For those who don’t follow such news with bated breath – President Obama has nominated Francis Collins to head up the NIH (National Institutes of Health). This is, in my opinion, a great choice. He is an accomplished scientist and administrator. You can see the NY Times article here: Pick to Lead Health Agency Draws Praise and Some Concern. (Photo to right from BioLogos Site.)
I’ve been following some of the discussion over the last several months as the prospect of Collins’s selection has been a matter of gossip and speculation. I have no NIH funding, the research we do is not sufficiently closely tied to human health concerns, although I have had NIH funding in the past. So my interest is indirect – anything good for science is good for all science on some level.
I think that the concerns expressed in the article over the hype of the Human Genome Project and its lack of success (on which the jury will be out for a long while yet) is a red herring. Hype is common in science and all of his critics know it and practice it themselves.
But of course Collins is drawing attention for other reasons as well –
most significantly his book The Language of God and his outspoken Christian
I find it interesting that there are a few
different concerns common around the web.
Some – a relatively small number – hold that religion is fundamentally inconsistent with good thinking and thus anyone who holds to a religious belief is suspect for fuzzy brain.
Some fear that religious belief –> theocracy —> undermines freedom, democracy, good science.
Some fear that appointing him, no matter how good he is, will lend credence to faith as a valid option!
Some fear that appointing him will mislead our youth into thinking that evolution is consistent with faith (from the evangelical side).
I will avoid quoting from blogs and comments on articles here – but I expect the conversation will become rather heated in some arenas.
What gets me is the suggestion by some that his “Biologos foundation” because
it seeks to promote a synthesis of science and faith is a conflict of
interest – an “unwanted incursion of religion into the public sphere.”
I also think it interesting that Collins has been an Obama supporter
for quite awhile, yet appointing him raises fears of a return of “the
theocracy of George W. Bush” and a cave-in to the religious right.
What do you think?