So Francis Collins (of Human Genome Project fame) is the new pick to head the NIH under President Obama. I would give my thoughts but they’ve been covered pretty well throughout the blogosphere.
You can guess the general reaction to a guy who published a book called The Language of God, and you would be right. He has been panned by almost every writer I have seen so far.
PZ Myers, RPM and Steven Pinker questioned both his scientific knowledge and his reliance on religion to answer questions which he deems “unknowable“. In the end I think this is what will get him. His claims that humans have stopped evolving (this is stupid for so many reasons) and that every base in the human genome is functional should bring down the wrath of most scientists. It won’t…
He has been getting flak for his insistence on parsing religious meaning into a scientific question. He views morality, altruism, and other aspects of human behavior unknowable to the sciences. He says that they must arise from God and that we as humans cannot answer these questions. This is what should scare most of those who care about scientific advancement. The whole purpose of the organization he is going to run is to probe our understanding of every scientific niche, not relegate wide swaths of it to the whims of a god.
As for me, we all know that the Director of the NIH is nothing more than a figurehead to present to the public so why not get someone who is amazing at it? I give you Neil deGrasse Tyson!!!!! Call me biased (and I don’t care but I am) but I love everything this guy does. He runs one of the most fascinating programs called NOVA ScienceNow on PBS and makes the talk show circuit pretty regularly (Colbert, Daily Show and this past week on Conan). It doesn’t hurt that he was also named the sexiest astrophysicist by People Magazine in 2009.
The guy is personable and down to earth, heck he did a bit on Nova talking about the science of auto-tune (so you can sound like T-Pain). You can’t beat that if you want to get the science out to the public. And if we’re going to play the political game (Collins is going to fly through confirmation because of his religious beliefs, what if an athiest was this vocal about their stance? or a hindu? or muslim?) he is black, doesn’t that count for something (the answer should be no, but too often I think it is yes).
So there are my rambling thoughts on the direction we’re going to send the NIH, look for huge multi-center research projects that eat up half of the budget buying equipment and building space, and fear that everything that may contradict his belief in god will be shut down.