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Genome mapper Francis Collins, picked to head NIH, touted as evangelical. Is that fair to either side?

Collins, well known as the genome mapper who sat with President Clinton and others on the White House lawn in 2000, is the new head of National Institutes of Health.

As others have noted, he may be as well known for his recent book, The Language of God, part personal testimony and part explanation of how there need be no conflict between faith and science.

Some are skeptical. David Klinghoffer writes,

Do you ever notice how religious believers are always cited by the media as “devout” precisely when they are equivocating on basic Judeo-Christian moral and theological tenets? Dr. Francis Collins has some startling ideas on abortion. Startling, that is, from an Evangelical Christian who is Obama’s choice to head up the National Institutes of Health. He’s a favorite church speaker with Evangelical audiences, especially on how Darwinism poses no threat to their faith.

Klinghoffer offers some examples of his concerns:

- From an interview here at Beliefnet:

Q: [S]ometimes when parents learn that their child has Down Syndrome, they terminate the pregnancy. What is your opinion of that sort of scenario?

A: I’m troubled that the applications of genetics that are currently possible are oftentimes in the prenatal arena. That is not the reason I went into this field.

The reason I went into this field was to figure out how to treat illnesses, rather than try to stop such individuals from even being born. But, of course, in our current society, people are in a circumstance of being able to take advantage of those technologies. And we have decided as a society that that choice needs to be defended.

- From a 1993 New York Times profile of Collins:

“It is difficult to say you can’t abort, but for overall cultural mores, you run into problems,” Dr. Collins said. “It’s the classic slippery slope. You have a gray scale going from diseases like Tay-Sachs disease that cause death in early childhood all the way to the other end of the spectrum with abortions for sex selection, which most people would say is a misuse of technology. In between is a gray zone. Where do you draw the line?”

- In a 1998 book he co-authored, Principles of Medical Genetics, he considers a bioethical situation where a genetic counselor is discussing with a (married) mother, 8 weeks pregnant, whether to abort her child because there’s a 7 to 8 percent chance the child will have a mild learning disability. Should the mother indicate an interest in aborting, Collins and his two co-authors commend to the counselor a stance of “respect for [patient] autonomy” and “nondirective counseling.” In other words, the medical professional in this context should be morally neutral.

You’ll find a link to the page in the book on Google Books here.

And there’s also the curious passage in The Language of God where he writes,

I would argue that the immediate product of a skin cell and an enucleated egg cell fall short of the moral status of the union of sperm and egg. The former is not part of God’s plan to create a human individual. The latter is very much God’s plan, carried out through the millennia by our own species and many others.

             -Collins, The Language of God, p. 256 (hardcover).

Most traditional Christians would not relate to a view of God’s providence where humans can simply exempt other humans from God’s providence by their own wilful actions. This is not the God of the ethical monotheist faiths; it must be some lesser one.

Evangelical leaders should raise questions about these matters at the confirmation hearings. Collins is entitled to advocate his causes. His advocacy doubtless helped put him where he is. But if he really represents evangelicals – as is claimed – now is the time for evangelical leaders to say so. Or to say otherwise.

He  operates a Web site called Biologos, to show that there is no conflict between Christianity and Darwinism. That would sure be news to Darwin, as Michael Flannery has taken pains to point out, and to most evolutionary biologists, though I guess it goes down well enough at turkey dinners.

BioLogos is largely unfinished, but one thing that stands out clearly for me – and this is characteristic of so many theistic evolutionist works – Darwin is the pivot around which our understanding revolves. One must develop a faith that embraces Darwin, whatever else may need to change. That’s not my idea of orthodoxy. If the church had done that with every can kicked up the street over the last couple of thousand years, it would be unrecognizable today, like some creature out of H.P. Lovcraft, who was, by all accounts, a staunch Darwinian.

Incidentally, Collins, who was strongly – though not deeply – influenced by CS Lewis, likes to cite him as a source. Lewis actually blew off Darwinian evolution in later years. For example, this from a letter he wrote in 1951:

September 13, 1951: I have read nearly the whole of Evolution [probably Acworth's unpublished "The Lie of Evolution"] and am glad you sent it. I must confess it has shaken me: not in my belief in evolution, which was of the vaguest and most intermittent kind, but in my belief that the question was wholly unimportant. I wish I were younger. What inclines me now to think that you may be right in regarding it as the central and radical lie in the whole web of falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted attitudes of its defenders.

If Lewis came to think Darwinian evolution (for that is what is meant here) “the central and radical lie”, I wonder how good a reference he can be for Collins’s projects.

Better get the spin doctors in over the weekend.

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59 Responses to Genome mapper Francis Collins, picked to head NIH, touted as evangelical. Is that fair to either side?

  1. Denyse,

    If Lewis came to think Darwinian evolution (for that is what is meant here) “the central and radical lie”, I wonder how good a reference he can be for Collins’s projects.

    Heh, not so good, obviously. OTOH, given that Lewis, despite his powerful intellect, wasn’t fully aware of the lies in Darwinism until his 50′s, I have a fair amount of sympathy for Collins. Let’s just hope the depth (and not merely the strength) of Lewis’ influence on Collins increases.

