The Templeton Bribe

So you’re an organization whose mission is to blur the lines between faith and science, and you have huge wads of cash to do this.  What’s the best strategy?

Well, if you’re smart, you find a bunch of journalists who are not averse to being bribed to write articles consonant with your mission, give them a lot of money to attend “seminars” on reconciling faith and science (you also give a nice emolument to the speakers), enlist a spiffy British university to house these journalists, on whom you bestow the fancy title of “fellows,” cover all their expenses (including housing) to go to the UK for a couple of months, and even give them a “book allowance.”  What could be more congenial to an overworked journalist than a chance to play British scholar, punting along the lovely Cam or enjoying a nice pint in a quant pub, all the while chewing over the wisdom of luminaries like John Polkinghorne and  John Haught, and pondering the mysteries of a fine-tuned universe and the inevitable evolution of humans?

And the best part is this: forever after, those journalists are in your camp.  Not only can you use their names in your advertising, but you’ve conditioned them, in Pavlovian fashion, to think that great rewards come to those who favor the accommodation of science and faith. They’ll do your job for you!

The John Templeton Foundation may be misguided, but it’s not stupid.  The Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships in Science and Religion pay senior and mid-career journalists $15,000 (plus all the perks above) to come to Cambridge University for two months, listen to other people talk about science and religion, study a religion/science topic of their own devising, and then write a nifty paper that they can publish, so getting even more money. What a perk! Imagine sitting in a medieval library, pondering the Great Questions. And you get to be called a fellow! And write a term paper! Isn’t that better than cranking out hack pieces for people who’d rather be watching American Idol?  Sure, you have to apply, and write an application essay stating how you intend to relate science and religion, but, hey, it’s only 1500 words, and once you’re in, you’re golden.  You may even get to be on the advisory board, and have a chance to come back to the trough.

As I said, The Templeton Foundation is smart—or rather wily.  They realize that few people, especially underpaid journalists and overworked academics, are immune to the temptation of dosh, and once those people get hooked on the promise of money and prestige, they forever have a stall in the Templeton stable. And, in the hopes of future Templeton funding,  perhaps they’ll continue to write pieces congenial to the Foundation’s mission.

The Temple Foundation is wily, but they’re not exactly honest.  Look at this:

After decades during which leading voices from science and religion viewed each other with suspicion and little sense of how the two areas might relate, recent years have brought an active pursuit of understanding how science may deepen theological awareness, for example, or how religious traditions might illuminate the scientific realm.  Fellowship organizers note that rigorous journalistic examination of the region where science and theology overlap – as well as understanding the reasoning of many who assert the two disciplines are without common ground – can effectively promote a deeper understanding of the emerging dialogue.

Now if you’re interested in seeing how science and religion “illuminate” one another, what’s the first thing you think of?  How about this:  is there any empirical truth in the claims of faith? After all, if you’re trying to “reconcile” two areas of thought, and look at their interactions, surely you’d be interested if there’s any empirical truth in them.  After all, why “reconcile” two areas if one of them might be only baseless superstition?  Is the evidence for God as strong as it is for evolution? Does the “fine-tuning” of physical constants prove Jesus?  Was the evolution of humans inevitable, thereby showing that we were part of God’s plan?

It’s not that there’s nothing to say about this.  After all, one of the speakers in the Fellows’ symposia is Simon Conway Morris, who has written a popular-science book claiming that biology proves that the evolution of human-like creatures was inevitable.  It’s just that the Templeton Foundation doesn’t want to promote, or have its Fellows write about, the other side, the Dark Side that feels that no reconciliation is possible between science and faith.  John Horgan, who was once a Journalism Fellow, talks about his experience:

My ambivalence about the foundation came to a head during my fellowship in Cambridge last summer. The British biologist Richard Dawkins, whose participation in the meeting helped convince me and other fellows of its legitimacy, was the only speaker who denounced religious beliefs as incompatible with science, irrational, and harmful. The other speakers — three agnostics, one Jew, a deist, and 12 Christians (a Muslim philosopher canceled at the last minute) — offered a perspective clearly skewed in favor of religion and Christianity.

Some of the Christian speakers’ views struck me as inconsistent, to say the least. None of them supported intelligent design, the notion that life is in certain respects irreducibly complex and hence must have a divine origin, and several of them denounced it. Simon Conway Morris, a biologist at Cambridge and an adviser to the Templeton Foundation, ridiculed intelligent design as nonsense that no respectable biologist could accept. That stance echoes the view of the foundation, which over the last year has taken pains to distance itself from the American intelligent-design movement.

And yet Morris, a Catholic, revealed in response to questions that he believes Christ was a supernatural figure who performed miracles and was resurrected after his death. Other Templeton speakers also rejected intelligent design while espousing beliefs at least as lacking in scientific substance.

The Templeton prize-winners John Polkinghorne and John Barrow argued that the laws of physics seem fine-tuned to allow for the existence of human beings, which is the physics version of intelligent design. The physicist F. Russell Stannard, a member of the Templeton Foundation Board of Trustees, contended that prayers can heal the sick — not through the placebo effect, which is an established fact, but through the intercession of God. In fact the foundation has supported studies of the effectiveness of so-called intercessory prayer, which have been inconclusive.

