Guess the Templeton Prize winner

Around this time last year (March 25 to be exact), Francisco Ayala, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California at Irvine, was awarded the Templeton Prize, characterized by Richard Dawkins as “a very large sum of money given…usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion.”

Let’s guess who’s gonna nab it this year!  Nobody won last year’s contest, but maybe we can do better now.  I will list three contenders in what I consider decreasing order of likelihood.

1.  Simon Conway Morris.  A Templeton flak for a long time, this prominent paleontologist is devoting his dotage to buttressing his Christianity by arguing that the evolution of humans was inevitable.  Weirdly, though, he supports the inevitability of this one-off primate by citing all the cases in which different species of animals and plants have converged to similar phenotypes, that is, he cites more-than-one-off adaptations. (See his Templeton-funded “Map of Life” project, which collects cases of convergent evolution.) Nevertheless, he is a well known scientist who has done important work and who keeps his faith within “reasonable” bounds.

2.  Francis Collins.  This was my guess last year, but maybe I wasn’t thinking hard enough.  It might be unseemly for America’s most prominent scientist to pull in an award reeking of religion.  Collins was, after all, advised to soft-pedal his faith upon becoming director of the National Institutes of Health, though he hasn’t adhered to that stricture very well.  I consider him a good second choice.

3.  Martin Nowak. This young Harvard evolutionist isn’t ready for Templetonian prime time, but he’s on his way.  Having hauled in more than twelve million dollars in Templeton grants, and having served as a member of Templeton’s advisory board, he’s also published a new book on the evolution of cooperation and is touting it as showing a consilience between evolution and the teachings of Jebus. This kind of stuff is right up Templeton’s alley, and the Harvard connection adds respectability.  Look for him to win it in the next decade.

And as for Michael Ruse, who would dearly love the Prize and the million pounds in cash that goes with it, he doesn’t have a bleeding chance.  He’s a boorish man—the kind of loudmouth that Templeton would never dignify with the award.

If you have another choice, by all means post it below, and give the reasons. Put yourself in the shoes of Templeton, an organization that deeply wants respectability with both the religious and scientific communities. And remember the avowed purpose of the prize:

The Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.

There are no free books for guessing correctly, but I’ll highlight the winner above the fold.

112 Comments

  1. Lars Karlsson
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Robert Wright, because “We can pick atheists as well so stop saying mean things”

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      I voted for Wright last year. He exemplifies the stance they hope to promote among non-believers. (There doesn’t seem to be anything there, but how can I say for sure?) But they seem to be favoring people embedded in the scientific community.

      A formal atheist would be a good choice, though. Does anyone think E.O. Wilson would take it? I do.

  2. Andy Dufresne
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Ah, the Templeton Prize. This is the real March Madness. Fill in your brackets, people!

    It’s just too hard to bet against Francis Collins. But on the other hand, he so well embodies everything Templeton is about that it would seem comically obvious to give it to him. It’s like giving the Dunce of the Year award to Palin. She deserves it, sure, but c’mon—that’s too easy.

    • Helen Wise
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:18 am | Permalink

      The largest factor mitigating against Collins, who would be a shoe-in otherwise, I think, is that he’s employed in the US public sector where accepting a monetary prize of any amount is likely to present huge problems. Best bet for Collins is after he leaves the NIH.

      • Savagemutt
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        He could give it to charity, just like Obama did with his Nobel.

  3. Saikat Biswas
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    The Prize celebrates no particular faith tradition or notion of God, but rather the quest for progress in humanity’s efforts to comprehend the many and diverse manifestations of the Divine.

    Right. Our confectionery store does not promote any particular brand of candy or the notion of chocolaty goodness, but rather participate in the perennial yet elusive quest to comprehend the ubiquitous preference for cupcakes and highlight their obvious superiority to cinnamon rolls.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Heretic!!!!

      Cinnamon rolls are obviously superior to mere “cupcakes”…(snorts, spits derisively).

      • Saikat Biswas
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        I’m sorry. No cupcakes for you.

        • Saikat Biswas
          Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

          Although we certainly don’t discriminate against cupcake haters. In the past, we have denied cupcakes to donut lovers, french roll afficionados and pie fans.

          • BilBy
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

            I think you’ll find that Prof Coyne worships ‘pake’

  4. Kevin
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Not Collins…not for the least of which reason would be that as a government employee, he would be bound to not accept the money.

    They’ll wait until after he’s left his post. THEN, he’ll get it.

