Phil... I mean, Francis Collins in NGM
I read Francis Collins book "The language of God" recently and found myself really resonating with his position regarding the relationship of Science and Faith. I was happy to discover this short interview in National Geographic recently. It's pretty brief, but he gives an interesting set of answers to a variety of pertinent questions. Below, I have posted a portion of the interview, but I found the entire interview to be pretty interesting. You can read the whole thing by clicking on the link above.
I am tempted to disable comments so I can be like Matt, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I know we run the risk of spreading this conversation out all over creation, but that's what blogging is all about, right? So Matt, if you want to enable commenting on your post as well, go for it.
So having said that, here's Phil... *dang it!* I mean, FRANCIS Collins:
Horgan: Free will is a very important concept to me, as it is to you. It's the basis for our morality and search for meaning. Don't you worry that science in general and genetics in particular—and your work as head of the Genome Project—are undermining belief in free will?
Collins: You're talking about genetic determinism, which implies that we are helpless marionettes being controlled by strings made of double helices. That is so far away from what we know scientifically! Heredity does have an influence not only over medical risks but also over certain behaviors and personality traits. But look at identical twins, who have exactly the same DNA but often don't behave alike or think alike. They show the importance of learning and experience—and free will. I think we all, whether we are religious or not, recognize that free will is a reality. There are some fringe elements that say, "No, it's all an illusion, we're just pawns in some computer model." But I don't think that carries you very far.
Horgan: What do you think of Darwinian explanations of altruism, or what you call agape, totally selfless love and compassion for someone not directly related to you?
Collins: It's been a little of a just-so story so far. Many would argue that altruism has been supported by evolution because it helps the group survive. But some people sacrificially give of themselves to those who are outside their group and with whom they have absolutely nothing in common. Such as Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, many others. That is the nobility of humankind in its purist form. That doesn't seem like it can be explained by a Darwinian model, but I'm not hanging my faith on this.
Horgan: What do you think about the field of neurotheology, which attempts to identify the neural basis of religious experiences?
Collins: I think it's fascinating but not particularly surprising. We humans are flesh and blood. So it wouldn't trouble me—if I were to have some mystical experience myself—to discover that my temporal lobe was lit up. That doesn't mean that this doesn't have genuine spiritual significance. Those who come at this issue with the presumption that there is nothing outside the natural world will look at this data and say, "Ya see?" Whereas those who come with the presumption that we are spiritual creatures will go, "Cool! There is a natural correlate to this mystical experience! How about that!"