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Goodbye Jesus

Me And Everybody Else On Collins As Nih Director


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By now all the big guns have weighed in on Francis Collins possible appointment as director of the NIH, from Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Ken Miller, as well as everybody else. Although this story is about at the end of its news cycle (until such a time when Collins fateful appointment before the senate piques the attention of the blogosphere once again), I can't help but to keyboard a few of thoughts of my own.


I won't comment about Collins appointment though, since there is really nothing new that I can offer which hasn't already been said as to why Collins will more than likely use his new-found public position to evangelize his Christianity as director of the NIH. Still, I'll keep an open mind until Collins does indeed publicly conflate his religious worldview with his responsibilities as the NIH director. I'll be sure to enjoy all the furious "I told you sos" afterwards.


In reading Harris opine, I can not help but to react to the five slides that Harris sites as evidence of Collins publicly blurring the line between his religion to science. I find each of these slides so ridiculous, I can't help to pick at this low-hanging fruit and yum yum chomp on it.


Collins is not a creationist in the extreme Ken Hamm sense, nor is he an intelligent design advocate like your Behes of the world either. He is a steadfast advocate of evolution. As the former director of the Human Genome Project, he's been able to partially compartmentalize his positions on evolution and evangelical Christianity, which is precisely why I roll my eyes at slide number five.


"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?"


I've quipped on other boards that this is an entirely rubbish argument. Evolution is a natural law that is (probably) consistent within the (observable) universe. After all there is no good reason to doubt this as basic chemistry shows us that molecules self-select among themselves. If god is made from the stuff of matter, then this god would have had to necessarily evolved from lesser beings into a being that humans would "recognize" as a "god" today. However, Collins god is "outside of nature," and "outside of space and time" as he revealed in a debate with Richard Dawkins. In other words, god is impervious to nature (conveniently removing god from any analytical science) -- unless you happen to believe the bible is true.


Collins is something of fine-tuner creationist and believes that at times that God is capable of "choosing to invade the natural world." (Jesus dying on the cross and all that.) Perhaps, Collins believes that god has been fine-tuning evolution to provide the "moral law" (whatever the heck that means) since he has already conceded that evolution "may explain some features" of it. Since this is the case, then I have to concede the argument to Collins. Whether evolution is part of the design of the universe, or if god periodically tweaks evolution -- evolution is still providing the mechanism to develop this "moral law." Evolution stands on its own as well as human morality, and there is no need to insert god at at any time.


Good and evil (in the reverent theistic sense) can not exist.


So I have to wonder if Collins is prepared to live his life "within that worldview?" Seems to me he's been hoodwinked and is comfortably living his life despite it, which is great news for us atheists, we can live within our worldview without peril, even if morality is just a "side effect."


But who am I to question Collins? I'm not a scientist, as I am in that latter category -- everybody else. How dare me.


There is a reason I've coined this blog as your garden-variety atheist skeptic. I have no special training, and I'm not a scientist. Other than the hard work I've done in sharpening my skeptical skills and studying religion and apologetics, I am just everybody else. Garden-variety. It really doesn't take much to see through Collins conceit.


The one thing I have going for me, unlike Collins, is that my reasoning is not tethered by irrationality and commitment to the dogmas and fears of Christianity. It is for this reason, I actually wince for the man at the conclusions he draws, more than I fear what his new position will do to the scientific and medical community.



Reposted from my blog.

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Sounds like Collins has no reason to believe in god other than fitting in socially and politically and benefiting economically fro espousing theistic views.

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The biggest problem with all the xtians arguments is that when the same question is applied to their god, they always fall to special pleading. If morality had to have been created in order for us to have it, then who created God's morality? If God can exist without his morality being given to him by an outside source, then there's no reason to believe humans can't as well. Furthermore, if God did give us morality, then what do we need the bible for? According to Collins, we already have our morality installed in us. So, why bother to teach kids what's right and wrong or to be a Christian at all? Parents can just dump their kids and never have to raise anyone at all. Collins wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to argue our morality is pre-programmed in us yet wants xtianity to program a morality in us that he at the same time says we already have. You can't have it both ways. Either morality comes from God and there's no reason to be a Christian or for parents to raise their kids since we already have our morality or it's not pre-programmed in us and it's something we have to learn from trial and error.

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Really, from what I know about the guy, he's done top-notch science, and has done so with out his religious views getting in the way. If it interferes with the execution of his job, that is one thing, but his prior history doesn't indicate this (at least on the HGP). Like any other government position, there should not and does not exist a religious test for the position.


It also is not uncommon for scientists to give talks that are in the "for fun" vein where they give personal/philosophical views as opposed to hard data presentations. They usually are a blast to attend, with the ensuing discussions.

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