    Yes, I agree that Ruse — though he seems to be lobbying HARD for the prize — is not going to win. Although I’ve already nominated him for the Mr. Irrelevancy Award.

    Morris is a good choice — but he already has been sucking at the Templeton teat for a LOOOOOOOOOOONG time. So, I actually think this works against him.

    Templeton seems to be pretty insistent on looking at cosmologists/physicists. I think this works against biology and philosophy contenders. But the pickings are pretty slim in the physics arena.

    One could argue for Kenneth Miller. For no other reason than Miller presaged Collins (actually, Collins uses all of Miller’s arguments, unashamed at the overt plagiarism), and Collins is otherwise occupied.

    But my official guess is Andre Linde. Physicist. Known to the Templetons. Argues in favor of the anthropic principle.

    Yep. Linde. That’s my guess.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      BTW: If I win, I’ll buy the book, but I want it autographed!

      (Already have read it, compliments of my local library.)

    • Marella
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      I agree, Collins won’t win until he retires from his current position.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:55 am | Permalink

      Physicist. Known to the Templetons. Argues in favor of the anthropic principle.

      Um , what? I don’t know whether Linde is an atheist or not, but nothing up there would help in establishing that or his suitability for the Templeton prize.

      Linde, Tegmark, and a couple of other physicists are taking Templeton money, but that particular group seems to squirrel it out for more far out work. So yes, known, but most atheists. (The Fqx institute.)

      The anthropic, or more generally environmental, principle is to consider post-selection. That goes against the religious anthropic argument who rejects post-selection likelihood for pre-selection probability. (Or for no obvious reason except to get a “nice” conclusion, argues that post-selection is inconsequential.)

      Anthropic argument: “Probability low, hence Jebus.” A1: Religious people are da crazy.

      Anthropic argument: “If likelihood high (in some environments) for observers, observers.” A1: “Observers, hence likelihood can be high.” A2. “Remains to test if likelihood varies, otherwise it would be a tautology.” A3. “Oh, btw, hence no Jebus.”

    • Helen Wise
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I should have read through the comments before I posted upthread to see that you’d already made this point here.

    • KP
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Not Collins…not for the least of which reason would be that as a government employee, he would be bound to not accept the money.

      I was set on Collins until you reminded me of this. Now I’m stumped. Ken Miller has been out of the spotlight now that Kitzmiller is > 5 years old and “Only a Theory” has faded from view. I don’t know enough about the other candidates. So I’ll just randomly guess:

      NOWAK

  5. Moewicus
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m crossing my fingers for PZ Myers to win this year. He has done a lot to overlap the “Magisteria”. He is truly a man of insight, discovery and practicality. He’s a shoe-in, and no, I had no idea how to write “a shoe-in” before I googled it.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      If that happens, I’m converting to Lutheranism.

      Yes, I’ve said it. PZ winning a Templeton would signal that there is indeed a deity, that he is preferentially disposed to like people who may not actually BE Scandinavian, but who live like they WANT to be Scandinavian.

      PZ wins, I convert.

      No pressure, Templeton. None whatsoever.

      • Moewicus
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        I second this. The ball is in your court, Templeton Foundation!

        (Also, it’s actually “a shoo-in.” So sue me, I’ve only ever heard it said and not seen it written.)

        • Marella
          Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

          I’m sure you’re right, shoo-in.

        • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

          I vote for “show in”.

          • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

            Oh FSM, I meant “shove in”.

  6. Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Either Chris Mooney or Casey Luskin, whichever one works for the Discovery Institute. I forget.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Nearly did a spit-take of a good tempranillo at that one.

      Never waste Spanish red wine for a cheap laugh.

    • Saikat Biswas
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      ‘The Templeton Foundation is pleased to present Mr Casey Luskin with the eponymous award for his …’

      ‘Excuse me, I’m glad to be here but could you tell me exactly which award you guys are giving me? I know it’s a scientific spiritual award, so just giving it some name would seem appropriate.’

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Ha! That was really one of the funnies.

      I was also, tongue in cheek, going to suggest Mooney.

  7. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m a little hampered because the selection criteria includes “life’s spiritual dimension” & I can’t seem to find it in any direction. I guess it must be one of those tiny rolled up string theory dimensions

    I nominate Salman Rushdie for the halibut

  8. 386sx
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ll go with Christopher Hitchens for the long shot. (Big handicap, albeit zero payoff. 0 x big_handicap = 0, so I figure I’ll break even.)

