Human Genome expert Collins addresses Jefferson Society

On March 14, 2008, the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society met to hear Dr. Francis Collins, author, University of Virginia alumnus, head of the Human Genome Project, and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Dr. Collins earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Virginia in 1970, a PhD in physical chemistry from Yale in 1974, and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina in 1977. In the 1990s he led the Human Genome Project. This international effort to decode the entire human genome was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.

Dr. Collins is also the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

During his presentation, titled, “Genomics, Medicine, and Society,” Dr. Collins discussed the revolution in medicine that has resulted from our knowledge of human genetics. Dr. Collins also raised questions about the ethical, legal, and social implications of our newfound knowledge, including issues involving patents, health insurance, disparities in treatment, and genetic discrimination. Dr. Collins also spoke to the implications of genetic research for human spirituality and the need to find harmony between religious beliefs and scientific discovery. He then took questions from the audience.

Timeline for the podcast:

  • 00:00 Introduction by Edward Ridgely, Vice President, Jefferson Literary and Debating Society
  • 02:00 Dr. Collins: “Genomics, Medicine, and Society”
  • 06:00 The Human Genome
  • 12:00 A revolution in medicine
  • 20:00 Ethical, legal, and social implications
  • 35:00 Dr. James Watson’s controversial remarks on genetics and race
  • 39:00 Genetic determinism vs. the human spirit and the need for God
  • 42:00 A glimpse of the future
  • 49:00 Questions from the audience (most questions were repeated by Collins)
  • 54:00 (This question was not repeated by the speaker) Why don’t we skip RNA, DNA, and study the expression of genes, i.e., proteins, directly? (“proteomics”)
  • 1:14:00 (This question was not repeated by the speaker) Can you cite examples of human evolution in action?
  • 1:25:00 End of presentation

This event was recorded by Elizabeth McCullough of

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