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Thursday, February 14, 2008

James Watson: Francis Collins’ book is trash

At Life in Research blog, we learn that double helix discoverer James Watson thinks that genome mapper Francis Collins’ book, The Language of God is trash

I will instead tell you about what Dr. Watson thinks of science and religion, and Dawkins and Collins. This came up during the Q&A session.

I asked Dr. Watson: “What do you think of the spat between Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins…” I was going to finish off by asking, “…and whose side would you take, if you have to take one side?”

He cut me off, “Dawkins is fun. I talk with him. Dawkins is sometimes…” and he let out a typical giggle. “He is a good friend”.

I was determined to get a complete answer. I asked, “What do you think of Collins…”

“Collins’ book is trash”, he interjected.

With a giggle he continued, “and he has rejected my grants too”. To which the audience laughed heartily. “But really, he talks about miracles! And you can not separate religion and science in current situation, what with issues like stem cells.. Religion is good for people whose life is hell, and need an afterlife. My life is great, I get chocolate and ice-cream in this life, I don’t need to look for an afterlife… I don’t see civility being lost as a result of giving up God”.

As I have said elsewhere I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with Collins’s The Language of God. I consider it poorly argued, but likely to go over well with a certain sort of popular audience.

I have recommended it to popular audiences because
Basically, if you have some mouthy teen shouting that he won’t go to church any more because he has discovered polynomials (and thinks you don’t know any algebra at all) - and because there is no God, science rules, and therefore he is going to go out and get his thingummy pierced - Collins is a good choice.

Collins could talk that kid out of doing something stupid, and that’s great! - but it doesn’t mean he understands major cultural issues for adults.

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