The other day, I blogged about Sam Harris’ criticism in the New York Times of Francis Collins new appointment as director of the National Institutes of Health as well as Jerry Coyne’s criticisms of Collins. Well now Ken Miller has written a response, where he essentially accuses those opposed to Collins’ appointment of discriminating against Christians:
Dr. Collins’s sin, despite credentials Mr. Harris calls “impeccable,” is that he is a Christian. Mr. Harris is not alone in holding this view. A leading science blogger, also attacking Dr. Collins, demonstrated his own commitment to reasoned dialogue by calling the scientist a “clown” and a “flaming idjit.” When reason has such defenders, Heaven help us.
The blogger he’s referring to is PZ Myers. But as PZ Myers points out in his response to Miller, the mere fact that Collins is a Christian is not the issue:
No, that first sentence is completely false. The head of the NIH can be a Christian, a Jew, a Moslem, even an atheist, and it won’t disturb us in the slightest. Here’s a list of past directors of the NIH; can you identify their faith, their hobbies, their sexual orientation, their favorite kind of music? Do you care? The fact that Collins is a Christian is not a problem at all — we are not interested in narrowing the search pool for science administration to the extent that we exclude the majority of people in this country.
What is disturbing is that Collins is a fervent evangelical believer who inserts his superstition where it doesn’t belong, in the execution of his job. James Wyngaarden and Bernadine Healy and Harold Varmus did not do that. I cannot trust him not to Christianize his responsibilities — from reading his book, it is clear that he actually feels a moral obligation to add religious instruction to everything he does. That should bother everyone.
If Collins could just leave his religion at home, he would not be so criticized. But he won’t do that. Instead, he is using his position and his scientific credentials to promote Christianity. And that is unacceptable.