  2. Collins sees the gray areas; he doesn’t just see things in black and white. That’s a good thing.

    His vision of god is different from yours, Ms. O’Leary, and from many fundamentalist evangelicals in the US. Who is to say his vision is wrong and yours is right?

  3. 3

    Ms O’Leary

    I am usually astounded by the clarity and efficacy of your posts, but I question in this instance whether you are being fair to Dr Collins. Rather than concluding this I am first inquiring how thoroughly you have researched the faith of Dr Collins.

    In many Christian media outlets (say, here) I am seeing Dr Collins discussed as “self-identifying evangelical”. I offer the gentle suggestion that we should not question the faith of others when there is very little evidence to sway a neutral 3rd party.

    To any casual observer Dr Collins would certainly seem to bridge the gap between faith and science and it does this important connection a serious injustice by insinuating somehow that there are 1) two sides (truth is the only side that exists) and 2) that somehow Dr Collins is being used unwittingly to advance a materialist agenda, when in fact he is advancing the cause of Christ.

    a gentle plea for you to consider that ideas have consequences and propagating this fallacy does no one any good.

  4. 4

    C.S. Lewis liked to write about that kind of thing. Science stoppers I mean. Something about spreading sins into space, Henry F. Schaefer wrote about it in his book Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence?

    I think democracy may well be a science stopper since no one reads Robert Greene/strategy and can usually not think in those terms of grand scheme. On the other hand, religion can also protect peoples’ doubts and help science along.

  5. To all above: The jury’s out on whether Collins – or anyone – advances the cause of Christ. I want to hear whether evangelical leaders think that his views on human life qualify him to be the evangelical icon (as the “wise Latina” Sotomayor is a Latino icon) that he is currently touted to be.

    If they say yes, fine. Otherwise, we have a fark on our hands.

  6. O’Leary: “Evangelical leaders should raise questions about these matters at the confirmation hearings. Collins is entitled to advocate his causes. His advocacy doubtless helped put him where he is. But if he really represents evangelicals – as is claimed – now is the time for evangelical leaders to say so. Or to say otherwise.”

    Why? Shouldn’t the hearings focus on Collins’s professional qualifications and resume? Yes, there may be ethical matters to consider, but why will it be even necessary to have evangelical leaders present? I don’t think they have a vote do they? Isn’t whether or not he is “representing” evangelicals peripheral to the post he is about to be appointed to?

  7. These articles give an overview of how the genome project ties in with the Rothschild and Rockafeller Eugenics program.

    http://www.infowars.com/the-po.....r-dummies/

    http://www.infowars.com/the-po.....r-dummies/

  8. http://www.infowars.com/articl.....indset.htm

    those are the same two links I meant to add this one.

  9. JTaylor, sorry, that won’t work in this case. Had Collins hept his religious opinions to himself, that would be one thing.

    But he didn’t. He published a well-known book and started a Web site to defend them (BioLogos), so got pegged by the media as “the Evangelical.” He was even criticized as a pick by Jerry Coyne on that very basis.

    So fine. I want to know, do evangelicals agree that he’s their token rep, in a political world where, like it or not, being a token rep matters?

  10. lamarck,

    Those articles you linked to are fascinating, and quite chilling. From the second one:

    Last year, Dr. Eric R. Pianka gave a speech to the Texas Academy of Science in which he advocated the need to exterminate 90% of the population through the airborne ebola virus. The vast majority of those in attendance stood and applauded Pianka’s open call for mass genocide.

    which presumably would be one component of an evolutionist eugenics scheme.

    A troubling thought just occurred to me, however. Sanford’s notion of “genetic entropy” has been mentioned in some recent threads. If the human genome is indeed deteriorating, has Sanford unwittingly provided the eugenecists with a rationale for their program? I’m not saying Sanford is doing anything wrong of course, but I’m concerned about the consequences should others be influenced by his theories.

  11. O’Leary,

    “I want to hear whether evangelical leaders think that his views on human life qualify him to be the evangelical icon (as the “wise Latina” Sotomayor is a Latino icon) that he is currently touted to be.”

    I really don’t think Collins is a great icon for Christianity, at least not in any orthodox sense (perhaps to more liberal versions). I recall listening to a lecture of his with the Veritas Forum, and I understood him to say that he doesn’t even normally attend church. That’s his prerogative of course, but I tend to think that if you want to be an icon for Christianity, you need to really be a part of it – living it out in an active, meaningful way, not just touting it in some philosophical sense. Isn’t “evangelical” an active notion? I’m not sure you can be a passive evangelical. Seems a bit of an oxymoron to me.

    But especially if he’s in support of the pro-choice position, which I don’t really know either way, that seems especially contrary to Christian doctrine and would further injure his position as an evangelical icon. If the didache is of any consideration, abortion was certainly spoken against in the early church, so it’s not like this is some new position. Even Josephus wrote against it. And obviously I would argue you can’t follow Jesus’ teachings (save some excessive liberal position) and fail to explicitly reject abortion.

