The Poisoning of an American (Scientific) Mind

In a previous post I wrote about the how religion can poison even some of the best scientific minds. The example I used was the Head of the Human Genome Project, and present Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins. Well folks, Dr. Collins continues on his misguided mission to reconcile religion and science.

The Huffington Post conducted an interview with Dr. Collins at the Davos Annual Meeting where the topic was the connection between science and faith.

One of the topics covered in the interview is that there is a great deal of public disquiet with regard to the theory of evolution in the United States . Presumably Dr. Collins was referring to the general public and not the scientific community. In a recent PewResearch survey of over 2,500 scientists, 87% of polled scientists indicated that “Think that humans, and other living things have evolved due to natural processes”. This stands in stark contrast to the 32% of the general public (approximately 2000 adults were polled) that believe that humans evolved by natural processes. We clearly need to do a better job of educating the general public.

In any case, during the interview, Dr. Collins is quoted as saying:

For me, somebody who is a ‘show me the data’ kind of scientist, but also a believer, I don’t see a discordance there.

Really? The first half of the sentence is contradicted by the second half of the sentence, yet Dr. Collins does not perceive ‘discordance there’. He is a ‘show me the data’ scientist yet does not apply this same criterion to his religious belief. In his book “The Language of God” he makes an extraordinary leap in conjoining his science and his faith – he claims that DNA is the language of God without providing any morsel of evidence.

If you read his book, you will quickly see that for him religion provides emotional comfort. In fact, in the Huffington post interview we can see this as well.

In fact it enriches my experience, each basically harmonized with the other. It gives you a view of life that is actually quite satisfying, and not in any way in conflict.

Further on in the interview he states:

There all kinds of ways of knowing. Medicine and medical research by its nature tires to understand how things work but it doesn’t explain why. To answer questions of why we are here, what’s the meaning of life I think one needs other means of approaching those and science isn’t all that helpful in that regard.

Oh? Dr. Collins is espousing the same old canard that science can answer the ‘how’ questions but that it takes religion to answer the ‘why’ questions. That’s right folks, the head of the most prestigious research organization in the world looks towards an invisible sky god for answers to questions he thinks are impervious to scientific inquiry. Let’s take it for the moment that science cannot answer the ‘why’ questions. Can Dr. Collins demonstrate a formal system which can be used to determine the information value (truth, if you will) of the myriad religious claims floating about in the ether? We have such a system in science – it is called the scientific method. Show me a system similar to the scientific method for discriminating truth from fiction in religion and I will take this idea (how vs. why) more seriously.

I would like to ask Dr. Collins which particular religion has the correct answers to the ‘why’ questions? I am guessing that his answer would be the Christian religion (though this constitutes a set of religions with some significant differences in dogma), as this is the religion to which he belongs. My next question would be what method(s) he used to determine that this particular (set of) religion(s) offers up the truth to the why questions.

Dr. Collins is not alone in falling prey to the poison of religion. Here are some other eminent scientists who have drank the religion kool-aid.

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