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Prominent theistic evolutionist Francis Collins stepping down from Genome Institute

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According to a press release from National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI):

Bethesda, Md., Wed., May 28, 2008 — Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), today announced his intention to step down on August 1 to explore writing projects and other professional opportunities.

Dr. Collins, 58, a physician-geneticist, has served as NHGRI’s director since April 1993. He led the Human Genome Project (HGP) to its successful conclusion in 2003, and subsequently initiated and managed a wide range of projects that built upon the foundation laid by the sequencing of the human genome.

Collins is widely known as a Christian scientist, and the author of the popular book The Language of God, advancing the view that Darwinian evolution can account for the development of life (though possibly not its origin). He draws the line at altruism in human beings, though evolutionary psychologists have aggressively staked that too, along with every manifestation of religion, as their territory.

 According to the Institute,

Dr. Collins explained that his decision to step down as leader of NHGRI came after much personal deliberation. “My decision was driven by a desire for an interval of time dedicated to writing, reflection and exploration of other professional opportunities in the public or private sectors,” he said. “The demands and responsibilities of directing an NIH institute do not allow the time commitment necessary for this. In addition, I may need greater latitude than my current position allows to pursue other potential positions of service without encountering any possible conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived.”

It well be interesting to see whether Collins pursues his interest in accommodating Christianity and Darwinism, and if so, how.

Also, just up at Colliding Universes:

Coffee Break question: Why are the space aliens always supposed to have superior technology?

Exoplanets: Will intelligence be common or rare?

Quantum mechanics: Could cosmic microwave background show that it is wrong?

Chuckle of the day: What lies beyond the observable universe?

Letter: Multiverses are nonsense, but so is much contemporary physics

Other universes: Why the materialist needs an infinite number of them

Just up at The Mindful Hack:

Psychology: Babies know what is good for them: But is it nature or nurture?

Psychology: Yale’s National Risk and Culture Study tells us more of what we already sensed about how manipulation works

Commentator Dinesh D’Souza on The Spiritual Brain: Including stuff he didn’t know

Evolutionary psychology: Computer modeller dismisses latest computer model of religion

Evolutionary psychology: A motley navy of speculations, soon to be stranded?

Also, about exoplanets: we just cannot allow materialists to talk about distinct processes achieving super-random performances and talk about the probability of totally unobserved processes as if other evolution could be--in some sense random. What the people who sneer at any mention of "random" in reference to nature fail to appreciate is that the mathematical model for arbitrary data points is random analysis. Carl Sagan used to argue this way himself. Surely, lightning striking the primordial goo doesn't happen randomly. There's an ionic path to follow and all that. But Sagan modeled it as "unlikely" and the idea is that given enough time an "unlikely" incident could happen. He even illustrated it by "flipping a coin" (which is also arguably not "random"--despite how often it is used) Thus, he was arguing that analysis as a random model supported the "likelihood" of life from lightning. I doubt if naturalists would accept the idea that all bets are off because unseen natural processes in bulk could exceed or trail any estimate we could make on them--simply because it's still an open possibility. They would want something more concrete. Just like I do when I hear that random is the wrong idea, simply because a natural process could exceed it in performance. jjcassidy
The SETI thing is interesting, because if you posit intelligences millions of years more advanced than we are, you approach the analog of a God question. A million years more advanced sounds pretty good--provided that years is translatable directly or indirectly into "advancement". But what can it do? Provided that My Ma (Million-years-more-advanced) wants to communicate with us, they have the better technology to get the job done. But what does it account for? There is also the possibility that My Ma 1) hides itself from us, or 2) does not care to communicate with us. One might expect that they have a edge on us if they care to disguise their communications from us--or even to use media that aren't detectable by us for a couple thousand years at least. So assuming that the want to communicate to us, what kind of technology is a million years removed but takes not only government super-computers scanning feedback, but even the spare computing time from perhaps thousands of hobbyists' home PCs, because there is too much data to scan. And what kind of hope does that hold out for a million years of technological development for us? That a million years from now, we can be beaming a signal around the galaxy in hopes that a sentient race will pick it up using every computing cycle they can bring to bear on it. Clearly, the "years advanced" has a linear suggestion to it, so how could be allow a million years until we discover how to make contact with another planet? One of these following propositions is almost certainly not likely to be true: 1) A civilization exists million years advanced from us, 2) years translate into technology, 3) They care about being detected--or don't care if they are, 4) They are benign, 5) in a million years we will solve most of our problems with technology. jjcassidy
Eric, I sometimes wonder how different all that is from local convenience-store theories about how to win the lottery. Lotteries are supposed to be merely chance whereas many of us think purpose infused the origin of life. Still, the person who calculates the probability of life on exoplanets is not truly invoking governing laws, and most such persons would deny design or purpose. So I can't think what else is relied on here. Still, I tell you the news as I heard it. I couldn't say that life was non-exisitent, only that the insturments used for predicting it sound no better to me than the ancient practice of observing the pattern of the flight of birds. O'Leary
Re: Exoplanets: Will intelligence be common or rare? The calculations proposed for "evolving" intelligence -- which in this case I presume means by something like RM+NS, with no guiding intelligence allowed -- are no better than pulling a random number out of a hat. 10% for each stage? What is that based on? Can anyone tell me the probabilities of evolving life for even the one sample we know exists? I completely agree with Watson that "evolved" intelligence is likely to be rare. As in . . . non-existent. Eric Anderson

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