The Language of God
Over the years, I have come to believe that when something appears multiple times within your frame of reference, perhaps some attention should be paid to whatever that is. In this particular case, that thing was a book, The Language of God, by Francis Collins.
A friend of mine at seminary had recommended the book to me but I had forgotten about it. Then a couple months later, someone else gave me a copy because they thought I would like it. Then later when starting my internship project, I considered doing a book study with it alongside members of the congregation. When that didn’t take off, I somewhat forgot about the book as my energies were focused elsewhere. Then one Sunday between services, a member of the congregation suggested that the book would be an interesting topic for this blog. Since the book had once again found its way across my path in an unsolicited manner, I have decided to pay it some attention exactly where suggested.
Dr. Francis Collins was the head of the Human Genome Project. In 2001, he described the human genome as such:
“It’s a history book – a narrative of the journey of our species through time. It’s a shop manual, with an incredibly detailed blueprint for building every human cell. And it’s a transformative textbook of medicine, with insights that will give health care providers immense new powers to treat, prevent and cure disease.”
Each person’s genetic code is three billion base pairs long, or six billion letters you might say. As Dr. Collins describes in The Language of God, if you printed this code which is contained within each and every one of the 37.2 trillion cells (on average) in the human body on paper with a standard font, the stack of paper would stand as tall as the Washington Monument.
The scale of these numbers is staggeringly unfathomable. Almost as unfathomable as the massive scale and enormity of the very universe we live in. Just to illustrate how massive, if the average human body has 37.2 trillion cells and each cell contains three billion pairs of genetic material, that means that the average human body contains 1.116 x 1023, or 11,160,000,000,000,000,000,000 base pairs of genetic material. As I said… unfathomable, or as Vizzini constantly says in the movie, The Princess Bride,… “Inconceivable!!! It is this genetic code which Dr. Collins refers to as the “Language of God.”
The book is not just a book about science though. No, far from it. In one respect, it is using science to make a case for belief in God, but it is also his own story. A tale of his journey from atheism to faith; a journey down a path where the mere thought of God seems completely absurd when suddenly he finds himself surrounded by evidence supporting not he absence of God but instead the presence of God.
In Genesis, when the statement is made that humans are made in the image of God, I tend to view that from an intellectual capacity for creation and abstract thought as opposed to our physical appearance (race, gender, etc…); however, even if you wanted to consider our physical appearance, here is another interesting genetics fact: every human being’s genetic code is over 99% identical. We really are far more alike than we are different.
One of the main aspects of our faith is that Christ was not only divine, but Christ was also truly human. The DNA of Christ was over 99% identical to YOU… to you, me, the person who puts butter on your popcorn in the movie theater, the person who picks up your garbage, your favorite athlete, the Christian, the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Jew, etc…; each and every one sharing over 99% identical DNA to you… and to Christ.
Think about that the next time you hear the words… “the body of Christ…”