  9. abadidea
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    If I write a really touching essay about my spiritual awakening through the study of astronomy, can I have the million and a half dollars? I could really use it.

  10. elorate
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    http://philreligion.nd.edu/poe/fellowships_st_details.html

  11. Marella
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    I think maybe they’ll go for a non-scientist this time, like the Dalai Lama or someone.

  12. Brian
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    Ken Miller

  13. David Leech
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Ho! Give it to Michael Ruse, how much longer do we have to put up with him waving his arse in the air and whoring himself:-(

  14. Wayne Robinson
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Richard Dakins, just to shock everyone.

    • Wayne Robinson
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

      Aggggh,

      I meant Richard Dawkins of course.

  15. H.H.
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny how the Templeton Prize is now typically given to scientists. The prize was first offered in 1972, and until 2001 the name of the prize was “Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.” The first recipient was Mother Teresa, and most of the winners until the mid-90s were theologians, philanthropists, or people fighting for the right to practice their religious beliefs. The first scientist to win was Paul Davies in 1995. In order to reflect this new focus on co-opting science, between 2002-2008 they changed the name of the award to “Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities,” although I’m still not aware of any science that has ever affirmed a spiritual reality.

    Look for them to pick a big, headline-grabbing name that will add respectability to their brand. I’ll guess…Deepak Chopra.

  16. 386sx
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Sammy Hagar for affirming the spiritual dimension of aliens through insight and discovery

    http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/03/21/sammy-hagar-aliens/

    • daveau
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Better living through chemistry. Yeah, maybe some chemist can figure out a way for us to see god.

  17. Michael Kingsford Gray
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Ken Ham.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      Ham? No chance, lacks credentials.

      Dr. Kent Hovind

      • Dominic
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:02 am | Permalink

        What have these Hovind, Ham & Haught [sigemund’s choice below] done to promote god-ism & NOMA ‘science’? Never heard of them myself…!

        • Jhjeffery
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

          Hovind is still in jail, I think.

          • daveau
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            Which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s out of it…

  18. Sigmund
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    John F. Haught

  19. J.J.E.
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    I think this list is enriched for likely recipients.

  20. MadScientist
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    [OT]: In other news, some dim bulbs are “predicting the end of religion” – well, at least as the news puts it:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12811197

    Of course the alleged study conveniently ignores the efforts of such individuals and organizations such as the Templetons.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:58 am | Permalink

      Yes – unfortunately the end of superstition is not in sight though.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      Thanks, interesting!

      The linear utility function (i.e. membership ~ person*utility) is intuitively correct, or as Homer said: “D,oh”!

      Rest groups (of, say, superstition as Dominic notes) is captured in the non-linearities that may appear in networks (say, as utility rising to remain in small cohesive groups from perceived privilege/prosecution).

      At the very least the many easy model fits points to a likely change in perception of secularism. (Well, duh.) I wish they had tried to test the fit though.

  21. Egbert
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Templeton Cronyism is so blatant, it’s sickening.

  22. Dominic
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini – a joint prize for dissing Darwin. Either that or Nowak.

    • Dominic
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:08 am | Permalink

      Actually just noted that Francis Collins the doctor has not yet won it – he must be in with a shout.

      • Dominic
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 4:24 am | Permalink

        …but of course he was on JC’s list! doh!

  23. Posted March 22, 2011 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    Ken Miller gets my vote ! And I didn’t realise that “Mother” Teresa was the first ever winner, back in 1973 !

  24. occamseraser
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Nowak’s CV is mind-boggling: Science, Nature, PNAS …repeat. A real pity he’s suckling at the Templeton teat, unless of course he’s a world-class poe in crimson camouflage. Convenience or conviction?

  25. Helen Wise
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    According Sunny Baines’ report, shouldn’t we be looking for a candidate who is already a member of Templeton’s board?

  26. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    “Nobody won last year’s contest”

    What happened? Couldn’t they find any scientist willing to say something nice about religion?

    • Rieux
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      No, no. Last year no one won this contest, on Jerry’s blog, to guess the Templeton winner. As Jerry explained in the first sentence of the original post here, Francisco Ayala won the Templeton Prize in 2010. Nobody here had guessed Ayala.

  27. Sven DiMilo
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    I’ll go with Pigliucci.
    An explicit biologist to philosopher metamorphosis? Antignu to boot? Pompous about it even? That’s got to perk up Templeton ears.

