Did you catch last week’s New York Times article on Francis Collins? Here’s how it begins:
He drives a Harley-Davidson, wears a black leather jacket on his back and his religion on his sleeve, and plays a custom guitar with big-name rock stars. All that would seem to have nothing to do with Dr. Francis S. Collins’s day job as the new director of the National Institutes of Health. Except that at the institutes, such things do matter. …
First, there is the God issue. Dr. Collins believes in him. Passionately. And he preaches about his belief in churches and a best-selling book. For some presidential appointees, that might not be a problem, but many scientists view such outspoken religious commitment as a sign of mild dementia. … (Gardiner Harris, For N.I.H. Chief, Issues of Identity and Culture, NY Times, October 6, 2009)
As I’ve posted in other places, I find this charge of dementia of particular interest. Why? I recently participated in a discussion regarding how a physician might diagnosis Jesus’ mental condition based upon Mark 3 and dementia had been raised. What is dementia?
Deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain, and often accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes. — “dementia.” The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. 13 Oct. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dementia>.
In this case, it appears to be an off-handed manner of name calling, i.e., declaring Collins mentally ill, even insane for his outspoken religious commitment in order to discredit his leadership. What do you think? Part of our exploration of The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship involves wrestling with how one responds to such comments, note: this case highlights the war between science and religion/faith.
Have you ever faced such challenges? If so, how have you responded? How should Collins respond? Should he stop wearing religion on his sleeve and just get his job done at the N.I.H., should he cut back on public declarations of faith, or should he keep on keeping on the way he is?