Guest post: Templeton renews the BioLogos grant

Some time ago I predicted that the Templeton Foundation wouldn’t renew the big grant it gave to BioLogos, an organization founded to move evangelical Christians toward accepting evolution. I didn’t see that BioLogos was having much success with this endeavor, and they kicked out two of their more science-friendly bigwigs, apparently because their hard line against Adam and Eve (and other religious fables) was too much for the fundamentalists whom the organization wished to convert.  I predicted that the Adam and Eve controversy—for BioLogos takes no official position on their historical reality—would be its death vis-a-vis Templeton, which, after all, claims to support pure science.

I was wrong.  As reader Sigmund notes in the guest essay below, Templeton not only renewed BioLogos‘s grant, but BioLogos admits that it has changed its mission.

It looks like BioLogos is here to stay

by Sigmund

What happens when you completely fail in your initial aims, lose your best team members and finally abruptly change strategy? Well, if your organization is BioLogos and your funder is the Templeton Foundation, the answer is – you still get your grant renewed!

The Templeton Foundation has been financially propping up BioLogos to the tune of $2 million since the inception of the Francis Collins’ founded organization. The initial supporting grants were, however, due to end in February 2008, and it was unclear whether the Templeton Foundation would judge they had gotten their money’s worth. BioLogos, having lost two of their best known founding members, Collins and Karl Giberson, are not a happy ship.

The initial aim of BioLogos, that of promoting the acceptance of the scientific consensus on evolution amongst the Christian evangelical community, or, as they put it themselves: “to seek a theology more accepting of science, specifically evolutionary biology”, has met with fierce resistance amongst the leadership of mainstream evangelicism. In particular, the question of how to integrate the clear implications of modern population genetics with the biblical account of Adam and Eve has brought matters to a head. With the evangelical leadership refusing to budge on whether Adam and Eve existed as the first historical human couple, it was BioLogos that was the first to blink. Echoing the Discovery Institute’s refusal to take a stand on the age of the Earth, BioLogos likewise refused to take an official position that endorsed the scientific consensus on the genetic ancestry of humanity.

This refusal to stand up for good science is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. A gradual shift from promotion of evolution towards more ‘worship’ based writings has characterized the output of BioLogos over the past year, a rightward shift that has coincided with the loss of Giberson and the decision by BioLogos not to renew the contract of biblical scholar Peter Enns, who had argued against the conservative literalist position.

In a new post, entitled BioLoguration II, Darrel Falk, the current head of BioLogos announced that they are “blessed to receive a renewal of our Templeton funds”  – although perhaps at a lower level than previously as he spends most of the post pleading for additional cash donations from BioLogos supporters.

More interesting is the explicit acknowledgement by Falk that they have abandoned their original objective. Instead of persuading evangelicals as a whole to accept science, Falk admits the much less ambitious aim of promoting toleration of the minority of evangelicals that do accept evolution.

We believe, with near certainty, that God created through the evolutionary process, but our task is not to get everyone to see it our way. Our task is, however, to help everyone embrace the many Christians who already do think this way.

So, as we suggested previously, the objective is no longer to change the evangelical scientific environment, it is now merely to set up a theological nature reserve, with their fellow evangelical evolutionists playing the role of the pandas.

28 Comments

  1. Posted December 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    So basically their mission now is: ‘moderate’ Christians need moar hugs.

    • Marella
      Posted December 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      LOL.

    • Dave Ricks
      Posted December 24, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      It took me 3 or 4 readings of everything to get this comment, but now I LOL too — in BioLoguration II, the new purpose of BioLogos is for all Christians to accept evolution-accepting Christians. Problem, all Christians?

  2. Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    The Templeton Foundation is your sure sign of utter corruption. Hitch was right: religion poisons everything.

    (I’ve just read “god is not Great”. You should too. It’s all it’s been sold to be.)

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      I highly recommend the audiobook as read by the author.

      • Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        Oh, goodness me. I’ve been hitting the Hitch videos hard, but I clearly need that audiobook.

        • Ken Pidcock
          Posted December 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          Yes you do. I don’t recommend listening to while driving, though. He did have a tendency to mumble on occasion.

  3. Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    “Blessed to receive a renewal of our Templeton funds.”

    God runs his own private equity firm.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    (From the BioLoguration II link)

    One of our most important initiatives is the annual Theology of Celebration workshop in New York City, a gathering of many influential leaders within the Evangelical world. At this meeting we think and pray together about how the church can best respond to the issues of origins raised by science.

    Um, you could start by accepting the results and quit struggling. There’s ample precedent for that approach (round earth, heliocentrism).

    Otherwise, $2M. Crimony! I could point you to a public library in a rustbelt community (rescued from the wrecking ball 30yrs ago for $1 and just continuing to get better) that could do wonders with just 5% of that – the exact amount that some thimblebrain has put up as a match for these guys. Just like Johnny Rocco in Key Largo, they want more.

    Anyway, here’s a challenge in re. all that. Go to your own public library and see if they have a copy of WEIT. If they don’t, buy them one (or, if you’re destitute, urge them to add a copy to their collection). I’ve already done the former. We might even see if jac might keep a tally of WEITs in public libraries already extant/donated.

    Or, as a corollary to that, maybe mount a campaign to BL to do the same? Someone recently posted here that he had been long of the creationary persuasion until reading WEIT, and that was what brought him in from the woods. Taking the aforementioned 5%, how many copies of WEIT could one buy for $100K?