    • Sigmund
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Pigliucci has far too much anti-theist baggage to be a useful tool in the Templeton arsenal. He’s also more of a philosophical agnostic rather than a straight forward accomodationist anti-gnu these days.

      • Sven DiMilo
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        yeah, those were my subsequent thoughts as well.

        Are faitheists eligible, or do you think the winner needs to be a Believer?

  28. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    usually to a scientist…

    Although once in a while it is given to a Young Earth Creationist like Charles Colson (1993)

  29. Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    I’ll go with Richard Dawkins — because he’d turn it down on principle, which would re-enforce the propaganda that he’s too strident and rude, and Templeton would still get to give the money to faitheists through other grants and venues.

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Would he, though? Unless there are conditions attached (“recipient agrees not to disparage the Templeton Foundation”), I would hope he’d accept the money, donate it to the Richard Dawkins Foundation and/or other worthy secular causes, and give an acceptance speech along the lines of “I once wrote that the Prize is awarded to scientists who say nice things about religion. It appears I was wrong; when new evidence emerges, one must always be willing to reconsider one’s views. If only more religious people would do the same.”

      And of course, if there are unacceptable strings attached to the Award, then decline and announce publicly what those demands were.

      Anyway, all very hypothetical, as I’m sure the TF would never do such a thing.

  30. Jimbo
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    I wonder how Morris rationalizes the extinction of other hominids on the human family tree. Was both their evolution and extinction “inevitable”?

  31. Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    We’re missing the obvious choice — Charlie Sheen. Because a man with tiger blood is clearly a sign of miraculous happenings, and a major challenge to neo-Darwinism.

    • Jason
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Winning

  32. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    The Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.

    Occam’s Razor – the one that has made the largest exceptional contribution to promote the idea of Jebus over all these areas is … Jebus. (Since Templeton believes he exist, he fulfills all their requirements.)

  33. PZ Myers
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I’m going to take a long shot and guess Denis Alexander. He’s not a big name like the people mentioned up top, but Templeton has been pushing his Faraday Institute for Science and Religion a bit, and the award would promote that more than anything else.

    That’s not as long a shot as the crazy people guessing me, though.

    I also think that all the New Atheists sneering at Michael Ruse are improving his odds. Expect more sniping from the old man soon, to provoke his critics even more.

    • J.J.E.
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I have to agree about Ruse. Ruse is invisible without the constant GA criticism. However, with the criticism, he becomes even more of a joke than before. So, I guess there is very little downside.

    • KP
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Ruse is to the Templeton Prize what Jimmy Carter was to the Nobel Peace Prize. He’s going to keep drawing attention to himself for his prize-worthy work and he’s not gonna go away until he gets it.

  34. Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I’m going with another long shot, Edward O. Wilson.

  35. Sastra
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Since as far as I know I’ll be first with the suggestion, I’ll submit the possibility of Dr. Oz, a popular media-loved doc who has gone firmly over to the Dark Side on woo, saying an awful lot of tripe about how the science of medicine is now recognizing our “spiritual” component.

    No, he’s not an intellectual heavyweight — but he has a legitimate science background and represents one of the most common strategies used to intersect science and religion: alternative medicine.

    And, if they gave it to a well-known celebrity like Dr. Oz, it would extend the recognition of the Templeton Prize into pop culture. Numerous benefits.

    Ok, it’s a long shot — but they like to surprise.

  36. Kevin
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Another random guess: Uncle Karl.

    I could happen.

  37. Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Karen Armstrong. She talks exactly the right sort of vacuous nonsense: pretentious deepities tailor-made to bamboozle the gullible – pure Templeton-fodder.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Dammit Richard! I was going to say that – and I hit Ctrl + F first to make sure no one else had already said it.

      Bang goes my prize.

      • Ken Pidcock
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        Don’t forget there’s a political dimension to this. Armstrong seems perhaps a little on the lefty side, although I’ve never actually heard her mutter a word about economic justice. Also, I suspect there’s a toxic zone of liberal theology that the foundation finds distasteful. In any event, I’ll bet against her.

  38. Matt G
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    “The Prize celebrates no particular faith tradition or notion of God, but rather the quest for progress in humanity’s efforts to comprehend the many and diverse manifestations of the Divine.”

    So you DO celebrate a particular notion of God, namely that it has “many and diverse manifestations.” No preconceived notions there, no sir….

