Over at Newsweek, our latest article is up. We begin by addressing some of negative reactions to the appointment of Francis Collins as head of NIH:
The critics, though, have it exactly backward: the United States needs more scientists like Collins—researchers who show by their prominence and their example that a good scientist can still retain religious beliefs. The stunning irony in the longstanding tension between science and religion in America is that many scientists who merely claim to be defending rationality from religious fundamentalism may actually be turning Americans off to science, doing more harm to their cause than good.
Science and religion are not mutually exclusive and must not continue to be portrayed as such. Though some very vocal voices in the science community disagree, I assure you they are not representative of the whole. I continue to work day to day with scientists who hold a very broad array of beliefs across fields from molecular biology to physiology to conservation. And when it comes to issues like climate change and ocean acidification, everyone must be be engaged if we’re to get anywhere. The new atheist movement takes an adversarial approach, but only succeeds in alienating the majority of the planet away from science. When it comes to enacting sound policies on what really matters, this will always be a losing strategy.
Americans have serious problems with science, and religion is definitely part of the reason. But that doesn’t mean fighting religion, indiscriminately, is the answer. A far better approach is to work with religious believers to help them separate their personal religion from everybody’s shared science, and move toward a much needed middle ground.
The New Atheists will hardly be pleased by the Collins choice, but that’s unpreventable and perhaps even to the good: science and atheism aren’t the same, and the former must always remain a broader, more inclusive category.
You can read the full piece online here.