News Media Icon News Media

Francis Collins on Square Circles

Recently Francis Collins, the renowned scientist and harmonizer of Darwin and faith, lectured before a packed auditorium at George Mason University in Virginia. One attendee and avid ENV reader, unimpressed with the harmonization, sent me this report:

His lecture focused on how evidence from cosmology and biology points to the creative power of God. To add fuel to the already hot topic, Collins directed attacks at both evolutionists and Christians alike. He leaned into atheistic evolutionists for not crediting God with any creative power and similarly attacked Christians who fail to give credit to the “powers” of evolution. Collins, a Christian himself, made the case that God used evolution, and more specifically Darwinian evolution, to produce the plant and animal life we see today.
“But is that possible?” one may ask. Can God use evolution? The way to answer that question depends on how you define evolution. If by evolution you simply mean change over time or genetic inheritance, no one would find a problem with that. If, however, you are talking about God using Darwinian evolution, as Collins did, you are ultimately forced to either believe in a God who doesn’t interact with his creation, the God of Deism, or an illogical God who can guide an unguided process.

I know at this point some readers are saying, “Oh, come on. We don’t have to believe that the Darwinian process is random!” My response: What have you been reading? Of course the evolutionary process need not be random; but a Darwinian process–by definition–does. According to an open letter sent last year to the Kansas State Board of Education by 38 Nobel laureates, evolution is “the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection” (emphasis added). This view of evolution is repeated in countless biology textbooks and statements from evolutionary biologists. To continue:

Collins ascribed to himself a position he titled “Theistic Evolution.” By this, Collins clarified, he means that “God used the mechanism of evolution” and that God “designed the plan.” But this ultimately begs the question: How can God “guide” an “unguided, unplanned” process?
Collins argued that those who claim that God couldn’t have guided Darwinian evolution have “put God in a box.” But would Collins say the same thing for those who claim that God can’t make square circles? What about someone who claims that God couldn’t make himself cease to exist?
If Darwinian evolution–by definition–is “unguided” and “unplanned,” then Collins’s view seems logically incoherent. How can a process be both “guided” and “unguided” (or “planned” and “unplanned”) at the same time? Either evolution is “unguided” as the Darwinists contend, or it is guided in some way–which means that the Darwinian view of evolution must be false.

Logan Paul Gage

Logan Paul Gage is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Dr. Gage received his B.A. in history, philosophy, and American studies from Whitworth College (2004) and his M.A. (2011) and Ph.D. (2014) in philosophy from Baylor University. His dissertation, written under the supervision of Trent Dougherty, was a defense of the phenomenal conception of evidence and conservative principles in epistemology.