Templeton coopts National Academy of Sciences

UPDATE:  I’m asking everyone to guess this year’s Templeton recipient, even if other people have guessed the same person.  I’d like to know how close we come to the actual recipient. And be serious!

UPDATE 2. Richard Dawkins has a brief commentary on this incident here. He mentions someone I’d forgotten about: Simon Conway “Humans-are-Inevitable” Morris.

In its continuing drive to buy itself scientific respectability, the Templeton Foundation is going to announce the annual winner of its 1.5-million-dollar Templeton prize this Thursday. And guess where?

You guessed it: at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C.!

Yes, the National Academy has apparently rented the Foundation their hall so that, amidst the trappings of America’s most distinguished body of scientists, The Templeton Foundation can fete the person who most successfully conflated Science and Woo in the last few years.  The invitation is below.

This is an outrage, of course, and shame on the National Academy for its implicit endorsement of religion.  If they say, “Well, we rent our space to anybody,” then I look forward to seeing an adult film festival at the NAS.

I’m guessing that this year’s winner, based on the location, will be Francis Collins.  Dear readers, do post your guess, and we’ll see how close we get.  Runners-up may be Kenneth Miller, Karen Armstrong, John Haught, and Robert Wright.  But choose your favorite! One choice per person. And remember, according to the Foundation’s guidelines, “IF YOU GUESS THE WINNER, YOU CAN’T TELL ANYONE!” (What the hell does that mean?)

_______________

Templeton Prize Invitation

Dear Colleague,

Your presence is requested to join the Templeton Prize judges and the John Templeton Foundation Board of Trustees to celebrate the announcement of the 2010 Templeton Prize Laureate in Washington, DC on Thursday, March 25, 2010.

Please join the formal Templeton Prize Press Conference in the Lecture Room of the National Academy of Sciences building, 2100 C Street, North West, Washington, DC at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 25. We would be grateful for your reply by Tuesday March 23, 2010, please email RSVP@templetonprize.org. When you RSVP you will receive a confirmation response acknowledging receipt and providing details on entry into the event.

If you are unable to join us at the National Academy of Sciences, please register to watch the live webcast of the event at 11:00 a.m. EDT, by clicking here.

IF YOU GUESS THE WINNER, PLEASE HONOR A STRICT EMBARGO (YOU CAN’T TELL ANYONE) UNTIL 11:00 A.M. ON THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 2010.

The Templeton Prize (www.templetonprize.org) was established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton. The Prize has been awarded to physicists, biologists, theologians, ministers, philanthropists, writers, and reformers for work that has ranged from the creation of new religious orders and social movements to humanistic scholarship and research about the origins of the universe.

Thank you for your kind reply,

John M. Templeton Jr., M.D.

President and Chairman

John Templeton Foundation

82 Comments

  1. litchik
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    It is a bit disturbing. Can any all academy members attend, with giant protest signs?

    • GM
      Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      It is not going to happen. I myself would be very curious to see some hard data on how much the average scientists at the member of the academy level cares about the conflict between science and religion, and while many certainly do, my suspicion is that for many the big pile of grants and papers to be written and reviewed and all sorts of committee meetings to be present at, plus the consultant work for various companies and everything else that people of that caliber usually are involved in, do no leave much room for pondering the relationship between science and religion

  2. bigjohn756
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Coopts? Have you never heard of a hyphen?

    • Thanny
      Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      The hyphenated version is acceptable, but not standard.

      • Pete
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 5:18 am | Permalink

        I prefer coöpts, myself.

        Anyway, isn’t this totally in line with the NAS’s official stance on the compatibility of science and religion?

        • Sili
          Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:21 am | Permalink

          Me too.

          Diaeresis FTW!

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

          That’s how I sound when I cöugh in swedish. ["Coöpt, coöpt!" Sorry, I _do_ have a cöld.]

  3. Brian
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Winner? Uhm Mooney?

  4. Pliny Hayes
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I’m going with Ken Miller.

  5. quinnculver
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    The winner will be Ray Comfort for sure.

  6. Tim
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Jerry: no other prominent scientist in recent years has tried so hard to shoehorn jesus into every crevice of modern science. Collins FTW.

    • Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I’d go with Collins, too. With Waterfall Jesus on his side, how can he not win?

  7. Posted March 22, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    I was under the impression that the National Academy represented all aspects of science including natural science, applied science, engineering, social science, and behavioral science. If so, then I’m not surprised by their (ostensible) position that the Templeton Foundation is legitimate. Afterall, many behavioral and social scientists do not adhere to the strict anti-accomodationist position that is adopted among some folks in the natural sciences (mostly biologists). If you take the message of the Templeton prize at face value–to make an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension–then it seems possible that some very thoughtful folks have a legitimate claim to this prize and have a legitimate claim to claiming this prize on the grounds of the National Academy. Afterall, if you don’t breathe a little quicker, feel a tad humbled–indeed feel a little bit more spiritual after handling Tiktaalik or seeing a cheetah sprint from zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds, or witness any other of nature’s most awesome and natural creations, then you are most certainly a robot. Spirituality is likely a human autapomorphy and to denigrate it because it offends your empirical sensibilities is akin to denigrating bats because they echolocate. Echolocation exists in most Microchiroptera; spirituality exists in most Homo sapiens. These are not assumptions but facts. Spirituality is worth studying as an evolved aspect of humans, and if the Templeton Foundation can scientifically contribute to this endeavor so much the better, so long as they do so in a legitimate and unbiased manner.

    • Posted March 22, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

      You’re mistaking a sense of wonder for spirituality; they’re really not the same thing at all. The notion that immaterial spirits are the cause of the awesome (in the original sense) wonders of nature is a (popular) interpretive overlay on the sense of wonder. Many (most?) biologists have this sense of wonder; most (many?) don’t regard this as spiritual.

    • Occam
      Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:49 am | Permalink

      Questions for Rich Lawler:
      1. For you as a biological anthropologist, it should be easy to define human spirituality as a testable phenomenon, just like echolocation is a testable phenomenon. Your testable definition of human spirituality, please?
      2. With what degree of confidence, and based on which criteria, would you maintain your statement about spirituality — when formulated as a testable hypothesis — being a human autapomorphy?

      • Posted March 23, 2010 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        Gregory, yes, you’re right, I’m aware that I am substituting spirituality for wonderment. But there is no reason that one couldn’t scientifically explore connections between spirituality on the one hand and how it connects to other mental states that do not articulate with physical reality, such as dreams, fantasies, folktales, and religion. They seem to activate the same mental states.

        Occam, it is easy to provide a testable definition of spirituality. It is a formation of beliefs in people’s minds that involved imagined agents and supernatural phenomena. Every time I turn on the television I see some jackasses (poorly) testing a hypothesis about spirits and spirituality; I’m referring to those “ghost hunter” shows. They’ve never found a ghost to my knowledge but they are certainly “testing” for their existence. Imagine what rigorous scientists could do. You can also test for spirituality in humans because it activates a variety of neurological systems, including theory of mind, face recognition, selective impairment, certain emotional states, etc. These can all be investigated every time you strap a preacher to MRI table and ask him to pray.

        As to spirituality being a human autapomorphy, I am highly confident that it is. Beavers and humans both build dams, but only humans build churches, kivas, and pagodas. Further, I can ask a priest if he is spiritual, but I cannot ask the same thing of my border collie. If you think spirituality is a synapomorphy of the hominoid clade and not a unique human trait, you need to show me evidence that gorillas baptize each other.

        In my mind, candidates for the Templeton Prize could be Pascal Boyer, Dan Dennett, David Sloan Wilson, etc.–that is anyone who has attempted to study the unique human trait of spirituality in a scientific context.

        • Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          You’re equivocating between spirituality as a mental state, and spirituality as a property that allows us to build churches and baptize each other.

          Furthermore, absence of churches and baptizing among animals is not absence of a spiritual mental state among animals. Maybe chimps attain an advanced state of Zen (or even a primitive state). How would you know either way if they do or not?

          I’d go even further and say that baptism and churches may not even be good evidence for spiritual mental states. Baptism may simply be evidence for superstition. Churches may be better evidence for status display than for spirituality.

