TODAY'S NEW YORK TIMES reported that President Obama has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. It caught my eye not only because this is a remarkably important position but also because of this passage:
Strange. The Times article offers no other evidence supporting this objection, nor does it quote anyone explaining it further. And in an admittedly cursory search on the Internet to find out just what about Collins' "embrace of religion" is raising eyebrows, I didn't see anything arguing against Collins on these grounds. But, even so, what are his critics basing this objection on?
While I did not read "The Language of God" I heard and read interviews with Collins around the time of its publication. I was pretty impressed by how he carefully and passionately argued that science and religion are not mutually exclusive pursuits. My reaction to everything Collins said was "good for him" or 'how thoughtful." Steven Waldman, editor of the online religion magazine, Beliefnet, offers an apt quote from Collins:
I have to think a bit longer about whether I agree or disagree with that theology, if that's what it is. But I don't see where comments like these are hostile to science or compromise Collins' capacity to administer the world's largest scientific research funding institution. I don't care where his values came from or what shaped them -- whether they were religious or secular sources. I care that he has well-considered values. Indeed, his pronouncements have suggested some sophisticated thinking about the interplay of science and religion. And his experience running the Human Genome Project, as well as other scientific achievements, suggest he's more than capable -- though I'll leave it up to the experts to judge him on that score.
I personally know of scientists -- accomplished and rigorously objective -- who are also religiously observant, and there are plenty of other examples of such people living among us today and long gone. Who says a scientist can't be religious or a religious person can't be a scientist? And why not?