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Genes – the language of God 0: Preface

Last updated on 10 Aug 2014

This will be a series of posts for a secondary school seminar run at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne during the ‘National Science Week’ This is the fifth such event at St.Paul’s.  It is led the Rev. Dr Stephen Ames and Associate Prof. Lachlan Thompson from RMIT University, Ms Anne Brumfitt, Science Educator, and Emeritus Prof. John Pilbrow from Monash University.  Stephen, with Dr. Kristian Camilleri, runs the second-year subject, ‘God and the Natural Sciences’ as part of the History and Philosophy of Science Programme at the University of Melbourne.

Stephen has doctorates in physics and in philosophy of science. He and I have spent many happy hours arguing about everything over lunch, and almost never agreeing with each other. He is Brodie Innes to my Darwin: “Brodie Innes and I have been fast friends for thirty years, and we never thoroughly agreed on any subject but once, and then we stared hard at each other, and thought one of us must be very ill.”

Stephen is presenting this seminar for years 11 and 12 students of the International Baccalaureate and in the VCE, and has asked me to prepare material and be part of the Q/A Panel on the day. Asking whether DNA is the language of God is founded upon a book by Francis Collins in 2006, The Language of God. I leave it to others to argue if that book succeeds in making a case for God. I am merely concerned in this series to look at the metaphor of DNA or genes as a language. I will rely heavily upon Paul Griffiths’ and Karola Stotz’ recent book Genetics and Philosophy: An Introduction.

This series will be revised and added to as we come across more information and links. Readers are encouraged to add in the comments and raise questions the students might like to ask themselves.


  • Genes – the language of God 0: Preface
  • Genes – the language of God 1: Genes as Language
  • Genes – the language of God 2: Other popular gene myths and metaphors
  • Genes – the language of God 3: Why genes aren’t information
  • Genes – the language of God 4: Why genes aren’t a language
  • Genes – the language of God 5: God and genes
  • Genes – the language of God 6: Theological implications


  1. chband chband

    That would be a very interesting topic. One common argument i saw is “gene = information”, can’t wait to check that chapter out. Keep up the good work!

  2. michaelfugate michaelfugate

    Couldn’t the instructor pick someone with a bit more philosophical and theological acumen than Francis Collins? That Collins is a scientist doesn’t make his opinions about religion more credible.

    • I think it is the point that Collins represents a widely held view, rather than the depth of his arguments.

  3. David Duffy David Duffy

    You may have read Arto Annila’s papers on life, genes, and information.

    I did not find his recent paper specifically on genes
    (Genes without prominence: a reappraisal of the foundations of biology) to be particularly impressive – he does not have much of a grasp about “missing heritability”. But the discussion of the relationships between thermodynamics, life and information
    (The physical character of information) was better (perhaps just an area I don’t know as well…).

  4. James Goetz James Goetz

    I think it’s important to hear how a tenured evolutionary scientist reconciles their faith and science.

    • James Goetz James Goetz

      I tried to reply to michaelfugate, but this messed up.

    • michaelfugate michaelfugate

      Another sloppy apologetics text – sorry not important.

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