Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., today announced his decision to end his tenure as the director of the National Institutes of Health by the end of the year. Dr. Collins is the longest serving presidentially appointed NIH director, having served three U.S. presidents over more than 12 years…
Dr. Collins long envisioned that knowledge gained from the mapping of the human genome would be used to develop treatments tailored to every person’s unique genetics, environment and lifestyle. To spur research in the emergent area of precision medicine, Dr. Collins launched the All of Us Research Program, which is well on its way to enrolling one million people across the U.S. to provide their health data so that researchers can improve the way we prevent illness as well as treat the full spectrum of diseases and conditions. He also is the architect of several strong public-private partnerships such as the Accelerating Medicines Partnership to reduce the time from the identification of biological markers of disease to the development of treatments that target those pathways.News Releases, “Francis Collins to step down as director of the National Institutes of Health” at National Institutes of Health (October 5, 2021)
A Templeton winner, he is the author of The Language of God. (2007)
A friend points to a possible factor:
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced his resignation on Tuesday, just weeks after documents exposed that he made “untruthful” comments about U.S. federal funding of gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Just weeks before this announcement, Richard Ebright of Rutgers University accused Collins of making false public statements about National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which have since been proven to fund the study of “chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses” which “could infect human cells.” Ebright said bluntly that Collins had not told the truth when asked about this research: “assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.”…
As to exactly what prompted Collins’ reported departure in the middle of the pandemic remains unclear as of this writing. As Politico noted, Collins recently supported the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to limit booster shots for Americans 65 and older as well as other vulnerable demographics, which contradicted the Biden administration.Paul Bois, “Francis Collins, NIH Director, Resigns After Gain-of-Function Falsehood Exposed” at Breitbart
If either of these political/ethics matters are factors, his sudden resignation would send the stories down the news hole promptly and conveniently.
But many stories that raise ethics questions around such figures simply disappear. Take, for example, this one:
From science to scientism in the Obama era
Our culture is witnessing the rise of what could be called totalitarian science — science so totalistic in its outlook that its defenders claim the right to remake every sphere of human life, from public policy and education to ethics and religion,” says West. “Science is a wonderful enterprise, but in the Obama era, it’s being twisted in ways that are unhealthy for both science and society.
Just how far some [Obama] administration officials were willing to take the idea that science should override ethical concerns became apparent with the disclosure of a multiyear experiment funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involving more than 1,300 premature infants. As part of the experiment, premature infants were randomly assigned to receive higher or lower levels of oxygen. Those receiving lower levels of oxygen were more likely to die, while those receiving higher levels of oxygen suffered serious eye damage that could lead to blindness. Parents were not informed of the possible increased risk of death for infants enrolled in the study. Nor were most of them informed that researchers recalibrated oxygen equipment to generate false readings, thus preventing medical staff from adjusting oxygen levels based on the individual needs of the infants in their care.
Medical ethicists were appalled. “The word ‘unethical’ doesn’t even begin to describe the egregious and shocking deficiencies in the informed-consent process for this study,” said Michael Carome, MD, the director of the Health Research Group at the nonprofit (and politically liberal) group Public Citizen. “Parents of the infants who were enrolled in this study were misled about its purpose. … They were misled to believe everything being done was in the ‘standard of care’ and therefore posed no predictable risk to the babies.” Carome, who previously served in the Office for Human Research Protections in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, helped lead the effort to expose the misconduct of researchers and to ensure that the abuses did not recur.
And get this:
Chief among the defenders of the premature-infant study was NIH head Francis Collins. One of Obama’s key science appointees, Collins was known for his work as head of the Human Genome Project as well as for being an outspoken evangelical Christian. Unlike most evangelicals, however, Collins had supported Obama for president in 2008, and many of his views were out of sync with those of other evangelicals. He was among the NIH officials permitted to review the OHRP’s second compliance letter, and according to Public Citizen, he led a public relations campaign to undermine the OHRP’s initial findings. Citing e-mail messages, Public Citizen accused Collins of seeking to have the second OHRP compliance letter issued the day before an article coauthored by Collins was to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine defending the premature-infant study. Public Citizen found it “disturbing” that Collins and his coauthors “essentially leaked” to journal editors “the fact that OHRP soon would be issuing a compliance oversight letter to UAB putting on hold all compliance actions related to the investigation.”
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Vox on why you can’t trust Big Science If you “trust” these science honchoes at all after this episode… well, COVID-19 is not as serious a threat as wilful stupidity. But going forward, another question looms: How much of “settled science” that has never been subjected to this type of careful outside scrutiny would likewise collapse? What ELSE don’t we know and what difference would it make in various science arenas?