Francis Collins Is Treating Christopher Hitchens

The creationists will be all over this one — maybe they already are but we haven’t seen any of their posts yet. In London’s Daily Mail we read Atheist Christopher Hitchens turns to evangelical Christian doctor in his fight against cancer. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The last person you might expect Christopher Hitchens, one of the world’s best known atheists, to turn to for help would be an evangelical Christian. But a highly religious doctor might be the only individual who can help the author and journalist who is suffering from cancer.

Dr Francis Collins, the former director of the National Human Genome Research Project was one part of the team which developed techniques to map out the entire human DNA make-up is using Hitchens as a guinea pig for a new treatment.

Christopher Hitchens is well-known for advocating atheism, and lately for suffering from cancer. Francis Collins is not only a physician and a well-known scientist, he’s also a founder of the BioLogos Foundation, the theistic evolution group that is driving creationists crazy (see, e.g., Food Fight: Albert Mohler v. BioLogos).

That’s enough background. Let’s read on:

Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has had his genome mapped out in its entirety by taking DNA from healthy tissue and from his cancerous tumour. On each sample six billion DNA matches were run, in order to catalogue the mutations in the cancerous cells which had given Hitchens cancer of the oesophagus.

Then in the New Year Dr Collins found a mutation and went about tackling the DNA directly. He discovered that a drug already existed to treat the particular mutation and now Hitchens takes just one tablet a day, rather than undergoing gruelling chemotherapy.

That really is fascinating. One more except:

The unlikely alliance between the Christian and Atheist formed when the pair used to debate each other about whether God existed, leading to the two becoming friends.


Hitchens added: ‘It is a rather wonderful relationship. ‘I won’t say he doesn’t pray for me, because I think he probably does; but he doesn’t discuss it with me. He agrees that his medical experience does not include anything that could be described as a miracle cure.

Despite the clear fact that this is a normal physician-patient relationship, albeit between two famous people, we anticipate that the creationists will be drooling over the imagined “irony” of an atheist being treated by an evangelical Christian. We fully expect that they’ll somehow overlook the fact that Hitchens’ medical treatment has nothing to do with religion; furthermore, Collins is in no way a creationist. If he were, Hitchens would be unlikely to go anywhere near him. As it is, he seems to have made an excellent choice. We hope it works out well.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Francis Collins Is Treating Christopher Hitchens

  1. The good news here is that two persons can disagree in a genial manner and that there’s a Christian who can separate religion from the practice of his profession. If only all believers in any religion were like Collins, there’d be no problem.

  2. Greg Camp says:

    If only all believers in any religion were like Collins, there’d be no problem.

    True, and I’d probably be blogging about the private lives of Hollywood starlets instead of The Controversy.

  3. It will be interesting to see what the usual creationist suspects have to say about this, if anything. Liberal christians like those at Biologos give them more problems than do atheists. However, if they choose to condemn Dr. Collins for treating an atheist, then they will look small-minded and mean. If, on the other hand, they trumpet the fact that the atheist Hitchens sought out a christian doctor, they will have to acknowledge that the it’s possible to be a christian like Dr. Collins and believe in (and even promote) evolution. I know, for example, that Ham would never do that. So, what to do…

  4. I don’t understand what difference it makes. I have to be honest. I don’t know the beliefs or lack thereof, of my primary doctor, or the specialist I see. Why would anyone make a big deal out of it unless it interferes with one’s medical care? Has Hitchens ever said he wouldn’t see a physician who was also a Christian?

  5. Ellie says: “I don’t understand what difference it makes.”

    Nor do I. But I anticipate that each will be accused of hypocrisy — Hitchens for consulting a Christian (as if he were seeking out a faith healer), and Collins for treating an unbeliever. Those who dislike Collins for being a “Darwinist” will be particularly upset that he’s aiding the “enemy.”

  6. Maybe old Hambo and Big Al will have to address how many in their tribes are actually cared for by atheist physicians. I wonder if they check to make sure that they visit only creationist physicians – certainly would shrink the pool. And of course they would have to accept ‘creation based-medicine’ as opposed to science-based medicine that takes into account drug-resistance, mutations, and other such evolutionary heresies. I know that Francis cares for anyone afflicted with cancer and other diseases, regardless of their religious beliefs or non-beliefs.

  7. Unfortunately for the creationists, Dr. Collins has never been an evolution doubter in the slightest; to quote him from a recent public appearance, the evidence for evolution is “incontrovertible.” He’s not in their camp – he’s a man with far too much integrity for that. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with him and he’s a personal hero of mine; Mr. Hitchens is in excellent hands.

  8. I’ve had to deal with the “faith” of a dentist at one point. He was a Scientologist. I was told he was a good dentist, but I was no more in his chair and he was asking if I had “any personal problems in my life”. I got up, paid for a routine exam (he was going to fill a cavity), and left, never to return. He was a bit… miffed… but to say I was uncomfortable with a *dentist* asking me whether I had “personal problems” is an understatement.
    That said, I completely and wholeheartedly agree with Ellie. None of my business (so long as they maintain the same attitude).

  9. I don’t know or care if my doctor is religious or not. I am just happy she has a slim finger for my prostate exam.

  10. Tomato Addict

    Collins not only has a personal relationship with Hitchens, but a professional and morale obligation to help the sick. Would that we all have such friends in a time of need.

  11. It will be interesting to see what the usual creationist suspects have to say about this, if anything.

    I’m guessing most of them will ignore it. Doesn’t fit with their memes of evil, irrational atheists being biased against Christians.

  12. Perhaps this explains why Hitchens was too ill to attend the American Atheists convention. What’s in those pills?

    OTOH, don’t believe everything you read in the Daily Fail. They make up things.

    September 2010: Francis Collins is praying for Hitchens (Collins announces, tooting his own piety horn)–but I don’t expect any supernatural intervention, says Collins.

    I’m not getting anything more recent or concrete, except religious blogs quoting each other.