One Templeton official made what I felt were inappropriate remarks about the foundation’s expectations of us fellows. She told us that the meeting cost more than $1-million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion. But when I told her one evening at dinner that — given all the problems caused by religion throughout human history — I didn’t want science and religion to be reconciled, and that I hoped humanity would eventually outgrow religion, she replied that she didn’t think someone with those opinions should have accepted a fellowship. So much for an open exchange of views.

So, the Foundation doesn’t really want the hard light of science cast upon faith.  It wants its journalists (and nearly everyone it funds) to show how faith and science are compatible.  Those who feel otherwise, like Victor Stenger, Richard Dawkins, Anthony Grayling, Steven Weinberg, well, those people don’t have a say.  (In fact, the Foundation’s history of intellectual dishonesty has made many of them unwilling to be part of its endeavors.) If a miscreant sneaks in by accident, as did John Horgan, he’s told that he doesn’t belong.  The Foundation may pay lip service to dissenters, as in this statement (my emphasis),

Fellowship organizers note that rigorous journalistic examination of the region where science and theology overlap – as well as understanding the reasoning of many who assert the two disciplines are without common ground – can effectively promote a deeper understanding of the emerging dialogue.

but you won’t see Templeton giving Journalism Fellowships to people who have a track record of such views.  Instead, the Fellows spend their time pondering, “Now how on earth could those poor people think that science and faith are incompatible?”

These journalism fellowships are nothing more than a bribe—a bribe to get journalists to favor a certain point of view.  The Foundation’s success at recruiting reputable candidates proves one thing: it doesn’t cost much to buy a journalist’s integrity.  Fifteen thousand bucks, a “book allowance,” and a fancy title will do it.

Could this explain why those journalists who trumpet every other achievement on their websites keep quiet when they get a Templeton Fellowship?


91 Comments

  1. Wowbagger
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Hmm, it is odd that our smiling chum hasn’t made a point of it trumpeting that from the rooftops, isn’t it?

    At least now he’ll be able to afford plenty of mouthwash to rinse away the taste of Christian ass from his lips, and physiotherapy to help the spine (though I use the term loosely) he may have injured as he bent over backwards to reach it.

    • ennui
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Does Colgate even make mouthwash?

  2. ennui
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Having given up on Mooney a while back, I continue to be more concerned about the Templeton loot being channeled toward David Sloan Wilson and his ERS website.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      ERS looks like the latest wedge strategy. You suppose they’re working on a textbook for Texas?

      • ennui
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        I dunno, it’s a pretty new site, but I do know that with practice (and a jingle in his pocket), our new fellow just might be able to produce a portion of gabblefart like this.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        (Re. the Herald Trib piece) Crimony! That should be in Guinness for the most staggeringly inane and ignorant Op-Ed ever. I guess at least it’s some solace that it’s 3+ yrs old.

      • Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Wow, that op-ed was stupid beyond stupid. How could so much be so wrong in such an ignorantly concise way? And with such conviction!

        The Simpleton Foundation should write them a check.

      • Jonn Mero
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 3:34 am | Permalink

        This was a profoundly secular move: It simply denied natural knowledge of God and thereby eliminated theology from the sciences. Religion, stripped of rationality, became associated with a blind unmediated faith — precisely the mark of fanaticism. Thus religious fundamentalism constitutes an absence of religion that only true religion can correct.

        Like saying that cancer is a disease that only cancer can cure?
        Didn’t it occur to him that, like with cancer, the best cure is to remove the illness (or delusion)?

      • Jonn Mero
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 3:53 am | Permalink

        That is of course a response to the gabblefart as referred to above by <i.ennui.

  3. Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I hate the politics of cultural appeasement — the edifices humans build to protect their blunted psyche.

  4. Dilaceratus
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I suppose if a person were, by choice, spineless, they might have so much extra calcium available to them that the glow from their shiny white choppers would give the illusion of a personal halo.

  5. SWH
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    “In fact the foundation has supported studies of the effectiveness of so-called intercessory prayer, which have been inconclusive.”

    I thought the Templeton funded STEP trial was pretty conclusive – it was a well organized multi-centered appropriately blinded trial. The findings were that if you pray for people who don’t know they are being prayed for, it makes no difference (the trend was that they do worse than those not prayed for – the unprayed?-, but no statistical difference). If you tell people you are praying for them,and do so, then they do worse. Good stats, etc.

    Benson et al Am. Heart J. 2006 vol. 151 (4) pp. 934-942

    See also the editorial – which is amusing and criticizes the IRB that approved the trial (their rationale being that it was at worst harmless):

    Am. Heart J. 2006 vol. 151 (4) pp. 762-764

    An earlier review of studies:
    Roberts et al. Intercessory prayer for the alleviation of ill health.Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)2000 while not Templeton funded (as far as I know) demonstrates no overall effects in the studies noted.

  6. NewEnglandBob
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    I want to frame a response to Jerry’s post, but I have a hard time bridging my distaste for accommodationists when it is apparent that they positively kiss The John Templeton Foundation’s collective ass by applying for the fellowship to continue to be one-sided and fail to use reason or critical thought.

  7. SLC
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I left a comment on one of the threads over on the Intersection blog asking whether Mr. Mooney was going to mention his award of a Templeton Fellowship. That was yesterday and so far, no cigar.

  8. Gingerbaker
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget to wipe that blade, but be careful when you sheath that knife – it’s sharp!

  9. Lawrence Krauss
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Nice piece Jerry. The choice of journalists is to me quite interesting. And the results equally interesting.. one hopes that the better ones will come away, as Horgan did, seeing through the obfuscation.

