The John Templeton Foundation, which funds many scientists who aren’t (but should be) ashamed to take money from an organization devoted to finding God in science, is up to its usual shenanigans. We have some juicy information about it that I hope I can reveal soon, but this contest, just announced, will give you an idea of how deeply Templeton is still immersed in the project to harmonize science and religion.
Reader Rob S. called my attention to a TWP (Think Write Publish) Science & Religion Project run by Arizona State University that apparently has deep pockets courtesy of Templeton, and is devoted to supporting Templeton’s own confirmation bias: that religion and science are in perfect comity. According to Templeton, TWP began as an NSF-sponsored program, but now has been injected with the “science and religion” business (I doubt the NSF would sponsor the present program.)
Here’s part of the new announcement. Note that they characterize religion as a “way of knowing” (my emphasis). Parts of their announcement are indented, with my comments flush left, and the evidence for Templeton funding of TWP’s project is at the bottom.
IF YOU HAVE A TRUE STORY THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL ABOUT HARMONIES BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION WE WANT TO HELP YOU DO IT.
Science and religion, despite their rich, interwoven history, are too often portrayed as opposites in nearly every way, irreconcilable by definition. Indeed, our increasingly polarized societies seem to encourage the proposition that these two ways of knowing the world cannot productively co-exist, that they encounter each other through conflict and contradiction.
If religion is a way “of knowing the world,” I’d like to hear what it has helped us know. What exactly, dear Templeton-funded TWP, has religion told us about the world that is true? How many gods are there? Is Jesus divine? Is it immoral to get a blood transfusion? Is evolution true? Can women be priests? Is there an afterlife of some sort? Should we kill apostates? All religions differ on the answers to these questions, and there’s no way of ascertaining the answers. So how, exactly, can religion tell us anything? The announcement continues:
Our project advances a different proposition: that science and religion can reinforce each other to allow a more nuanced [JAC: If you hear the word “nuanced” in such discussions, head for the hills!], profound, and rewarding experience of our world and our place in it. We will use creative nonfiction writing to explore and advance this proposition. We are building a new community of storytellers who will write, publish, and disseminate engaging and inspiring nonfiction narratives of harmonies, reconciliation, and even productive interaction between science and religion.
It’s curious that a project that claims religion and science both advance our understanding of the world wants to use personal anecdotes and stories to buttress that proposition. Well, after all, that’s all they’ve got. . .
One of the best ways to foster collective understanding is with a good story. Creative nonfiction–true stories, well told–allows for complexity, novelty, and revelation, and through compelling voice, suspense, character development, and well-chosen details has the potential to engage the widest audiences and change the way they know the world.
If you have a true story that you would like to tell about harmonies between science and religion—drawn from your personal life, your work, your experience, your studies—we want to help you do it.
The Think-Write-Publish Science & Religion project offers several ways for you–scholars, scientists, religious figures, writers, everyday people—to become part of a vibrant new community of storytellers.
I’m not sure what they’re looking for here. Is Francis Collins’s Frozen Waterfall Conversion story suitable? Is the fact that someone went to church and was inspired to go back to her lab to study the Mind of God what they want? What about a priest getting a revelation that God worked through evolution?
By and large, we scientists don’t call ourselves “storytellers,” because that implies that we’re engaged in concocting fiction. The real community of storytellers comprises the religionists, who are completely engaged in promulgating fiction. Here the TWP is trying to mix truth and fiction—right up Templeton’s alley.
The prizes are not insubstantial, either:
Creative Nonfiction and Issues in Science and Technology editors will award two prizes—a best essay prize of $10,000, and a $5,000 runner-up prize—and up to five honorable mentions, each with a $500 prize. The two winning essays will be published in the fall 2017 issues of both magazines; honorable mentions will also be considered for publication in one or both magazines and/or online. The best essay winner and runner-up will also win a trip to Washington, D.C. where they will be honored at our publication launch event in 2017.
Templeton is apparently making a Big Push to show the public that religion and science are compatible. That make it even more important for those of us who feel otherwise to emphasize the incompatibilities. Here are the other projects of the TWP:
In fall 2017, we will be offering a four-part online course, “Telling True Stories About Harmonies Between Science & Religion.” Taught by Fellows and mentors from the program, the course offers anyone who has experience(s) related to the harmonies between science and religion to join a community of writers. Using project stories as examples, the course will provide training in narrative nonfiction research, writing, and revision and regular feedback on their writing.
Wait! There’s more!
PUBLIC EVENTS AT FIVE MUSEUMS AROUND THE US & CANADA
The public is invited to these events to learn about the project and the resulting narratives, engage with the authors and mentors, and join in the conversation about harmonies between science and religion.
This is odious. Templeton is getting its sticky fingers into public museums, and of course there’s no opportunity for a response by those of us who who feel that science and religion are in opposition. I’m sure that if I, for example, gave a lecture at a public museum on the incompatibility of science and religion, people would find that rude. But those who impart the opposite message are welcomed and lionized.
But wait! There’s still more!
NATIONAL CONFERENCES IN WASHINGTON D.C.
In fall 2017, a conference will be held to launch the special “Science and Religion” issues of Creative Nonfiction and Issues in Science and Technology. In June 2018, a two-day conference will feature best stories, compelling project participants, opinion leaders, and the media.
And if you think that’s all, no, there’s MORE! With all of this you get EXTRA GOODIES!
We will be awarding twelve $10,000 two-year TWP Science & Religion Fellowships to develop a publishable true story or series of stories.
Open to novice and experienced writers, anyone who has a compelling true story or true stories illustrating or exploring harmonies between science and religion is encouraged to apply. Over a two-year period, Fellows will develop, write, and market their creative nonfiction stories. They will be mentored throughout the project by experienced writers, editors and teachers. They and their stories will be featured in a series of regional and national events.
As part of the workshop, Fellows will participate in three intensive training workshops. . .
So, let’s see. Twelve $10,000 fellowships is $120,000. Add to that $17,500 for the essays, the public events—probably at least $10,000 each—and two national conferences (I’ll say a total of $100,000 if you throw in the online courses), and you get nearly $240,000, roughly a cool quarter million.
That’s a lot of dosh to throw at reconciling science and faith! But they must feel it’s important if they’re spending so much money on this. And yet, all the while, people are leaving faith, often because they feel it doesn’t comport with science. Maybe this program is a desperation move to counteract that. After all, America is inexorably becoming more secular, and the faithful have to deal with that.
Here’s evidence of Templeton’s sponsorship. Doesn’t Lawrence Krauss work at ASU?