Harris on Collins

Sam Harris has harsh things to say about Francis Collins’s book. “His book, however, reveals that a stellar career in science offers no guarantee of a scientific frame of mind,” he observes, then he quotes from the book:

As believers, you are right to hold fast to the concept of God as Creator; you are right to hold fast to the truths of the Bible; you are right to hold fast to the conclusion that science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence; and you are right to hold fast to the certainty that the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted….

You are “right”? What does he mean? Morally right? To “hold fast” to truths that aren’t truths? To hold fast to certainty? Not much sign of a scientific frame of mind there, all right.

On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains … the majesty and beauty of God’s creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ.

Because…JC put the waterfall there? And froze it? And arranged that it should be a beautiful fall day when this one particular guy saw it? But what about this other time when someone else rounded a corner on a cold rainy windy day and couldn’t see the waterfall at all because she was too wet and miserable and busy wishing she were home with a brandy and some out of season strawberries?

Harris comments:

One would hope that it would be immediately obvious to Collins that there is nothing about seeing a frozen waterfall (no matter how frozen) that offers the slightest corroboration of the doctrine of Christianity. But it was not obvious to him as he “knelt in the dewy grass,” and it is not obvious to him now. Indeed, I fear that it will not be obvious to many of his readers. If the beauty of nature can mean that Jesus really is the son of God, then anything can mean anything.

Collins rhapsodizes:

No, this God, if I was perceiving him at all, must be a theist God, who desires some kind of relationship with those special creatures called human beings, and has therefore instilled this special glimpse of Himself into each one of us. This might be the God of Abraham, but it was certainly not the God of Einstein…. Judging by the incredibly high standards of the Moral Law … this was a God who was holy and righteous. He would have to be the embodiment of goodness…. Faith in God now seemed more rational than disbelief.

Oh, right. The special moral goodness of humans shows how specially moral god is, and thinking so is more rational than not thinking so.

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.

Well, bud, I tell you what, if you cannot see how nature could have created itself, I cannot see how a supernatural force could have created itself, so there. I know, the idea is that it did it by being supernatural, but, see, that’s not actually an explanation, it’s just a hand-wave. When you come to something you can’t see how it happened, the right answer is not ‘magic’ or ‘supernatural’ but just ‘I don’t see how.’ That’s because they come to the same thing, but ‘I don’t see how’ is more honest.

There’s more. More recycled bad arguments from Collins and protests from Harris. Worth reading.

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