Why should scientists shun Templeton Foundation?

June 26, 2009 | By | 8 Replies More

I’ve wondered why so many respected scientists participate in Templeton Foundation activities.  One reason is money, but not all lovers of science acquiesce, as indicated on Richard Dawkins’ site.  For example:

I hope you will understand that this is by no means directed at you personally, but I don’t engage in Templeton-associated matters.  I cannot agree with the Templeton Foundation’s project of trying to make  religion respectable by conflating it with science; this is like mixing  astrology with astronomy or voodoo with medical research, and I disapprove of  Templeton’s use of its great wealth to bribe compliance with this project.  Templeton is to all intents and purposes a propaganda organisation for religious  outlooks; it should honestly say so and equally honestly devote its money to prop up the antique superstitions it favours, and not pretend that questions of  religion are of the same kind and on the same level as those of science.

Anthony Grayling

Here’s one more excerpt from a letter to Edwin Cartlidge of the Templeton Foundation, this one by Daniel Dennett:

If you had said that you were studying the views of scientists, philosophers and, say, choreographers on this topic, I would at least be curious about what expertise choreographers could bring to it. If you had said scientists, philosophers, and astrologers, I would not even have replied to your invitation. The only reason I am replying is to let you know that I disapprove of the Templeton Foundation’s attempt to tie theologians to the coat tails of scientists and philosophers who actually do have expertise on this topic.


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Category: Culture, Media, Religion, Science, scientific method

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (8)

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  1. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Though there's nothing wrong with a scientist choosing not to participate in Templeton doings, I don't think there's any reason for scientists to shun the Templeton Foundation. Yes, their bias is pro-religion, but that shouldn't matter, as long as they're willing to examine all sides of the issues they explore, and apparently they are, at least according to Michael Shermer, who edited a booklet for them, “Does science make belief in God obsolete?” Shermer wrote:

    "Since I am aware of the reputation that the Templeton Foundation has within the skeptical, atheist, and humanist communities for harboring a right-wing Christian agenda, I would like to note that, in fact, they invited me to select the commentators and edit their essays, and insisted that I include skeptics, atheists, and humanists, which you will see that I did. There was never any hint to me that I should edit the commentaries to come out a certain way to match the alleged agenda; to the contrary, they seemed most eager to give everyone a fair shake … to the tune of over a million dollars spent in a national advertising campaign that included advertorials placed in Scientific American, American Scientist, Nature, The New Scientist, The Atlantic Monthly, Commentary, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Economist, The Financial Times, The New Republic, Prospect, and the Sunday edition of The New York Times. Oh, and Skeptic magazine!"

    Sounds like they're an intellectually honest bunch; if so, it wouldn't be fair to lump them in with the creationist/ID crowd.


    (BTW, you can read the essays for the booklet Sherman edited online; you can get there from the eSkeptic site linked above.)

  2. Tony Coyle says:

    The Templeton Foundation is intellectually dishonest, insofar as they pretend only to be interested in "the big questions", but every prize and every major grant (puff pieces like Shermer's nothwithstanding) require the ascendancy of religion within science.

    They spend a lot of money selling themselves as a humanist organization – but their actual record of monetary support does not match that viewpoint. Their money goes towards, in almost every case, studies and 'research' seeking to impose a religious perspective on science, in science-ethics, and in science legislation.

    The only thing separating them from the creotards is money – and lots more brains. They are definitely the 'smart' end of the wedge. Doesn't make them honest, though.

  3. Mindy Carney says:

    See, this is why I adore this blog. I'd never even heard of Templeton (yeah, that's just how out of it I am), and now, before I even go off to read about them, I've learned so much – how good AND not good they might be. I might even visit and make up my own mind!!!

  4. Karl says:

    Ah but there's the rub, what bothers the "real" scientists of the peer review, academia contolling, we'll have no skeptcism about what we've published, brand of research articles. They would rather snub their noses at the money than have an article in the same journal as a creationist or even an advocate of intelligent design. Most deists would have to have believed in intelligent design in some form or another.

    Money means much, but it doesn't mean that it can be used to persuade a scientist where they will publish their research, that's still based upon the peers they want selecting, reviewing and editing the material that is under the control of modern university academia.

    Perhaps a triffle bit closed minded and protectionary of their turf and the governmental grant money from groups like the National Science Foundation which of course is tax payer dollars.

    The Templeton money is not from tax payers so it very well could have an agenda that is harmeful to the general well being of people. Wouldn't want to see anything in print that connects the dots between worldviews, research money and self fulfilling research studies.

    Kind of reminds me of how the global warming hysteria got started. The researchers asked what the "government leaders" wanted them to look for and lo and behold, it was found and then quickly peer reviewed before the next cooling cyle was underway.

    BTW we're in the coolest June on record for many, many decades. Must be just thinking about going green has convinced mother nature that she can ease off on the temperatures.

  5. Stacy Kennedy says:

    Karl, peer review is all about skepticism. That's why scientific articles are published in scientific journals; so that every other scientist in the world can have at them. And they do. If you knew anything about how science is actually done, you'd realize how contentious it is.

  6. Alison says:

    A scientist taking money from Templeton to equate religious beliefs with science is akin to a teacher taking a grant from NAMBLA to prove that sexual contact with children enhances learning. You might get a nice chunk of change for your "research", but you'll probably have to change your career path after you're published.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    At New Scientist, Michael Brooks writes that he can live the the watered-down Templeton version of religion:

    "When I attended a journalism fellowship funded by the Templeton Foundation in 2005, I learned from Templeton-endorsed scientists and theologians that the way to establish a peaceful co-existence of science and religion was to make no religious claims at all.

    They said that creationism is out, as is intelligent design. There can be no afterlife. Nor does anyone have an eternal soul. There was no virgin birth – that was most probably a story made up after Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. There was no physical resurrection of Jesus. None of the miracles actually happened. And prayers are not answered. This is Templeton version of religion. A stripped-down, vague and woolly notion that there is something "other" out there. It makes no claims beyond that."


  8. Erich Vieth says:

    "Project Reason hired British science journalist Sunny Bains to investigate Templeton and build a case against it. Her unpublished findings include evidence of pervasive cronyism: more than half of the past dozen Templeton Prize winners were connected to the foundation before their win, and board members do well obtaining grant money and speaking gigs. Bains also argues that the true atheistic tendencies of leading scientists were misrepresented in the foundation's Big Questions advertisements. Templeton's mission, Bains concludes, is to promote religion, and its overtures to science are an insidious trick with the purpose of sneaking in God."


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