by D.M. Murdock
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), recently
received as its director a confessed evangelical christian, Dr.
Francis S. Collins, an appointment leading some to question
whether or not Collins will be scientific and objective in his
management and decisions.
Many a saint has attained his or her
exalted state through the willful and conscious abuse of his or her
body, such as is evidenced, for example, by the use of sundry tools
of self torture as well as the extreme isolation of monks and nuns.
Indeed, a number of early Church fathers
were also "physicians" of a sort, although various of their insights
and practices would not pass muster today, just as many during the
medieval era would be deemed barbarous pseudoscience.
For example, in City of God, in a defense of the myth of Noah's Ark and other biblical miracles, Church doctor St. Augustine declared that frogs were produced from the earth itself and that,
Also, christian physicians during the Dark Ages and onward believed it was wise to "bleed" a patient for a variety of ailments, a procedure that naturally often led to death. The practitioners of such bizarre methods, which included wearing hideous masks with beaks designed to scare away demons, were often called "quacks."
Nevertheless, some of these seemingly outrageous
practices have been found by modern science to possess merit, such
as the use of leeches, which were also utilized for those very same
Since there have been many scientists in
the past of one religious bent or another, yet the world goes on,
the answer would appear to be "yes." However, much important data
that could have changed the world for the better has been censored
and suppressed based on
religious fanaticism, so caution will always
be warranted when someone of fervent faith is at the helm.
On the other hand, Collins may in fact
be a good choice because he is undoubtedly keenly aware of the
controversy in his appointment and will make a greater effort to
ensure that his oversight is as scientific as possible, bearing in
mind not his personal faith but the public interest. As a renowned
Yale-educated geneticist with a long and illustrious list of
credentials who, despite his religious devotion, disagrees with
Creationism and Intelligent Design, and appears to favor
controversial scientific endeavors such as cloning, Collins may in
fact be the best person for the job.
In reality, injecting some true
spirituality - which in essence constitutes empathy - would represent a
welcome remedy for religious fanaticism, and remedies remain the
realm of good medicine.