I’ve been pretty hard on Francis Collins, what with his mixing faith and science and telling people that there’s empirical evidence for God’s existence. But that makes it extra incumbent on me to give him kudos when he does something right. I mentioned the other day his support of stem-cell research, which is discussed in a new article, “The Covenant,” in The New Yorker. Maybe I was too eager to get in a lick against Christianity, so let me say that I much appreciate his going to bat for good science and humanitarian medicine. And then there’s this:
Collins strongly disputes that assessment [Craig Venter’s pronouncement that the Human Genome Project has contributed little to medicine]. He says that after reading the Times story he sat down and wrote out a list of breakthroughs directly attributable to the advances in genomics, among them providing new understanding of age-related macular degeneration, Crohn’s disease and the role of autophagy, and Parkinson’s disease and the central role of alpha-synuclein aggregates; and the development of a recent drug for lupus. “It’s revolutionized everything that we do,” he says. He has discussed some of this with his friend the militant atheist Christopher Hitchens: “As you might have heard, Christopher has esophageal cancer, and I have actually been spending a fair amount of time with him and his wife, Carol, trying to help him sort through the options for therapy—including some rather cutting-edge approaches based on cancer genomics.”
I’m not going to pull my punches if Collins continues his public harmonizing of science and faith, but any Christian who would try to cure the world’s most vocal atheist is a Christian I can appreciate—and live with.