How did I miss this? Science and religion together, as it should be.


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July 14, 2009 8:41 PM
New détente in science-religion war?

Last week, President Barack Obama announced his nomination of geneticist and physician Francis Collins as the new director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government organisation that funds medical research in the US. The appointment has sparked a flurry of mixed reactions across the country, largely because Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, is an outspoken evangelical Christian.

Collins is a staunch supporter of evolution and a highly-respected scientist who is responsible for the discovery of genes responsible for several diseases, including cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's and adult onset diabetes. He is also the author of The Language of God: A scientist presents evidence for belief (Simon & Schuster, 2006) and recently the founder of the BioLogos foundation, which aims to reconcile science and religion by promoting "theistic evolution" - the idea that God chose to create life by way of evolution.

Some see Obama's decision to appoint Collins as an attempt to negotiate peace between science and religion. "Was this the administration's primary reason for picking Collins?" asks Dan Gilgoff in US News and World Report. "No way. But Collins's religious side is much too central to his work nowadays for the White House not to have noticed." Indeed, the White House press statement mentions that "Dr. Collins has a longstanding interest in the interface between science and faith."

"Rare among world-class scientists, Collins is also a born-again Christian, which may help him build bridges with those who view some gene-based research as a potential threat to religious values," writes David Brown in the Washington Post.

At the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning political think tank, Sally Steenland writes, "Obama's nomination of Francis Collins to head the National Institutes of Health is good news for scientists, for people of faith, and for all Americans... It signals that the hyped conflict between science and religion has no place, either symbolically or pragmatically, in the work of the Obama administration. Suddenly, the war between religion and science seems so 'last century'."

In a New York Times article, Gardiner Harris reports that "Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field complain about what they see as Dr. Collins's evangelism."

"Do those complaining think that his 'evangelism' will affect his ability to do a good job at NIH?" journalist Chris Mooney asks on his blog, The Intersection. "Because if not, I fail to see how this is a relevant criticism."
Original Post
quote:
Originally posted by LMM:
How did I miss this? Science and religion together, as it should be.


"As it should be"? Seriously?

Science is and should remain firmly agnostic. The instant the supernatural is inserted into science, it becomes pseudoscience and makes a mockery of the scientific method.

That said, who gives a dang what his political or religions views are? All we should care about is his ability to perform good science. I have some doubts that an "evangelical" Christian can be head of an organization dedicated to science. In fact, I just can't wrap my head around someone that is "evangelical" and a renowned scientists. The two modes of thinking are simply incompatible in my humble opinion.

. . . OK, I just Googled the guy and his religious views seem more in line with agnosticism or deism a view that I once shared. That isn't "evangelical" as I know the term. Perhaps I am guilty of assuming an "evangelical" is a bible-thumping literalistic, bloviator that stands on the corner condemning people to hell.
Yeah? Well, I condemn people to bad beer and stinky cigars, especially if they can't accept that science and religion can peacefully coexist. Religion has one place, science has another. As long as they respect their individual roles in society, things move along harmoniously. Besides, tempering science with religion would not necessarily make it pseudoscience; it just might make it a useful tool for the betterment of our world.

Just not too much; keep the delicate balance.
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Originally posted by zippadeedoodah:
tempering science with religion would not necessarily make it pseudoscience;


Yeah but with what version of religion? Fundamentalism? Bad. Very bad. Deism? Perfectly, 100% OK by me.

The gray area is debatable. For isntance, I don't think you can be evangelical Baptist and support the scientific method. Methodist? Probably so. Catholic? Probably. Jehovah witness? Heyul no.

So, I agree with you mostly, Zippy, but if it gets boring around here, I might pick a fight anyway. Wink
Has anyone read Collin's book? I've read excerpts, the parts where he gives reasons for his beliefs. Looking at a frozen waterfall and weeping at its beauty, or the stained glass in a cathedral, etc. isn't good evidence.

He's no doubt a brilliant scientist and it is practically impossible to question his credentials. That's not the problem. The problem is his philosophy.

===========================================================

July 27, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
Science Is in the Details
By SAM HARRIS

PRESIDENT OBAMA has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. It would seem a brilliant choice. Dr. Collins’s credentials are impeccable: he is a physical chemist, a medical geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project. He is also, by his own account, living proof that there is no conflict between science and religion. In 2006, he published “The Language of God,” in which he claimed to demonstrate “a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony” between 21st-century science and evangelical Christianity.

