Here is three million dollars down the tubes—money that could be used to advance our understanding of nature. Yes, the John Templeton Foundation—which is again mad at me for criticizing them yesterday and has asked for a “meeting”—has given a grant of nearly $3 million to the University of Kent so that underemployed religious scholars, sociologists, and anthropologists can figure out why people don’t believe in God. The amount of money far exceeds grants normally given out in the humanities, so penurious scholars will be flocking to the trough.
Will anything useful come of this? I’ve learned that any proposal, no matter how useless-sounding, can be defended, so I’ll allow readers to defend this one. I’ll say only two things. First, I’d prefer a study of why people are religious and believe in gods, since it seems to me that the answers to the questions above are be 1). People are born nonbelievers and have to be taught conventional religion, and 2). Most nonbelievers, either those who never were religious or those who gave up faith, did so because there is no evidence for gods. It’s a more interesting question why people believe in ridiculous myths in the absence of evidence. So the Big Question is really why born unbelievers become inculcated with nonsense that their parents and elders have chosen to believe? How did religious mythology get started, and why is it so appealing?
Second, here are the two principal investigators:
Dr Lois Lee, Religious Studies, University of Kent
Dr Stephen Bullivant, Religious Studies and Theology, St Mary’s University, Twickenham
To me this is like asking creationists to direct a sociological study of why so many scientists accept evolution.
If you want to see how the money will be used, here’s a link to the announcement and call for proposals from the University of Kent.