Issue Date: October 12, 2009
Francis Collins At NIH
In the C&EN article on the very obvious, sensible nomination of Francis Collins to head the National Institutes of Health, I was utterly astounded to find the reporter's statement that "some observers note that Collins' well-known religious beliefs might make some uneasy" (C&EN, July 13, page 5). Well, now! Or should I say, "Whad'ya know!" In the USA? The land of the free, and so on?
Could that be more than a teeny bit of a public antireligious profiling creeping in there? Having paired with Collins in a PBS documentary on Freud and C. S. Lewis (it never aired), and having read some of Collins' writings, I wonder what this comment says about the U.S. scientific community—or at least "some observers" therein.
Collins is obviously a highest rank scientist who also happens to be a Christian. A good start might be for the "observers" to drop the cloak of anonymity and let the public examine their religious practices. Scientists often do not even differentiate between religion (which is about behavior, what you do, orthopraxy) and theology (which is your theory, what you "believe," orthodoxy). Then perhaps we could compare what the observers do with their money, service to the poor, loving neighbors, and even enemies with what any appointee does.
Reporters might then be a little better armed on the subject to ask tougher questions. Collins obviously doesn't need my support; it is the community of reductionist scientism-fundamentalists who clearly need to be challenged along with all other religious-fundamentalists who claim a direct line to the supreme being, or supreme nonbeing. The latter may be the problem of the anonymous observers.
University Park, Pa.
If the laboratory in the background of your picture of Collins is his, he needs to get organized before heading a $30 billion research agency.
George A. Cypher
La Jolla, Calif.
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