Dr. Collins is regularly praised by secular scientists for what he is not: he is not a “young earth creationist,” nor is he a proponent of “intelligent design.” Given the state of the evidence for evolution, these are both very good things for a scientist not to be.

But as director of the institutes, Dr. Collins will have more responsibility for biomedical and health-related research than any person on earth, controlling an annual budget of more than $30 billion. He will also be one of the foremost representatives of science in the United States. For this reason, it is important that we understand Dr. Collins and his faith as they relate to scientific inquiry.

What follows are a series of slides, presented in order, from a lecture on science and belief that Dr. Collins gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008:

Slide 1: “Almighty God, who is not limited in space or time, created a universe 13.7 billion years ago with its parameters precisely tuned to allow the development of complexity over long periods of time.”

Slide 2: “God’s plan included the mechanism of evolution to create the marvelous diversity of living things on our planet. Most especially, that creative plan included human beings.”

Slide 3: “After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced ‘house’ (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the moral law), with free will, and with an immortal soul.”

Slide 4: “We humans used our free will to break the moral law, leading to our estrangement from God. For Christians, Jesus is the solution to that estrangement.”

Slide 5: “If the moral law is just a side effect of evolution, then there is no such thing as good or evil. It’s all an illusion. We’ve been hoodwinked. Are any of us, especially the strong atheists, really prepared to live our lives within that worldview?”

Why should Dr. Collins’s beliefs be of concern?

There is an epidemic of scientific ignorance in the United States. This isn’t surprising, as very few scientific truths are self-evident, and many are counterintuitive. It is by no means obvious that empty space has structure or that we share a common ancestor with both the housefly and the banana. It can be difficult to think like a scientist. But few things make thinking like a scientist more difficult than religion.

Dr. Collins has written that science makes belief in God “intensely plausible” — the Big Bang, the fine-tuning of nature’s constants, the emergence of complex life, the effectiveness of mathematics, all suggest the existence of a “loving, logical and consistent” God.

But when challenged with alternative accounts of these phenomena — or with evidence that suggests that God might be unloving, illogical, inconsistent or, indeed, absent — Dr. Collins will say that God stands outside of Nature, and thus science cannot address the question of his existence at all.

Similarly, Dr. Collins insists that our moral intuitions attest to God’s existence, to his perfectly moral character and to his desire to have fellowship with every member of our species. But when our moral intuitions recoil at the casual destruction of innocents by, say, a tidal wave or earthquake, Dr. Collins assures us that our time-bound notions of good and evil can’t be trusted and that God’s will is a mystery.

Most scientists who study the human mind are convinced that minds are the products of brains, and brains are the products of evolution. Dr. Collins takes a different approach: he insists that at some moment in the development of our species God inserted crucial components — including an immortal soul, free will, the moral law, spiritual hunger, genuine altruism, etc.

As someone who believes that our understanding of human nature can be derived from neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science and behavioral economics, among others, I am troubled by Dr. Collins’s line of thinking. I also believe it would seriously undercut fields like neuroscience and our growing understanding of the human mind. If we must look to religion to explain our moral sense, what should we make of the deficits of moral reasoning associated with conditions like frontal lobe syndrome and psychopathy? Are these disorders best addressed by theology?

Dr. Collins has written that “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” and that “the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted.”

One can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the institutes of health. After all, understanding human well-being at the level of the brain might very well offer some “answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” — questions like, Why do we suffer? Or, indeed, is it possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself? And wouldn’t any effort to explain human nature without reference to a soul, and to explain morality without reference to God, necessarily constitute “atheistic materialism”?

Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination. Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?

Sam Harris is the author of “The End of Faith” and co-founder of the Reason Project, which promotes scientific knowledge and secular values.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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Has anyone read Collin's book? I've read excerpts, the parts where he gives reasons for his beliefs. Looking at a frozen waterfall and weeping at its beauty, or the stained glass in a cathedral, etc. isn't good evidence.

He's no doubt a brilliant scientist and it is practically impossible to question his credentials. That's not the problem. The problem is his philosophy.



