Today’s most memorable quote (though to be fair, it’s only 10:30 in the morning) comes from Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes for Health. This gentleman is a scientist, but also says he believes in God. In a discussion on HuffPost Live, he apparently said this about evolution: “…if you are a believer in God, it’s hard to imagine that God would somehow put this incontrovertible evidence [for the reality of evolution] in front of us about our relationship to other living organisms and expect us to disbelieve it.” You can read the whole article, if you like, here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/25/francis-collins-davos_n_4635338.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&ir=Politics
The point of his statement was, I think, to suggest that folks who reject the idea of evolution are both ignoring evidence and being disrespectful of God’s motives. However, there is certainly a strain of Christian belief that insists we shouldn’t use reason, because reason is a tool used by Satan to tempt us into doubting the word of God. For folks who really believe that, it’s actually quite easy to ignore the evidence, because the evidence was put there by Satan.
Okay, so the head of the NIH doesn’t understand fundamentalist belief systems, or pretends not to. But there’s more to the story than that. The HuffPost article also quotes Collins as follows: “For me, somebody who is a ‘show me the data’ kind of scientist, but also a believer [in God], I don’t see a discordance there.” In other words, he’s a ‘show me the data’ kind of guy when it comes to science, but when it comes to the really big questions about, you know, the universe and the meaning of life, he is quite content to take a flying leap into the unknown without requiring a shred of data.
And this guy considers himself a scientist?
When it comes to religious belief, enormous numbers of people have this bizarre mental blind spot. They just refuse to think about the fact that they’re having a shared fantasy, a fantasy that is entirely unsupported by any kind of evidence. Given that Collins himself not only has the blind spot but acknowledges it, he’s hardly in a position to criticize others who have the same blind spot. The pot is calling the kettle black.
Of course, pots and kettles don’t get black anymore. That metaphor harks back to the days when we cooked over open wood fires. But that’s what he’s doing.