  39. Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    But seriously folks – Armstrong is a sure bet, if you ask me. That horrible sincerity of hers, plus the central ridiculous claim that all religions are at heart about compassion, plus as Richard says the steady flow of deepities, plus she’s got street cred, plus she’s a woman. Templeton don’t gots many women out front.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Well, I’m betting against her because she’s not a scientist. But it’s a good suggestion. I also missed Robert Wright, who has at least WRITTEN about science; I think he’s a good bet, too.

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Yes I paused over the not a scientist thing, but then I remembered Charles Taylor, so I went ahead.

        She’s not a PhD though. I don’t know if they go all-academic or not.

  40. Jhjeffery
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    A little off topic but I read Ruse’s bio of Darwin and thought it showed a pro Christian bias. This was several years ago and I was unaware, and later shocked to find he claimed to be an atheist. Are we really sure he is? Could he just be saying so because there is a strong anti-Christian bias in the field?

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Well if he’s trying to evade the anti-Xian bias, he’s not doing a very good job of it!

      :0

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Of course Michael Ruse has a very strong Christian bias. He may be an atheist, but he is a reluctant atheist, an accommodationist with a strong belief in belief, to use Dan Dennett’s spot-on phrase. Ruse has wasted a lot of time reading theologians, time that he could have more profitably spent reading scientists as Dennett does, so Ruse’s Christian bias could stem from a reluctance to admit that his time was indeed wasted. If anyone is tempted, by the way, to think that theology has anything whatsoever to contribute to the storehouse of human knowledge or wisdom, just take a look at the splendid quotations from Larry Moran in the previous thread called ‘Why do atheists do theology?’ Then of course there is PZ Myers’ wonderful “Courtier’s Reply”, against which no theologian has ever offered a working defence.

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Well maybe the thing that theology has to contribute to the storehouse of human knowledge or wisdom is like a black swan. We haven’t seen it yet, but that needn’t mean it doesn’t exist…

        • Jhjeffery
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

          (Blushing to have both RD and Ophelia responding to my post.)

          If my notes are correct, Ruse contradicts Darwin’s own account of his journey to agnosticism, or at least the timing of it–calling him a deist for most of his life.

          The anti-Christian bias is real, I think, and welcome, I hurry to say. I was taught the Psychology of Religious Experience by Dr. Sharon Carnahan (herself, unbelievably some sort of loose Christian). I was there when she asked Zizek about the bias. He basically ignored her.

          But not all bias is bad, and think this bias well deserved. Does anyone think it is possible that Ruse is in fact a “closet Christian?”

          • Screechy Monkey
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

            I find that unlikely. Ruse’s behavior is perfectly explainable without resorting to that hypothesis.

            There’s no shortage of folks who want you to know that they are atheists for much better, much more thought-out reasons than you. As that great xkcd comic says, the important thing is that they’ve found a way to feel superior to both atheists and believers.

            Also, with apologies to Brother Blackford and his colleagues, I think there’s a certain amount of protectionism at work among certain philosophers. The existence or non-existence of a god is one of the few issues on which the average person thinks philosophers might have something useful to say, so I think someone like Ruse resents it when some “amateur” like Dawkins, Hitchens, Coyne, or P.Z. comes along and starts intruding on what he sees as philosophy’s turf.

  41. Sven DiMilo
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works

    This criterion suddenly makes perfect sense of Chris Mooney’s recent scribblings.
    I am not predicting him (though he might be).

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      He’s way too young. T. prizes are lifetime award type things. I really doubt that even Mooney has any illusions about that.

      • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Which is not to say that he isn’t energetically laying the groundwork.

      • Andy Dufresne
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        In baseball, they hand out a Rookie of the Year award. Something like that would be nice for Chris. “Best Up-and-coming Faithiest” or something—a modest little “atta-boy” plaque he can hang on his wall. I mean c’mon Templeton—someone who’s carried so much water for you, in so little time, deserves some recognition.

        Actually, that’s a cool idea. Templeton could have a whole series of “minor awards,” like those Oscars for technical achievement they hand out the day before the main Oscar telecast. Just think: “Best New New Atheist Basher,” “Best Pseudo-scientist,” “Best Atheists-are-like-Hitler Analogy,” and the coveted “Accommodationist of the Year.” Now that’s entertainment.

        • Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          “Best New New Atheist Basher” – now that’s one with a lot of candidates. Gosh, Tony, it’s so hard to choose!

          • Andy Dufresne
            Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

            That one could also be called “The Spirit of Chris Hedges Award for Tolerance and Fairness.”

            • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

              Ha!

              I was so pleased to find that even in Sweden they know what an epithet Chris Hedges is.

