Did Coyne Oppose Collins as NIH Director?

@Jerry_Coyne I know that you opposed Francis Collins for NIH Director. Now that he has been on the job for a long time, how would you rate him as an NIH Director? Compared to V.P. Pence, Ben Carson, and other YEC in the current Trump administration, I consider a Christian Francis Collins as doing a great job.

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I’m sorry but you are making it up. I never opposed Collins being director of the NIH. I said I opposed his actions using his position as head government scientist to proselytize for theology and Christianity and to make statements about fine-tuning and the like. And I believe I said several times that I didn’t think he should be removed as director, and that he was a good scientist.

I have criticized the man strongly for mixing faith and science but have never called for his resignation; in fact, I have said the contrary. You can see the posts I’ve made about Collins here:


and see this one, in particular

Re this: “Coyne said that no one who could believe a man rose from the dead should be the head of a publicly funded scientific organization. (I paraphrase.)”

Instead of "paraphrasing’ (i.e., making up what you think I said), why don’t you find an explicit statement that supports your claim that I said he shouldn’t be NIH director because he believes in the Resurrection. If you can’t find that, I expect an apology.

I have also praised Collins when he took stands that I approved of:

I do think that he’s a smart guy but when he spouts theology and accepts unevidenced tenets of religion, I think he’s deluded. Get that? Not dumb, but deluded.


@eddie, it seems @Jerry_Coyne wants an apology. Unless you can find a quote from him that substantiates your claim, I suggest you do so.

Dr. Coyne, thank you for clarifying, and for your comment.

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Joshua, the request that I find actual quotations rather than rely on memory and employ paraphrase is reasonable. I may well have conflated things that Jerry said at different times, in different contexts, to produce a combined statement that he never actually made. I will do some more research on exactly what was said at the time, by Jerry and by those who responded to him. If after research I find that anything I said was either false or materially misleading, I will retract all such statements. Give me some time.

Two points about Jerry’s reply (which was as much to Patrick’s statements, it seems, as to mine):

  1. I don’t recall saying that Coyne called for Collins’s resignation. Did I say that? Did Patrick say that?

  2. Because of the constant post-splitting here, I often cannot find the thread where I have made remarks. I have just looked for ten minutes and cannot find the location of my statement about Coyne and the NIH. Can you link me to it, so that I have exactly what I wrote in front of me? If I am to apologize or correct, I need to know exactly what requires apology and correction, not just Jerry’s clips or summary of what I said.

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That is all we can ask of you. The sooner the better though.

You can find your comment here: Scientists Are Not Anti-Creation. I’ve heard you say similar things all the time, about Coyne in particular. The whole point of the prior thread is that you really got secular scientists wrong. They are not intolerant in the way you think. In fact, they are very tolerant of religious belief, as long as you play by the rules: The Rules of the Game.

You wrote, as Patrick quoted it,

Coyne, to my knowledge, has not called Collins “dumb,” nor has he said Collins should not be head of the NIH. That is what he is objecting to here, and you certainly said it.

@Jerry_Coyne, himself, has provided his current assessment (Collins was deluded, not dumb) about it and linked to his prior post. The issue for Coyne has been about the potential for misusing his secular position in the government to promote religion. The concerns were about maintaining science and government as secular efforts. I also endorse those concerns.

This is how Patrick and I explained it before, in a different context:

You do not have to agree with Coyne. I, for one, do not agree Collins is deluded. It is important, nonetheless, to understand what is really going on here. Too often the real concerns of secular scientists are missed. Much unneeded conflict ensues, and many opportunities for peace are missed.

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Thanks, Joshua, for helping me find that comment in a huge thread. So what I wrote was:

“You’re saying the TE leaders should never have feared the reproach of the secular scientists. Well, tell that to Francis Collins, whose appointment to the NIH was originally opposed, or loudly groused about, by Jerry Coyne. Coyne said that no one who could believe a man rose from the dead should be the head of a publicly funded scientific organization. (I paraphrase.)”

All right, so let’s analyze that. I said that Coyne originally “opposed OR groused about.” If he ever groused about the appointment, my statement would not be wrong, by the normal rules of logic. However, I will not stand on such a formal defense of my words. I will now retract “opposed.” I want to remove any suggestion that Jerry opposed the appointment.

As for “groused,” I will refrain from retracting that until I have done some more historical/quotation research. I may retract it later.

As for the rest, since I have no quotation, I withdraw it, but I reserve the right to restate what Jerry said more accurately once I have found more passages containing what he actually did say. He certainly has expressed the idea that he finds belief in miracles, etc. sub-scientific, but my link with the Collins appointment needs documentation. I am quite willing to admit that I may have conflated two different things he said in an inappropriate way. I should not have relied on memory.

Note that I never said that Coyne called for Collins’s resignation after he was appointed head, so Jerry’s defense against that charge was unnecessary. In fact, I don’t see that Patrick said that, either.

However, if we move from the specific question of what Coyne said to the more general context in which I placed his thought, can you not see that my general point has some truth to it? You write:

So you are aware that Coyne and other atheists harbor such thoughts. I have been trying to get you to admit that they harbor such thoughts, and that they often project a strong attitude toward miracle claims, Christian belief, etc. I am not saying they are calling for a ban on Christian belief, or that they would automatically oppose the hiring or tenure of any Christian. I am not saying that all atheist/agnostic scientists behave wrongly. I am saying they have little use for Christianity or any revealed religion, and even if they remain neutral on Genealogical Adam, they cannot be counted on reliable long-term allies in religion/science conversation generally.

Again, I am not saying that atheists or agnostics are evil or bad people or anything like that. I think atheists and agnostics can be moral, fair, etc. I am saying that in these science/theology quarrels, their willingness to tolerate certain Christian beliefs is tactical; they will do so when those beliefs do not cross their own agendas. I have nothing against their expression of their intellectual position but I do not seek or court any long-term alliance with them on science/theology matters or any other matter.

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He asked for an apology. I think you should give him one.

Yes, I am aware that Coyne is an atheist. I am aware that atheists think that belief in God is a delusion. That does not make them intolerant. It just makes them atheists.


I apologize to @Jerry_Coyne for not checking his exact words before issuing my paraphrase. I will be more careful next time I describe his position.


The story continues here: Did Eddie Need to Apologize to Coyne?