Francis Collins Speaks on Genetic Engineering and Christian Faith

| By on The President's Notebook

Credit: Trinity Forum/Clay Blackmore Photography. Used with permission.

On June 18, 2018, leading geneticist and BioLogos founder Francis Collins gave a landmark lecture at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by The Trinity Forum, a group that brings Christian leaders to public square conversations, and was co-sponsored by BioLogos. Over 350 people attended, packing out the room and extending into the overflow space.

I had the privilege of hearing the lecture in person and feeling the energy in the room. I encourage you to watch it for yourself. Dr. Collins began by sharing his own story, both his scientific journey from earning a PhD in quantum physics to leading the Human Genome Project and directing the National Institutes of Health, and his spiritual journey from atheism to coming to faith in Jesus Christ through the writings of C.S.Lewis. He argued for the underlying harmony between science and biblical faith, and pointed to BioLogos as a place to engage these questions thoughtfully.  

In the second half of his presentation, Collins addressed one of the most cutting edge topics arising from genomics today: genetic engineering. Through the technology of CRISPR-Cas9, it has become fairly straightforward to “find and replace” pieces of the genetic code. He shared amazing stories of how this technology is already being used to effectively treat disease, and its promise for future treatment, when applied to somatic cells (cells in the body other than reproductive cells). However, he emphasized the ethical dangers in using gene-editing technologies on embryos or germline (reproductive) cells. His discussion of the grey areas between treatment and enhancement was illuminating, and his list of questions to be considered sets the stage for the conversations that Christians need to be having today.

Leading philosopher James K.A. Smith served as respondent, affirming Collins’ themes and playing out some of the implications for human identity. He argued that part of what it means to be humans made in God’s image, is that we are, in our very essence, dependent on one another. Smith joined Collins in answering several audience questions at the end of the presentation.

Enjoy the video, and share your reflections in the comments section below.




Haarsma, Deborah. "Francis Collins Speaks on Genetic Engineering and Christian Faith" N.p., 20 Jun. 2018. Web. 17 January 2019.


Haarsma, D. (2018, June 20). Francis Collins Speaks on Genetic Engineering and Christian Faith
Retrieved January 17, 2019, from /blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/francis-collins-speaks-on-genetic-engineering-and-christian-faith

About the Author

Deborah Haarsma

Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

More posts by Deborah Haarsma