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Obama Appoints VanAndel Scientist and Man of Faith
JULY 9, 2009, 10:41 P.M.

Wall Street Journal

Francis Collins as Culture War Statement

President Obama's appointment of Francis Collins to run the National Institutes of Health 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. The former head of the Human Genome Project, Collins is also the author of The Language of God. 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, a blog on Beliefnet published by Collins and his foundation, Biologos, Mr. 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."

Mr. Collins was mocked by Bill Maher in his movie Religulous, so perhaps Mr. 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 Mr. Collins.

But to me, Mr. Collins is not just a scientific leader, he's a Christian role model. He shows 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.


Francis Collins' former Van Andel Institute colleague sees his appointment to National Institutes of Health as good news

by Matt Vande Bunte

The Grand Rapids Press

Thursday July 09, 2009, 5:15 PM

GRAND RAPIDS -- Dr. Jeffrey Trent does not expect a sudden windfall of federal grants for the Van Andel Research Institute. Still, he sees President Obama's nomination this week of a former colleague to lead the National Institutes of Health as good news both for Grand Rapids and the whole nation.

With an "inherent brilliance" unrivaled on the planet, Francis S. Collins, the mastermind of the Human Genome Project, would be a key asset to U.S. health care as director of the world's leading biomedical research institution, Trent said.

The Senate must confirm Collins' appointment.

"This is an important -- if not critically important --appointment for our nation," said Trent, president and research director of the Van Andel Institute. "This really is a new age in medicine. We have the kind of information in our hands (from the Human Genome Project) that can begin to really make a difference.

Dr. Jeffrey Trent"Knowing Francis the way I do, I think he'll bring the reasoning of a physician and the really remarkable and unique talents of a world-recognized scientist to bear at a very important time when the advances in medicine and the advances in technology are meeting together."

Trent and Collins were professors at the University of Michigan before working together for a decade on the genome project. Trent later started the Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute, T-Gen, that earlier this year came under the Van Andel Institute's wing.

"Clearly, Michigan is an important player in biomedical science, and, therefore, it's always good to have somebody with a connection to the state in that type of a leadership position," Trent said. "It will change Van Andel in the same way that it changes all institutes.

"Everyone will be watching to see, 'Are there programs that might be modified or directions more likely to be brought forth?' I have every confidence that we'll be well-positioned to adapt to those changes as they happen and it will be an exciting time to see that."

Trent said Collins will have the ability to shift the focus of the $30 billion NIH budget and help shape the national agenda.

"A decade ago, the Human Genome Project was an idea. Now, that information is advancing," Trent said. "(Collins) will be at the helm of the NIH at a critical point, when it helps to have someone who really understands those new tools and smarter methods.

"Francis will play a major role in the development of aspects related to the health care debate. He will be one of those unique individuals to usher out the one-size-fits-all medicine and usher in the 'putting the patient first in our treatment' decisions."

A forthcoming book by Collins is titled "The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine." A Christian who in spoke at Calvin College's The January Series in 1999, Collins in authored "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" in 2006.

He also established the BioLogos Foundation, which promotes harmony between science and faith.

"Francis is outspoken in his faith, but clearly he has been one of the major innovators in the area of science and he's well-regarded in academic circles," Trent said. "I don't think this is a significant issue."

Collins, 59, first came to fame in 1989 when he and U-M colleagues announced they discovered the defective gene that causes cystic fibrosis. He developed a technique, called positional cloning, that allowed researchers to scan large segments of the human genome in search of disease-producing genes -- even when they did not know the function of the genes in question.

Using that technique, he and his group later identified genes for Huntington's disease, neurofibromatosis, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (a tumor of the parathyroid and pituitary glands) and the M4 type of adult acute leukemia.

In 1993, Collins replaced James Watson as head of what was to become the National Human Genome Research Institute. There, he directed the effort to sequence the human genome, a collection of more than 3 billion bases of DNA that comprise the human blueprint. Collins described the effort as "an adventure that beats going to the moon or splitting the atom."

What started as a race between the government and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter developed into a collaboration. In 2000, Collins and Venter unveiled the completed sequence.

"It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God," Collins said at the time.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

President Obama's Excellent Choice

President Obama's nomination of Dr. Francis S. Collins to head the National Institutes of Health is an excellent choice, but it troubles some secularists who believe science should proceed unrestrained by any higher principles than what can be achieved in a laboratory.

The recent New York Times story announcing the president's selection of Dr. Collins ("who led the government's successful effort to sequence the human genome") reflects what would be considered bigotry or sexism if applied to someone because of his or her race or gender. Reporter Gardiner Harris writes that one of the objections to Dr. Collins (he names no objectors, which is the pattern of a smear) "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."

Ignored in the story is the long list of scientists who hold religious views similar to Dr. Collins. Do the secularists demand an oath of atheism before people are deemed respectable scientists? .....

