To view a video stream of the presentation by Dr. Collins, click here.
MACON — A capacity crowd filled Willingham Auditorium Wednesday afternoon to hear the inaugural President’s Lecture by Dr. Francis Collins, author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, as he discussed his views on science and religion.
In recent years, a number of prominent scientists have written books condemning belief in God, and religion in general, based on their examination of scientific evidence. Similarly, many religious groups have rejected scientific conclusions because of the belief that those conclusions are incompatible with faith in God and belief in the Bible. Collins noted that these two extremes are damaging to the young people caught in the middle of these arguments, as they find a need for faith from within, but are presented with scientific findings in their studies.
The fight is unnecessary, and unnecessarily strident, Collins said. Without a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, Collins said, the possibility to acknowledge both the overwhelming evidence that humans are the product of evolution, and the possibility that God decided that evolution was the method by which humans were created, is not inconsistent with faith. Collins said that he holds to this theory of “Theistic Evolution,” though he is working to build a better term for it, BioLogos, from the Greek, bio for life and, logos for the word. In other words, God spoke life into being.
Collins’ work as a scientist and doctor, as well as the leader of the Human Genome Project, has strengthened his own faith in both God and science, he said. Through a careful examination of the evidence found in his own scientific research and a reasoned examination of his own faith, Collins concludes that faith in God and faith in science can be harmonious.
“For me there is no conflict between my God, the God of the Bible and the God of the Genome,” Collins said.
Collins is director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. In this capacity, he oversaw the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, and its landmark effort to sequence the entire human DNA code, commonly referred to as the Human Genome Project. Building on the foundation laid by the project, Collins is now leading efforts to ensure that this new trove of sequence data is translated into powerful tools and thoughtful strategies to advance biological knowledge and improve human health.
Collins obtained his undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Virginia, and went on to obtain a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Yale University. Recognizing that a revolution was beginning in molecular biology and genetics, he changed fields and enrolled in medical school at the University of North Carolina. He continued in Chapel Hill for his residency and chief residency in internal medicine. Dr. Collins then returned to Yale for a fellowship in human genetics, where he worked on methods of crossing large stretches of DNA to identify disease genes. He continued to develop these ideas after joining the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1984, and later coined the term “positional cloning” to describe the technique. This strategy has now become a fundamental approach to identifying disease genes in the absence of known functional abnormalities, and is a powerful component of modern molecular genetics. His laboratories at the University of Michigan and the National Institutes of Health have discovered a number of important genes, including those responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and most recently, the gene that causes Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, a dramatic form of premature aging.
In addition to Collins’ scientific achievements, he is known for his continuing emphasis on the importance of ethical and legal issues in genetics. He has been a strong advocate for protecting the privacy of genetic information and has served as a national leader in efforts to prohibit gene-based insurance and employment discrimination. His accomplishments have been recognized by election to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences.
About the President’s Lecture Series:
The President’s Lecture Series brings leading thinkers to Mercer whose ideas and viewpoints intersect with the University’s mission as a faith-based institution of higher learning. The programs are designed to promote Mercer’s core principles of religious and intellectual freedom and respect for religious diversity while generating reflection and conversation on important issues of our day.
About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.