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What does it mean for Christians to adopt Darwinism? – here’s new atheist Sam Harris on Francis Collins, for one …

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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)


What does it mean for Christians to adopt Darwinism? No more lions? Mung
One can be a complete materialist and still think that embryonic stem cell research is a bad idea. Years ago, someone was trying to wipe out rabbits in Australia by introducing the rabbit pox. Unfortunately, it wasn't very infectious. So they experimented with some genetic modification of the rabbit pox, and rather than making it more infectious, it made it 100% lethal. After the surprise came the realization that the same modification could be made to the human version of the virus--smallpox. Which currently runs at about 30% lethality, though eliminated in the wild, still lives in several top-security labs in US and Russia. So the question became, do we publish this paper on rabbit pox or not? For several years it was in limbo, but circulated via Internet. Knowledge is never neutral. And the embodiment of knowledge (modified smallpox) is even less so. Do we really want to risk this kind of a situation on modified human embryos? There are plenty of people in the "Frankenfood" camp that would say no. (If food can be "frankensteined" would not humans be even more so?) Why would iPSC be different? Because you know where they came from. They still are "yours", and if we need to know what they potentially will become we need only look at you. Robert Sheldon
I think Harris makes some fair points regarding Collins' thoughts, but I don't see what this has to do with Collins' acceptance of Darwinism. The most questionable thing that Harris said there is:
...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.
Obviously an ad hominem attack (as if believing that human life is valuable even before it is conscious is "superstitious"), but when did secularism/atheism get a monopoly on not only "real science" but also "real ethics"? Sam, not only does your world view not require you to have an objective basis of morality, it does require that you don't have one. So how are your ethics "real" while your base of morality is a "yet to be discovered" sequence of atomic activity? For many people who read that, that statement will get accepted because it was juxtaposed next to a flawed opinion of a Christian who has risen to a powerful position. Sam Harris is smart, even though his world view is only livable because it is arbitrarily manipulated and not taken to its true ends (nothing has a right to anything). vjtorley's position on abortion is the most clear, unambiguous, objective stance I have seen from anyone on either side of the debate. A summary of it, which he wrote, can be read here (comment #19). It makes complete sense, and it doesn't require a belief in a soul. The one thing it does require is value for human life. uoflcard

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