    I can respect Collins though – I would rather him be where he is at than on the other side of things I suppose. But I don’t think he’s doing as much good as perhaps he or others may think he is doing.

  12. 12

    Who claims Collins “represents evangelicals”? And when did abortion become a central part of Christian doctrine?

    Maybe I missed the abortion line in the Nicene creed.

    Or maybe, as seems more likely, this is another non-story story.

  13. 13

    Better get the spin doctors in over the weekend.

    Why? To respond to the spin-doctoring of this post?

    This kind of manufactured concern is unhelpful.

  14. David Kellogg,

    herb, if you believe that Pianka really advocated such a thing you need to do some more readng. lamarck’s links to infowars (a 9/11 denial site bursting with conspiracy theories) are truly lunatic.

    I don’t necessarily endorse everything on the infowars site, but I think their account of the Pianka incident is fairly close to the mainstream. If you’d like a more objective take on the story, please see these sources.

  15. 15
    CannuckianYankee

    If Francis Collins wants to be a liberal evangelical, fine. Perhaps he should take a cue from Ron Sider – “Completely Pro-Life.” It seems being an evangelical means not really standing for much anymore. Perhaps we conservative evangelicals need a new label.

  16. David,

    It’s not a central part of Christian doctrine. It’s an important part though. Thus its inclusion in the Didache (aka Teachings of the Twelve Apostles), which definitely predates the Nicene creed, and possibly predates some of the New Testament. So if it was an issue important enough to be included in what is essentially a doctrinal document (not to mention a number of other documents), I can’t see how it can be so easily cast off as a “non-story”.

    Even aside from any historical documents or understandings though, one must consider the Biblical text itself, which obviously is central to Christianity. How one could get anything but a pro-life view from the text is beyond me. In fact, I would say it is more pro-life than most of Christianity today, leaning heavily in a pacifistic direction altogether. i.e., I think Jesus and his apostles (post-pentecost at least) were more pro-life than most Christians now. If being peaceable and having a concern for the sanctity of life was important to them, it should be important now.

    Anyway, regardless of that issue, Collins definitely is seen as representative in some ways of Christianity in our society. Perhaps he’s not some sort of official representative, but he still is a public figure who does represent Christians in public forums. That’s not something to take lightly, official or not. So of course Christians should consider his beliefs, particularly ones he is willing to make public, important.

  17. 17

    herb, those links aren’t “objective” — not by a long shot. As far as I know, the entire charge is based on one person’s account and has not been corroborated.

  18. 18

    herb, a point of clarification: I put “objective” in quotes both because I’m quoting you and I because I don’t believe in “objectivity” as such. Anyway, I think the links you provided are woefully one-sided.

  19. David Kellogg,

    herb, those links aren’t “objective” — not by a long shot. As far as I know, the entire charge is based on one person’s account and has not been corroborated.

    Well, I have to concede there is some controversy over this matter. I’m not sure whether to believe the view expressed here or the one over at TT.

    In any case, my main point was the question about Sanford’s genetic entropy theory.

  20. 20

    herb, when I read the two statements, Mike Gene’s is clearly the more careful and considered. The response to his statement is basically hyperbole and name-calling.

  21. David are you saying Pianca never said this and it was all a conspiracy or what exactly? Was it out of context? How? Your link seems to indicate crow eating after Pianca got death threats, and some sort of weak equivocation from him, but he’s basically saying we need a 90% population reduction with vague “overpopulation” rhetoric. Do I have it wrong?

    Also could you be more specific about infowars? Like find an example of the zaniness over at that site and I’ll help correct you, if you want. So you know, that site references everything, it needs to be airtight, and the webmaster knows this. Unless you just want to stick with calling it truly lunatic.

  22. Herb I won’t pretend to have Sanford’s expertise, I wish he’d come on this board and talk I’m sure he knows about it.

    But from my viewpoint, Sanford is looking at one side of the equation; in his book at least.

    He’s saying the genome is falling apart, so therefore we are doomed to extinction. However the question is, then how did it build up to this complexity? The answer to this might mean we’re on a genetic program inputed by aliens or god or whatever. This is my viewpoint because I see no alternative. And seeing how man has been gifted so much superiority on this planet, maybe there’s another plan for us which isn’t extinction. Also I think by that time (didn’t he give it 1000 generation? Can’t remember), we could turn ourselves into robots if we needed to.

    I think I know why Sanford presented one side to this, but I won’t motive monger out of respect for him. And, who knows his underlying bias could be right!

  23. 10 Herb

    Sanford makes it quite clear in his book that it is impossible to stop the genome deteriorating even with genetic engineering. The mutations are occuring at least at the rate of 300 per generation; the great majority are silent or “neutral” but their effects add up.

    Genetic engineering in his view is futile.

  24. Nevermind David I don’t want to get into this.

  25. lamarck and mad doc,

    Thanks for the info! I would also like to see Dr Sanford post here.

  26. Just out of curiosity, Ms. O’Leary: According to your CV you are a Canadian Catholic. However, if one would only know your posts in which you don’t mention these facts one would assume that you are a US based protestant. So, how do your views fit with the official position of the Catholic Church? Or are your opinions closer to minoroty beliefs like Opus Dei or the Pius Brotherhood?