I agree, a frozen waterfall isn't necessarily good evidence of the existence of a higher power. That wasn't what Collins was saying. It wasn't an instant moment where he suddenly found God, but a moment that came after a long time of questioning and searching that helped things become clear for him.

As for Sam Harris' article, he has every right to his opinion. However, to judge Collin's because of his religious beliefs is no different than for a Christian to condemn someone because of their lack of belief. Dr. Collins has proven himself in the scientific and academic community. The fact that he doesn't agree with Harris on the issue of God has nothing to do with whether or not he is capable of performing his new duties.

Harris' article basically proves this statement from Tim Keller correct.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOusFD9PnsA
quote:
Originally posted by NashBama:
quote:
Has anyone read Collin's book? I've read excerpts, the parts where he gives reasons for his beliefs. Looking at a frozen waterfall and weeping at its beauty, or the stained glass in a cathedral, etc. isn't good evidence.

He's no doubt a brilliant scientist and it is practically impossible to question his credentials. That's not the problem. The problem is his philosophy.



I agree, a frozen waterfall isn't necessarily good evidence of the existence of a higher power. That wasn't what Collins was saying. It wasn't an instant moment where he suddenly found God, but a moment that came after a long time of questioning and searching that helped things become clear for him.

As for Sam Harris' article, he has every right to his opinion. However, to judge Collin's because of his religious beliefs is no different than for a Christian to condemn someone because of their lack of belief. Dr. Collins has proven himself in the scientific and academic community. The fact that he doesn't agree with Harris on the issue of God has nothing to do with whether or not he is capable of performing his new duties.

Harris' article basically proves this statement from Tim Keller correct.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOusFD9PnsA


Nash, I noticed Keller didn't actually address or refute any material he criticized. He can ramble on until the Bills win the SuperBowl, but he needs to be specific and show some evidence. He needs to tell us why they're wrong.

As for Collins, no one is questioning his credentials, it is his philosophy, his operating system. As I've pointed out before, one can be quite educated and still have irrational beliefs. Like Muslim scholars.

Regards
quote:
Originally posted by 8I:
quote:
Originally posted by NashBama:
quote:
Has anyone read Collin's book? I've read excerpts, the parts where he gives reasons for his beliefs. Looking at a frozen waterfall and weeping at its beauty, or the stained glass in a cathedral, etc. isn't good evidence.

He's no doubt a brilliant scientist and it is practically impossible to question his credentials. That's not the problem. The problem is his philosophy.



I agree, a frozen waterfall isn't necessarily good evidence of the existence of a higher power. That wasn't what Collins was saying. It wasn't an instant moment where he suddenly found God, but a moment that came after a long time of questioning and searching that helped things become clear for him.

As for Sam Harris' article, he has every right to his opinion. However, to judge Collin's because of his religious beliefs is no different than for a Christian to condemn someone because of their lack of belief. Dr. Collins has proven himself in the scientific and academic community. The fact that he doesn't agree with Harris on the issue of God has nothing to do with whether or not he is capable of performing his new duties.

Harris' article basically proves this statement from Tim Keller correct.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOusFD9PnsA


Nash, I noticed Keller didn't actually address or refute any material he criticized. He can ramble on until the Bills win the SuperBowl, but he needs to be specific and show some evidence. He needs to tell us why they're wrong.

As for Collins, no one is questioning his credentials, it is his philosophy, his operating system. As I've pointed out before, one can be quite educated and still have irrational beliefs. Like Muslim scholars.

Regards


It's only a three minute video. Keller has written quite a bit refuting the authors he mentioned.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ...ativeASIN=0525950494

There is a number of other books by various other authors that also point out the flaws in their arguments. To refute a book requires a book, it can't be done in a three minute sound bite.

Even though I don't agree with the atheistic viewpoint, I don't consider it in itself as irrational. Irrationality comes when emotion supersedes logic. It's a trait shared by both Christians and atheists alike.

If you've listened or read anything by William Lane Craig, you'll notice that his arguments are made using logic and reason. You may disagree with his views, but I think we both can agree that his approach is on the intellectual level, not emotional. Irrationality is more due to the individuals emotions, not the group as a whole.
quote:
If you've listened or read anything by William Lane Craig, you'll notice that his arguments are made using logic and reason.


Since you obviously have, would you care to give one single example of a rational logical argument for the existence of your particular god?

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