This morning I posted about the Think Write Publish “Science and religion” project at Arizona State University (ASU), which is funded by the John Templeton Foundation —apparently to the tune of a few hundred thousand bucks. The project’s explicit aim is to show the public that science and religion are compatible, and the Project Leader is Daniel Sarewitz, described on the TWP site this way:
Daniel Sarewitz is Professor of Science and Society in the School for the Future of Innovation and Society, and co-director and co-founder of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, at Arizona State University (http://www.cspo.org). He is the editor of the magazine Issues in Science and Technology (www.issues.org), and a regular columnist for Nature. His most recent book is The Techno-Human Condition(2011; co-authored with Braden Allenby; MIT Press).
I am surprised that the same day I heard about this, I saw this article about a worrisome essay by the same colleague, Dan Sarewitz, that appeared to argue against curiosity driven research. This statement blew me away:
“But I’m not really talking much about sciences like cosmology, say, or subatomic particle physics, which no one expects to have a practical application — and where it really doesn’t matter if the results are true or not.”
I think that makes his leadership of this program attempting to claim non-existent harmonies between science and religion more understandable, if, when discussing the universe he doesn’t really care about what is true or not, and therefore probably doesn’t understand how we can distinguish between the two. Still, for someone who claims that science should be serving the public good, and not merely produce knowledge, it is disappointing that he would support people wasting time on this instead of producing good scholarship.
It’s not good PR, if you’re head of a science and religion program, to say that in some areas of science the truth doesn’t matter. It’s even worse if you’re at the same university as someone like Krauss!
UPDATE: I now remember that I wrote about Sarewitz in a piece for Slate, “No faith in science.” In that piece I criticize him for claiming that religious faith was no different from the kind of “faith” that scientists have in something like the Higgs boson.”