June 4, 2008
Francis Collins Resigns
Emphasized moral applications of scientific knowledge.
Geneticist Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, last week stepped down from the post after 15 years. The geneticist and his team mapped the human genome in 2003, opening the door to personalized medical treatments--and to other, perhaps more sinister outcomes, such as discrimination based on one's genetic makeup. But Collins experienced a significant triumph last month with passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which, according to Scientific American, "prohibits health insurers and employers from canceling or denying coverage or hiking premiums based on one's genetic risk of developing a certain disease."
In a 2001 interview with CT, Collins said of his work:
I think the genome project is a way of accumulating knowledge, and knowledge does not have moral value. Knowledge is neither good nor evil; it's just knowledge. It's information. The application that we make of that knowledge takes on a moral character.