  10. Tulse
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I didn’t realize that the fellowship wasn’t just awarded and that one had to actually apply — that makes Mooney’s silence all the more egregious. This isn’t something that was simply bestowed on him, it was something he sought out.

    • Posted February 27, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Yes, exactly. I didn’t know that one had to apply, either. That makes it all the more icky and weasel-y.

    • Chayanov
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      I didn’t realize that, either. For all the pooh-poohing by doubters in the past that Mooney had been angling for a Templeton award, it turns out he was actively seeking one.

    • Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure one does always have to apply – maybe it’s possible to apply but not necessarily required? Horgan was offered his ‘fellowship,’ which surely implies that he hadn’t asked for it, and I know someone who was offered one and refused it.

  11. Posted February 27, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Oh, this is so sad/ridiculous/hilarious: http://www.templeton-cambridge.org/fellows/great_issues.php

    Lots of Andrew Brown, Mark Vernon, and Madeline Bunting. Yuck.

  12. NewEnglandBob
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Here is my comment over at the Intersection to Chris Mooney’s announcement:

    6. NewEnglandBob Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    February 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    “I have a bad feeling about this.”
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi

    “The boy is dangerous. They all sense it; why can’t you?”
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi to Qui-Gon Jinn

    “What an incredible smell you’ve discovered.”
    ―Obi-Wan Kenobi

    • Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      I thought the “incredible smell” line was from Han Solo (with the blaster, in the garbage compacter).

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        Good catch.

  13. Yakaru
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    What’s the difference between a “new atheist” and an old one?

    You don’t get a Templeton fellowship for attacking an old one.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Finally, a valid explanation!

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted February 28, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      I thought it was that the old atheists were were amusingly contrary while the new atheists are aggressively hostile.

  14. bric
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s unfortunate that the term ‘Fellow’ is already well established at Cambridge for senior academics. I do hope the public are not confused by this.

    • Sigmund
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      I guess he’s simply graduated from Templeton chaser to Templeton Fellow.

    • Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Of course the public are confused by it! As they’re meant to be!

    • MadScientist
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure Templeton means to confuse by calling them “Fellows” and associating them with one of the world’s oldest universities. Deception is Templeton’s chief objective.

  15. DagoRed
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    It’s likely a small point, and controversial as well, but I think important. While I agree with everything said against the Templeton Foundation, I think to imply those who accept such appointments as lacking in integrity — at least in many of the cases — is little more than an unfounded personal attack. They lack other things, like sufficient intellectual understanding of that which they so wrongly support, but since they believe in what they do, they don’t really lack integrity. While I am sure the Templeton process occasionally attracts unscrupulous people who are willing to merely pander to the Foundation’s point of view just to sponge money off of them, I think to assume that is the motive for all of their fellows is a bit unjustified — simply read what these Fellows have written long prior to becoming Templeton Foundation fellows. They are already in-line with Fellowship ideologies. I think people like Chris Mooney, for example, are completely wrong-headed, even thick headed at times, such as in the way he embraces accommodationism, but I do believe he has given up nothing, least of all his integrity, in accepting this appointment (and I think this can likely be said about about many of the other fellows as well). We can rightly disagree with these writer’s about their stupid ideas, but to assume they are corrupted by Templeton money is an unfounded assertion.

    Templeton, on the other hand, is clearly corrupted, demonstrated both by lying about its true mission, and by following an ulterior agenda that most certainly aims to corrupt science and human understanding, but I am not convinced people like Mooney will likely not write about anything other than the tripe he already produced when given his Templeton fellowship, has given up his integrity. Perhaps it is both politically correct and politically prudent to throw the Fellow out with the Foundation in this case, but it isn’t intellectually honest. Bitter and nasty fruit is simply made that way and it is the baker who picks and collects such duds and makes pie with them who is the one — and really the only one — who is really at fault for making bitter pastries here. Chris Mooney, and most other Fellows, have long-established themselves as bitter and nasty fruit already, and I don’t think Templeton money is going to make them any more unpalatable than they already are. Their only crime, really, is failing to be better thinkers, and to that, we all fall victim occasionally. Let’s reserve the accusation of true criminal, then, to the faulty foundations like Templeton who encourages certain people to continually make the same mistakes over and over and over again.

    • Posted February 27, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Hmmmmm.

      The trouble with that is, as you say, Templeton itself is clearly corrupted. Journalists are journalists – they’re supposed to know how to inform themselves. They have no real excuse for not knowing how Templeton goes about things. Certainly Mooney has to be well aware.

    • mk
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      So you’re saying we should pity Mooney because he’s just stupid?

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

        Advice that both redundant and too late.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      That is one analogy.

      Here is another: “Bitter and nasty fruit is simply made that way and it is the grower who not picks and collect such duds and throw them in the trash who is the one — and really the only one — who is really at fault for sustaining the growth of inviable fruit trees.”

      The problem with analogies is that they aren’t equalities. Philosophers for one may like them, but then again as Templeton they don’t really want to test their ideas content, or lack of it, do they?

    • MadScientist
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      It is difficult to miss John Horton’s comments about the Templeton Fellowships (after all he was one of the first batch), and surely any journalist worth their pay would look into what the award was all about? And yet they choose to play Templeton’s game.

      • MadScientist
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        Gah – John Horgan that is.

  16. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m no fan of John Horgan, which has several misguided ideas on his conscience like “The End of Science” and since that piece IIRC made a close and profitable acquaintance with religion (as I’m writing this I assume by way of Templeton). But at that singular moment he rather shone.

