Sunday, June 11, 2006

God, Evolution, and Science

Apparently Francis Collins has a new book coming out on how he balances his religious beliefs with his work as a scientist.

Well, that is all fine and dandy and I personally view science and religion as separately areas for the most part. However, if you look at some of Collins' interviews you realize that in fact his science appears to be compromised by his strict (i.e., fundamentalist) interpretation of certain aspects of religious belief.

For example see his PBS interview. In this he says that "Moral Law" comes from some higher power and gives the following example:

"If I'm walking down the riverbank, and a man is drowning, even if I don't know how to swim very well, I feel this urge that the right thing to do is to try to save that person. Evolution would tell me exactly the opposite: preserve your DNA. Who cares about the guy who's drowning? He's one of the weaker ones, let him go. It's your DNA that needs to survive. And yet that's not what's written within me."

What an absolute load of crap. What he is saying here is that since someone might do something that is not in their own direct self interest it cannot therefore have evolved. Apparently, Collins has either never taken an evolution course or did not pay attention in one if he did. Does he suggest that soldier ants are following some moral code to sacrifice themselves for the colony? What about skin cells? Or birds that warn of coming predators? Basically, Collins is using his position as the head of NHGRI to foment anti-evolutionary points of view. It is one thing to express an opinion that one has faith and that one follows ones faith rather than following science. But instead Collins repeatedly says things that are hostile to the field of evolutionary biology. He may not intend it, but that is the way it is. It is a shame too as NHGRI (the intitute he is the head of) has done some good things for the world. His blather about evolution however, is not one of them.

This is not to say the evolution and religion are not compatible, but the way to make them compatible is NOT to mislead people about what the science of evolutionary biology reveals. It's funny in a way - Collins claims he believes in "theistic evolution" or the idea that God created the natural laws, including those of evolutionary biology, and that those laws are how the hand of God works. But then I do not understand why it is OK to ignore those laws when convenient.

4 comments:

  1. Jonathan,

    great post, but I guess the thing we really have to worry about is for any of this retorics to actually show up in any NIHGRI descisions, or policies -- I don't think there is any evidence for this (yet) -- but we must be vigilant -- the signs are there! Thanks for raising the flag (although I was already suspicious!).

    f.

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  2. You say this because you were influenced by the Antichrist himself, Craig (Although it *is* odd that the antichrist would have an ark, but note that the ark is named "Sorceror", and doesn't the Good Book tell us that wizards and witches should not be suffered to live?) Now that you at the vineyard of the Lord that is Davis, hopefully, you will realize the error of your ways

    -- St. Francis of NIH

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  3. Oops ... sorry folks. I did nto realize how to deal with comments and I apparently had to allow these through which I am doing a little late. It now should work better

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  4. OK St. Francis, apparently, you are an insider into the genome world. I will not engage in a debate about the Craig vs. Public side of things. But even if Craig is as bad as some say (which he is not), he wins hands down in my book, because he is not a fundamentalist running a large government scientific organization. In addition, I still find it inescusable that Collins was a co-author on papers that came from projects that his agency funded.

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