Robert L. Park on Templeton

by Greg Mayer

Robert L. Park is a physicist, fellow of CSICOP, and former head of the American Physical Society‘s Washington office who has long been active in the skeptical community. His first book, Voodoo Science (Oxford, 2000), is one that I have used in preparing my undergraduate non-majors course on “Science & Pseudoscience”. Until yesterday, I had overlooked his second book, Superstition (Princeton, 2008). I’ve only had a chance to skim through it, but, apropos of Jerry’s post about Massimo Pigliucci’s take on the Templeton Foundation, Park takes a rather dim view of the  foundation and its goals as well. A sample of what he has to say:

Not everyone was happy about the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) selling its soul to Templeton. Why had the most important scientific organization in America, perhaps in the world, allowed the voice of antiscience to assume the guise of a dialog between science and religion?

Park also mentions Francis Collins and other religious scientists. As I said, I’ve only skimmed it, but the book seems worth a read.

15 Comments

  1. christopher
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    didnt know about this book, thanks! i learned about Park from penn and teller’s show, so was unsure about Park, as P &T only use science when it promotes their Cato institute libertarian values,not when it refutes them, like with climate change and second hand smoke, but Voodoo Science seemed open, honest, and scientifically sound. if anyone can correct me on that, please do. either way, i’ll read this boo.

  2. Ray Moscow
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I really liked his book Voodoo Science. I’ll have to read this one, too.

  3. Steersman
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Not everyone was happy about the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) selling its soul to Templeton.

    A leading contender for the “Understatement of the Year” award. “An abomination” hardly seems an exercise in hyperbole. What astounded me was their inclusion of a lengthy exercise in Christian apologetics by John Haught as part of their “Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion”. I wonder how many non-Christian scientists and other contributors to the AAAS realize the extent to which Haught – and the Catholic Church – are supportive of Dembski’s assertion that “Christ [is] the telos toward which God is drawing the whole of creation”.

  4. JG
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    the book seems worth a read.

    It’s very well worth a read. I enjoyed it even more — and if anything found it even more useful for my own work — than I did Voodoo Science.

  5. Posted November 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    “Why had the most important scientific organization in America, perhaps in the world, allowed the voice of antiscience to assume the guise of a dialog between science and religion?”

    Institutionalized payola?

  6. Posted November 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    The book is an illuminating treat; the Introduction alone, in which Park recounts his near-fatal jogging encounter with a falling tree and two priests, is by itself more than worth the price of admission.

  7. dunstar
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    lol.

    How come the AAAS doesn’t have a dialogue with Ghost hunting? Poltergeists are ghosts just like the Holy Ghost! What’s up with that?

    • Steersman
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Discrimination I would say! Time for someone to sue them!

  8. Sastra
    Posted November 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been a fan of Park for a long time. I get his weekly newsletter; it’s short, to the point, and worth the read.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Same here. Anyone who would like to sign up can do so here:

      http://www.bobpark.org/

      I’ve always loved his newsletter end-line, referring to his employment by the University of Maryland:

      “Opinions are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the University, but they should be.”

      • Posted November 10, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the link, Diane. I knew there was something missing in my life and I couldn’t think what, and your comment has reminded me — my subscription to WHATSNEW lapsed along with the old email account it went to, and I apparently didn’t switch it over to my new account. Resubscribed now. Thanks!

  9. Posted November 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    A week ago, I began reading this book for the second time since 2008, on my 1.5 hour bus commute to work. It’s pure gold. Robert Park’s weekly newsletter “What’s New?” has been part of my Monday morning coffee for the last 17 years. I couldn’t start my week without it.

    He was interviewed on the Norwegian radio program “Worth knowing” about 10 years ago.

  10. Aidan Karley
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 12:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen Voodoo Science on the bookshelves from time to time, but never chosen to add it to the book pile because I doubted it would tell me anything valuably new. But I’ve considered it for the pile from time to time.
    I’m just wondering what is meant by a “non-majors course”? Is it a subsidiary course which isn’t a required part of a degree curriculum, or is it a question of teaching hours, or what. The term isn’t used in the Scottish system (or wasn’t when I was in uni), so I’m not sure on what the term means.
    As an example, in my second year (of four) I choose to do courses in Computing Science, Soil Science and Geology (a double-unit ; 20 hours/week of lectures, library time and tutorials), all of which are offered as degree courses in their own right. But my planned degree was in Geology and Mineralogy (there is of course, no separate course in mineralogy), for which only the Geology course was mandatory. All courses contributed in proportion to their scheduled time to my academic record though.
    Or are non-majors courses ones which people take for jollies, but don’t contribute to their academic record.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Most universities in the US have a “general education” or “breadth of knowledge” or “core curriculum” that all students must fulfill, and which includes courses outside the student’s major subject. Courses fulfilling such a requirement might be courses ordinarily taken by majors (for example, an introductory geology course), but it might be a course that is not intended for majors in the subject, hence a nonmajors course. In geology, for example, there might be the pejoratively nicknamed ‘rocks for jocks’ course. Geology majors would take regular introductory geology, but those non-geology majors wishing to fulfill their general education requirement with a geology course might choose the less rigorous nonmajors course.

      GCM

  11. Terry
    Posted November 11, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Quoting,

    “Why had the most important scientific organization in America, perhaps in the world, allowed the voice of antiscience to assume the guise of a dialog between science and religion?”

    For money?


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