Josh Rosenau v. Jerry Coyne on Francis Collins

Last week, Jerry Coyne called for Francis Collins to resign as head of the National Institutes of Health over a newly published essay Collins wrote on the compatibility of science and religious belief. Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education responds:

If Collins speaks for science, Coyne seems to be arguing, then he should resign when his statements clearly go outside the bounds of scientific consensus. There being no scientific consensus around whether science and faith are compatible, he should not continue to be the government’s chief scientist.
But he isn’t the government’s chief scientist. His job isn’t to speak on behalf of science per se in the White House or in public. His job is to administer NIH, and in his free time, he can do as he likes. Science and religion has long been one of his interests, and he contributed an introduction to a book on the topic. Yes, it identifies him as director of NIH, but Coyne’s book and blog identify him as a professor at the University of Chicago, and no one pretends that Coyne’s comments in his private writings are official statements by one of the nation’s premiere research institutions. In Collins’s essay, a section entitled “My Own Perspective On Science And Faith” presents … his personal view on the topic. I disagree with it, Coyne disagrees with it, others are free to do the same.
But that’s not cause for firing him from a job that he seems to be doing just fine. He’s getting big budget increases for biomedical research, he’s continuing to expand access to newly derived stem cell lines, and nothing in Coyne’s bill of indictment suggests any faults in his administration.

Category: Debates


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