  27. 27

    sparc,

    ——”Just out of curiosity, Ms. O’Leary: According to your CV you are a Canadian Catholic. However, if one would only know your posts in which you don’t mention these facts one would assume that you are a US based protestant. So, how do your views fit with the official position of the Catholic Church? Or are your opinions closer to minoroty beliefs like Opus Dei or the Pius Brotherhood?”

    Just out of curiosity, are you an After The Bar Closes Atheist? How do your views fit with the official position of the Panda’s Thumb?

  28. 28

    David Kellogg,

    ——”This kind of manufactured concern is unhelpful.”

    For what? You always have some undefined program as to what isn’t being helped that you never specify when you claim things are “unhelpful”, and that is extremely unhelpful.

  29. 29

    David Kellogg,

    ——”Maybe I missed the abortion line in the Nicene creed.”

    Maybe you missed the common sense part of your reasoning. The Nicene Creed doesn’t say a lot of things, would that then make everything that it leaves out perfectly okay?

    Or maybe, as seems more likely, this is another snarky non-comment comment.

  30. This blog is being hi-jacked by the Darwin bigots. I think it is high time the moderators did some moderating.

  31. Getting back to the OP, it looks like several people at freerepublic are skeptical of Collins’ evangelical cred:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....0442/posts

    I’m surprised to see that Collins is in favor of human cloning! WTH kind of evangelical is that??

    And although I haven’t seen anyone say they’re satisfied with the choice of Collins, everyone thinks he is a lock for the job. Strange!

  32. David Kellogg (#12),

    You wrote:

    Maybe I missed the abortion line in the Nicene creed.

    The Nicene creed was composed in 325 A.D. Let me take you back even further, to 100 A.D., when the earliest Christian catechism was written. I’m referring to The Didache (mentioned in #16 above by Leslie), also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3, entry: “Didache”), this document is very ancient indeed:

    Although in the past many English and American scholars tended to assign it to the late second century, most scholars now place at some point during the mid to late first century.

    While the Didache didn’t actually make it into the New Testament Canon, it was held in very high regard by the early Church, and some parts of it were incorporated into The Apostolic Constitutions, an influential 4th-century Christian document, intended to serve as a manual of guidance for the clergy, and to some extent for the laity.

    Athanasius (the man to whom we owe the Nicene Creed) describes the Didache as “appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of goodness” [Festal Letter 39:7].

    Here is an excerpt from the Didache:

    1. There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.

    2. The way of life is this:” First, you shalt love the God who made thee, secondly, thy neighbor as thyself; and whatsoever thou wouldst not have done to thyself, do not thou to another.”

    3. Now, the teaching of these words is this: “Bless those that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those that persecute you. For what credit is it to you if you love those that love you? Do not even the heathen do the same?” But, for your part, “love those that hate you,” and you will have no enemy.

    4. “Abstain from carnal” and bodily “lusts.” “If any man smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also,” and thou wilt be perfect. “If any man impress thee to go with him one mile, go with him two. If any man take thy coat, give him thy shirt also. If any man will take from thee what is thine, refuse it not,” not even if thou canst.

    5. Give to everyone that asks thee, and do not refuse, for the Father’s will is that we give to all from the gifts we have received. Blessed is he that gives according to the mandate; for he is innocent; but he who receives it without need shall be tried as to why he took and for what, and being in prison he shall be examined as to his deeds, and “he shall not come out thence until he pay the last farthing.”

    6. But concerning this it was also said, “Let thine alms sweat into thine hands until thou knowest to whom thou art giving.”

    II
    1. But the second commandment of the teaching is this:

    2. “Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery”; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres [contraceptive potions - yes, they had them, even back in those days - VJT]; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods”;

    3. Thou shalt not commit perjury, “thou shall not bear false witness”; thou shalt not speak evil; thou shalt not bear malice.

    4. Thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued, for to be double-tongued is the snare of death.

    5. Thy speech shall not be false nor vain, but completed in action.

    6. Thou shalt not be covetous nor extortionate, nor a hypocrite, nor malignant, nor proud, thou shalt make no evil plan against thy neighbor.

    7. Thou shalt hate no man; but some thou shalt reprove, and for some shalt thou pray, and some thou shalt love more then thine own life. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    I don’t mean to criticize Fr. Francis Collins. However, if he does indeed maintain that aborting Down syndrome fetuses is sometimes morally justifiable, then clearly he is at odds with the teaching of the early Church, which was unrelenting in its opposition to both contraception and abortion (see also here and here ). Dr. Collins is also at odds with his hero, C. S. Lewis, who supported State assistance to help the mothers of children born out of wedlock, but opposed abortion:

    A correspondent asks Lewis if social planning by governments (rationing in time of war, free health care, and so on) is a bad idea because it ‘removes the natural consequences of sin’. Lewis says that removing the natural consequences of sin is a perfectly Christian thing to do, provided ‘the means by which you remove them are not in themselves another sin’.