    Templeton and their minions is a bother. Here at Uppsala Anton Zeilinger presented his Celsius seminar right before Venter presented his Linné seminar the other week. I didn’t go, but made time to catch up on the web vid.

    At first it stroke me as odd that this experimenter, which was keen to see testable quantum toy models like those that eventually found their way to relativity, made such a heavy deal of Einstein’s remarks on certain religion’s gods behavior and even claimed that Einstein was religious. It also stroke me as odd that he claimed that just because quantum mechanics seemingly defies local reality, it is non-local. (It is a popular notion, but that doesn’t make it more believable than the alternatives.)

    But then I googled him and noted that he is both religious and on Templeton’s Advisory board, I understood why he rejected experimental testing.

    I also understood why he quite contrary to the seminar in a book I found claims that QM instead defies reality (“the obviously wrong notion of a reality independent of us”). The book was a Templeton Barrow, Davies and Harper eds product, all three religious activists. (Well, Davies pretend to be an agnostic but behaves like an activist deist by incessantly proclaiming the possibility of such ideas in books.)

    In order:

    1. Was Einstein referring to gods? He himself proclaimed he wasn’t (IIRC), but to the general workings of the universe.

    2. Was Einstein religious? He himself proclaimed he was not, it is easy to google. Whether he was or wasn’t must be decided by his behavior, but his proclamations on #1 & #2 tend to falsify the hypothesis.

    3. Does QM reject local reality, or specifically locality, or specifically reality? No, on all accounts.

    It is local by way of marrying well to relativity, which demands locality, in quantum field theories.

    It is realistic by way of having at least one of the possible interpretations consistent with todays predictions as being realistic, the many-worlds interpretation. In fact it is hyper-realistic, as it predicts many objectively real worlds instead of just one.

    And so QM is local realistic. What must be rejected then is instead the misguided and conflicting idea that observables exist independently from, and especially before, environmental decoherence un-entangling them from the ambient quantum universe into classical states in a process not unlike entropy similarly environmentally dispersing into the ever increasing universe.

    [In fact, it can be some fundamental principle at play here. Or at the very least, it likely shows that alternatives to eternally inflationary multiverses and so weak anthropic principles are hard to come by.

    Yes, Templeton believers in a pre-determined and created universe, I'm looking at you!]

    Correlations exist, but as noted over and over again _correlation isn’t causation_. Drop that, and non-locality isn’t any weirder than randomly posting an enveloped red or green card to a friend, open the remaining one and instantly knowing what color your friend’s card has.

    It is the weird idea that quantum cards exist before observing them that messes things up. Quantum envelopes contains entangled correlations of red/green states that are selected at the observations, not red and/or green states which would act as by QM forbidden hidden variables.

    Cosmologist Sean Carroll has in a podcast with some Templeton minded “common ground” nut job a discussion where he propounds this eminently empirical view. As some other cosmologists like Max Tegmark he is a fan of many-world QM, so this shows specifically that mundane reality is consistent with it.

    Is Zeilinger a worse experimentalist because of Templeton involvement? Who knows, but he certainly screws his seminars up!

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      “And so QM is local realistic.” Duh, I meant that QM is consistent with (can’t be rejected to be) a local realistic theory.

    • Antonio Manetti
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      To me, whenever a scientist begins rationalizing his or her religious beliefs, credulity and wishful thinking come in and scientific rigor and skepticism go out the window.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      …non-locality isn’t any weirder than randomly posting an enveloped red or green card to a friend, open the remaining one and instantly knowing what color your friend’s card has.

      Oh yes it is.
      This paired card experiment fails the Bell inequality test (fails to show anything but a hidden state).
      True non-locality shows up clearly in tests of Bell’s inequality as violating the 50/50 rule expected by paired cards.

  17. Milton C.
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I said this over at Mooney’s site, but I’ll repeat myself here. I suppose I’m a glutton for people hurling tomatoes at me, because that will surely be the only response I’ll get.

    I very rarely agree with Mooney’s stuff on science and religion. I mean, very VERY rarely. But I actually seem to have more thought stimulated about these issues when I read his stuff rather than the stuff here or at Pharyngula, because Jerry and PZ write more to their likeminded peanut galleries to get cheers and back-pats than to the opposition to generate vigorous debate. In other words, Chris writes as “Bob’s argument is X. I disagree, and here’s why…” while people like Jerry and PZ often write as “Everyone one knows Bob’s a dumbass and his argument is wrong. Now let’s try to figure out why….” Although Mooney’s actual arguments are much more sub-par compared to people like Jerry (read before you flame me: Jerry is almost always right), Mooney doesn’t present his with this angry, codgery, preconceived narrative attached. I know that’ll probably get me painted with all sorts of invectives and sundry evils, but that’s just how I see it. I don’t expect everyone else to. And I’ll actually be interested to see what Mooney can come up with after his tenure is over.

    Also, I know this is an argument about tone, but I’m frankly ashamed to be associated with skepticism, reason, or whatever you want to call it in light of some of the comments I’ve seen over at The Intersection. I thought we were supposed to be the bigger people in this fight. What happened, guys? The people I’ve seen commenting are acting much more like piddling children who didn’t get their toy at the mall than people who argue with reason. Go ahead and call me a worrywart, weak-minded, or whatever you like. The behavior is on par with some religious fuckwits I know, and that’s a shame.