          I’d be very surprised if we wouldn’t find precursors of what we would call spiritual emotions or behaviors among animals. We’ve found such precursors for pretty much all our other emotions or behaviors (communication, mourning the dead, planning our actions, dreaming, etc etc). Why would “spirituality”, whatever it may be, be an exception?

          • Posted March 23, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            Perhaps you are right, but our mental states allow us to engage in spiritually-driven behaviors like building churches. And if we weren’t spiritual in a mental sense of things we wouldn’t build churches, so I’m not sure there is that much equivocation in what I’m saying (but I understand your point). It might be possible that animals have some sort of nascent spirituality. This is a tricky question and I’m not so sure the scientific evidence is there to show that animals dream and mourn their dead. But the whole question of animal consciousness, and by extension, spirituality is worthy of rigorous scientific investigation. We might find some mental precursors of spirituality in animals but to me, the constellation of different mental states that contribute to spirituality in humans is likely unique.

            • Occam
              Posted March 23, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

              Just to make sure that I understand correctly your position about what you define as spirituality:
              Take two groups of architects building churches. Group A = nonbelievers, group B = believers. (I’ve worked with both kind of architects in such a context, so I know that the scenario is realistic.)
              Would you expect any significant difference in neurobiological patterns and signals between groups A and B, when observed in the context of their work?
              Even better, do you have, or know of, solid evidence of such experimentally observed differences ? (Not a loaded question, I’m really curious.)

            • Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

              I guess my example of spirituality-as-mental state and spirituality-as-external behavior could have been a bit tighter. I was trying to make the point that humans have spirituality as a mental state and humans also manifest their spirituality via behaviors and modifications to the environment (e.g., a bunch of Mayans building Chichen Itza). We don’t see the same behavioral manifestations in other animals so we might! hypothesize that other animals lack spirituality (which is what I was trying to convey in response to Deen). As to your specific question regarding spiritual versus non-spiritual architects building a church, I doubt that we would see a difference (since their are too many confounding variables). But I do think we can see and measure a difference in people’s brain activities when they are engaging in spiritual-type behaviors (e.g., praying silently) versus non-spiritual type behaviors (e.g., thinking about a next weekend’s basketball game).

              There are some cool articles by Pascal Boyer on this topic. One article in 2003 is in the journal “Trends in Cognitive Sciences” and it concerns brain activity, religion, and behavior.

              As an aside, a strange thing happened to me today. I went to look at a house out in the country (in Western Virginia), since I hoping to buy at some point. The realtor said, “hi I’m Kit Collins…” and we got to talking about genetics and biology. Turns out his little brother is Francis Collins, as in THAT Francis Collins. His brother–the realtor–is a retired professor of Russian Lit at UVA.

            • Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

              But I do think we can see and measure a difference in people’s brain activities when they are engaging in spiritual-type behaviors (e.g., praying silently) versus non-spiritual type behaviors (e.g., thinking about a next weekend’s basketball game).

              From Sam Harris’ imaging study: the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content-independent.

            • Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

              I saw the elephant mourning study. I want to believe it’s true, but I’ll need to read the article and look at the data. The dreaming stuff I had not seen–very cool!

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

              I’m suprised, I was under the impression that spirituality has been tentatively identified in chimpanzees that stops and wonders at water falls et cetera. “Do animals have spiritual experiences? Yes they do [Psychology Today]“:

              But what about their spiritual lives? Do animals marvel at their surroundings, have a sense of awe when they see a rainbow, find themselves by a waterfall, or ponder their environs? Do they ask where does lightning come from? Do they go into a “zone” when they play with others, forgetting about everything else save for the joy of playing? What are they feeling when they perform funeral rituals?

              We can also ask if animals experience the joy of simply being alive? And if so, how would they express it so that we would know they do? Wild animals spend upwards of 90 percent of their time resting: What are they thinking and feeling as they gaze about? It would be nice to know. Again, science may never be able to measure such emotions with any precision, but anecdotal evidence and careful observation indicate such feelings may exist. [...]

              Consider waterfall dances, which are a delight to witness. Sometimes a chimpanzee, usually an adult male, will dance at a waterfall with total abandon. Why? The actions are deliberate but obscure. Could it be they are a joyous response to being alive, or even an expression of the chimp’s awe of nature? Where, after all, might human spiritual impulses originate?

