As the director of the Human Genome Project, he has led a consortium of scientists to read out the billion letters of the human genome. As a believer, Dr. Collins sees DNA - the information molecule of all living things - as God's language, and the elegance and complexity of bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God's plan. However, he hasn't always embraced these perspectives. When he was a graduate student in physical chemistry in the 1970s, he was an atheist, finding no reason to postulate the existence of any truths outside of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Then he went to medical school and encountered life and death issues at the bedsides of his patients. Challenged by one of those patients, who asked, "What do you believe, doctor?” he began searching for answers.
A Native American chief goes to his
medicine man and states I have
three squaws and many daughters. I need a son to become chief when I
die. What can I do to beget a son?
The medicine man goes to the holy mountain and fasts, chants, and
beats himself with sacred branches. After several weeks, he returns
to the chief and says It has been revealed to me. You shall gird
your loins and save your seed until the next full moon. Then, when
the moon is full you should lie with each of your squaws in her turn.
You will be rewarded for your obedience.
The Chief follows these directions and when the moon is next full,
goes first to the squaw in the teepee on the antelope hide. He next
goes to the squaw in the teepee on the buffalo hide. And finally he
goes to the third squaw, the one in the teepee on the hippopotamus
Nine moons later, as the full moon shines on the encampment, all three
squaws go into labor.
The chief awaits the outcome in his teepee, smoking the sacred pipe.
Finally, a messenger comes. The squaw on the antelope hide has
had a boy papoose!
The Chief has barely begun to celebrate when the second messenger
comes. The squaw on the buffalo hide has had another boy
And before his elation can really hit him, the third messenger
announces: the squaw on the hippopotamus hide has had twin boy
The Chief is overcome, and hurries to the medicine man. I have been
without a male offspring for many, many moons. Now I suddenly have
four. What is the meaning of this great sign?
The medicine man hurries to the sacred mountain and begins his chants,
fasts, and self-beatings. A few days later he returns to the Chief.
The meaning of this great sign has been revealed to me:
The sum of the sons of the squaw on the hippopotamus is equal to the
sum of the sons of the squaws on the other two hides.