"You can't arrive at that conclusion without throwing out all the evidence of the sciences," says Collins.
The problem of not believing in evolution as one might not believe in, say, goblins or flying pigs has repercussions beyond the obvious -- that the U.S. will continue to fall behind other nations in science education. Collins says many creationist-trained young people suffer an intense identity crisis when they leave home for college, only to discover that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Talk about messing with your mind.
Collins says he hears from dozens of young people so afflicted. Most susceptible to crisis are children who have been home-schooled or who have attended Christian schools. Of all religious groups and denominations, evangelical Protestants are the most reluctant to embrace evolution. Their objections haven't changed much since Billy Sunday first articulated them almost 100 years ago and revolve around the fear that acceptance of evolution negates God.
To Collins, Darwin is a threat only if one thinks that God is an underachiever. Collins doesn't happen to believe that. His study of genes has led him to conclude that God is both outside of nature and outside of time. He's big, in other words. The idea that God would create the mechanism of evolution makes acceptable sense.
Now, if only he can convince his fellow Christians.
Through the foundation and Web site, Collins is hoping to help home-schoolers and other Christian educators come to grips with their scientific doubts. Among other projects, he intends to develop curricula that combine faith and science. He also hopes to help fundamentalist scientists see the error of their ways.
Whatever one's stripes or lack thereof, helping fundamentalists evolve can only be good for civilization -- a cause in which even the faithless can believe.