              Jane Goodall (2005. Primate spirituality. In The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. edited by B. Taylor. Thoemmes Continuum, New York. Pp. 1303-1306) wonders whether these dances are indicative of religious behavior, precursors of religious ritual. She describes a chimpanzee approaching one of these falls with slightly bristled hair, a sign of heightened arousal. “As he gets closer, and the roar of the falling water gets louder, his pace quickens, his hair becomes fully erect, and upon reaching the stream he may perform a magnificent display close to the foot of the falls. Standing upright, he sways rhythmically from foot to foot, stamping in the shallow, rushing water, picking up and hurling great rocks. Sometimes he climbs up the slender vines that hang down from the trees high above and swings out into the spray of the falling water. This ‘waterfall dance’ may last ten or fifteen minutes.” Chimpanzees also dance at the onset of heavy rains and during violent gusts of wind. Goodall asks, “Is it not possible that these performances are stimulated by feelings akin to wonder and awe? After a waterfall display the performer may sit on a rock, his eyes following the falling water. What is it, this water?”

              Goodall wonders, “If the chimpanzee could share his feelings and questions with others, might these wild elemental displays become ritualized into some form of animistic religion? Would they worship the falls, the deluge from the sky, the thunder and lightning — the gods of the elements? So all-powerful; so incomprehensible.”

              The link to the various “funeral” behavior of animals were also interesting.

            • Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

              @Torbjörn Larsson:
              Hmm, chimps and waterfalls, and Francis Collins and waterfalls…

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      Except of course that any scientist who studies spirituality should assume that spiritual feelings have a natural cause, rather than a supernatural cause. This is precisely the area where Francis Collins’ religion conflicts with science.

      • Posted March 23, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        … and where the glamor of his day job misleads the gullible into thinking that his belief in supernaturalism is somehow compatible with science.

        But I’m with Miranda on this one: I think Collins, too. Does anyone else think Stephen C. Meyer have any shot at all? No? Phew.

        • Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          Yes, definitely Collins. And, no, the Templeton Foundation is WAY too “clever” to pick someone like Meyer nowadays. They want the veneer of respectability and authority that a Collins type can provide.

          But I just thought of something- doesn’t the fact that Biologos is (at least in part) funded by a Templeton grant bring up a conflict of interest? Not that they’d let such a thing get in their way, but, still, it seems REALLY chummy/incestuous.

  8. Tyro
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    My opinion of Templeton must have fallen as a result of Jerry’s nefariously evidence-based attack because when I read this, it took me a couple passes to stop seeing “The Templeton Foundation can fellate the person who most successfully conflated Science and Woo in the last few years”. It doesn’t really look like “fete” but the cosmic rightness made it difficult to distinguish.

  9. Insightful Ape
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    But there is one thing that gives me comfort. As many millions as they may be pouring into this marriage of convenience they cannot square the circle.
    Two facts are indisputable. 1. As many Collinses and Millers they maybe around, acceptance of evolution is inversely proportional to religiosity. 2. While the NAS (shame be upon them) may be going along with this travesty, there is also an inverse relationship between scientific accomplishment and religiosity.
    And lastly, there is the trend of secularization, as evidenced by research in the book “Sacred and Secular”, and by Greg Paul’s research that was discussed right here not too long ago. According to Greg Paul nothing can hurt religion more in the long run than universal availability of health care.
    It is regretable that Templeton is pouring all this money into what amounts to an elaborate PR stunt than helping that poor and the hungry. But I’ve come to expect no better from religion. And it will no change anything in the bigger picture: it will be all for naught.

  10. Posted March 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Jerry Coyne for sure. Oops! Me and my big mouth … Forget I said anything.

    • hempenstein
      Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Indeed, having co-opted* the NAS, they ought to try for a double-header.

      *I never met a hyphen I didn’t like. It’s up-regulated in my book – upregulated just looks silly, or perhaps somehow vulgar.

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      PLEASE HONOR A STRICT EMBARGO!

  11. allie
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    I think it will be Michael Ruse.

  12. Jonn Mero
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    There is Playboy’s Playmate of he Year, and now it’s Templeton’s Call-Girl of the Year!

