Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Francis Collins: DO NOT WANT.

Poor Francis Collins. 48 hours ago, dude was just hanging out, minding his own business, and then Dr. Fr*mer got it into his head to make a post on Collins, and now the poor guy is in the new 'Topic' on SciBlogs. The Topic can be summarized thusly:
I dont want him for an official presidential/political adviser either. And not just because he was dumb enough to be impressed by C.S. Lewis.

Scientifically-- Maybe it was/is because he is working through government channels, but he was/is always playing second fiddle to someone else: Craig Venter. Venter sequenced the human genome faster and with less money. Venter is the driving force behind sequencing microbiomes of the human body, sequencing everything we can find in a bucket of seawater, sequencing more and more human genomes to better define/identify/treat human diseases-- Hack the Planet-- Sequence Everything. As a scientist, I admire innovation and ballsiness. I dont see that from Collins.

Politically--
Does anybody see anything wrong with this statement?

SUSAN DENTZER: For all of the wonderful things that could come out of knowing one's genetic makeup in terms of being able to identify diseases in the future and perhaps new therapies for them, obviously many people remain concerned that their genetic material will be used against them.

FRANCIS COLLINS: Yes. So, I think we all have a sense that genetics can be pretty powerful stuff. Powerful in a good way in the sense that we could use this approach to unravel mysteries of diseases and come up with cures for conditions that we currently don't really quite know how to treat. But potentially powerful in a more frightening way, where this kind of information might get used against you to discriminate, to take away your health insurance or your job, or perhaps used in other ways that violate privacy...
Hey, Collins, I got an idea for ya! Hey, what about universal health care?? Say we find a genetic marker for juvenile diabetes or breast cancer. If you dont have to worry about insurance dropping you, you can keep an eye on your 6 year old daughter to watch for signs of diabetes before she goes into diabetic shock at the park. You can start giving a patient mammograms earlier, just in case tumors do develop, and maybe save her breasts. OMG! Happier, healthier patients! Suddenly, better diagnoses and healthier patients arent a SCARY thing because youve taken 'insurance' out of the picture.

Why didnt Collins think of this?

Why was his reaction "OMG STOP SCIENCE!!" and not "OMG STOP PRIVATE INSURANCE!!"? I do not ever want someone in the White House who thinks the answer to a political problem with science is STOP SCIENCE. Ever.

Which leads to my final reason why Collins should not, cannot, be in a political position for science: he is afraid of science. Let me finish the above quote for you:
But potentially powerful in a more frightening way, where this kind of information might get used against you to discriminate, to take away your health insurance or your job, or perhaps used in other ways that violate privacy...or in some way begin to lessen what it means to be human in the full sense of the word by moving us in the direction where everything about us is viewed as being hard-wired as part of our DNA, taking away all of the wonderful aspects of who we are as human beings.
DO NOT WANT.

We cant sequence everyones genome because people might start being materialists? Everyone might stop with that 'Mind-Body-Spirit' crap? What?

We cannot have a science adviser who is afraid of genetics. We cant have a science adviser that is afraid of embryonic stem cell research. We need a science adviser that understands the publics fears about these topics and can address them accordingly, like we did in Missouri with our stem-cell initiative in 2006. You would think the birth-mother of the fr*ming crap would understand that.

17 comments:

G said...

If the best rationalization for God that this guy can find comes from the same guy who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia I wouldn't want him as an adviser for anything, let alone science. How sad.

Joe said...

"Why was his reaction 'OMG STOP SCIENCE!!' "

He said that? I read his entire answer to Susan's question and didn't see him say anything about stopping science.

Tyler DiPietro said...

I think the point is the Luddistic tone of his reaction. When he talks about the potential bad consequences of genomic sequencing, especially the notion of "lessening the sense of what it means to be human" (a classic spiritualist canard), it betrays an anti-science impulse.

And given his position on stem cell research and ludicrous claim that "when life begins" is a "religious question", we know that these exist elsewhere. He favors a method of research primarily because it jibes with his evangelical biases, which also shows the impulse to "stop science" because of Luddistic notions of science and consequences.

Dale Husband said...

I wrote this review of Francis Collins' book "The Language of God".

