Head Hurts — Please Stop

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.

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1 Response to Head Hurts — Please Stop

  1. Ron Greenman says:


    God means different things to different people. To me it’s the ineffable. Not the unanswered question mind you, but the unanswerable. Now as time goes by unanswerable can shift and perhaps there are no questions that can’t, ultimately be answered, but at this time there seem to be many even for brainiacs, and certainly for the weak minded like myself. To say that current lack of proof proves anything is as dogmatic a relying on suspect proof, or concluding based on no proof. This guy is trying to reconcile his understanding of the ineffable with obvious data that contradicts a lot of his fellow travelers’ erroneous “proofs.” The first use of modern scientific method is attributable to Descartes and is an invalid proof of the existence of god. Not because his method is lacking but because many of his first assumptions are based on unprovable first principles. It works very well if your assumptions are based on certain Christian doctrines but falls apart with any but the Judeo/Christian/Islamic conceptions. When Bill Maher made his documentary poking fun at religion the only two rational interviewees, religious or anti, where the two Vatican based scientists. The rest were all caught in one or another a priori that left no room for argument. Personally I like what this guy has to say and I’ll leave him alone regarding speculation about his unanswerable questions if he’ll do me the same favor. That which is incontrovertible, based on evidence, we’d probably agree on out the gate, or the one clinging to a fallacy could probably back-off when shown he was lacking a piece of the puzzle, interpreting something in the wrong way, or just forcing a conclusion based on a prior assumption.

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