    • Jonn Mero
      Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      Ugh, seems like ‘t’s are in shor supply at the momen, and no jus on my compuer.

  13. Flea
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    A 1.5-million-dollar bribe? Collins!

  14. Flea
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    A 1.5-million-dollar bribe? Mooney… Collins!

    • Hansen
      Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:19 am | Permalink

      Mooney? No way! Even Templeton has higher standards than that.

  15. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    I think they should give it to the one man who represents exactly what the Templeton Foundation represents:

    Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church.

    • tomh
      Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Perfect choice.

  16. Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    OK, was going with Ken Miller, but someone else took it. So I say Robert Wright instead.

    Collins will be next year.

  17. Rob
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    “This is an outrage, of course, and shame on the National Academy for its implicit endorsement of religion.”

    That you would so eagerly censor speech due to its content is pretty scary. I tend to think that the Left is just as eager to suppress and repress what it deems to be its opposition as the Right and this provides pretty good evidence that I’m right.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Oh give me a frickin’ break. I’m not suggesting that that NAS censor anyone; just that they not let anyone use their hallsfor activities that aren’t related to Academy activities. Would it be censoring speech if the NAS refused to let its hall be used for a White Citizens Council meeting? If not, why not?

      • Rob
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

        ” I’m not suggesting that that NAS censor anyone….”

        Of course you are. Even though (apparently) the NAS rents its facilities generally, you would preclude Templeton’s rental because of what the organization does and says. That’s censorship.

        “…just that they not let anyone use their hallsfor activities that aren’t related to Academy activities.”

        They don’t have to allow usage for any purpose, but they can’t discriminate either.

        “Would it be censoring speech if the NAS refused to let its hall be used for a White Citizens Council meeting?”

        You might take a look at this case.

        • Matt Penfold
          Posted March 23, 2010 at 9:22 am | Permalink

          Of course you are. Even though (apparently) the NAS rents its facilities generally, you would preclude Templeton’s rental because of what the organization does and says. That’s censorship.

          You do not seem to understand what censorship is.

          Is it censorship for a newspaper to refuse to publish unsolicited material sent to it ? Or for a TV station to refuse to allow just anyone to air programs ?

          They don’t have to allow usage for any purpose, but they can’t discriminate either.

          Of course they can. Why did you say something so silly ?

          You might take a look at this case.

          The NAS is not a government organisation. Thus the case you cite is irrelevant, and it is a bit devious of you to claim it is.

          • J.J.E.
            Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink

            pwned

    • Your Mighty Overload
      Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      Rob,
      Do you actually know what the word “censorship” actually means? You certainly don’t seem to. No-one is saying that the Templeton can’t have a prize, or a prize ceremony (that WOULD be censorship), just that the NAS as a private organization has the right to accept or refuse bookings based on its own standards and criteria, provided that they are not breaking any laws (for example, refusing entry to black people). The NAS has acted pretty stupidly in taking this booking from an organization who’s goals are diametrically opposed to what those of the NAS are.

  18. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    The Prize has been awarded to physicists, biologists, theologians, ministers, philanthropists, writers, and reformers

    And Watergate burglars!

  19. Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Wild guess, but they could try a surprise : Michael Ruse.
    They have to put money on some accomodationists one of these days.

  20. GaryU
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I’m going with Karen Armstrong.

  21. Rob
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    “You do not seem to understand what censorship is.”

    Let’s see.

    “Is it censorship for a newspaper to refuse to publish unsolicited material sent to it ?”

    That’s a dishonest analogy. Apparently the NAS rents out its facilities generally. If they chose to restrict who they rented to because of the message to be transmitted, that would be censorship. If they rented to Republicans but not Democrats (or vice versa, that would be censorship.

    “Or for a TV station to refuse to allow just anyone to air programs ?”

    You’re really good at silly and false analogies.

    If a limited public forum is created, discrimination isn’t permitted. For example, if schools allow their facilities to be rented generally, they can’t refuse to rent to a church.

    “The NAS is not a government organisation. Thus the case you cite is irrelevant, and it is a bit devious of you to claim it is.”

