Scientists who are believers – the corrupting influence of religion on rational thought

It is fascinating to me that some scientists hold religious beliefs. Now to be sure, the majority of scientists do not hold any belief in the supernatural. However, sometimes we see religious beliefs corrupting rational thought in some of the most preeminent scientists. Take Francis Collins as an example. Dr. Collins led the Human Genome Project and is now the head of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins is also a former atheist who is now a born-again Christian.

In an interview with CNN, Dr. Collins outlined the reason for his conversion to Christinsanity and his belief in a personal god. In the interview Dr. Collins indicated that he started questioning his atheism when he switched from physics to medicine. At approximately 1:50 minutes into the clip below he states that when he first began to explore the question of whether there is a god he set out to find the rigorous arguments that he assumed were there to disprove the existence of God.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml0FqyFYfrU]

Believe it or not this is a person who is holding one of the most prestigious positions in all of science. Apparently Dr. Collins has left all of his scientific training and rigour at the altar of Christinsanity. Dr. Collins’ scientific ‘sin’ was that he did not set out to examine the evidence for the god claim, as he would for any other claim. You see in science the onus is on the person making a claim to provide evidence in support of the claim. The reviewer/critic reviews the evidence prevented before them to determine the merit of the claim. There is in fact a formal process of hypothesis testing utilizing the gathering of data and statistical analyses, which Dr. Collins will be quite familiar with. But of course this formal process cannot be applied in this instance as there is in fact no evidence for the existence of god, and all we are left with is to take the supposition of a personal god on faith. Dr. Collins admits as much as he often acknowledges that he cannot prove his claim of a personal god. In fact he has written an entire book, “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief”, conveying this very message. I read Dr. Collins’ book, and as far as I can tell the evidence for god boils down to, well, you just have to believe. I can’t imagine Dr. Collins reviewing a scientific paper bereft of evidence and giving it his stamp of approval because he couldn’t come up with evidence to counter the claim. He would toss that paper immediately into the trash, and rightly so.

Dr. Collins also commits another grievous scientific ‘sin’. At 2:17 minutes into the clip, Dr. Collins provides insight into why he adopted Christinsanity. He acknowledges that all human beings have an inherent sense of right and wrong. He finds that fact curious and asks “Where does that come from?”. He goes on to ask “If you were looking for evidence of a god who cares about human beings…wouldn’t this be an interesting place to find him?” Never mind the tautological reasoning there. What the real scientific ‘sin’ in that statement is that because he doesn’t understand something, then it must be god – a god-of-the-gaps conclusion. I only thought creationists take that approach. And, oh by they way, why one god? And why the Christian god? How, and by what process, does Dr. Collins distinguish the explanatory power of the Christian god from among all of the possible gods that have ever been dreamt up by humankind? After all, they each have the same amount of supporting evidence.

As an aside – why is it always ‘him’ when the believers refer to god? It’s a rhetorical question – it is always ‘him’ because god is a creation of men.

When Dr. Collins is wearing his rational hat as a scientist he would never let these weak arguments for an outlandish claim slide, and neither should we even when (particularly when?) they are made by a preeminent scientist.

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