Beliefnet Blogger Francis Collins was nominated to be head of the National Institutes of Health!
Okay, being a Beliefnet blogger is not Francis Collin’s main claim to fame, though the blog that he and his BioLogos foundation run — Science and the Sacred — is fascinating, stimulating and often inspiring.
He’s probably more appropriately known as the former head of the Human Genome Project and as the author of the book God’s Language.
I have no idea whether Collins will administer the National Institutes of Health well, but President Obama’s appointment of Collins is significant as a culture war statement. A devout Christian, Collins is one of the foremost advocates for the notion that science and faith are compatible. He’s a strong believer but he doesn’t let that weaken his scientific rigor (for instance, he’s been critical of Creationism and Intelligent Design).
In Science and the Sacred, Collins wrote:
“Suppose God chose to use the mechanism of evolution to create animals like us, knowing this process would lead to big-brained creatures with the capacity to think, ask questions about our own origins, discover the truth about the universe and discover pointers toward the One who provides meaning to life. Who are we to say that’s not how we would have done it? If you believe that God is the creator, how could the truths about nature we discover through science be a threat to God? For many scientists who believe in God — including me — it’s just the opposite. Everything we learn about the natural world only increases our awe of the God the creator….
I urge us all to step back from the conflict and look soberly at the truth of both of God’s books: the book of God’s words and the book of God’s works. As people dedicated to truth, let us resolve to move beyond a theology of defensiveness to a theology that celebrates God’s goodness and creative power.”
Collins was mocked by Bill Maher in his movie Religulous, so perhaps Collins appointment will generate suspicion among secularists. And because he’s advocated “theistic evolution” — the idea that God set in motion the laws of the universe, including natural selection — there are some more fundamentalist Christians who may sniff at Collins.
But to me, Collins is not just a scientific leader, he’s a Christian role model — showing that being a believer doesn’t mean checking your brain at the church door, that people of faith have just as much intellectual heft as seculars, and, most important,.how faith and science can happily co-exist.
A version of this was printed on The Wall Street Journal Online