P. Z. Myers goes after Templeton

He must have a long spoon that must eat with the devil.

—Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors


Over at Pharyngula, the indefatigable P. Z. has a thoughtful post about whether scientists should take money from The Templeton Foundation.

. . . How about an institution that hands out large grants with the expectation that the work will help reconcile science and religion, or that it will actually find evidence of a deity?

I’d class that with my third group, the funding source that wants a particular conclusion and can’t be trusted to be scrupulous about following the evidence where ever it may lead. They have an agenda, and it is one of the most corrupting and untrustworthy causes of all, religion. They already know the answer, and they only want to pay for results that can be interpreted to bolster their unsupportable claims. Even if they are not asking that anyone fake evidence, we know that any line of inquiry that leads away from their desired answer will be abandoned, even if it is leading to the right answer. They are antithetical to good science.

Such an organization exists: the Templeton Foundation. And, boy are they loaded, with a massive endowment and the willingness to throw large sums of money around. Scarily huge sums — the kind of money that will tempt even the most principled scientist to compromise a little bit. . .

. . .

Templeton is wily, though. They don’t make suggestions quite that blatant. Instead, they hand out money to scientists who they already know are sympathetic to their aims, who also want to see god in the universe. They also offer grants to scientific conferences, saying in essence, “Please include a discussion of the place of faith in science…you don’t have to agree with it, but you must be aware that it is important to many people,” and organizers take the money. They go to science magazines (like Seed) and buy ad space, just like Bio-Rad or Tanqueray Gin, and push their philosophy as if it belongs there. They blur the edges everywhere they can.

The devil’s seduction techniques are devious and subtle, but there’s no hiding what he ultimately wants. . . .

And, to my delight, P. Z. agrees with my decision to pass up on speaking at The World Science Festival because it is partly supported by Templeton.  Most of my atheistic colleagues are all in favor of speaking at this conference, using it as a platform to denounce accommodationism.  It’s nice to see that somebody at least understands why a scientist wouldn’t want to lend his/her name to a Templeton-funded endeavor.

5 Comments

  1. Posted May 8, 2009 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Bravo for your refusing to sell your soul. Accepting money from bad sources is not neutral: it implicitly gives support to them.

  2. newenglandbob
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    This can be the beginning of a Tsunami. Maybe dozens of bloggers and thousands of scientist can start a bandwagon of disdain and refusal to have anything to do with the Templeton foundation.

  3. MelM
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Templeton should be kicked out of every legitimate scientific event. How did they get to be “Founding Donors” of WSF?

  4. santitafarella
    Posted May 9, 2009 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne:

    I’m an agnostic and on the pro-evolution side of things. Really I am.

    But I simply don’t get the demonizing of the Templeton Foundation, or why the very presence of the group at an event constitutes somehow a zero sum game to which you must refuse, in good conscience, to participate in. I read the Wikipidia article on the foundation, and then I look at the charged language Myers uses (devil, wily, push, devious, subtle, seduction)—and they just don’t add up.

    It sounds like psychological projection to me.

    I’ve never been a fan of Myers (I confess that). I didn’t like the way he arranged, for example, a video desecration of a Catholic host on the Internet. I thought it was juvenile, illiberal—and even iconoclastic (in the worst sense of that term).

    And once again, I think Myers is going overboard. Listening to Myers, you might think that the Templeton Foundation is being run by Goethe’s Mephistopheles.

    I think, Prof. Coyne, that you shouldn’t be too proud to have Myers’s endorsement of your position. If anything, it ought to give you pause.

    —Santi

    • Jim
      Posted May 9, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Santi – when did PZ ever “arrange a video desecration of a Catholic host” Do you always go around making things up?


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