Interesting interview with Francis Collins

National Geographic’s February issue has what is the best interview I’ve seen with Francis Collins, a leading scientist whose professed Christianity makes him much despised by scientists who fear religion. There is, for instance, no discussion of Collins’ conversion experience while hiking, which was obviously powerful for him but doesn’t translate so well for those of us who weren’t there (at least, it doesn’t translate well for me). Instead, the interview presents Collins as a thoughtful, humorous man who struggles with difficult issues like free will, and how we can tell when God is present.
He also, in response to a question on neurotheology, gives an answer that shows why science and faith have felt tension since the ancient Greeks invented reason:

I think it’s fascinating but not particularly surprising. We humans are flesh and blood. So it wouldn’t trouble me—if I were to have some mystical experience myself—to discover that my temporal lobe was lit up. That doesn’t mean that this doesn’t have genuine spiritual significance. Those who come at this issue with the presumption that there is nothing outside the natural world will look at this data and say, “Ya see?” Whereas those who come with the presumption that we are spiritual creatures will go, “Cool! There is a natural correlate to this mystical experience! How about that!”

2 thoughts on “Interesting interview with Francis Collins

  1. Collins was also interviewed in Discover Magazine ( and while it was placed in a non-religious magazine, he did bring up one point about evolution that has sparked some debate with a friend who is Christian. As an atheist, his opinion helped paint a better picture about his views and a slightly more open-minded views as a Christian… which is a refreshing take on how conservative Christians have asserted that their view is law and there can be no creative interpretation.

    “As a result of the tensions over evolution, I think we see an increasing tendency for believers to dig in about things like Genesis 1 and 2, claiming that there is just one acceptable interpretation. That’s not a strong position. St. Augustine, for example, came to the conclusion that we really don’t know what the writer of Genesis was trying to describe in the creation story, and we should be careful about drawing conclusions about the nature of the world based on what those verses say.”

  2. The Discover interview is really well done. I hadn’t seen it. Thanks for noting it.

    One issue with the way people view Christians is that there isn’t much of a consensus of views amongst Christians. Conservatives who believe in the literal truth of every word of the Bible are a minority, though one would not think that was the case from the way the press handles its coverage. What tends to get reported is the view that causes the most conflict.

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