A year after stepping down as director of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins is embarking on a new venture, one that may be even harder than deciphering DNA.
Collin's new BioLogos Foundation, which launched on April 28, aims to be a bridge in the debate over science and religion and provide some answers to life's most difficult questions.
Through an interactive Web site, gatherings with pastors and scientists, and possibly developing science curricula for Christian schools, Collins aims to tell others about the deep compatibility he sees between Christianity and science. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What led you to this new project?
After my book ("The Language of God") I got thousands of e-mails from people, many of them troubled, many of them excited, many of them puzzled by what they heard. They wanted to engage in a further discussion that would drill more deeply.
I tried to keep up with those letters and quickly found out there was no way I could. I felt bad because the point was to start a conversation and I wasn't holding up my end. There needed to be a place to provide some kind of responses to the questions that came up over and over again, and that sounds like a Web site.
Where does the name BioLogos come from?
It's a word that I made up, which means basically "life, by God speaking it into being." Bios is the Greek word for life, and Logos is from John 1:1: "in the beginning was the Word (Logos)."
What kind of answers will the Web site give?
Many of those questions do not have straightforward answers and we're not trying to come at them as if they've never been asked before. We've distilled some possibilities into essays of three or four pages that an interested person might find helpful. They present options for serious believers who also trust science to give reliable data, all of which are consistent with both Scripture and science. It's not like we pound the table and say there is only one answer and here it is.
What's the goal for this Web site and foundation?
My hope would be that we are hub of activity. There are other groups that have been pursuing these kinds of questions and trying to seek harmony instead of conflict, but they are relatively few and not all that visible. If there's something we can do to try to help build those links, we'd love to do that.
Can you give an example of the kinds of questions the Web site will be addressing?
What role did God have in evolution? Are there divine action possibilities in evolution? Or is it one of those things where God started the process and then stepped back and hoped it would all turn out right? That doesn't sound exactly correct for a believer. So how does God actually get involved in the process of evolution?
Is your target audience fellow evangelicals?
That's our primary audience because I think that's where the greatest stir is going on. But I would hope that skeptics and seekers and believers of other faiths would also find this an interesting place to go.
Is the site interactive in the sense that people can pose questions that will be answered?
We very much want to have interaction. So if you pose a question that we don't have up there, or you want to challenge an answer, you are welcome to do that. We are not quite clear what the volume will look like, but we are prepared to take it on.
What about other BioLogos projects?
There will be an event in New York that will be the first of its kind: a conversation between theologians, scientists and (mainly evangelical) pastors. A continuing effort to reach out to pastors is going to be crucial because they're in the hot seat. Many are trying to teach about Genesis and may have scientists in their congregation who say "Now wait a minute, you don't really understand what the evidence is here." We need to empower pastors to not be afraid of those conversations.
There will be opportunities for summer courses for students and faculty at Christian colleges, and developing curricula for Christian schools to try to present an alternative to the young-earth creation (theory), which is often the only thing that science classes in Christian high schools teach. It sets those students up for a potential crisis when they get to university and realize that the data for young-earth creationism is just not there.
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Other Christianity Today articles about Francis Collins include:
The Genome Doctor | The director of the National Human Genome Research Institute answers questions about the morality of his work (October 1, 2007)
Living with the Darwin Fish | Why the discovery of yet another 'missing link' doesn't destroy my faith. (March 12, 2007)
Creation or Evolution? Yes! | Francis Collins issues a call to stand on the middle ground. (January 16, 2007)
Science in Wonderland | Getting some perspective (250 million years' worth) on the evolution controversy. (April 1, 2006)
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