I just don’t get it. On one hand, Francis Collins is clearly a bright guy and an established researcher. He headed the Human Genome Project, for cryin’ out loud. He’s an evangelical Christian, which I personally don’t care about one way or the other, as long as his beliefs remain his personal beliefs. An article in the Washington Post, however, has me wondering what he’s thinking.
Certainly Dr. Collins is one of the more prominent advocates for the compatibility of science and religion. On one hand I admire that. Many of the extreme religious conservative persuasion have set up a false dichotemy, setting modern science against belief. A handful on the other side have followed suit, asserting that modern science does, in fact, argue against belief. Personally I am of the persuasion that the two are compatible, as I have held a number of different religious/philosophical outlooks in my life and never found any of them to be in conflict with science. But that is neither here nor there. The take-home message from Collins is:
But his most complete argument for God appears in a new book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” which addresses two radically divergent audiences:
He tells fellow evangelicals that opposition to evolution — whether based in the biblical literalism of creationists or “intelligent design” arguments — undermines the credibility of faith. He finds the first line of thought “fundamentally flawed” and says the second builds upon gaps in evidence that scientists are likely to fill in.
I cannot disagree. He is spot-on. But then he also makes some statements that are downright insulting to nonbelievers:
He asks scientific skeptics to investigate God with the same open-minded zeal they apply to the natural world, saying that there’s no incompatibility between belief and scientific rigor.
Come on, Frank. Do you actually believe that we scientific skeptics haven’t investigated the myriad religions with open minds? Do you believe that we were somehow raised in uber-rational atheist households, protected by Freethought Force Fields that repelled religious memes? I’m actually insulted, because the suggestion here seems to be that one can only truly investigate religion with an open mind if one comes to the same conclusion that Francis did!
Surveys have indicated that 40 percent of scientists are religious, Collins said, but “if 40 percent of my own scientific colleagues are believers in a personal God, they’re keeping pretty quiet about it.”
This is just malarky. Firstly, those scientists who are silent about religion do, in my experience, keep quiet about it precisely because they are believers in a personal God. My boss in graduate school, for example, was a devout Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday and still partakes in many of the responsibilities therein, while never feeling compelled to witness to anybody because she felt her relationship with her god was of a personal nature. Secondly, many religious scientists are definitely NOT quiet about their beliefs; other professors, postdocs, and students I know freely discuss their church activities and have invited me to some of them. This myth that scientists are silent about their religion is one that desperately needs to be overturned.
“For a scientist, it’s uncomfortable to admit there are questions that your scientific method isn’t going to be able to address,” he said. Besides, scientists are busy and focused — they often don’t take the time to explore “these more profound eternal questions.”
Huh? That makes no sense. He just cited a poll stating that 40% of scientists are religious! Clearly such a blanket statement cannot be made, as about half of scientists aren’t particularly uncomfortable being believes!
Look, Frank, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but please don’t argue disingenuously to do it. When it comes to science, we’re on the same side.