Re: [asa] Defendscience vs. Collins

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Sep 03 2009 - 19:59:24 EDT

Hi Rich,

I realize in reading this that I've come across Sen. Harkin's remarks on Collins before - I recall particularly the remark about Collins' competence as an administrator and his ability to bring a project in on time and under budget.

Which makes me wonder: do you think that Collins' "pro-science" opponents would actually have preferred if Collins had *failed* as head of the Human Genome Project? Personally, I suspect their anti-religious ideology might well run that deep.

On a related note - it's often a bore to hear Americans go on about "world leader this" and "world leader that" as though the rest of us are some sort of sub-human throw-back incapable of an independent existence HOWEVER on the below I think Sen. Harkin has a point:

“I have always believed that it is a prime responsibility of the federal government to support the National Institutes of Health,” he said. “In the six decades since World War II, the United States has been the global leader in science, biomedical research and technological innovation. We have been respected, admired, even held in awe for our dazzling advances and breakthroughs. But our work is not over yet, which is why I will continue to work to fund medical research.”

For the US Govt. to exclude Collins from consideration on religious grounds (or should that be areligious grounds?) when he has a demonstrated record of achievement in every area that matters just begs the question: who is a better choice than Collins? This guy is has a huge international reputation and passing him up on ideological grounds would, in my opinion, be setting the US up as an international laughing stock of the sort that Richard Dawkins had pretty much already become.

Frankly, as a science administrator Collins ticks all the boxes and I think it a credit to those in government in the US that they share that assessment.

I think this will be the last post on this topic from me - not because I don't find it interesting, but because I think I've said everything that needs be said regarding the scientific merits of Collins' appointment. The discussion can only get overly focused on politics from here on in and not only is that inappropriate for this forum, it's not quite appropriate for me to speak from a position of relative ignorance on matters of foreign domestic policy (why are there so many FOREIGNERS in ASA? I can't work it out <smile>). Actually, I suspect I'm dangerously near to thin ice already!

Thanks for the nice chat, though!


Rich Blinne wrote:
> On Thu, Sep 3, 2009 at 3:09 PM, Murray Hogg <
> <>> wrote:
> Hi Rich,
> Interesting to read the Wikipedia page on Sen. Harkin and note his
> views on stem cell research (in favour of) as well as some of his
> views on other matters.
> That Collins' strongest supporter should be so obviously NOT a
> member of the Religious Right should give some pause to those who
> see something fishy in Collins' appointment.
> The more I learn, the more I worry about the (ab)use of science to
> bolster an anti-religious agenda in politics!
> Blessings,
> Murray
> On August 8, Senators Harkin, Specter, and Kennedy were awarded
> champions of research of health by Research!America. Note the praise not
> only from Senator Harkin but also from former NIH head, Dr. Elias
> Zerhouni. Must be another "right-wing Christian Fundamentalist". Note
> that Senator Harkin's prediction came true when Dr. Collins was
> unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
> “Without research, we wouldn’t have breakthroughs. It’s not about
> discovery for the sake of discovery, but for the sake of better
> health and saving lives,” said *Sen. Tom Harkin (IA)*, at a Capitol
> Hill event Tuesday honoring him, *Sen. Arlen Specter (PA)* and *Sen.
> Edward Kennedy (MA)*.
> *The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health*, the *Albert
> and Mary Lasker Foundation* and *Research!America* recognized the
> senators for their leadership for research and for highlighting the
> importance of a shared commitment to making research for health a
> high national priority.
> The awards ceremony at the Russell Senate Office Building was emceed
> by *Elias A. Zerhouni, MD*, former National Institutes of Health
> director, and was attended by distinguished scientists, Nobel
> laureates, members of Congress and other leaders in health research
> community, including *Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD*, nominee for NIH
> director, and Nobel Laureate *Joseph Goldstein, MD*.
> Zerhouni recognized Collins and said, “There couldn’t be a better
> person to handle the NIH stimulus funding than Francis, and it
> couldn’t be better timing. Francis, do good work.”
> In his remarks, *Senator Harkin* said he was all but certain that
> Collins’ nomination would be approved in the Senate before its
> August recess. He then spoke of his own commitment to NIH.
> From Senator Harkin's web page:
> WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) released the
> following remarks today in reaction to President Obama’s
> announcement that he will nominate Dr. Francis Collins as director
> of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
> “In selecting Dr. Francis Collins to lead the National Institutes of
> Health, President Obama has made an inspired choice. Dr. Collins is
> a brilliant scientist – his leadership on the Human Genome Project
> ushered us into a new era of scientific understanding. But what has
> been less appreciated is his administrative ability. In fact, when
> the Human Genome Project began in 1990, people predicted that it
> would take 15 years at a cost of $3 billion to complete the work.
> Thanks to Dr. Collins’ leadership and management, it took just 13
> years and cost $2.7 billion to complete.”
> “Dr. Collins’ ability to communicate complex ideas and policies to
> Congress and the public will serve us all well. In all the years
> I’ve known him, I’ve never ended a conversation with him without
> feeling smarter and more hopeful for the future.”
> “I applaud President Obama for choosing Dr. Collins, and I predict
> the Senate will confirm him.”
> Rich Blinne
> Member ASA

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Received on Thu Sep 3 20:00:04 2009

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