The scenario is dreary, and familiar. The Templeton Foundation gives a prominent science organization money for a conference, or a program, devoted to the “dialogue” between science and faith. An accommodationist is chosen to dispense assignments and cash. With Templeton standing by beaming, the conference turns out to be a one-sided lovefest, with both scientists and the faithful assuring everyone not only that there’s no conflict, but that science and faith can actually contribute to each other. There is no dialogue, for everyone thinks alike. Theology is promoted, and everyone goes home with a smile.
And so it is with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), whose Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) program is funded by Templeton. I reported on this conference in June, and now the video is up. It’s exactly what you’d expect: pabulum for the ears.
One thing that I didn’t realize is that the newly appointed director of DoSER, astronomer Jennifer Wiseman, is also on the executive council president of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), an organization of Christian scientists (note the small “s”). (The AAAS reports that she’s president of the ASA, but I can’t verify that.) The organization seems pretty dubious, as you can see immediately by their announcement, on their home page, of a talk on intelligent design by Casey Luskin (today, in Chicago!), and a conference by the creationist outfit Reasons to Believe.
It’s even worse. According to Wikipedia, new members of the ASA were (and, I believe, still are) required to agree with this “creedal statement”:
I believe in the whole Bible as originally given, to be the inspired word of God, the only unerring guide to faith and conduct. Since God is the Author of this Book, as well as the Creator and sustainer of the physical world about us, I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in the Bible and the real facts of science.
(The organization has a similar “platform of faith”.)
Nowhere do you see the discrepancy between science and faith more clearly than in such statements. Imagine if I required people working in my lab to swear to this:
I believe in the entire book Speciation, as originally written, to be the inspired word of Jerry A. Coyne and H. Allen Orr, the only unerring guide to the truth about the origin of species. Since Coyne is senior author of the book, and sustains the laboratory about us, I cannot conceive of discrepancies between statements in Speciation and the real facts of science.
Real scientists don’t sign on to such statements.
With these milquetoast conferences, and their insistence on the compatibility between science and faith, the AAAS is engaging in Templeton-funded theology. It’s pretty dire, I tell you what.
And it’s nothing new for this body. In his essay “A designer universe,” Steven Weinberg wrote this about a AAAS conference in 1999:
In an e-mail message from the American Association for the Advancement of Science I learned that the aim of this conference is to have a constructive dialogue between science and religion. I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.