A Christian scientist that supports evolution in a book targeted to fellow Christians--what's not to like? Well, Sam Harris, one of the so-called "New Atheist" (and author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation) thinks that Collins is a danger to mankind--and lumps him with Islamic fundamentalists in a remarkable letter to Nature:
An Editorial announcing the publication of Francis Collins' book, The Language of God ('Building bridges' Nature 442, 110; doi:10.1038/442110a 2006) represents another instance of high-minded squeamishness in addressing the incompatibility of faith and reason. Nature praises Collins, a devout Christian, for engaging "with people of faith to explore how science — both in its mode of thought and its results — is consistent with their religious beliefs".
But here is Collins on how he, as a scientist, finally became convinced of the divinity of Jesus Christ: "On a beautiful fall day, as I was hiking in the Cascade Mountains... the majesty and beauty of God's creation overwhelmed my resistance. As I rounded a corner and saw a beautiful and unexpected frozen waterfall, hundreds of feet high, I knew the search was over. The next morning, I knelt in the dewy grass as the sun rose and surrendered to Jesus Christ."
What does the "mode of thought" displayed by Collins have in common with science? The Language of God should have sparked gasping outrage from the editors at Nature. Instead, they deemed Collins's efforts "moving" and "laudable", commending him for building a "bridge across the social and intellectual divide that exists between most of US academia and the so-called heartlands."
At a time when Muslim doctors and engineers stand accused of attempting atrocities in the expectation of supernatural reward, when the Catholic Church still preaches the sinfulness of condom use in villages devastated by AIDS, when the president of the United States repeatedly vetoes the most promising medical research for religious reasons, much depends on the scientific community presenting a united front against the forces of unreason.
There are bridges and there are gangplanks, and it is the business of journals such as Nature to know the difference.
Read it all here. Now certainly Collins' Christian views (like my own) are not immune from criticism, but it seems to me that Sam Harris' attack is a bit over the top. Collins did not purport to be doing science in his book--his aim was exactly that praised by Nature--to explain his scientific views to his fellow Christians, and to explain his faith to those who don't believe. It did not purport to be a work only of science.