Francis Collins to head National Institutes of Health

Those who have been reading awhile know I have not been President Barack Obama’s biggest fan. However, he hit a home run with his choice of Francis Collins to head the NIH.

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Dr. Francis S. Collins, a pioneering geneticist who led the government’s successful effort to sequence the human genome, as head of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Francis S. Collins, leader of the federal human genome project, was selected to head the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Collins’s selection, which had been rumored for weeks, was praised by top scientists and research advocacy organizations for whom the health institute is a crucial patron.

Based in Bethesda, Md., the N.I.H. is the most important source of research money in the world; over the next 14 months it will dole out about $37 billion in research grants and spend $4 billion on research programs at its Maryland campus.

Dr. Collins wrote to XGW’s David Roberts and me to clarify his views regarding genetics and homosexuality back in September of 2008. At the time, Collins wanted to make clear his views regarding change and cause of homosexuality which he believed had been miscast somewhat by NARTH past-president Dean Byrd.

In his reply to XGW, Collins said about the NARTH article:

It troubles me greatly to learn that anything I have written would cause anguish for you or others who are seeking answers to the basis of homosexuality. The words quoted by NARTH all come from the Appendix to my book “The Language of God” (pp. 260-263), but have been juxtaposed in a way that suggests a somewhat different conclusion that I intended. I would urge anyone who is concerned about the meaning to refer back to the original text.

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable.

In Byrd’s article, he followed Collins’s quote with this statement:

Dr. Collins noted that environment, particularly childhood experiences as well as the role of free will choices affect all of us in profound ways.

This could easily make it seem as though Collins believed childhood experiences and choice were involved in homosexuality and thus, perhaps “alterable.”

In response to mischaracterizations of his views, he wrote the following to Robert and me:

Hello David and Warren,

I am happy to confirm that these e-mail communications from May 2007 and yesterday are indeed authentic, and represent my best effort at summarizing what we know and what we don’t know about genetic factors in male homosexuality. I appreciate your continuing efforts to correct misstatements that seem to be circulating on the internet.

Regards, Francis Collins

I wish Dr. Collins great success at the NIH.

One thought on “Francis Collins to head National Institutes of Health”

  1. I wish him well also, but I wouldn’t call it a home run. I just hope Collins has learned some lessons from his two faux pas. The first you mentioned above. The other was his appearance with D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries in a Coral Ridge produced screed against evolution by natural selection, saying it sparked fascism in Europe (can Kennedy and Lively have it both ways?). Kennedy’s ministry would have been labelled a hate group if evolution were a minority group of humans.


    So I hope Collins has a bit more common sense than he has of late shown.

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