    • Microraptor
      Posted December 24, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Probably about 10,000, but it depends on how big a bulk discount you could negotiate.

    • Chris Granger
      Posted December 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      It’d be great if there was some guarantee the books would get read. In my experience, creationists don’t seem open to even looking at contrary evidence. I’m not sure if it’s fear of finding out their long-held beliefs are wrong, or what…

      Intellectual laziness doesn’t help matters either. There’s just no excuse for people in the 21st century spouting nonsense like the ol’ “… then why are there still monkeys?” canard.

    • Dave Ricks
      Posted December 24, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      Local library challenge accepted.

      Reviewing my local library guidelines posted online for my donations in person — I see your Why Evolution Is True in hardcover, and I raise you everything Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward have recorded on audiobook, especially Richard Dawkins reading On the Origin of Species.

      Years ago I read Origin as an undergrad for a class, and it didn’t affect me that much personally (evolution was revolutionary, I knew that), but more recently, hearing Dawkins read it as a story was completely different. Hearing it told as a story was compelling, like seeing Shakespeare as acted onstage, instead of reading it to myself. Once I started listening, I wanted the story to go on forever, and I felt sad when the story had to end.

      I don’t need a guarantee that my library donations will result in something good before I act — I only need to aim my intelligence and money in a positive direction. I suggest anyone reading my comment here can check your local library online to read their guidelines for donations.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted December 25, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        Excellent, thanx for accepting the challenge! BTW, I wondered how many public libraries there are in the US. Seems that the numbers are nearly 10K if you count just main branches, and then another ~100K if you add school libraries. So taking ~$10 per WEIT, and guessing that ~10% of all libraries already have a copy, something in the vicinity of $1M would put WEIT in all public + school libraries in the US – half the amount that Templeton has bestowed on BL.

        As a footnote, at least here in PA it’s the case that the library benefits more from a $10 donation coupled with a request to buy WEIT than from a simple donation of the book. This is because the dollar donation counts as evidence of community support, which then results in more support from the county library association, whereas simple donation of a book doesn’t help leverage additional funds.

        • Ken Pidcock
          Posted December 25, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          I wondered how many public libraries there are in the US.

          I always figured you could get that number from total circulation for TNR minus Congressional offices.

  5. Posted December 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t see that BioLogos was having much success with this endeavor, and they kicked out two of their more science-friendly bigwigs, apparently because their hard line against Adam and Eve (and other religious fables) was too much for the fundamentalists whom the organization wished to convert.

    I googled a bit and read some threads and comments and couldn’t find any evidence for this. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction.

    • Posted December 24, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      For exactly which bit of the quote in your comment can’t you find supporting evidence?

      Try Googling this:- biologos collins giberson adam eve

      • Posted December 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        I can’t find any evidence that Karl Giberson and Pete Enns left because Biologos kicked them out, due to their views on Adam Eve. Googling those words didn’t turn up anything either. In fact, I see that Karl Giberson posted on Biologos even after he was supposedly “kicked out”.

        Why did you just give me words to google instead of a specific link to the evidence?

        • Posted December 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          Because you were too lazy or disorganised to pose a specific question. That’s not a problem now.

          • Beckett
            Posted March 11, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

            Wow..Mike you sound like such a gracious individual.

        • Posted December 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          Eveysolara – I do not know who Sigmund is, but I can say that his information seems to be quite accurate. I too have followed BioLogos very closely and I know the principals. Note that it is Jerry who uses the term “kicked out” but Sigmund uses the more accurate description of not having their contracts renewed re Vice President Giberson and Senior Biblical Fellow Peter Enns. Eric Sigmund, and others correctly note that the direction, emphases and activities of BioLogos have changed significantly, which appears to be more accommodating than leading.

  6. MadScientist
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Biologos should change its name to “Hug a Creationist Inc.”

  7. Posted December 24, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    They may have got their money at a lower level, but they’re not the same Biologos. I think, Jerry, granting that what Sigmund says is reliable — and I see no reason to think otherwise — that you were right. Biologos didn’t survive. There is an organisation with the same name but an altogether different focuse which will continue on from here. That’s not called surviving.

    And, Mad Scientist, it’s not Hug a Creationist. It’s much less assertive than that. It’s “Hug an Evolutionist, please?”

    • Posted December 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      What? Isn’t that the normal religious survival strategy?

  8. Posted December 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I love it! Let them argue among themselves. In the long run, I believe it is inevitable that many of them will become disenchanted with double talk and drift in our direction.

  9. dunstar
    Posted December 24, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    lol. I wonder what those scientists who accepted templeton money think about this change of mission.

  10. abb3w
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I’d be more amenable to such a preserve if it could be shown that the Evolutionary Evangelicals tended to (de)convert Creationist Evangelicals any faster than vice-versa. It’s clear (from anecdata at least) some conversions happen in both directions, but not so clear what the relative frequencies are.

    Alas, conversions are such low frequency emission events they tend to be hard to study.

  11. Dominic
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Amazing! Shocking. But perhaps shows the truth of the Temple-ton is in the name.

  12. Ken Pidcock
    Posted December 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    We also want to cultivate a world where Christian young people feel emboldened in their faith—rather than weakened—when they come to understand the strength of the scientific data. This is a monumental task, to be sure,…

    To be sure.


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