    ‘It is merciful and Christian to remove the natural consequences of fornication by giving the girl a bed in a maternity ward and providing for the child’s upkeep and education, but wrong to remove them by abortion and infanticide.’

    (Excerpt from The Collected Letters of C.S Lewis Volume 3 (1950 – 1963) – A Few Brief Comments by Andrew Rilstone. Emphases mine – VJT.)

    I should add that shortly before the Council of Nicea, which composed the Nicene Creed, two Church councils condemned abortion:

    (1) The Synod of Elvira, held in Spain in 306 A.D: “If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, while her husband is absent, and after the act she destroys the child, it is proper to keep her from communion until death, because she has doubled her crime” (Canon 63).

    (2) The Synod of Ancyra, held in 314 A.D., condemned abortion (canon 21). The penalty was 10 years of penance.

    In 374 A.D. Basil the Great wrote, “Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years’ penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not” (First Canonical Letter, canon 2).

    Whatever you think of the early Church, the evidence that the early Christians were pro-life is overwhelming. Let’s not try to rewrite history.

  33. Typo!

    “I don’t mean to criticize Fr. Francis Collins”

    should read:

    “I don’t mean to criticize Dr. Francis Collins.”

  34. 34

    mad doc,

    If the Darwinists are respectful and adhere to Barry’s moderation policy, they can comment here, it’s an open forum for debate.

  35. mad doc,

    Calling them bigots lowers the level of discourse.

  36. herb (#10) complimented lamarck (#8) on a link to: “Last year, Dr. Eric R. Pianka gave a speech to the Texas Academy of Science in which he advocated the need to exterminate 90% of the population through the airborne ebola virus.>

    You wouldn’t happen to have the actual quote of what Dr. Pianka actually said, would you? (As opposed to what Forrest Mims and others say he said.)

  37. 37

    mad doc,

    Davem is right, calling them bigots does lower the level of discourse.

  38. You wouldn’t happen to have the actual quote of what Dr. Pianka actually said, would you? (As opposed to what Forrest Mims and others say he said.)

    Didn’t the Academy refuse to release a transcript of the event or videos?

  39. Paul Burnett,

    You wouldn’t happen to have the actual quote of what Dr. Pianka actually said, would you? (As opposed to what Forrest Mims and others say he said.)

    I don’t have a transcript of the actual speech he gave that day, but this page on Pianka’s website summarizes some of his views, and contains a written version of the speech. What’s clear is 1) He thinks the human population on earth is too large and 2) It’s likely that some sort of plague (HIV, ebola, whatever) will end up killing off a large number of humans.

    Unfortunately it appears there isn’t enough evidence to judge whether Mim’s account is accurate. Assuming what Mim’s wrote is not correct, however, what would his motive be for so drastically distorting the truth?

  40. 40

    I had written: “You wouldn’t happen to have the actual quote of what Dr. Pianka actually said, would you? (As opposed to what Forrest Mims and others say he said.)

    …and “tribune7″ helpfully responded: “Didn’t the Academy refuse to release a transcript of the event or videos?

    Proving precisely…what? The Academy released a statement saying that “Many of Dr. Pianka’s statements have been severely misconstrued and sensationalized.” – http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....emy-o.html

    After Dr. Dembski helpfully reported Dr. Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Pianka was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Can you guess what those investigations found? (Hint: Both Mims and Dembski are Fellows of the Discovery Institute.)

  41. Here is another newspaper article from a couple years ago about Pianka and his presentation

    http://seguingazette.com/story.....c8fcce3017

  42. There was a series of about 6-7 threads about Pianka on UD starting April 1, 2006.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ry-theory/

    If one goes to the archives you will be able to see all the threads.

  43. 43

    jerry (#42) wrote: “There was a series of about 6-7 threads about Pianka on UD starting April 1, 2006.

    For a somewhat different viewpoint on the Pianka incident, got to http://pandasthumb.org and enter “Pianka” in the SEARCH box in the upper right-hand corner.

  44. Apologies to all. Of course most people who believe in Darwninian evolution are not bigots at all and I was wrong to imply that and I apologise to those people in particular. It is however frustrating to see post after post combatting what seems to be just petty nit-pcking by Darwinists who’s sole objective seems to be to derail a thread.

  45. 45

    Mad Doc @ 42

    Yes, it appears what my dad used to tell me is true of people that want to get you to believe something that is nigh on incredulity.

    He said “if you can’t dazzle em with brilliance, baffle em with BS.

  46. 46
    CannuckianYankee

    Re Dr. Pianka

    I’ve read all the evidence presented on Dr. Pianka, and I don’t think there’s any real evidence to show that he advocates destroying 90% of the world’s population via Ebola. He clearly fears that if our population continues to grow at present rates, we will create a situation where Ebola could fester and destroy that many.

    I still find that he’s a bit odd:

    “…but I am greatly saddened by those who are anthropocentric and self-centered. What a sad life such people must lead, merely existing, without living up to their full potential as human beings! They don’t even understand how truly special humans really are! Many reject Darwin’s concept of natural selection outright, when they could understand so much more about the entire world around them if they’d only apply themselves. Tragic, indeed. It brings to mind Lord Balfour’s 1895 assertion that when we finally do go extinct “matter will know itself no longer!” This was over a Century ago, and here we are, still struggling around in the dark, in a state of arrogant ignorance! It’s downright pitiful.”

    He seems to contradict himself here: People are anthropocentric, and don’t understand how great they are? How does he glean human value from Darwinism?

  47. 47
    CannuckianYankee

    mad doc,

    “It is however frustrating to see post after post combatting what seems to be just petty nit-pcking by Darwinists who’s sole objective seems to be to derail a thread.”

    I really sympathize with your frustration, but I think the presence of contrary views helps us to strengthen our own understanding. Seeing the problems in others’ arguments helps us to see the problems in our own. If all we had here were ID supporters all we would be doing is agreeing with each other, and that would get rather boring real quick.

    I think the key is not to engage in negative discourse with anyone and present your views without resorting to attacking others. If we all did that (no matter what our particular POV), we would actually enlighten one another.

    Some people who come here are disrespectful, that’s obvious. But we don’t have to engage with them. That’s how we ourselves can moderate this forum – it’s not necessarily the responsibility of the official moderators.

  48. 48
    CannuckianYankee

    Re: Pianka,

    I think the only real statement of human value comes from scripture:

    “Fearfully and wonderfully made.”

    We are all special. I think if we had 6.5 billion more of us the world would be all the better, not the worse for it. It would force us to find ways to get along with each other. Then maybe we would find a real good reason to explore and develop the technology that would allow us to settle in other parts of our galaxy. Dr. Doom would benefit with a more positive outlook.

  49. Genome mapper Francis Collins, picked to head NIH, touted as evangelical. Is that fair to either side?

    No, of course not.

    Everything here points to hypocrisy toward both sides—but the hypocrisy benefits the one (the side of obfuscation) and harms the other (traditional morality). The man should not be confirmed on account of his rabid Darwinism, and also because he muddles matters.

    One thing Collins clarifies: The sad state of religion.

    One can understand why the culture of death would not want to speak clearly. But why are supposed traditionalists so eager to accomodate the adversary?

  50. 50
    CannuckianYankee

    Rude,

    “But why are supposed traditionalists so eager to accomodate the adversary?”

    Because we believe that claiming to be an evangelical makes it so?

  51. 51
    CannuckianYankee

    And because we don’t read our scriptures. We might remember vaguely something about wolves, sheep and clothing, but it escapes us.

  52. I want to respond to a couple of things in this thread.

    First, herb (#31) said, “I’m surprised to see that Collins is in favor of human cloning! WTH kind of evangelical is that??”

    In the simple terms in which your question is phrased, herb, my response is that Collins is dead against human cloning — as that term is usually understood, at least. I will quote a passage from “The Language of God,” pp. 254-5:

    “Scientists, ethicists, theologians, and lawmakers are essentially unanimous that reproductive cloning of a human being should not be undertaken under any circumstances. While a major reason for this stance is based on strong moral and theological objections to making human copies in this unnatural way, other major objections are based upon safety considerations, since reproductive cloning of every other mammal has been shown to be an incredibly inefficient and disaster-prone effort, with most clones resulting in miscarriage or early infant death. … Given those conclusions, it would be entirely appropriate to demand that the product of a human somatic cell nuclear transfer never be implanted into the womb of a host mother.”

    The more difficult question for Collins — and (I would suggest) for almost anyone else as well, regardless of one’s moral philosophy — has to do with what is often called “therapeutic cloning,” which is not at all the same thing. Whether that is morally objectionable depends on a lot things, including whether one believes that the products of such procedures are fully human. I’m not trying to be tricky here, but using the term “fully human,” I simply mean to get at this type of thing: is a human hair follicle fully human, in the same sense in which you and your parents are fully human?

    Whatever one may think about the answer(s) to such questions, I do think it’s fair to ask them, and fair even to allow evangelicals room to disagree about which answer(s) are theologically acceptable. As Collins says at the end of this part of his book (257), “Anyone who portrays this issue as a simple battle between belief and atheism does a disservice to the complexity of the issues.”

    I don’t see that specific kind of distortion in your question, herb, either implicitly or explicitly, but I wanted to close this comment with that point b/c it’s worth noting on all sides.

  53. I also want to respond to two of Denyse’s posts, which I merge together as follows:

    “The jury’s out on whether Collins – or anyone – advances the cause of Christ. I want to hear whether evangelical leaders think that his views on human life qualify him to be the evangelical icon (as the “wise Latina” Sotomayor is a Latino icon) that he is currently touted to be.

    If they say yes, fine. Otherwise, we have a fark on our hands.

    I want to know, do evangelicals agree that he’s their token rep, in a political world where, like it or not, being a token rep matters?”

    ***

    I agree with Denyse that the jury is still out on whether he will be accepted as the “token rep” of evangelicals, in the context of this issue — and also (I would say) on issues pertaining to evolution.

