficulties on the two sides around him.His theological credentials, however, are much more fundamentally flawed. His reliance on Augustine and C.S. Lewis is quite apparent. When he presents his theistic evolutionist (or, in his terms, BioLogos) position, he attempts to swat away theological objections, but is rather unsatisfying. His comparisons between adherence to Genesis 1-2 literally and the idea of the earth as the center of the universe are not precise enough for his purposes, and while he points to Augustine's view of the passage, does not otherwise clarify that allegorical/spiritual interpretation of the OT was the consistent method of most of the patristics. In the end, it's evident that Collins accepts the scientific perspective and then attempts to reconcile his theology to it, rather than the other way around.Collins' demonstration that even if evolution were true that such would not disprove God is quite powerful and necessary. The book does suffer, however, from a comparative poverty of strong theology and theological reflection. A good part of the reason that theistic evolution gets so much resistance from the faith community is precisely this: high on science, low on theology or theological justification.
  • (4/5)
    A statement of belief as much as discourse on science, The Language of God is a worthwhile read for those interested in religion and science, and their interface. Neither subject is treated in-depth. But, while Collins is not a theologian, he is one of the world?s best scientists. In fact, not only is a Yale educated chemist and medical doctor who headed the Human Genome Project. And this project was successful beyond expectation in that in just a few years, it managed to give us the complete map of our human DNA. Collins is interesting in that he is yet another example of an atheist turned theist. As C.S. Lewis (whom Collins draws on extensively for his theology), who came to God through reading, reflection, and logic, or like Howard Storm, who required a near-death experience to be pulled from the abyss of atheism, Collins is a Christian. Thus, he believes in the presence and transcendence of a creator God who is personal, concerned about we his created, and will interfere in our affairs if necessary, and possibly when beseeched to through prayer. But neither is does he believe all passages of the Bible are to be interpreted literally. He notes that no less a scholar and Christian than St. Augustine also did not argue for such a position with regards to scripture, and saw positive danger to faith were such a view to be taken. Collins does not subscribe to Intelligent Design. He finds that arguments that, for example, the amazingly complex flagellum of the bacteria, are not impossible to explain through the processes of genetic mutation and natural selection. And, Collins does indeed believe in evolution as a ?theory? which has been substantiated time and time again in both the lab and in the fossil record. Rather, he subscribes to what he terms BioLogos. As Collins sees it, God does not need to specially interfere with evolution to make His plan work out. Rather, He authored the processes which over time, while probabilistic, give rise to such amazing creatures as garden spiders, kitty cats, chimpanzees, and ultimately, even creatures who understand the Moral Law and within them have a desire to seek True North ? that is, He who created them and this miraculous Universe.
  • (4/5)
    We used this book as an initial read for a new science/religion study group formed in our Mainline Protestant church. Personally, I found some of the arguments in the book weak, but I think it served our new group exceptionally well as a basic introduction to science/religion issues in our modern day. And, though I didn't agree with some of the Bible interpretations of the author [more literal than I interpret it], I did find it very refreshing to see a book like this written by an Evangelical Protestant. I do recommend this book strongly as a very readable and worthwhile introduction. Since reading this, I have gone on to read several books by philosopher of science and historian Michael Ruse who, given his background, goes into more depth in dealing with philosophical and historical aspects of the relationship between science and religion. But, I still give Collins' book very high marks. It was very well worth reading and discussing in our group.
  • (3/5)
    I liked learning about how one scientist came to terms with the ongoing science vs. faith debate. His chapters breaking down the arguments for and against evolution, creationism, intelligent design, along with the stories in his appendix are the best part of this very interesting account. Collins proposes a fourth model of understanding as well - biologos, an approach that for him makes the most sense.
  • (3/5)
    Somehow, this book delivered what I wanted, without my knowing or expecting it. I am personally more interested in the debate between theology and science than I am in either of the two, and that is pretty much what this book delivers, a lot of debate.The author will nominate several arguments. Most of them you have already heard before. He will tell you that certain thing you have heard are false, and other aren't.He tells you how faith and religion can co-exists peaceful. And this is probably the missed point. Collins suggests a religion crafted in science, which is nothing too shocking.But in it, and this is what I enjoyed, he details many of the points and counter points we hear in the debates of this subject. And he informs us on his opinion, based on the facts he has, of how accurate these notions are.I would like to bring up one point that, in following arguments along these lines I have noticed. Science requires as much faith as, well, faith. A lay person who chooses to believe science whole-heartedly and discard religion can more than likely not prove evolution or genetic theory if they were forced to. They probably have not read Darwin's books, nor gone out and done the research for any of the things they claim to believe. Which makes it is as faith based as any other religion. The books change, is all.
  • (4/5)
    I read this book twice. It fascinated me that an important scientist could give such a devout testimony of faith in Christ. It is a testimony to the fact that more and more modern day Christians are trying to link their faith to the physical world around them. C.S.Lewis was a ground breaker in this regard and Collins mentions Lewis' influence. After the description of his conversion to faith in Christ, the author goes into what will be a very controversial subjects for most Christians. He opposes 'young earth creationism' and promotes a concept called 'biogenesis'. This is similar to what has often been called 'theistic evolution'. The author sites C.S.Lewis and B.B. Warfield as being leading Christian thinkers who have been sympathetic to his view. If you want to hold on to you belief in young earth creation, you may not want to read this book. On the other hand, many modern Christians are coming to the conclusion that the truth of God must be communicated to others in the physical world - the place where they live and will be converted to faith.
