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Sep 8 Worshipping God through discovering Genes

Today in 1989 the journal Science published the results of the work of Francis Collins who identified the gene which explained cystic fibrosis. Collins led the Human Genome project and then set up the BioLogos foundation to promote understanding between science and faith. In his bestselling book The Language of God: he wrote that scientific discoveries were an "opportunity to worship"


The quest to understand cystic fibrosis had made slow Progress until 1985 when Lap-Chee Tsui and colleagues at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children identified the locus for the gene. Meanwhile At Yale, Collins had published a paper called, "Directional cloning of DNA fragments at a large distance from an initial probe: a circularization method". The method described was named chromosome jumping, to emphasize the contrast with an older and much more time-consuming method of copying DNA fragments called chromosome walking. Collins then joined the University of Michigan and his gene-hunting approach, which he named "positional cloning. Tsui contacted Collins, who agreed to collaborate with the Toronto team and share his chromosome-jumping technique. The gene was identified in June 1989, and the results were published today in the journal Science in 1989. Collins would go on to discover the genes associated with a number of diseases . He published other papers and books on the topic but his book on science and religion called The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief and made it to the New York Times bestseller list.

Collins became the director of the Human Genome Project which is an international scientific research project of identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome from both a physical and a functional standpoint. The project was formally launched in 1990, Collins came on as director in 1993 and it was declared complete on April 14, 2003. Level "complete genome" was achieved in May 2021. He would also lead other genomics research initiatives as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) After leaving the directorship of NHGRI he founded and served as president of The BioLogos Foundation, which promotes discourse on the relationship between science and religion and advocates the perspective that belief in Christianity can be reconciled with acceptance of evolution and science, especially through the idea that the Creator brought about his plan through the processes of evolution. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Collins to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

He was born in Staunton, Virginia, on a small farm and was home schooled until the sixth grade. In his early years he aspired to be a chemist, and he had little interest in what he then considered the "messy" field of biology. While at Yale, a course in biochemistry sparked his interest in the subject. By graduate school, Collins considered himself an atheist. However, a conversation with a hospital patient led him to question his lack of religious views, and he investigated various faiths. He familiarized himself with the evidence for and against God in cosmology, and on the recommendation of a Methodist minister used Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis as a foundation to develop his religious views(see pod of July 13) . He believes that people cannot be converted to Christianity by reason and argument alone, and that the final stage of conversion entails a Kierkergardian "leap of faith". ( see pod of Aug 8) After several years of deliberation, he finally converted to Christianity during a trip to the Cascade Mountains, where he describes a striking image of a frozen waterfall as removing his final resistance, resulting in his conversion the following morning.

In his 2006 book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins wrote that scientific discoveries were an "opportunity to worship" and that he rejected both Young Earth creationism and intelligent design. His own belief, he wrote, was theistic evolution or evolutionary creation, which he preferred to call BioLogos. He wrote that one can "think of DNA as an instructional script, a software program, sitting in the nucleus of the cell. The overall aim of the book was to show that "one can be intellectually in a rigorous position and argue that science and faith can be compatible", and that he was prompted to write the book because "most people are seeking a possible harmony between these worldviews [science and faith], and it seems rather sad that we hear so little about this possibility.

The atheist Christopher Hitchens referred to Francis Collins as "one of the greatest living Americans" and stated that Collins was one of the most devout believers he had ever met. He further stated that Collins was sequencing the genome of the cancer that would ultimately claim Hitchens's life, and that their friendship despite their differing opinion on religion was an example of the greatest armed truce in modern times. He has received many awards because of his work and In 2008, Collins and Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize recipient for physics, shared the Trotter Prize, and discussed the interplay between science and religion. He was also given the Pontifical Key Scientific Award in 2018, and In 2020 he received the Templeton Prize, and was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society