Science & Society

Science and Society and how they get along.

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Location: Santa Barbara, California, United States

I'm a physicist and science consultant specialized in optics, lasers and optical engineering. This blog, StarkFX, looks at what applications physics is finding today. Or, if you are looking at my StarkEffects blog, it displays my views about and interest in the interface between society and science.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

NIH Directory Scares Me

President Obama nominated a new director for the NIH. Dr. Francis Collins. He comes with wonderful credentials and some troubling beliefs. Dr Collins is noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes, and his leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP). Much has been made of Collins’ oft-stated belief in evolution but, an op-ed in the New York Times gives a very different picture. Sam Harris, best-selling author of The End of Faith quotes from a series of slides Collins used in a lecture on science and belief at UC Berkeley. Slide 2: "God's plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings."

OMG. To quote Bob Park: "There is no plan! That is the beauty of Darwinian evolution!" No plan is needed.

Collins is a geneticist who has recently made his name by offering himself up as living proof that a rational person can also believe in God with his 2006 book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief which made him a celebrity in “faith versus reason” circles.

Admittedly I have reservations about a director of the NIH that believes in a divine plan. Such a hypothetical plan would not lend itself to research initiatives that question that plan. However, there is no hard evidence that Collins will be inclined to back away from research that other "born agains" would oppose, but the danger is there considering Collins' high profile in religious circles. It is just that I agree with Sam Harris on this point: "...few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does it really matter if a scientist is a believer, if he can still accept science?

7:47 PM  

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