The Sciences

Francis Collins to Head NIH

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJul 9, 2009 10:19 AM

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The New York Times reports that some raised the issue that he is religious and very public with it:

 There are two basic objections to Dr. Collins. The first is his very public embrace of religion. He wrote a book called “The Language of God,” and he has given many talks and interviews in which he described his conversion to Christianity as a 27-year-old medical student. Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field complain about what they see as Dr. Collins’s evangelism.

Do those complaining think that his "evangelism" will affect his ability to do a good job at NIH? Because if not, I fail to see how this is a relevant criticism. Is non-supernaturalism being proposed as a criterion for holding a high level science policy position? That would be still more problematic, especially in light of very valid attacks on the last administration for vetting science policy appointees based on politics. Needless to say, I'm glad of the choice. It elevates to new prominence someone who merges top tier science with religion--a powerful way to show that you really can have both in your life. (I can only guess what others will think.) P.S.: Great Collins quote from a Time magazine profile, which focuses at the outset on Collins' defense of evolutionary science: "I think the majority of people in the U.S. probably occupy a middle ground but feel under attack by the bombs thrown from either side. We haven't heard very much about the way these views can be rendered into a very satisfying harmony. And I do hope that both camps are a potential audience for what I have to say."

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