When God Intervenes

In the spirit of the Plantinga comments from earlier today, one from the old digs (With sincere apologies to Bob Dylan):

So I was watching a video interview of Dr. Francis Collins, and found it thoroughly depressing. Reporter Dan Harris does a good job, but Dr. Collins is utterly frustrating. We get the “God gave us two books” bit, where both the bible and the actual evidence of the universe around us are given equal footing (even though he doesn’t entirely understand the former). “How could that possibly be a conflict of truths?”, we are asked. Apparently, when the bible and the universe appear to disagree, that must be a case of Collins not quite understanding the bible.

The conflict between Genesis and science leads to “it was not a textbook of science!“–so, when the two collide, it looks like the bible is the one that gives. But…”Once you’ve accepted the idea of a God who is the creator of all the laws of nature, the idea that God might at unique moments in history, decide to invade the natural world and suspend those laws, doesn’t become really a logical problem.” So at least with regard to the story of Jesus, looks like science has to give. And sure, once you have gone all the way to believing in an interventionist god, any subset of that belief is, in comparison, small change.

But… can Collins assure us that his own work on the Genome Project (for instance) is not one of those unique moments in history? Perhaps everything that he has found is not the way things really are, but only the way things are while god suspends the laws; once we have accepted the idea of intervention, and the notion that we are as mortals inadequate to determine which are the laws and which are the exceptions, any scientific conclusion we come to must necessarily, explicitly, include some version of “if that’s ok with God, that is.” Or is Dr. Collins claiming to be able to know for certain that god is not mucking about with his data?

The scientist told me
He said it so well:
The secret to life, son,
It’s all in the cell—
The key to our essence
It’s there in our genes
Except when it isn’t… cos god intervenes.

Within every cell, son,
The scientists proved,
Sub-cellular structures
And things that they moved
Molecular transport
Like little machines
Except when it isn’t… cos god intervenes.

We know, even Darwin
Said it all looks designed
But natural selection
Is all that we find
With blind evolution
Directing the scenes
Except when it doesn’t… cos god intervenes

He’d worked on The Project
From when it began
The one that’s decoding
The genome of Man
And Collins knows science,
And he really knows genes
Except when he doesn’t… cos god intervenes

In the journals of science
The write-ups will change
There’ll be an addition
A little bit strange
Cos in the conclusions
The asterisk means
“Except when it doesn’t… cos god intervenes.”

A cure for depression
Might seem to work well
In a medical journal
The researchers tell
“It stops oxidation
Of monoamines*
*Except when it doesn’t… cos god intervenes”

The worst of disasters
We call “acts of god”
The faithful believers
Must think that it’s odd
With whole coastal regions
In smashed smithereens
Is that what it look likes … when god intervenes?

We study the genome
We study the prayer;
About intervention,
We find nothing there.
We find antibiotics
And look for vaccines
Cos no one can count on… when god intervenes

The methods of science
Have practical worth
We don’t look to heaven
But merely to earth
There’s one or the other
There’s no in betweens
It cannot be science… when god intervenes.


  1. says

    Nice work, c. This is a point that can’t be rammed home enough to people like Collins who like to play science up to and not including the point where they don’t.

    I like the shape of the poem on the page, but that could be because I’m a computer scientist.


  2. evilDoug says

    When I read this the first time, I jumped right into the poem, so I missed the apology to Mr. Zimmerman, but thought it seemed somehow familiar.
    Don’t worry too much about Bob’s feelings. You may have drawn inspiration from his lyrics, but he swiped the tune from The Patriot Game by Dominic Behan, who in turn swiped it from a traditional (?) song The Merry Month of May.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *