Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Francis Collins, class act

Apparently, my first year of medical school was the first year in which Francis Collins didn't teach M1s medical genetics at the University of Michigan, so I never got to meet the guy. He was too firmly entrenched as director of the genome project by then, and while I'm sure lecturing me on genetics would be his second greatest achievement, honing his ninja genetics skillz at NIH makes sense too.

Collins is also famous as an evangelical Christian who makes a lot of sense when he talks. There aren't a lot of those on the national stage, and not a lot of them in the scientific community with voices loud enough to be heard.

So, some have asked, doesn't your brain explode? Can you both pursue an understanding of how life works using the tools of genetics and molecular biology, and worship a creator God? Aren't evolution and faith in God incompatible? Can a scientist believe in miracles like the resurrection?

Actually, I find no conflict here, and neither apparently do the 40 percent of working scientists who claim to be believers. Yes, evolution by descent from a common ancestor is clearly true. If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things.
This is a guy who is obviously interested in cutting out the bullshit. I'd like to think that it's the bullshit, and not religion itself, that scares away intellectuals and scientists.

As an almost formal rule, I don't really talk about my personal religious beliefs with anyone nowadays. I hadn't really thought about that fact, but the last time I can remember even trying to have a discussion of what I believed was during my first year of medical school.

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