Dr. Francis Collins is the head of the Human Genome Project and is thus one of the world's top scientists. He is also known to be a firmly committed evangelical Christian. Collins does a great job of demonstrating how one can be a Christian and also an accomplished scientist by ripping apart the claims of Creationism and Intelligent Design, while also criticizing other scientists like Richard Dawkins for their militant Atheism. But along the way he unwittingly reveals that the battle between science and religion may never end, as well as his excessively pro-Christian biases. In the first two paragraphs of Chapter Six, he describes how any time the actual conflicts between science and religion came up, appearant harmony between them would vanish.

To a fundamenalist Christian and a militant Atheist alike, Collins must appear to be a sell out, and his arguments in the book do nothing to dispel this preception. At the same time, he would offend most Jews and Muslims by his suggestion in Chapter ten that "theistic evolution" should be replaced by the term he coins, "BioLogos". Logos is the Greek term for "word" and is a reference to Jesus in the opening of John's Gospel.

It would have been better for Collins to merely argue for God's existence (theism) and leave the specific Christian references out of it, except where he details his own conversion to Christianity. I get the impression that Collins, for all his brilliance as a scientist, is too prone to emotional manipulation by others to be truly objective about the subject of religion.

To put it bluntly, there is no real evidence for belief in God or Jesus here, only arguments that are intended to support belief, but don't do so nearly to the level that the physical evidence supports the theory of evolution.

Luis said...

Yet, this is the same guy who can also write things like this:

"Finding a precisely truncated ARE [damaged copy] in the same place in both human and mouse genomes is compelling evidence that this insertion event must have occurred in an ancestor that was common to both the human and the mouse. [...] Unless one is willing to take the position that God has placed these decapitated AREs in these precise positions to confuse and mislead us, the conclusion of a common ancestor for humans and mice is virtually inescapable. This kind of recent genome data thus presents an overwhelming challenge to those who hold to the idea that all species were created ex nihilo".

This is from "The language of God", pages 135-137. I can't really understand how he can take CS Lewis seriously and then turn around and have enough clarity of mind to produce data and interpret them correctly. Isn't that bordering schizophrenia?

Reynold said...

This guy, as shown by the other commentators here, shows what happens to fence-straddlers in the religion/science debate.

He slipped off, with one leg going onto each side of the fence while the fence itself met him in the middle, so to speak.

Flavin said...

I wouldn't use Missouri's stem cell "initiative" as an example of what we want to see. They guaranteed it would be legal without guaranteeing money. Basically it was tipping a hat to the idea that we would promote good science, even if it's not popular, but not actually doing anything about it.

scripto said...

I don't think it's important that Dr. Collins and I sing from the same hymn book. I've heard him speak and he is very persuasive regarding evolutionary theory. I don't think Dawkins would ever be able to get an Evangelical to rethink their creationist position but Collins might.

Doppelganger said...

Collins also appears to have bought into the whole 'the central dogma orthodoxy tried to/ended up prevent research on junkDNA' garbage in an interview in an Australian media outlet when asked about malcom Simons' 'position' as the "genius of junk"... I'm not the head of anything and I knew that Simons' claims are just hyperbolic nonsense...

Doppelganger said...

After re-reading Collins' comments on the subject (junkDNA) I have to retract my last post.

Still don't want him advising anyone, though...

Jay Fuller said...

ERV, are you by chance a gamer, or has the "do not want" meme infiltrated every corner of the Internets?

Sili said...

Gamer?

I only know it from LOL-cats. As such the use here is wholly appropriate.

Jay Fuller said...

ah yes, the LOL-cats.

windy said...

"I don't think Dawkins would ever be able to get an Evangelical to rethink their creationist position"

He has. See, for example, the "Convert's corner" at his site.

Reynold said...

Probably irrelevant, but still funnier than hell: Behe vs. Abbie Smith in Meangirl Comic

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

I don't think it's important that Dr. Collins and I sing from the same hymn book. I've heard him speak and he is very persuasive regarding evolutionary theory. I don't think Dawkins would ever be able to get an Evangelical to rethink their creationist position but Collins might.

That's not the point. The position is not to advise the public, it is to advise the President on what is happening with good science. Sure some of that translates down to the public but the position is an adviser to the president. As has been shown here and many places else where he has some issues with understanding good science or at least is befuddled enough to mix his particular brand of religion in with it.

There is no reason that someone's ability to speak to the religious portion of the population should be considered for this appointment. That has 100% nothing to do with it. It's about advising on the science, not holding some Evangelical leader's hand and saying it will all be OK.

Chas Peterson said...

Screw his opinions, he oughta be disqualified for that hair-do alone.