Gus diZerega, author of Beliefnet’s “A Pagan’s Blog” decides to take a whack at the New Atheist pinata by attacking Sam Harris for his recent New York Times op-ed opposing the appointment of Francis Collins to head the NIH (I oppose it too).
DiZegera does the usual anti-Harris quote mining to prove that Harris is a horrible, horrible man, but I want to point out two of diZegera’s salvos that I think deserve particular derision.
Sam Harris has a column in today’ New York Times objecting to Obama’s naming Francis Collins director of NIH. He objects solely because Collins is a Evangelical Christian.
Wrong. (And come on, atheist-hayta’s, do you really think the Times would publish a lengthy op-ed by someone who did oppose him on those grounds?) Here’s what Harris actually wrote:
Dr. Collins has written that “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence” and that “the claims of atheistic materialism must be steadfastly resisted.”
One can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the institutes of health. . . . .
Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination. Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?
He is not opposing Collins because of his religion, he is opposing Collins for his very public, totally unabashed rejection of science and rationalism within the very field over which he will wield so much power. You should read the whole thing to get the full story, for surely diZegera did not.
Indeed, diZegera did not even bother to come up with his own post title. He hat-tips a post by Mark Kleiman which sports the same title (“Biogited Atheism”) and makes the same erroneous claim. Again, if you’ve read the actual piece, you can’t possibly come to the conclusion reached by Kleiman. I mean diZegera.
Oh, and the best part of diZegera’s attack piece:
What a total loser.
Let’s be done with him. Kleiman makes his case at least a little bit better than diZegera, and uses fewer words.
When Sam Harris objects to the nomination of Francis Collins as NIH Director because Collins is an Evangelical Christian who has actual Evangelical Christian beliefs, that’s different … how, exactly?
Harris wants to impose by politics the sort of “religious test” the Framers explicitly forbade imposing by law.
Nice try, I admit, but the test that Harris wants imposed is not religious–it’s scientific. The head of the NIH should not allow his beliefs in the supernatural to inhibit his pursuit of knowledge. By deciding that vast areas of intellectual discovery are off-limits to science and only the purview of spirituality and mysticism, that is a rejection of the very idea of scientific inquiry, the antithesis of what the NIH ought to be engaged in.
This is very important: No one would not want an energy secretary who felt that wind was off-limits as a power source because worshiping the Wind Spirit was part of his or her religion. Collins has been very clear about what parameters he places around science, and we should take him at his word.
Update: Oh no. I am a bigot!