    Your inferred mind-reading ability as to my motives is laughable. I didn’t undertake any research, but since the NAS was created and its membership established by Congress (see here, for example), I assume that it’s a quasi-public organization and thus obligated to avoid discrimination. If the NAS were a private organization, they could engage in lots of ugly stuff without legal recourse, such as restricting membership based upon race. They could even decide who to rent their facilities to or not. There’s no intended deception here.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      That’s a dishonest analogy. Apparently the NAS rents out its facilities generally. If they chose to restrict who they rented to because of the message to be transmitted, that would be censorship. If they rented to Republicans but not Democrats (or vice versa, that would be censorship.

      Again, you are clearly unable to grasp the point I am making.

      I see little use in continuing since you are not open to an honest discussion.

      The NAS is NOT a government organisation. The charter it has is honorific.

      Since you have decided to make up your own facts, as reality shows you to be wrong, I have nothing more to say.

      Oh, and try and understand what threading is.

      • Rob
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        “Again, you are clearly unable to grasp the point I am making.”

        I grasp it completely. I even readily acknowledge that if the NAS is a wholly private organization, they can discriminate against whomever they want without recourse. The remaining issue would then relate merely to policy — is the NAS better served by keeping Templeton out or letting them in — and the NAS can decide any way it wants legally. You say the NAS is wholly private and you may be right, even though you haven’t demonstrated it. There should be a simple and definitive answer to that question.

        • Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          Even if you were right, and it was discrimination, it still would not be censorship. The Templeton Foundation has ample opportunities to offer their viewpoint, even if the halls of the NAS would not be available to them.

          • Rob
            Posted March 23, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

            Discrimination due to the content of the speech is the essence of censorship. If there is a limited public forum, Templeton can use it in the same manner and under the same terms as any other organization. That they might have other speech avenues open to them is irrelevant. Separate but equal doesn’t work here either.

            • Posted March 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

              Censorship still requires the suppression of speech. The NAS doesn’t have that power.

            • Rob
              Posted March 24, 2010 at 7:18 am | Permalink

              “Censorship still requires the suppression of speech. The NAS doesn’t have that power.”

              The improper exclusion from a public forum is supression of speech too.

      • Rob
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        I’ll add that there are a large variety of quasi-public entities in the U.S. that are subject to constitutional and statutory protections in ways wholly private entities are not.

    • Your Mighty Overload
      Posted March 25, 2010 at 2:41 am | Permalink

      “If they rented to Republicans but not Democrats (or vice versa, that would be censorship.”

      No it wouldn’t. Idiot.

      It would be discrimination, but not censorship.

  22. Artikcat
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    i find it hilarious you beting on whos getting the templeton. Like banging your head against the wall. because you like it……..

  23. Frank
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the original leaders of the National Academy of Sciences, Louis Agassiz and Joseph Henry might just take this news well.

    The former wrote: “The combination in time and space of all these thoughtful conceptions exhibits not only thought, it shows also premeditation, power, wisdom, greatness, prescience, omniscience, providence. In one word, all these facts in their natural connection proclaim aloud the One God, whom man may know, adore, and love; and Natural History must in good time become the analysis of the thoughts of the Creator of the Universe…”

    The latter wrote: “God has created man in his own intellectual image, and graciously permitted him to study His modes of operation, and rewards his industry in this line by giving him powers and instruments which affect in the highest degree his material welfare.”

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t this typical language of all scientists before Darwin’s theory became well established? No news here. Perhaps you are suggesting that armed with today’s knowledge about evolution and all the evidence that informs it, these eminent scientists would still be creationists?

      • Artikcat
        Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        James Russell Lowell” Three tiny words grew lurid as I read,
        And reeled commingling: Agassiz is dead!” Agassiz was both a creationist and a racist: what goes around comes around: I dont know if templeton is a racist organization. Many scientists of his day were neither, including Darwin.

  24. ennui
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    long odds on Marcelo Gleiser

  25. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    [Insert Collins name here]: “It came to me, my own, my love… my… preciousssss.”

  26. Michael K Gray
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    The winner will be P.Z. Myers.
    Or at least *should* be!

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted March 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Will no one defend the good Professor Myers from this scurrilous charge?