    Next, getting awarded a fellowship for which you applied using a proposal for an original project that conforms to publically-stated project guidelines is a “bribe?” Well then, it looks like most academics in the world have accepted bribes at one time or another. How about less hyperbole and more substance, folks? This is ridiculous.

    And lastly, I’ve noticed that Dawkins and Dan Dennett are on the recommended reading list for preparation for the fellowship. Yes, they may bash those two at the seminar, but the worrisome cries about fellows getting fed a one-sided narrative are pure bunk.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      Milton C.:

      Did you read the various arguments that Jerry presented that you claim to agree with? Did you read the comments here and other places over the last two years about the dishonesty, the framing and the irrationality of Mooney’s writings? Did you not comprehend them?

      • Milton C.
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        NEB, I believe you’re conflating whether or not one agrees with someone with how offensive they are towards them.

      • Milton C.
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        Also, NEB – did you even read my post? I actually agreed with your later point that Mooney’s arguments are irrational. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say they’re just plain wrong. You’re acting like I’m doing something wrong because I’m not acting like a piddling child, sitting crosslegged on the floor and pounding my fists because I didn’t get my Cheerios – almost like that means I agree with Mooney or something.

        I just don’t judge the validity of my disagreements based on how offensive I can make them, as a few too many people seem to be doing. I’m seeing a little too much substance getting sacrificed in lieu of douchiness. Scold me for arguing from tone, if you’d like, but some of the comments are downright embarrassing for people who claim to cherish reason.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Milton, I read your comment here and over at the Intersection. The uncalled for attacks that Mooney made in his book and other places is what caused some people to be uncivil to Mooney, especially when they tried repeatedly to calmly discuss it with him and he never appropriately responded. He also banned people for asking him questions. Maybe if he treated others with respect then it would be more readily returned.

      • Milton C.
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        Really, NEB? I was over at The Intersection at the time of that whole debacle, and the vast, vast majority of people didn’t come there to discuss anything like adults but rather prefaced comments with something along the lines of “hey mooney, you stupid ass! It’s your fault we have creationists! blah blah blah….” (and that’s not much of an exaggeration, sadly).

        This “discussion” as whole (including all players) really doesn’t have any hint of honest discussion in it whatsoever. It’s akin to a barroom brawl over which NFL team is the best. Not the best format for anything productive.

      • articulett
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        And, Milton don’t confuse your opinion for fact.

        Your inability to perceive the nuances of this “discussion” may have more to do with the way faitheism has affected your thinking rather than your imagined perception that you are somehow taking the high road.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Ah, Milton’s hardly taking the high road. First of all he accuses P.Z. and me of writing not to express our opinions, but to get approbation:

        Jerry and PZ write more to their likeminded peanut galleries to get cheers and back-pats than to the opposition to generate vigorous debate.

        Not true, of course, and Milton should know it. Give us some credit for writing what we believe in, please. If you’re as high-minded as you claim you are, you would hardly sling a brickbat like this.

        Second, there is PLENTY of substantive philosophical and theological discussion on this website, which Milton simply ignores. Sure, there are shorter posts, some positive, some negative. But to say that we’re just name-calling rather than presenting arguments to generate substantive debate is simply wrong.

        This smells of concern trolling.

      • Grendels Dad
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        It also bugs me to no end when people put quotation marks around things that they made up, then implicitly attribute them to their opponent. All while claiming that it is their opponent who refuses to engage with the actual substance of the discussion.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Next, getting awarded a fellowship for which you applied using a proposal for an original project that conforms to publically-stated project guidelines is a “bribe?”

      bribe (brb):

      n.
      1. Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person’s views or conduct.
      2. Something serving to influence or persuade.”

      Well, that looks exactly right.

      Well then, it looks like most academics in the world have accepted bribes at one time or another.

      Yes, in as much as salary constitutes a bribe as it is continuous. Normally, salaries or project money are given in response to efforts. It is, in a manner strikingly analogous to the problem of religious fine-tuning, a matter of confusing pre-selection with post-selection.

      Look, this isn’t a tomato pre-determined to come at your direction, but a reaction to your comment’s content: I smell religious thinking in here.

      As for salaries or project money being used to influence scientists hypotheses, are you kidding me … no, that was a tomato. As for salaries or project money being used to influence scientists hypotheses, it is rejected by observation.

      • Milton C.
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Then a literary scholar getting awarded a fellowship to “make connections between the writings of Shakespeare and modern playwrights” is getting a bribe, just as much as a Templeton Fellow is getting bribed to explore interactions between science and faith.

        (and, for the record, I’m hardly religious. Don’t confuse opinions you disagree with as religion.)

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that would constitute a bribe, if there are serious reasons to believe that is an open question. (Doubtful, in this case.) That would be pre-selection indeed.

        Don’t confuse opinions you disagree with as religion.

        I didn’t, I claimed that the confusion between pre- and post-selection is either example of religious thinking or akin to it. (I seriously doubt there is a strict one-one relationship.)

        Now whether that comes from a religious person is, as I noted in another comment, determined by religious behavior as process, not self-proclamations of some nebulous state.

        For example, my expansive pattern seeking in looking at pre- vs post-selection is example of religious behavior, my willingness to test found patterns is the opposite. But generally a comment gives too little data to test such a hypothesis with.

    • MadScientist
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      If you find little intellectual stimulation that’ probably because religion is not an intellectual activity and it is hardly stimulating.

