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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

Summer reading: “The Language of God” by Melis A. '08

Consider adding "The Language of God" to your summer reading list!

As some of you may know, this summer I’m working at the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which is best known for its contribution to the Human Genome Project (you know… the one that sequenced the entire human genome, so that we now know the location of all human genes. It’s otherwise known as the coolest and most useful project ever, at least in my opinion.)

Well, Dr. Francis Collins is the director of the NHGRI and had headed the Human Genome Research project. At the NHGRI picnic a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing him and his band of fellow scientists perform some classics, as well as hilariously nerdy parodies, and we also played a long, very hot, and relatively uncoordinated game of volleyball. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me, but just use your imagination. When Dr. Collins is not practicing his vocals or coordinating one of the most ambitious projects in recent history, apparently he is writing. His book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” was released less than two weeks ago but has already gained a lot of attention.

I haven’t gotten the chance to read it yet, but my lab is coordinating a book group to get together and discuss it. Here’s what says about it:

“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. (July 17)”

It is interesting that he was raised in a religiously indifferent household and was an atheist until medical school, at which point he “gradually [accepted] the existence of God and [embranced] evangelical Christianity — led to belief, like St. Augustine, less by longing than by reason.” ( He points to our intuitive sense of right and wrong and the incredibly fine-tuned nature of the universe.

I’ll try to read it before the end of the summer, but feel free to take a look at it yourself and let me know what you think!

On a side note: Speaking of the Human Genome Project, many of you may have heard of Eric Lander. Check out Wikipedia for more information on how he was involved, basically there were two groups that were involved with the sequencing of the human genome, one was the Human Genome Project and the other was by a company called Celera Genomics which wanted to patent/sell the information. Basically, Lander exerted pressure on Francis Collins and others to sequence as much of the genome as possible before Celera could get to it. In the end, the Human Genome Project finished first, mostly thanks to a new method that was developed my Lander and his colleagues at the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genomic Research. As a result, Lander became first author of the human genome! AND, the COOLEST part of this all, is that he teaches introductory biology at MIT. Not many people can say that they’ve taken a class in the first semester of their freshman year with the first author of the human genome (including myself, since unfortunately I placed out of it!).

7 responses to “Summer reading: “The Language of God””

  1. Nick says:

    Wow….that book looks amazing. Thanks for the tip smile.

  2. Jon says:

    true story: In my sophomore year bio class in highschool, we watched a detailed PBS documentary about the mapping of the human genome, and Eric Lander was in it. Somewhere it said that he taught at MIT, and his students helped map the genome. I’m pretty sure it was that day that I went from “well…I might want to go to MIT” to “OH MY GOD PLEASE LET ME IN!”

    well…I’m not that desparate, but I would be happy!

  3. Minh says:

    Eric Lander is awesome.

  4. Tennie says:

    It’s amazing how some people can be smart and nice whereas others are smart but complete jerks

  5. Shannon says:

    Jon, I definitely watched that same documentary and the same thing happened to me. Crazy!

  6. Hi Melis! I’m temped in Next House, and I’m wondering where we find info on what we need to bring (or not) and the room size(s). Thanks!

  7. Peter says:

    Its important to point out that he believes in his own personal version of a god. That is, he believes in evolution, thus he rejects the Bible story of Genesis. Id wager he also rejects the story of Noah, and the seven plagues of Egytpt, etc.

    Thus, even if he claims he is an evangelical, he is not. He has just created his own personal god, like most people do.

    Also, he does not present any *scientific* evidence for belief in the supernatural. I mean, if he did have such evidence we would be seeing it in Nature. It would be the biggest scientific discovery ever!