Francis Collins appointed to head NIH

Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, evangelical Christian, and author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, has been selected by President Obama to lead the National Institutes Of Health.

Chris Wilson has an excellent article at Slate, discussing whether Collins would set anything aside as being beyond the reach of science:

In practice, Collins views almost every hole in evolutionary theory as one that can and will ultimately be filled by further investigation. But he does peg one aspect of human behavior as “unsolvable” by science: the tendency toward altruism, even at great personal risk and for the benefit of perfect strangers. (He calls this the “Moral Law.”) In his book, Collins writes that “this Moral Law shone its bright white light into the recesses of my childish atheism, and demanded a serious consideration of its origin. Was this God looking back at me?” He decided that it was.

But if these mysteries are solved, they won’t threaten Collins’ faith:

…to fully account for the full-blown version of altruism that we see in human beings is, I think, a fascinating and challenging and difficult problem for the evolutionary biologists. And I don’t believe they’ve solved it. And I think it’s unlikely that they will. If they do, would my faith be shaken? No.

That may be, but I can’t see how his predispositions wouldn’t have some effect on his priorities: Why waste resources on problems you’ve deemed “unsolvable”?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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