      As for “… the worrisome cries about fellows getting fed a one-sided narrative are pure bunk.” is not quite right. Dawkins and Dennett are there to be criticized, or in words the Templeton foundation may use “understood so that a better case may be put forward for the compatibility of science and religion.” Dawkins and Dennet are not expected to be heeded – in fact, that would be highly undesirable from the point of view of the Templetons.

      • Michael K Gray
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Quite.
        They are there solely for target practice, and honing the aim of their hot air machines.

      • Milton C.
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        So the religion-criticizing and atheism-promoting articles written by several past Temp. Fellows are some kind of brilliant deflection tactic devised by this evil foundation in New Atheist world and not really a contradiction of your argument?

    • Josh Slocum
      Posted February 28, 2010 at 2:35 am | Permalink

      Oh, goodness me, Milton C. Yes, yes, you’re very concerned about the acid tone directed at Chris Mooney and the Templeton Foundation. We couldn’t possibly be so snarky because the entire Templeton endeavor is a wealthy gambit to buy dishonest endorsements from “journalists.” No, we must all be prejudiced.

      Why don’t you link us these “religion-criticizing and atheism-promoting” articles you hold up as evidence for the intellectual honesty of the Templeton Foundation? Please; I’ll wait. I have all the time you could want in “New Atheist world.”

      If it’s all too unpleasant for you, please avail yourself of my fainting couch.

    • gillt
      Posted March 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Milton C.: ““Bob’s argument is X. I disagree, and here’s why…”

      Let me help you fill in the part where your thinking trails off after the ellipses. “Bob’s argument is X. I disagree, and here’s why in the words of someone else.”

  18. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Does the “fine-tuning” of physical constants prove Jesus?

    It would easily reject gods, if the religious could abandon their falsified idea that likelihoods are pre-selected instead of post-selected as probability theory tells us. It is true that probabilities allow prediction, but likelihoods are about the desired estimates of parameters.

    Or, as Wikipedia so aptly describes it: “”probability” allows us to predict unknown outcomes based on known parameters, “likelihood” allows us to estimate unknown parameters based on known outcomes.”

    Alas, any cognitive dissonance are buried under millennium of being told to obey the pre-determined will of masters and gods, instead of post-determine whether they exist/are full of it as any sane modern society member would do.

  19. Posted February 27, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ve congratulated him in an appropriate way over on his thread.

    • MadScientist
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      31.25 troy ounce per piece of silver by today’s metal prices. Those are pretty big pieces of silver at 0.972Kg each (~92.6cc volume, ~3/8 standard cups per piece). And that’s only the individual’s pocket money; housing people at Cambridge for two months and renting the meeting rooms for that period will be way in excess of that.

    • Posted February 27, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Good one.

      I see a certain former collaborator of mine congratulated him without irony – saying the bribe is “well deserved, not least because of all the crap that comes your way.” Well that makes a lot of sense. A lot of people think Mooney is a sell-out, therefore Mooney deserves the bribe he has won by selling out. How would that be falsified, one wonders.

      • articulett
        Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

        I saw that too and thought it strange. Maybe he’s hoping for a Templeton too. Per Chris Mooney, Templeton “has more money than god”:

        http://www.slate.com/id/115965/

        In this, Evolution fits into the modern “science and religion” reconciliation movement. The leading booster behind this trend has been Sir John Templeton, a retired financier who has, to be blunt, more money than God. Templeton’s foundation funds institutes, research, and conferences, and presents the annual Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, an award deliberately set at a monetary value exceeding the Nobel Prize and frequently given to a religious scientist. This year’s prize went to Dr. Arthur Peacocke, an Oxford physical biochemist and Anglican priest and a “leading advocate for the creative interaction of theology and science.” The quotation comes from a Templeton press release, but is copied verbatim in Evolution’s promotional materials: Like Gould, Peacocke is a spokesman for the series.

        Anyone can learn to obfuscate for money, I suppose.

  20. Dave B.
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    “Now if you’re interested in seeing how science and religion “illuminate” one another, what’s the first thing you think of?”

    A scientist who’s been set on fire!

  21. MadScientist
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    The dialogs between religion and science (at least the jesus cult) tend to be something like:

    R: There is too a god!
    S: How do you know this?
    R: Says so in the Bible, which is the word of God.
    S. How do you know the bible is the word of god?
    R: I was told so!
    S: And what is this god of yours like?
    R: Oh, he is all-loving and omnipotent.
    S: So he ordered Abraham to murder his child because he’s so loving? And he ordered the massacre and rape of other people as part of his love?
    R: The bible isn’t meant to all be taken literally you know; besides, god is all-loving and must have good intentions. In the case of Abraham, god was only testing his faith; he would never have let Abraham kill his son.
    S: You say that Jesus was a god and that he died and came back as a zombie; how do you know this?
    R: Jesus is NOT a zombie! You don’t understand the profound words of the bible. We know Jesus died and came back to life because the bible says so. All the biblical evangelists say so – would four people who received divine inspiration lie?
    S: Why do you say the evangelists were divinely inspired?
    R: They wrote the bible, which is the word of god – how can they write such a book unless they were divinely inspired?

    In short: religion (and the jesus cults as one example) will be believed by some regardless of the evidence against their ridiculous claims. The religious have nothing intelligent to say.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted February 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      The religious have nothing intelligent to say

      They DO when it comes to criticising other delusions!