      • Screechy Monkey
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        I think these days, the TF wants some combination of serious scientific credentials, theism, and/or a high profile.

        Mooney’s just a science journalist, not a seriously credentialed academic, not terribly famous, and is an atheist. The TF is obviously happy to throw some fellowship money his way, but I expect they’d save the big prize for someone who is willing to say nicer things about religion than Mooney does. (Mooney’s anti-Gnu, be-nice-to-the-believers shtick may annoy us, but I doubt it really gives the TF that warm a fuzzy feeling.)

        I think even Bob Wright would be a bit of a stretch. Higher profile than Mooney, but still dubious scientific credentials, and his “directionality of evolution” is a little too vaguely deistic to really please them.

  42. Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Looking at that list, I have to admit that Karen Armstrong looks unlikely. They want academic prestige, and they want men. I was thinking they’d want a woman because of not having any, but now I think they don’t want a woman because of not having any. That list looks like a list for which only a man will do. Only a man has the right kind of prestige.

    “Ian Barbour is one of the world pioneers in the integration of science and religion. His books and articles have helped to expand the field of theology not only for Christianity but also for other faiths.”

    What the hell is the integration of science and religion?

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      And how the hell do you write books from a Christian perspective that expand the field of theology for other faiths?

      On second thought, you can do anything with theology, other than test a hypothesis.

  43. cheglabratjoe
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised there have been no votes for Elaine Ecklund, unless ctrl-f is failing me. Her book injected new life into this “spirituality” brouhaha, which is right there in the Templeton Prize description. Per her CV, Templeton even funded the research the book is based on.

    Unless I’m mistaken, before her book, the phrase “spiritual but not religious” was just a cowardly stepping stone on the path to calling yourself an atheist. (Full disclosure: I was guilty of this myself for awhile.) Now, it is leading supposedly-serious discussions about the science/religion debate. I think a lot of that can be traced back to her book, and I’m sure Templeton loves it.

  44. Screechy Monkey
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m going with William D. Phillips.

    I arrived at this conclusion by looking at my comments and Ophelia’s, and typing “physicist god templeton” into Google. That led me to http://www.templeton.org/belief/ and after rejecting Mary Midgely (not a Christian as far as I know), and Jerome Groopman (religious, but apparently Jewish), and toying with Keith Ward (philosopher and Anglican cleric), it became obvious that Phillips is a good bet.

    Nobel Laureate in physics, past Templeton contributor, and here’s what he writes on the page I linked:

    “I am a physicist. I do mainstream research; I publish in peer-reviewed journals; I present my research at professional meetings; I train students and postdoctoral researchers; I try to learn from nature how nature works. In other words, I am an ordinary scientist. I am also a person of religious faith. I attend church; I sing in the gospel choir; I go to Sunday school; I pray regularly; I try to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.” In other words, I am an ordinary person of faith. To many people, this makes me a contradiction – a serious scientist who seriously believes in God. But to many more people, I am someone just like them. While most of the media’s attention goes to the strident atheists who claim that religion is foolish superstition, and to the equally clamorous religious creationists who deny the clear evidence for cosmic and biological evolution, a majority of the people I know have no difficulty accepting scientific knowledge and holding to religious faith.”

    Physicist? Check.
    Renowned? Check.
    Conventional (but not fundamentalist) Christian? Check.

    Plus bonus points for bashing “strident atheists.”

    Victory is mine!

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      I think you have a very good shot!

    • Jhjeffery
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      Midgely’s energies are already overtaxed by being a loon.

  45. Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    COYNE WINS TEMPLETON – PROVES THERE IS A GOD. Upon hearing the Templeton announcement, the golden-tongued Coyne could only muster a repetitive “Jebus.”

  46. Posted March 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    And more seriously, Alexander and Phillips are good bets; Collins probably not because of conflicts – suppose he could donate the cash to BioLogos….

  47. GaryU
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    My only exposure to Conway Morris is via “Wonderful Life”. I didn’t know he had gone to the Dark Side.

    • GaryU
      Posted March 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      I guess I’m so disillusioned (and drunk) at this point, that I have to pick Conway Morris.

  48. Posted March 31, 2011 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    I actually think it will be a philosopher this year, I’ll go with Alvin Plantinga.. Keith Ward wouldn’t be a bad pick either.

  49. Tom
    Posted April 1, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    The press conference is in London so the prize will be going to someone who’s British or UK-based. My guess is that it could go to John Hedley Brook. Or has he already won it?


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