    In his personal life and story, as well as the fact that he has made his life and story a public matter in his book and speeches, no doubt (IMO) Collins “advances the cause of Christ.” I take it Denyse was referring more specifically to his views on bioethics. Some of the rhetoric I see about Collins, and not just the rhetoric of the past few days surrounding his nomination, says two quite different, nearly contradictory, things. (1) He’s stupid, or at best incoherent or inconsistent, even though he’s a world-class scientist {which makes it hard to make the “stupid” part stick), b/c he believes in miracles such as the resurrection, and b/c he believes that a “conversion experience” can be a genuine encounter with a “supernatural” creator. In short, he’s too serious about his religious faith; indeed, he oughtn’t have religious faith at all. (2) He’s not a very good example of a serious Christian, b/c he thinks the evidence for human evolution is far too strong to be rejected and b/c he isn’t “pro-life,” as defined by those who use that term the most. One could respond to this combination of claims in various ways, but I’ll respond simply with a comment and a question. The comment: it might be time for some folks to get some new boxes in which to place people. The question (for Collins’ critics on the religious side): whom would you rather have had leading the genome project — Collins, or his predecessor (the illustrious racial and religious bigot, James Watson)? And, whom would you rather have leading the NIH? (I leave this one open for suggestions that would be realistic in the current administration)

    I return now to the “token rep” thing, concerning Collins’ influence on evangelicals. Collins is of course hardly the only Christian scientist who holds a certain set of views and attitudes about science and religion, generally but vaguely labeled “theistic evolution.” A number of others write about this more thoughtfully and more carefully (an obvious example is Polkinghorne, whose two latest books I am currently reviewing for “First Things”), but none are as visible as Collins for various reasons. He’s used his notoriety as a bully pulpit, but with a big difference from a lot of other religious scientists over the past century. I am thinking here of people like Nobel laureates Robert Millikan and Arthur Compton, who both wrote far more about science & science religion than Collins has written and who were both of comparable notoriety in terms of the attention they got from the media. (There are others in this category, I’ll stick with these two here.) Both Millikan and Compton were known as very active, church-going men who believed that science and religion are completely compatible, yet neither one believed in the divinity of Jesus or the bodily resurrection. (Both were effectively Unitarians, though Compton was a Presbyterian elder.) Collins however believes in the incarnation and resurrection, among many other traditional beliefs that I could mention. This doesn’t necessarily make him an “evangelical,” though he might be an evangelical. But it does make him a breath of fresh air — and a very important one, given his notoriety. When Dawkins and others try to paint him into a corner on the basis of his beliefs, they run the considerable risk of creating some doubt about their credibility. And, that’s a good thing. It’s good, IMO, for evangelicals to pay attention to him — good to have his visible example, very good to read him instead of Ken Ham, and excellent to believe him instead of Dawkins.

    There is some evidence that Collins might be very influential indeed on evangelicals. First, his book has now sold about a quarter million copies in three years — a long way yet from Dawkins, but not bad. Second, some very important evangelical leaders are starting to listen to Collins and others whose ideas are similar to his — people such as Os Guiness, Rick Warren, Andy Crouch, and Tim Keller, and influential organizations such as Regent College, the Trinity Forum, Asbury Seminary and the Fermi Project. As Denyse says, the jury is still out, but this isn’t just blowing smoke. A lot of evangelicals are looking for some alternatives to Dawkins and Answers In Genesis, and whatever else one may say about him, Collins absolutely represents an alternative.

  54. Well, Ted Davis, now you do have me scared.

    Better in my book to have clarity. I have absolutely no use for these holy types who know in advance what God wouldn’t do, and who so piously preach that any design detection in nature is scientifically and theologically illegal.

    I’m no evangelical but I do hate to see that community taken for fools.

  55. Rude:

    There is something to be said for clarity — it’s one of the things I like most about Polkinghorne (for example). But in some areas clarity is clearly not very easy to obtain. Perhaps it’s better to be clearly wrong than to be clearly unclear about how to adjudicate a particularly hard issue. Clearly, we differ on that.

    Evangelicals are no fools, but we have not always made the most thoughtful decisions when it comes to science. For more on this, see http://evanevodialogue.blogspo.....emics.html

    As for Collins and design detection, Rude, his views are not as hard and fixed as you implicitly state them. For example, see what he says at http://biologos.org/questions/fine-tuning/

    Like many other Christian scientists, he’s worried (I believe with some justification) that many common design arguments run the risk of being “god of the gaps” arguments. I realize that most folks here don’t think that ID (at least ID as usually presented, ID that is aimed at “Darwinism” in biology) falls foul of that — or, they may think that it’s a risk worth taking. This is something on which people might fairly differ. I’m more open myself to “design” arguments about biological complexity than Collins is, but I do think that this type of concern can be well placed.

    John Lennox, the Oxford mathematician who has successfully debated Dawkins, might be an ID supporter (I think he probably is). His essay, “Intelligent Design: Some Critical Reflections on the Current Debate,” in Robert Stewart’s book, “Intelligent Design: William Dembski and Michael Ruse in Dialogue,” is well worth reading. Lennox accepts design arguments from irreducible complexity, but quite cautiously: he “takes such reasoning and the concomitant charge of intellectual laziness that is often leveled at God of the Gaps-type arguments very seriously indeed,” and he prioritizes more general design arguments (of the type given by Collins and Polkinghorne, I would point out) over the kinds of arguments often advanced here.