  • (5/5)
    Creationists might be a little disturbed by his conclusions about evolution, especially when paired with his solid evangelical stance on the authority of scripture. Not only does Collins elucidate the wonders of modern genetics but he brings the whole thing back to his faith in a touching way.
  • (4/5)
    A paradigm between Newtonian Physics and Quantum Physics
  • (4/5)
    I actually picked this book up after listening to an exhausting interview with Dawkins. This book does a very good job of pointing out why Dawkins arguments don't work, in much better words than I could. The author also does a wonderful job of pointing out why some Christians (and others) should stop pretending science isn't true.Weaker parts of the book include his argument for why you too should believe in Jesus, but of course that part is going to be less persuasive as it is based on his faith and not on emperical evidence. I wish we heard more voices like this in 'debates' on faith v religion.
  • (2/5)
    I found this to be a very disappointing book.Collins describes how,having been brought up as an athiest and trained as a medical researcher, he gradually became convinced of the existence of God and ended up as a Christian.Being eager to know how as an atheist and a scientist he had yet come to believe in God, I was intrigued to know why this should be. Although I have no reason to doubt Collin's sincerity I found his explanation weak and unconvincing and the whole book to be very lightweight and almost patronising in its approach to the subject of science and religion.If there is a God,and Collins totally failed to convince me of this,I would certainly not take issue with him on his scientific arguments for the creation of the universe or of life itself.I simply felt that that the book, at least for me, was a total waste of time in that I gained nothing from it. Perhaps this is my own fault. However I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anybody who had religious doubts involving science and was seeking spiritual reassurance.The only redeeming feature of the book were the personal anecdotes.
  • (1/5)
    Having gotten through Sam Harris, Daniel Dennent, and Richard Dawkins, I thought I'd give the other side a look. I picked up Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters and put it down after only a chapter or two: entirely too ignorant of science to be meaningful. I've just put down Francis Collins's The Language of God. Though I got as far as chapter four, I really ended all meaningful interaction with the book on page 67 where I read the following: The big Bang cries out for a divine explanation. It forces the conclusion that nature had a defined beginning. I cannot see how nature could have created itself. Only a supernatural force that is outside of space and time could have done that.Coming from the head of the genome project, the absurd logic here defies all understanding! All this and, by extension, the rest of the book, really says is this: I can't understanding X, Y, or Z, so I guess there must be a God! Needless to say, I won't waste anymore time with Collins.
  • (4/5)
    The Language of God is an extraordinary treatise for thinking Christians. It breaks through the medieval clutter of today's Fundamentalism and firmly establishes God's proper place in the ordered universe. Collins is a scientist and an evangelical Christian without apology. Or rather, this book is an apologetic for those trying to avoid checking their brains at the church house door.
  • (4/5)
    Well, whaddaya know? I liked this book.In the interest of full disclosure, this statement comes from a solidly rationalist/materialist worldview. So I didn?t expect that I was going to like the book, but went in with an open mind, and was rewarded.Not in the way you?re probably thinking. The theology in this book is all fluffy C.S. Lewis-isms, which didn?t have any effect on me the two times I read ?Mere Christianity? and so didn?t gain any traction here, either.Beyond slight lapses into dreamy proselytizing, though, the rest of this book was spot on. As a matter of fact, in general terms, I think it?s exactly the sort of book that science needs in these times. Collins does a great job explaining the complexity of life, current science, evolution, and cosmology. He comes down solidly against Creationism and Intelligent Design, with an impassioned plea to his evangelical brethren to, ahem, cut it out.I think Collins is doing a great service to religion and science by neatly, politely, and rationally sorting through this debate without rancor. He does, I think, manage to carve out a place where the devoutly faithful can accept science within their worldview, and this may be a key to turning down the rhetorical volume. I don?t think that this argument is going to turn many materialists into believers, but I do think that it can show the faithful a way to reconcile the discord between their revealed text and the revelations of scientific inquiry in an intellectually and spiritually satisfying way. Collins would, I suppose, also have it the other way, and bring non-believers into the fold. That may or may not be the case. But anything that gets people thinking about these issues in a non-reactionary, and more informed way, is a good thing, I think.
  • (3/5)
    Collins presents his personal story of how he came to faith in the Christian God. He was largely influenced by C.S. Lewis's arguements. Along the way he presents some information releated to his work on the Human Genome project, explaining some stuff about genetics and DNA. He does a pretty good job of explaining scientific concepts in easy to understand terms. He lays out his arguments well and without being bombastic. Whether or not the reader finds them convincing will of course depend on the reader's own set of convictions and how deeply they hold them. His attempt to blend modern science with Christianity is laudible and I liked the way he keeps going back to the axiom that all truth is God's truth. It's an important reminder to us all.
  • (5/5)
    Step by step Francis Collins addresses the arguments for and against belief in God. Admitting no one will ever prove (or disprove) the existence of God, Dr. Collins demonstrates that a rational person (read scientist) can certainly believe in God without giving up science as a tool for understanding the world, nature, the universe.
  • (5/5)
    This marvelous book combines a personal account of Collins's faith and experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of more general topics of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution. Following the lead of C.S. Lewis, whose Mere Christianity was influential in Collins's conversion from atheism, the book argues that belief in a transcendent, personal God?and even the possibility of an occasional miracle?can and should coexist with a scientific picture of the world that includes evolution. Addressing in turn fellow scientists and fellow believers, Collins insists that "science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced" and "God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible." Collins's credibility as a scientist and his sincerity as a believer make for an engaging combination, especially for those who, like him, resist being forced to choose between science and God.