Dr. Collins sees no conflict between science and faith. In 2007, he said this at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington: "...in the scientific community there is often an unwritten taboo about discussing one's spiritual leanings, so many assume that scientists are generally godless materialists. That's not actually true -- a recent survey found that 40 percent of working scientists believe in a God to whom one may pray in expectation of an answer. And that number has changed very little over the past century." .....

Like C.S. Lewis and many other great thinkers, Dr. Collins was a confirmed atheist until he opened his mind to the possibility of God and the evidence for a Creator who made what science can only study. He came to realize it took greater faith and a considerable amount of hubris to be an atheist and to reject any evidence that might contravene that view. He said science and faith are different ways of finding truth and that "they are not only compatible, but ... wondrously complimentary."

As leader of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Collins led a team of more than 2,000 scientists from six countries. "Together," he said, "we determined all three billion letters of the human genome, our own DNA instruction book, and made all those data freely available on the Internet every 24 hours. It is hard to get your mind around how much information this is. ... Suppose we decided to take a little time this morning to read the letters of the human genome together, just to express our awe at God's creation. If we took turns reading, and agreed to stick with it until we were all the way through, we would be here for 31 years! And you have all that information inside each of the 100 trillion cells of your body."


Well, you know my religious positions. I think Collins is an excellent choice for 2 reasons. One is that he's an excellent scientist. Scientists who criticise his appointment based on his public faith haven't followed his career much - I've never seen him let his faith get in the way of his science. The 2nd reason he's an excellent choice is a political one. In many ways America's greatness in the past has been due to it's excellent work in science. That has suffered lately in the hands of the extremist religious right. The choice of Collins is disarming for them.

Good appointment.
Quote:America's greatness in the past has been due to it's excellent work in science. That has suffered lately in the hands of the extremist religious right

How so?
stem cells, creationism, contraception, climate change etc etc etc

I don't have the energy or desire to get further into this discussion michman
Science has not "suffered" because of people of faith.

Scientists of faith, on the other hand, have suffered criticism by their peers. Francis Collins is one example of this.

The "controversy" surrounding this scientist and man of faith actually proves the opposite of what you say.
ibofightback Wrote:I don't have the energy or desire to get further into this discussion michman

I would only recommend that anyone who wants to know more about this should google 'francis collins' and 'religion.'

He has many supporters in the scientific community. But he has many detractors specifically because of his religion.

And it's too bad.
Defenders of the Faith
Scientists who blast religion are hurting their own cause.

By Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Jul 14, 2009

As soon as Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian geneticist who headed up the pioneering Human Genome Project during the 1990s, was floated as the possible new director of the National Institutes of Health—he was officially named to the post on Wednesday—the criticisms began flying. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago, for one, said Collins is too public with his faith. Collins wrote a book called The Language of God, frequently talks about his religious conversion during medical school, and recently launched the BioLogos Foundation, which declares, "We believe that faith and science both lead to truth about God and creation."

The critics, though, have it exactly backward: the United States needs more scientists like Collins—researchers who show by their prominence and their example that a good scientist can still retain religious beliefs. The stunning irony in the longstanding tension between science and religion in America is that many scientists who merely claim to be defending rationality from religious fundamentalism may actually be turning Americans off to science, doing more harm to their cause than good.

The poster boy for the so-called New Atheist movement today is biologist Richard Dawkins, author of the bestselling book, The God Delusion. He and other New Atheists attack faith without quarter, and insist that science and religion are fundamentally irreconcilable. In the process, they are helping to keep U.S. society polarized over science and likely helping to make it still harder for many religious believers to accept scientific findings in areas like evolution.

Although the New Atheists are not so numerous, and much younger as a movement than their polar opposite—the Christian right—they've amassed a powerful following, especially online, and have sold millions of books by prosecuting a culture war in precisely the opposite direction from the one waged by Christian conservatives. Science is their watchword, but it has always been about much more than that. The New Atheist science blogger PZ Myers, for instance, has publicly desecrated a consecrated communion wafer, presumably taken from a Catholic mass, and put a picture of it, pierced by a rusty nail and thrown in the trash, on the Internet.

The New Atheists are unswerving in their conviction that irrational religion is the source of many of our ills—especially when it comes to the public's poor understanding of science—and vociferous in their criticism of scientists who nevertheless retain religious belief, like Collins, even though Collins is himself a strong defender of evolution. But the truth is that religious scientists like Collins have the best chance of making religious Americans more accepting of modern science.........

Mooney and Kirshenbaum, an atheist and an agnostic Jew, are the coauthors of the new book Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future.

If people really believe that science has suffered because of the religious right, they should check out Obama's top science czar. He is more powerful and has advocated a more radical agenda than any "religious" scientist I have seen.





Hopefully, Francis Collins can bring some balance to the scientific field.

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