Francis Collins to Lead National Institute of Health

July 10, 2009 — 6 Comments

I’m definitely not a journalist, but this is one particular piece of news that I am particularly excited about, so I’ll pass it on.

For those of you who do not follow the intersection of science and faith, Francis Collins may not be a familiar person to you.  For an introduction, I’d recommend reading his wikipedia entry, but he in short was instrumental in the mapping of the human genome and an excellent scientist.  He also is a professing evangelical Christian, who has an amazing story of coming to believe in Christ.

President Obama announced on Wednesday that he had nominated Collins as the director of the National Institute of Health, which is an incredibly influential position, and an exciting development for the intersection of the science and faith communities.

I am overjoyed to see a man whose scientific achievement speaks for itself, and is speaking the truth of Christ in a field that tends toward hostility to the God of the Bible.  I pray that this appointment would be for the honor and fame of Jesus in a generation of doubt!

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

6 responses to Francis Collins to Lead National Institute of Health

  1. Have you read “Next” by Michael Crichton? For some reason that is what popped into my mind when I saw your post. Hopefully this guy is the real deal… not like the “Christian” genetic scientist and leader of the NIH that was in his book :).

  2. Todd — long-time reader, first-time commenter. I sympathize with your seeing this as a bit of a boon in terms of battling the perception that Christian faith–particularly perhaps the faith of evangelical Christians–and natural science are at odds with one another.

    I don’t know a ton about Francis Collins, but some of the stuff that I’m reading about this claims that he’s in favor of legalized abortion and supports federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research. If this is indeed the case, it seems like the Obama administration may have scored big in terms of its attempts to silence opposition to what I take to be its anti-life policy positions: “Why do all of you evangelicals oppose this stuff when the proudly evangelical head of the NIH says it’s fine?” Granted, she hasn’t written books on the complementarity of faith and reason or anything like that, but let’s just say that, as a Catholic, I was hardly thrilled when Kathleen Sebelius was named Secretary of HHS . . .

    BTW, the pope’s gift to Obama today was a copy of Dignitas Personae: http://www.usccb.org/comm/Dignitaspersonae/Dignitas_Personae.pdf

  3. Kevin,
    Thanks for bringing that to light! Based upon what I have read in the last day, I’m not sure it is clear where he stands on abortion. Most of people’s conclusions seem to be drawn from a few vague and contextual quotes. If he indeed comes down on a pro-choice agenda, I will be very troubled, to say the least.

    Can you link some of the articles you have been reading? I’m generally interested in following up with this…

    Great to hear from you bro! How’s school treating you?

  4. here’s a link from the between two world’s blog… that leads to an article about francis collins… justin taylor also states on the blog that he will be making updates on this soon, so it seems there is a lot of confusion going on.

    http://theologica.blogspot.com/2009/07/francis-collins-on-abortion.html

  5. Todd — doing well. Hope you, Liv, and the kiddos are great.

    The initial blog post I saw was on the National Review site: http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=M2UwMWUyZjk2ZGU5N2ZkNDRmZDU0NzljYjQ3MTA3OTA=
    Needless to say, they’ve got their slant on everything . . .

    Here’s a Christian-run site I’m not previously familiar with but has section that may be of interest: http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/11605811/

    A bit: “Though Collins, a self-described evangelical, will head the nation’s primary scientific research agency, the avid supporter of stem cell research seems unlikely to allay the fears fellow evangelicals have over embryonic stem cell research.

    “‘Francis is a great person, a good scientist, but we disagree with his positions on human embryonic stem cell research and on cloning human embryos for experimentation,’ said David Prentice, senior fellow at the conservative Family Research Council.

    “Prentice’s office, along with the National Association of Evangelicals, Concerned Women for America and other Christian advocacy groups, favor adult stem cell research, but oppose embryonic research because they believe the process destroys nascent forms of human life.

    “Collins reconciles the research through a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer, which creates an embryo artificially, but is also the first step in cloning.

    “‘Now that is very different in my mind, morally, than the union of sperm and egg,’ he explained in an interview with Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly. ‘We do not, in nature, see somatic cell nuclear transfer occurring. This is a purely man-made event.'”

    Just shooting from the hip, it seems to me that an embryo’s moral status would have little to do with whether it has come into being as a result of natural conjugal relations or through somatic cell nuclear transfer. On the face of it, it would appear that Collins’s position would lead to one holding that adult human clones–let’s hope that never happens–wouldn’t have the same moral status as “naturally procreated” human beings. To me that position seems unwarranted.

  6. Leslie and Kevin,
    Thanks for the info. I saw the post from Justin Taylor, and based on my research into more articles, it is very unclear what his position is on abortion in particular. I would imagine that it will come out in the following weeks as he is examined for the position, but I’m not putting much stock in the muddy interpretation of contextual clues that have very little to do with the actual issue at stake.

    As for the embryonic stem cell research, this is an exceptionally complicated issue, and I’ll definitely need to do more research into it. There is certainly a host of issues that will be exceedingly difficult to navigate as the science of genetic therapy progresses into the future…

    Looks like I’ve got some homework!

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