      • MadScientist
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        Well, I meant nothing intelligent to say in support of their beliefs. Obviously they’ll have something intelligent to say now and then on other matters – they can even be experts in various scientific disciplines (oh, what a shock – science must be compatible with religion!)

  22. articulett
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to apply for a Templeton prize to develop a scientific method for deprogramming those who feel saved or special for believing in magical things.

    I’d assemble a group of former true believers who are now hard-core rationalists to develop methods of intervention for the afflicted.

    As far as I can tell, this may be the only way we “can effectively promote a deeper understanding of the emerging dialogue.”

    Face it, it’s hard to have a dialogue with someone who feels divine because of what they BELIEVE.

  23. Charles Evo
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to start calling him Chris Money.

    • Gingerbaker
      Posted February 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Chrisp Money? :D

  24. Neil
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Templeton Interviewer: How might religious tradition illuminate the scientific realm?

    Candidate #1: There is no way.

    Templeton Interviewer: We’ll call you.

    Templeton Interviewer: How might religious tradition illuminate the scientific realm?

    Candidate #2: There is no way.

    Templeton Interviewer: We’ll call you.

    Templeton Interviewer: How might religious tradition illuminate the scientific realm?

    Candidate #3: How would you like it to illuminate the scientific realm?

    Templeton Interviewer: Welcome, Templeton Fellow.

  25. SaintStephen
    Posted February 28, 2010 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    Professor Coyne,

    Professor Myers linked to your article (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/inwhichiamconvincedillneverget.php), but I wouldn’t trust him.

    When PZ visited De Anza College recently, and we were both waiting outside to get into the auditorium, I asked him why his blog always had a lot more entries than yours. He said “Because I’m a lot smarter than him.”

    I got your back. ;)

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted February 28, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Hey, I’m wondering whether PZ lifted the Horgan quote from Jerry.

  26. Jonn Mero
    Posted February 28, 2010 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    Would maybe Templeton Call-Girl be a more appropriate designation for these . . . – prostitutes?

    • articulett
      Posted February 28, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      I like the term “Templeton Fellate”.

      • Gingerbaker
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        LOL!

  27. NewEnglandBob
    Posted February 28, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    This was under moderation at the Intersection for 2 hours before being deleted:

    130. NewEnglandBob Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    February 28th, 2010 at 7:49 am

    128 comments and not one is a response from Chris Mooney.

    This is communication by a journalist?

    I guess when one sells himself, he can not tolerate being questioned.

    • Posted February 28, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      He is so goddamn cowardly. They moderate the hell out of their comments and/or ban outright (i.e. Ophelia) the people who pose totally legitimate and substantive questions that poor widdle Mooney doesn’t want to answer. Completely fucking cowardly. There’s no other way to describe it.

    • MadScientist
      Posted February 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      I love the sycophants he has on his site – to think I used to believe that Kwok and McCarthy were unique! There’s this dildo who calls himself ‘bilbo’ who knows everything about New Atheists and their evil agenda – and he’s not afraid to tell everyone how evil these New Atheists are. It’s hilarious – though depressingly stupid. I asked that Mooney post his essay, but no suck luck (yet). At least my post hadn’t been deleted (yet). I think it’s Kirschenbaum who tends to be more sensitive and delete things (well, things she may not agree with anyway). Each time I’m prodded to visit the site I’m amazed by the exponential troll growth.

  28. articulett
    Posted February 28, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I find it ironic that Milton says:

    Jerry and PZ write more to their like minded peanut galleries to get cheers and back-pats than to the opposition to generate vigorous debate.

    Isn’t this much more true of Mooney? Look at the most prominent posters on his blog. And Mooney’s the one moderating, censoring, and attempting to silence others –not PZ or Jerry.

    And regarding this Templeton issue, what is there to “vigorously debate”? Chris has clearly changed positions http://www.slate.com/id/115965/ and he’s given increasingly “courtier’s reply” type psychobabble in response to those who declare that faith based thinking is the antithesis of science. (How strident to declare the Esteemed Emperor naked! Who are we to say that he is not wearing magical robes that only the chosen can see?)

    Moreover, Chris has vilified “new atheists” for “unscientific America” when it seems that the obfuscation of groups like the Templeton Foundation and other groups that ennoble religious faith are much more to blame. This means Chris is part of the problem that he’s blaming the “new atheists” for! Science doesn’t threaten people with hell for disbelief or promise salvation for faith! It doesn’t pretend that there are “other ways of knowing” “higher truths”. So how does Chris think accommodating such thought furthers science? Does Chris think he’s an expert on “framing” the truth?

    Chris’ application for and acceptance of the Templeton Prize puts his flip-flopping into perspective which is why it’s being discussed on these blogs. Many of us had speculated (correctly in now seems) about his motives.

    So, now I guess he can use his funds to show us just how “accommodating” faith leads to greater scientific understanding. I can’t wait to see the self appointed expert on science communicating do his thing. And when it doesn’t work, he can blame those shrill new atheists who are such sticklers for the truth for not giving his “accommodationist framing” a fair chance.

    What I want to know, is how do you “accommodate” the magical thinking involved in belief of god and souls without also enabling belief in demons and hell?

  29. poke
    Posted February 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know what % of Templeton Prize winners have been Templeton Fellows or otherwise attached to the Templeton Foundation in some way before winning? I’m wondering if the Prize is a sort of potential reward for compliance after becoming a Fellow (or whatever; I’m sure they have a lot of different programs you can apply for). Previous winners have been tireless advocates for Templeton-style ideas so I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how the whole thing works.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted February 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I’m told that of the last dozen Templeton Prize winners, seven were on the Foundation’s board of advisors BEFORE they won the prize. Nice reward for your service!

