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Robin Collins

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Subject: Messiah College, Closer to Truth, The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, Center for Science and Culture, Victor J. Stenger
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Robin Collins

Robin Alan Collins
Robin Collins
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic
Main interests
Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Religion

Robin Collins is an American philosopher. He currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and chair of the Department of Philosophy at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. His main interests include philosophical issues related to the relationship between religion and science and philosophical theology.


Collins obtained his undergraduate degree from Washington State University in 1984 with a triple major in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy, graduating summa cum laude. Collins spent two years in a Ph.D. program in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin before transferring to the University of Notre Dame where he received a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1993. Alvin Plantinga directed his dissertation, with Bas van Fraassen (then at Princeton) and Arthur Fine (then at Northwestern University) serving as his outside advisers. His dissertation was titled "Epistemological Issues in the Scientific Realism/Antirealism Debate: An Analysis and a Proposal." His defense of his dissertation passed with the highest possible honors and he received the Graduate Student Award in the Humanities for "outstanding research, teaching, and publication."[1]

After completing his dissertation he served as a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern University's Program in History and Philosophy of Science before joining Messiah College.

Fellowships and Grants

Collins has received fellowships for his work from the Pew Foundation, the University of Notre Dame, and the Templeton Foundation. He has also received past support from the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture for his work on the argument from design from physics and cosmology. He is no longer affiliated with the Discovery Institute, however, due to conflicting visions.

Teleological argument

Collins is a prominent advocate in philosophy of the fine-tuning argument (see teleological argument) for the existence of God, according to which the fact that the laws and constants of physics are fine-tuned for life points to the existence of an intelligent cause behind the universe. Regarding evolution, he accepts the claim that all life on earth came about by a process of evolution (descent with modification) from the first cell, but is open to the possibility that God might have guided this process at various points. He is skeptical of the claim that all the complex biological structures we find in living things can be fully explained by blind, unguided chance plus natural selection, and thus thinks that the issue of whether Darwinian evolution (without God's guiding control) can adequately account for the structure of life should be vigorously explored. [2]


One of Collins' main contributions to philosophical theology has been to analyze the various theories of the atonement. While he has criticized the moral examplar theory, which is often held by more liberal Christians, his has written more about the satisfaction theory and the penal theory, the two views widely held by most Evangelical conservative Christians. He argues that they fail as theories, introducing more problems than they solve, saying that they "do not help us make sense of the Atonement, but rather make it more puzzling than it was before."[3]

Collins argues for an "incarnational" theory of the atonement, which sees the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as necessary to make unity with God possible.

Just as an apple tree branch, for example, cannot be successfully grafted into a form of life that is totally alien to it, such as a horse, God's self cannot be united with our selves in the way scripture suggests if God's self is too alien from our selves. But, apart from the Incarnation, God's self would be very alien to ours. After all, God is infinite, we are finite; God knows everything, our knowledge is limited; God is eternal, we are not; God is everywhere, we are confined to a body; God is not dependent, we are vulnerable and dependent; and the list goes on. Thus, in order to establish as much common ground between God's self and ours as a basis for the deep sort of intertwining unity the biblical images point to, God must not only take on human nature, but God must share what I call our life-situation, for our life-situation as human beings is inseparable from what we are.

Collins says that by sharing in human life situations God's self ceases to be alien from our selves, making it possible for our selves to be united with God's self, which in turn saves us from sin. Other theologians through the ages have held similar views, and he argues that this theory is superior to others on philosophical, ethical, theological, and scriptural grounds[3]

Books and articles

Collins is writing a book on the anthropic principle, tentatively titled, The Well-Tempered Universe: God, Cosmic Fine-tuning, and the Laws of Nature. He has also written many articles and book chapters on such topics as the fine-tuning of the cosmos as evidence for design, quantum mechanics, Asian philosophies and religions, the doctrine of Christian Atonement, evolution and original sin, petitionary prayer,the relation of the mind to the body, and the metaphysics of the natural world. [1]

Collins has also done several interviews. Among others, he was interviewed by Robert Kuhn for the PBS series "Closer to Truth" and also by Lee Strobel, a journalist and Christian apologist, in The Case for a Creator. The series of PBS interviews can be found at [1]. Strobel's book, published in 2004, presents a number of interviews with ID proponents, who attempt to refute naturalistic accounts of the origin of universe and the development of life.


  1. ^ a b Robin Collins' Curriculum Vitea. Accessed Mar. 16, 2013
  2. ^ Robin Collins. "Intelligent Design not Science But Metascience". February 2006.
  3. ^ a b Robin Collins. "Understanding Atonement: A New and Orthodox Theory". (Work in progress). Accessed Nov. 23, 2006

External links

  • Dr. Collins's homepage
  • The Case for Cosmic Design by Robin Collins. (Here Collins debates Paul Draper and Quentin Smith regarding whether the structure of the cosmos supports divine creation; it is part of the first online book debating theism and atheism/naturalism, at the leading atheist website
  • Interviews with Collins for PBS program "Closer to the Truth"
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