  27. Posted March 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    I am going to guess that Collins is going to win that damned “prize”.

  28. Posted March 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    My email to the NAS (webmailbox@nas.edu & worldwidewebfeedback@nas.edu):

    Is it true that the NAS is going to desecrate itself by hosting the Templeton prize? We can’t blame the religious organization (John Templeton Foundation) for seeking any means available to legitimize itself. But as the NAS is intended to rise above ideological concerns in pursuit of truth, this association with the Templeton Prize can only tarnish its (NAS’s) image and credibility. Sure, it’s a lot more than thirty silver pieces but betrayal of principle cannot be concealed by curtain of cash.

    Cancel now, due to irreconcilable ideological differences. The NAS has the option of doing the right thing. It may be costly but the cost of scandal is higher. Redemption, after the fact, cannot be bought.

    Please correct this egregious error.

    Thank you for your consideration,
    Thomas Ray

  29. Posted March 24, 2010 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    I’ll go with Sir John T. Houghton as they haven’t yet appointed a climate scientist.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_T._Houghton

    Judging by past winners Conway Morris is too young, ditto Martin Nowak. Francis Collins is too high profile. Prof. Ernan McMullin could be an outside bet, but the last couple of winners weren’t particularly well known.

  30. Rune C. Olwen
    Posted March 24, 2010 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    I did not guess Ratzi “The Emperor-lookalike” for pope, dismissing him for being too old and having had a stroke, but this time my bet is on Francis Collins.
    May The Force Be NOT With Him!
    Oh Flying Spaghetti Monster, prevent the above happening with Your Noodly Appendages!

    But I still have to find a novel about people becoming religious after a stroke or oxygen deprivation with a happy ending.

  31. SLC
    Posted March 24, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Re Francis Collins

    I’m sure that Prof. Coyne will be interested in an interview with Dr. Collins in todsys’ Washington Post. In particular, the last question and response will surely pique his interest.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/23/AR2010032304094_2.html?sub=AR

    Have the people at the NIH adjusted to having a believer in their midst?

    I think anybody who has worked with me previously at NIH over the last 17 years would tell you that’s not something that has influenced my scientific decision-making, so I think we’re okay.

    Forty percent of scientists are in fact believers, so it’s not like I’m this complete wacko. It’s just one of those things that’s generally not talked about, and I guess I have disturbed some of those that don’t share that belief by talking about it. The stage has been occupied mostly by the extreme voices, coming from really shrill atheist pronouncements that science makes God no longer relevant or, on the other hand, fundamentalists pounding the Bible and saying science must be wrong because it doesn’t agree with their interpretation of Genesis.

    Surely most people don’t think either of those are right, but they haven’t heard much about what are the alternatives that could, in an intellectually satisfying way, put these worldviews together. All I try to do is say there’s a way to do that.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted March 24, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Ah, yes. Shrill is mandatory, is it not?

      • Posted March 24, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        I thought strident and/or militant was a required minimum with the noun atheist.

        • Posted March 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Collins, Mooney, etc., can’t stand to see “atheist” unless one of the following adjectives accompanies it: shrill/strident/militant/fundamentalist/nasty/(insert your own straw man here)

          • Posted March 24, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

            And from the Discovery Institute’s Senior Fellow Klinghoffer comes this little quotable gem from an article titled Michael Ruse, the charming Darwinian Atheist:

            Unlike the reptilian Dawkins, sinister Dennett, or smug Coyne…

            If you don’t use a negative descriptor, then we can’t be talking about an atheist!

  32. Posted March 24, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Well, judging by recent events, Paul Kurtz might be an outside guess.

  33. Ken Pidcock
    Posted March 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m going with Wright. The bizarre afterword to The Evolution of God can have no other purpose then sucking up to the Templeton foundation. And, from what I understand, they take very well to being sucked up to.

  34. Anders
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing Francis Collins


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Templeton coopts National Academy of Sciences, by Jerry Coyne [...]

  2. [...] parrot has sex with a human Infinitely depressed at the thought of the National Academy of Sciences serving as the venue for the Templeton Prize, I sought refuge in biology: in particular, the always-adorable kakapo (Strigops habroptila).  [...]

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