I don’t know much about Francis Collins, but since the Templeton Prize just announced that he’s the 2020 Laureate, I’m inspired to learn more.
Ever since learning about Sir John Templeton and the Prize, I became fascinated with the list of past laureates; I began to consider this list a syllabus for studying noble lives.
I’m thankful for this list of inspirational figures to which the foundation points by honouring them with this prize. We are starved for edifying examples in our culture, but I have always loved the verse from Sirach: “If you see an intelligent person, rise early to visit him; let your foot wear out his doorstep.” (Sirach 6:36)
From this timeline of Francis Collins’ many turning points and achievements, here are three that especially stood out to me:
1976: As a third-year medical student, he finds himself deeply touched by how often his patients look to personal faith to provide solace in the face of adversity, even death. When one of those patients asks him about his own faith, his inability to articulate an answer that feels honest, despite his ostensible atheism, leads him to seriously consider the possibility of God for the first time in his life. His soul searching leads him to visit a neighbor, a Methodist minister, who loans him the book Mere Christianity by legendary Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis, a once-confirmed atheist who rigorously tested the tenets of Christianity through the lens of logic and became a Christian himself. Collins’s journey to Christian belief will evolve and strengthen over the next three decades.
2003: Under his direction, the Human Genome Sequencing Consortium announces what is essentially the completion of the Human Genome Project, fully mapping the entire human genome, along with the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that make up human DNA. The project is completed two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule and $400 million under budget. It coincides with the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s publication of the structure of DNA.
2008: Increasingly concerned with the ethical and legal issues raised by rapid advancements in genetic research, spearheads efforts to protect the privacy of genetic information and prohibit gene-based insurance and employment discrimination, leading to the passage of the federal Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act.
I’m really excited to learn more about Francis Collins and thank the Templeton Prize for the incredible service they provide the whole world in celebrating the greatest living spiritual entrepreneurs.