Lest you think that The John Templeton Foundation is funding research only at the nexus of science and theology—bad enough as that might be—do be aware that it’s funding pure theology, and spending appreciable bucks on it.
The University of California, Riverside publicity machine has announced that one of its Ph.D. students in philosophy has been awarded a two-year fellowship to study the mind of God.
And, as postdocs go, it’s a very lavish one: $81,000 per year for two years, plus $5500 yearly for travel to and in Europe. As the press release says:
The fellowship is part of a larger Templeton project to bring the resources of analytical philosophy to theology and philosophy of religion, Fischer [chair of the UCR philosophy department] said, adding, “This is a significant achievement for [the candidate], and a truly exciting and wonderful opportunity.”
The fellowship enables young scholars to use contemporary analytic methods to pursue independent research in the fields of divine and human agency, such as moral responsibility and freedom of will; or philosophy of mind and its theological implications, such as the presence of the divine in a natural world and the emergence of consciousness. The Pennsylvania-based foundation describes itself as a “philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.”
So what is the Big Question that the candidate is being given $173,000 to answer?
His postdoctoral research project, “Divine Foreknowledge, the Philosophy of Time, and the Metaphysics of Dependence: Some New Approaches to an Old Problem,” assesses a core Ockhamist thesis about foreknowledge. William of Ockham was a 13th century philosopher.
“The central contention of the Ockhamist concerns a point about the order of explanation. According to the Ockhamist, it is because of what we do that God long ago believed that we would do these things. That is, God’s past beliefs depend in an important sense on what we do, and thus, says the Ockhamist, we can sometimes have a choice about God’s past beliefs,” he explained. “The overarching goal of this project is to develop and assess this core Ockhamist thesis along two underexplored dimensions: the philosophy of time, and the metaphysics of dependence – both of which have seen an explosion of recent interest.”
This is an area about which I’m completely ignorant, and happy to remain so, because it sounds like a godawful cesspool of theological lucubration. It of course begins with three completely unsupported premises: that there is a God, that that God has a mind that has “beliefs,” and that how we act now somehow influences God’s beliefs about our actions long before we performed them. It sounds as if what we do now, then, can go back in time and change God’s beliefs. (That, at least, is how I interpret the gobbledygook above.)
Given those three bogus assumptions, the candidate will then spend many dollars ruminating about how God’s prior beliefs relate to the philosophy of time and metaphysics of dependence, whatever that means.
In other words, all the money is going to work out the consequences of a fairy tale. So much money for so much “sophisticated” philosophy!
I haven’t named the candidate (though clicking the link will reveal the name) because this post isn’t so much about a cockeyed postdoctoral project as about the kind of hogwash that Templeton is funding—things that have nothing to do with science. And of course, no Big Questions will be answered. (What makes me laugh about these “Big Questions” is that they’re always being “addressed,” but never answered.)
My Big Question is this: which mushbrains at Templeton have decided to throw their money down this particular drain?