  56. Article said:
    “He’s a favorite church speaker with Evangelical audiences, especially on how Darwinism poses no threat to their faith.”

    Actually- he’s stirring-up trouble for evangelicals, because Collins fully accepts evolution while most evangelicals reject it (evangelicals reject macroevolution, Collins accepts it all).

    As for CS Lewis being against evolution… check out the last chapter of “Mere Christianity” (maybe his most famous Christian theology work) where CS Lewis uses evolution as an analogy for understanding the spiritual world, the gospel, etc. It is an awesome analogy, and puts evolution in a positive light.

    But I think if Collins accepts the government post, he should fold his ministry; he should do one or the other, not both. Just as Christians don’t want to see atheist evangelist Dawkins as head of such a thing, it is fair that atheists don’t want to see a Christian evangelist/apologist doing the same thing. Also- too much temptation for compromise on both politics and religion when playing them both… reminding me of this quote:

    “Every preacher ought to be primarily a prophet of God who preaches as God bids him, without regard to results. When he becomes conscious of the fact that he is a leader in his own church or denomination, he has reached a crisis in his ministry. He must now choose one of two courses, that of prophet of God or a leader of men. If he seeks to be a prophet and a leader, he is apt to make a failure of both. If he decides to be a prophet only insofar as he can do without losing his leadership, he becomes a diplomat and ceases to be a prophet at all. If he decides to maintain leadership at all costs, he may easily fall to the level of a politician who pulls the wires in order to gain or hold a position.” (H. C. A. Dixon, A. C. Dixon [New York: Putnam’s, 1931], p. 277)

  57. 57

    I am a evangelical Christian and don’t judge this man’s faith.
    Yet the bible is clearly opposed to Darwinism as can be. does collins deny the flood story? This would affect biogeography.
    Its not the place of evangelicals to bring these issues up at confirmation hearings as the author here says.
    Its possible this is a attempt of the Obama crowd to shut up the religious right and so have no actual opposition of serious motives against the first African president.
    The rest are scared pale.

  58. If you want Collins’ views on the flood, Mr Byers, you can find them at http://biologos.org/questions/genesis-flood/. Let me note that there’s nothing particularly novel or startling in his position, IMO. After about 1860 or perhaps slightly later, nearly all evangelical scientists and clergy found it hard or impossible to accept the traditional interpretation of a single, worldwide flood that had drowned every animal and human being that wasn’t on the ark. The claim that the flood was responsible for virtually all fossils, for example, did not have the currency it has presently among fundamentalists and some evangelicals. That has been true only in the aftermath of the publication of “The Genesis Flood,” by Whitcomb and Morris, in 1961. And, it’s probably still true that most evangelical clergy and scientists today do not agree with Whitcomb and Morris. On the flood, Collins’ views are absolutely mainstream among evangelicals who write or teach about this.

    This morning, Cal Thomas gave a ringing endorsement to Collins as nominee for the NIH. http://www.calthomas.com/index.php?news=2651
    So, I can add Thomas to the list already given of evangelical leaders who are listening to him.

    If I may add something that relates indirectly to this thread (on ways of relating science and faith): The magazine “First Things” has a web site called “On the Square,” (a reference to their late editor Richard John Neuhaus, author of “The Naked Public Square”) which has just published my review of two new books by John Polkinghorne. It’s freely available at http://www.firstthings.com/ont.....lkinghorne. I see Collins as pretty similar to Polkinghorne, although he is not nearly as sophisticated in his writings about science & religion. That is no criticism of Collins; Polkinghorne is close to being in a league of his own.

    Ted

  59. From my reading on this site a Darwinist is not only someone who accepts evolution but who also accepts Metaphysical or Philosophical Naturalism.

    From wikipedia slightly modified:

    Metaphysical naturalism characterizes any worldview in which reality is such that there is nothing but the natural things, forces, and causes of the kind that the natural sciences study, More specifically metaphysical naturalism rejects the objective existence of any supernatural thing, force or cause, such as are described in humanity’s various religions.

    Having read Francis Collin,s book it is very clear to me that he does not accept Philosophical Naturalism although he does accept evolution as the mechanism used by God to produce life on this planet. From Ted’s reference to BioLogus it is clear that Collin’s see’s God as having been active in at least the initial conditions and constants of our universe, what one might call lower case “id”.

    IMO there needs to be acceptance of the fact that affirmation of evolution does not necessarily entail Philosophical Naturalism. Personally I differ from Collin’s in that I think the evolution of complex biological features is something that may or may not be true, the jury is still out. As someone from the reformed tradition I see all of nature as being under God’s control and direction although I am not convinced that such is scientifically detectable. If God needed to perform some act beyond his normal upholding of the laws of nature at the start of life and in the development of irreducibly complex features of life, then so be it.

    Collin’s may not be all you want but is the glass half empty or half full?

    Dave Wallace

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