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Francis Collins: A Cautionary Tale

Aborted baby scalps on rat backs: why have faithful Christians in high positions if they use their powers for evil?
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Oh man, what a powerful essay about Francis Collins by Justin Lee:

On June 8, 2019, Francis Collins finger-picked his guitar and sang Andy Grammer’s song “Don’t Give Up On Me” at the memorial service for a young man who had died after a four-year battle with a rare kidney cancer. The man had enjoyed the song, and Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, cared dearly for him. He concluded his performance with an emotional benediction, promising that he would see the young man again and that he and his staff would not give up searching for a cure. This is the kind of man Francis Collins is.

One month earlier, Collins’s NIH had approved a research grant requested by University of Pittsburgh scientists who desired to graft the scalps of aborted fetuses onto rats and mice. Their research findings were published by Nature in September 2020 and include photos showing patches of soft, wispy baby hair growing amid coarse rodent fur. This, too, is the kind of man Francis Collins is.


Collins offered an explanation for why he resigned the directorship: He believes “that no single person should serve in the position too long.” One suspects it also has to do with the firestorm of controversies he’s been embroiled in this year. While it may be possible for reasonable people to disagree about the ethics of embryonic stem cell research, some fruits of the Magician’s worldview—such as human-animal chimeras—are, for almost everyone, beyond the pale.

The University of Pittsburgh’s experiment in “humanizing” rodents with fetal tissue harvested from elective abortions was just one of many such projects funded by the NIH. While this particular study was approved for funding by Anthony Fauci’s NIAID, the buck ultimately stops with Collins. Lest one assume out of charity that these grant approvals were made without Collins’s knowledge, in 2019 Collins opposed the Trump administration’s decision to ban NIH intramural research using fetal tissue and to require grants for extramural research with fetal tissue to be reviewed by an ethics advisory board. Last spring, these restrictions were rescinded with Collins’s full support.

In the year prior to the ban, Collins’s NIH spent $115 million on fetal experimentation, a record for the institute. And since 2016, nearly three million dollars have gone toward establishing the Tissue Hub and Collection Site at the University of Pittsburgh, which traffics fetal organs—including organs from viable and full-term fetuses—from abortion clinics to research facilities. Earlier in Collins’s tenure, the NIH funded the research of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Jörg Gerlach, who pioneered a method of harvesting fresh livers from babies delivered alive at 18 to 22 weeks’ gestation, which he has used in both Italy and the United States. As David Daleiden explains, “these babies either died when they were ‘submerged’ in bags for transport, or after their bodies were cut open to harvest their livers.” The University of Pittsburgh’s house of horrors may seem like an outlier, but the callous treatment of human fetuses is also a consequence of federal regulations. As the human-rodent chimera study notes under the sub-heading “Ethical approval,” “The use of de-identified human fetal tissues did not constitute human subjects research as defined under federal regulations” (emphasis mine). In the same section one learns that greater propriety is shown to rats than to the remains of human children. This is the research culture Francis Collins has been immersed in for much of his career, and it’s the culture he reinforced at the NIH. It is the Magician’s worldview enacted—call it the “Magician’s Praxis.”


Read it all. Lee says that even these horrors are not the worst thing Collins has done — and explains why he thinks so.

Lee calls the outspokenly Evangelical Collins “a brother in Christ,” but also says  he is “a tragic figure” and “a cautionary tale.” All of this true. How many of us are Francis Collins, compartmentalizing our professional lives from our religious commitments? As others have said, what is the point of having a faithful Christian rise to positions of great authority if they use it to underwrite abominations like this?