Collins to speak at EMU on Saturday

Story by Jim Bishop

collins.jpgDr. Francis Collins, best-selling author of The Language of God, will speak Saturday at Eastern Mennonite University.
Collins’ free public lecture on the theme, “A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Martin Chapel of the seminary building at EMU. A brief question and answer period will follow his presentation.

Collins serves as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. He coordinated the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, better known as the Human Genome Project. Under Collins’ leadership, the group successfully mapped and sequenced human DNA, releasing its final results both ahead of schedule and under budget in 2003.

Collins’ contributions to science include a gene-hunting approach called “positional cloning,” which he used to successfully identify the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis in 1989. He later used the technique to isolate the genes tied to a number of other illnesses, including Huntington’s disease and a form of adult acute leukemia.

Collins received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and his doctoral degree in physical chemistry from Yale University. He later obtained his medical doctorate from the University of North Carolina. Following a fellowship in human genetics at Yale, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan, where he remained until 1993 when he began work at the National Institutes of Health.

His book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, published in July 2006, has received strong reviews. He is a member of both the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the National Academy of Sciences.

Christian E. Early, associate professor of philosophy and theology at EMU, called Collins’ visit “a marvelous opportunity for the campus and public to learn from one of the great scientific minds of today.

“Francis Collins has changed the face of science and medicine for the better,” Dr. Early said. “That he also believes in God ought to testify to the fact that religious faith and science are not mutually exclusive.”

Lamenting the polarized God-versus-Science debate, Collins has said, “Most people don’t live at those extremes. Most people live somewhere in the middle and are seeking a possible harmony between these world views. It seems rather sad that we hear so little about that possibility, especially when you look at young people being told they have to make a choice between science and faith. I think if you pick one or the other, you impoverish yourself.”

A light brunch will be served at 9:30 a.m., with Collins’ presentation starting promptly at 10 a.m.

The program is being sponsored by the Shenandoah Anabaptist Science Society at EMU. The focus of SASS is to create a space for dialog on issues at the intersection of science and religion.

For more information, contact Christian Early at 540.432.4456 or Cheryl Doss in the Suter Science Center at 540.432.4400.

Jim Bishop is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.

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