I’ve been chewing over what I think of Obama’s picking Francis Collins as head of the National Institutes of Health. (See the New York Times piece here, which includes some reactions by other scientists.) I guess my first reaction would be to give the guy a break, and take a wait-and-see attitude towards his stewardship of the NIH. After all, he doesn’t seem to have let his superstition get in the way of his other administrative tasks, and he doesn’t seem to be the vindictive type, either. (I do have an NIH grant!) I won’t grouse too much about this, but do want to emphasize again that the guy is deeply, deeply superstitious, to the point where, on his website BioLogos and his book The Language of God, he lets his faith contaminate his scientific views. So I can’t help but be a bit worried. Two more reactions:
1. I expect Collins to resign from BioLogos if he wants to maintain any scientific credibility. Yes, the guy has every right to believe what he wants, but a director of the nation’s most prestigious research foundation has to have some standards, and BioLogos is beyond the pale. Mixing science with faith as it does, it gives people the wrong view of what science is all about and gives his official imprimatur to essentially private beliefs. Certainly, private expressions of faith are absolutely fine, but Collins has chosen to make his views public, and discuss their relationship to science. Deism is one thing, but to find God in quantum uncertainty, or to see the evolution of humanoids as inevitable, are pollutions of science. I will continue to criticize BioLogos for their mush-brain-ness, and will include Collins’s name if he’s still associated with it.
2. Think about this: would a nonbelieving scientist who was as vociferous an atheist as Collins is a Christian have any chance to get the NIH spot? I don’t think so. And a Scientologist who publicly espoused his belief in Xenu and thetans would be considered too much of a lunatic to have responsibility for the NIH. But of course Christianity is a publicly acceptable form of superstition, and Scientology is not.
I had hoped that Obama might end governmental coddling of faith, but it doesn’t look like a lot has changed.