      • poke
        Posted February 28, 2010 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        So it’s essentially a tiered reward scheme for service? You become a fellow, then an advisor, then, if you’re really compliant, you get the Prize? It almost sounds like it shouldn’t be legal.

  30. Posted February 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    It seems obvious that the basic question of compatibility should be if they are indeed compatible, rather than for a want or even need for them to be compatible. Very few apart from the likes of Gould argue that they are compatible, most instead either try to argue that they would like to see a compatibility or that a compatibility is necessary.

    Is there a compatibility between anti-vaxxers and science? Of course not, but it’s not because of separate domains – it’s because their position is scientifically untenable. If prayers could actually be shown to heal the sick then there might be compatibility. It’s not defining God out of existence, it’s that they are attributing action to response with no validity whatsoever.

    The anti-vaxxers will continue to argue that vaccines cause autism despite the lack of evidence for it, just as theists will continue to think that there’s an interventionist deity manipulating physics in order for favourable outcomes in world events. Unless one is going to take Dr Pangloss’s best of all possible worlds which really eliminates any interventionist deity – then the unscientific ideas of religion will continue to be at odds with science. If our task is to get believers on “team evolution” or “team science”, then surely the question should be a theological one. Can a theology be made that is compatible with science?

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 1, 2010 at 2:26 am | Permalink

      There are elements of theology that have similarities to subjects like history and archaeology. Both of these two latter disciplines can be reconciled with the scientific method. Could we do the same with theology?
      I think it may be possible – to a certain extent but I doubt that mainstream theologians would be willing to pay the cost. It would mean, for instance, taking seriously the conclusions of serious scholarly work on determining the veracity of the elements of biblical texts (such as the Jesus Seminar group).
      The identification of a historical text or object as being faked immediately removes it from intellectual consideration. There are large sections of the New Testament that fits into this category yet I cannot recall a single scientific theist asking for their holy book to be scrutinized in a scientific manner.
      As for Gould’s idea of NOMA, I think the principle is fine but his suggested line of demarcation was clearly wrong. On what basis do we cede the question of morality to the religious?
      Besides, NOMA, as a policy, was never accepted by the religious themselves – look at Francis Collins casting it aside in the introduction to his new book.

  31. Posted March 1, 2010 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    Just to correct:

    “So, the Foundation doesn’t really want the hard light of science cast upon faith. It wants its journalists (and nearly everyone it funds) to show how faith and science are compatible. Those who feel otherwise, like Victor Stenger, Richard Dawkins, Anthony Grayling, Steven Weinberg, well, those people don’t have a say.”

    If I recall correctly Richard Dawkins and Stephen Weinburg have appeared at Templeton sponsored events; they now refuse to have anything to do with the organisation, although inevitably their work is discussed at Templeton events. I don’t think Grayling has ever attended one but he refused to co-operate with a Templeton sponsored journalist. I think the boycott is all one way.

  32. Posted March 10, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    It’s likely a small point, and controversial as well, but I think important. While I agree with everything said against the Templeton Foundation, I think to imply those who accept such appointments as lacking in integrity — at least in many of the cases — is little more than an unfounded personal attack.

    Actually, it’s not a small point. Referring to someone who accepts a grant as being “bribed” without any evidence to support such an accusation is indeed an unfounded personal attack–and a despicable one too boot.

    For shame!

  33. Posted August 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I remember seeing a discussion like this on evolution and technology on a Facebook community page http://www.facebook.com/thewatchmansrattle

    Here’s a link to the actual video on evolution.
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1492968725894

    Here’s my summary of the video:

    There are moments throughout time where evolution pushes forward and different species are capable of evolving at a faster rate than usual. However, this accelerated rate of change takes anywhere from 10,000 years to a million years to occur. With the acceleration of technology in the past 50 years it may become impossible for human evolution to keep up with the pace of technology. What do we do when evolution can’t keep up with the rate of change in technology that humans are now forced to confront?

  34. Buddy Lee
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Check out the press release at: http://bornatheist.com/pfattest.html

    There are at least some indicators that religion is bad for your health.


8 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] The Templeton Bribe [...]

  2. [...] from WEIT (and don’t forget to check out the [...]

  3. [...] According to Jerry Coyne, aheistic evolutionists and ID proponents have at least this in common — they can expect no bribes from the Templeton Foundation. Read Coyne’s post on the topic here. [...]

  4. [...] Templeton-Stiftung ist eine sehr wohlhabende Organisation, die Wissenschaftler und Journalisten finanziell fördert, [...]

  5. [...] Dreher and the Templeton bribe When I claimed that the John Templeton Foundation was engaged in bribing journalists, I didn’t mean that they directly paid off those journalists for writing articles that [...]

  6. [...] that Templeton has. I disagree with Jerry and others who consider Templeton money a “bribe” to people who are willing to go along with their party line; I have no doubt that Ayala, [...]

  7. [...] science, an agenda that Jerry Coyne has written about extensively (some informative examples are here, here, [...]

  8. […] been drawn to the John Templeton Foundation who fund a lot of my kind of research, but some digging has put me off – their founder was, and now his son is, involved in conservative right wing lobbying in the USA. […]

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