July 29, 2009

A Man of Faith, a Leader in Science?

To the Editor:

Re "Science Is in the Details" (Op-Ed, July 27):

Sam Harris's article attacking Dr. Francis S. Collins, President Obama's nominee to be the director of the National Institutes of Health, demonstrates nothing so much as Mr. Harris's own deeply held prejudices against religion.

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 disconnect from reality in such attacks is striking. Dr. Collins's visionary work on cystic fibrosis set the stage for the Human Genome Project, which he then led to a magnificent conclusion - not just ahead of time and under budget, but as a model for cutting-edge collaborative research.

The suspicion that Dr. Collins's faith would lead him to suppress research is sharply contradicted by his administration of the genome project and the profound scientific curiosity that has marked his entire career.

Francis Collins is a remarkable scientist and a visionary administrator.

He is exactly the right person to head the N.I.H.

Kenneth Miller
Providence, R.I., July 28, 2009

The writer is a professor of biology at Brown University.

[Click Here for other letters on this issue]

Ken Miller's Home Page