Harris’s view is interesting, in the light of the recent Christianity Today cover story on the Christian Darwinists of the BioLogos institute, which Collins founded:
At the time of this writing, the Obama administration still has not removed the most important impediments to embryonic stem-cell research. Currently, federal funding is only allowed for work on stem cells that have been derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics. This delicacy is a clear concession to the religious convictions of the American electorate. While Collins seems willing to go further and support research on embryos created through somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), he is very far from being a voice of ethical clarity in this debate. For instance, he considers embryos created through SCNT to be distinct from those formed through the union of sperm and egg because the former are “not part of God’s plan to create a human individual” while “the latter is very much part of God’s plan, carried out through the millennia by our own species and many others” (Collins, 2006, p. 256)
There is little to be gained in a serious discussion of bioethics by talking about “God’s plan.” (If such embryos were brought to term and became sentient and suffering human beings, would it be ethical to kill them and harvest their organs because they had been conceived apart from “God’s plan”?) While his stewardship of the NIH seems unlikely to impede our mincing progress on embryonic stem cell research, his appointment seems like another one of President Obama’s efforts to split difference between real science and real ethics on the one hand and religious superstition and taboo on the other.
Collins has written that “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” and that “the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted.” One can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the NIH. – The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (p. 172)