Standing behind much of the accommodationism in America is the John Templeton Foundation. This organization is loaded to the gunwales with cash, thanks to the investing activities of the late John Templeton, and it regularly uses its ample coffers to lure scientists into discussing “the big questions” in support of its aim to unify science and faith. (n.b.: whenever you hear the words “bigger questions” or “deeper questions” in this debate, rest assured that they really mean “unanswerable questions” or even “meaningless questions.” And you can also be sure that the answer to these big, deep questions involves religion.) Templeton likes having big-name scientists and secular academics on its panels and in its published discussions, for their presence lends an air of versimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing enterprise.
Some of us have begun fighting back, refusing to participate in Templeton’s ventures or to lend our name to their discussions. The latest refusal involves science writer Edwin Cartlidge, who emailed several neo-materialist fundamentalist militant atheists, asking their cooperation in a Templeton-funded project. So far Daniel Dennett and Anthony Grayling have responded (all of these emails are reproduced with permission of the writers):
From: Edwin Cartlidge
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 9:55 AM
To: Dennett, Daniel C.
Subject: Questions on materialism
Dear Prof Dennett, I am a science journalist currently taking part in the Templeton Cambridge journalism fellowship programme in science and religion. As part of the programme each fellow takes an indepth look at one particular topic, and mine is “materialism”. In the first place I want to understand simply what is meant by the term (as it seems to have various forms) and then to understand how a materialistic viewpoint can or cannot be reconciled with the world around us (particularly as regards human nature).. For this I will be speaking to a number of different experts, including scientists, philosophers and theologians. Since you have written extensively on the philosophy of mind and related areas I thought that you would be a good person to talk to, and wondered whether you might be free at some point in the next three weeks to speak over the phone. I imagine the conversation would last around 20 to 30 minutes.
If you would like to speak to me I would be grateful if you could tell me when would be a good time for me to call and what number I should use.
From: “Dennett, Daniel C.”
To: Edwin Cartlidge
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:53:16 PM
Subject: RE: Questions on materialism
Dear Mr Cartlidge,
I have had my say about materialism and the persistent attempt by religious spokespeople to muddy the waters by claiming, without a shred of support, that materialism (in the sense I have defended for my entire career) is any obstacle to meaning, or to an ethical life—see, e.g., BREAKING THE SPELL, pp302-307.
I see no reason to go over that ground again, and I particularly don’t want to convey the impression, by participating in an interview with you, that this is, for me, a live issue. It is not. If you had said that you were studying the views of scientists, philosophers and, say, choreographers on this topic, I would at least be curious about what expertise choreographers could bring to it. If you had said scientists, philosophers, and astrologers, I would not even have replied to your invitation. The only reason I am replying is to let you know that I disapprove of the Templeton Foundation’s attempt to tie theologians to the coat tails of scientists and philosophers who actually do have expertise on this topic.
Many years ago I made the mistake of participating, with some very good scientists, in a conference that pitted us against astrologers and other new age fakes. I learned to my dismay that even though we thoroughly dismantled the opposition, many in the audience ended up, paradoxically, with an increased esteem for astrologers! As one person explained to me “I figured that if you scientists were willing to work this hard to refute it, there must be something to it!” Isn’t it obvious to you that the Templeton Foundation is eager to create the very same response in its readers? Do you really feel comfortable being complicit with that project?
The response of philosopher Anthony Grayling, who received the same request from Cartlidge:
Dear Mr Cartlidge Thank you for your message. I hope you will understand that this is by no means directed at you personally, but I don't engage in Templeton-associated matters. I cannot agree with the Templeton Foundation's project of trying to make religion respectable by conflating it with science; this is like mixing astrology with astronomy or voodoo with medical research, and I disapprove of Templeton's use of its great wealth to bribe compliance with this project. Templeton is to all intents and purposes a propaganda organisation for religious outlooks; it should honestly say so and equally honestly devote its money to prop up the antique superstitions it favours, and not pretend that questions of religion are of the same kind and on the same level as those of science - by which means it persistently seeks to muddy the waters and keep religion credible in lay eyes. It is for this reason I don't take part in Templeton-associated matters. My good wishes to you - Anthony Grayling Professor A. C. Grayling School of Philosophy Birkbeck, University of London
By the way, does anybody find these responses “uncivil”???
A description of the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships in Science & Religion (one of which Mr. Cartlidge received) is here. Note the description of their purpose:
The John Templeton Foundation inaugurated the fellowship in 2006 to offer a small group of print, broadcast, or online journlists annually the opportunity to examine the dynamic and creative interface of science and religion.
Creative interface only? What about those who want to write about the destructive interface?