This year’s World Science Festival in New York is undeniably a good thing, and that’s why the Templeton Foundation has got its sticky fingers into the program again. They’re sponsoring three discussions, and guess what they’re about:
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper World Science Festival without a panel on
For all their historical tensions, scientists and religious scholars from a wide variety of faiths ponder many similar questions—how did the universe begin? How might it end? What is the origin of matter, energy, and life? The modes of inquiry and standards for judging progress are, to be sure, very different. But is there a common ground to be found? ABC News’ Bill Blakemore moderates a panel that includes evolutionary geneticist Francisco Ayala, astrobiologist Paul Davies, Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels and Buddhist scholar Thupten Jinpa. These leading thinkers who come at these issues from a range of perspectives will address the evolving relationship between science and faith.
I suppose the Science Festival is so delighted to have Templeton’s money (after all, the organization is one of their “founding benefactors“) that they’ll permit the incursion of panels stacked with Templeton people. Davies and Ayala are both Templeton Prize winners, and Davies’ research is funded by Templeton (see here, too).
But wait—why is the World Science Festival hosting a panel like this, anyway? Isn’t the science festival supposed to be about science, not about how to reconcile it with superstition? Did Templeton specify this panel as a condition for funding, or was it done as a favor to the Foundation by director Brian Greene? (Greene’s own work has also been funded by Templeton.) The Festival has had a Templeton-sponsored faith-and-science-accommodation panel every year since at least 2008 (I turned down an invitation in 2009), so this is not a one-off thing.
As long as the WSF is pitching woo, how about this panel for next year?
4. Homeopathy and Medicine:
For all their historical tensions, physicians and homeopaths ponder many similar questions—how do we cure people of diseases? Does surgery really work? What is the efficacy of treating infectious disease with distilled water? The modes of inquiry and standards for judging progress are, to be sure, very different. But is there a common ground to be found?
I wish to God Templeton would keep its filthy mitts off the World Science Festival—indeed, off science, period—but that’s not going to happen so long as the Foundation has deep pockets and there are scientists with outstretched hands.
UPDATE: I missed one symposium sponsored by Templeton: Back to the Big Bang: Inside the Large Hadron Collider.