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Tag Archives: Sam Harris

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged on anything of substance. Busy, busy, busy. Last month, my wife pointed out to me a new class being offered through the Continuing Education program at the local university called God, Atheism and Morality. It’s a discussion class using Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape as the backdrop and led by an ex-Lutheran pastor. A nice fellow, but maybe too nice for the things likely to come…

There are nine of us, from a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs. There’s a non-believing Teacher who wants to return to university, perhaps to get a PhD in the philosophy of science; a Lawyer who deals with immigrants and who made an excellent point on refugee claimants that I have suspected for some time that I will get to later on; another who grew up in a Secular household and does not understand faith (I do – I just don’t understand why anyone in their right mind discards reason and evidence in favor of wishful thinking); the Spiritual woman that made the claim that most atheists are really agnostics (which underscores a problem of definitions that might produce some trouble); another that wants to see if there are reasons to discard her Faith (burden of proof shift, anyone?) and “dragged” her husband along (well, according to him, anyway…); a retiree with a Physics background who didn’t really say much about himself; a believing Moral Relativist (!) who knows too much about philosophy, an intellectual pursuit that I have little patience for (and who actually told me that string theory is not testable, that I should Google it! Ah, the University of Google, where you can get a degree in 9/11 truthing! Michio Kaku, where are you when I need you?); and yours truly, who described himself as “the most unspiritual person that you will ever meet”. Quite a wide spectrum of beliefs which is a good start.
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I want to say this at the get-go before I am accused of being prejudiced and bigoted: I do not think that only atheists can do science. I do not think that only atheists can determine science policy. In searching for someone to head the NIH, such a policy would reduce the field considerably and exclude many excellent candidates that we would be justified in predicting they would do a fantastic job.

Francis Collins is not one of them. Yes, he has shown his ability to administer very large scientific projects. Yes, he has demonstrated his ability to do good science. But these are not the only requirements for heading the National Institutes of Health, the largest funding agency for biomedical research in the US. Something less well known is that it also funds research outside the US if certain conditions are met.

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