More waste of Templeton money

Now that execrable organization, bent on blurring the boundaries between science and religion, has its sticky fingers in Oxford University (it’s long invaded Cambridge University). Here’s a worthless series of podcasts, for which Templeton anted up 1.3 million pounds (now about #1.6 million US)


Here are some of the topics. I love the last one (#29)!  And. . . epistemic defeat!

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Now you tell me: was anything substantive added to human knowledge by these lectures? It seems to me they were simply arcane academic exercises designed to buttress fairy tales. How much clean water could have been given to African villages for 1.6 million dollars?

h/t: Dennis


  1. Heather Hastie
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    The death throes of religion get ever more pathetic.

  2. bluemaas
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    The more I note of these — “arcane academic exercises designed to buttress fairy tales” — anywhere and via or through any organization, then the (e v e n) more that I hurt.

    Exactly cuz of such other stuffs as these — “clean water could have been given to,” say, Flint, Michigan, “for 1.6 million dollars ?”

    Places like Flint and Standing Rock and the Navajo Water Project (in y2016 – y2017, 40% there in New Mexico are without tap water or toilets “at home”) — “water poverty” these are.

    Even Des Moines, Iowa, with (its currently pending federal lawsuit against three Iowa counties’ worth of farm lands cuz of) their agricultural chemical leaching scientifically capable of being stopped. From being stopped from causing the Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone. If there was corporate interests’ willingness to do so.

    Within the USA this is. Within the 21st Century this is.

    The buttressing of such woo, such nonsense with such $gazillions$ just hurts.

    And angers. Angering this is.

    ps And do .not..not. get me started, at the end of a USA – taxation year, upon the !legal! exemptions given over to such wooish organizations’ $gazillions$.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      At least we are pretty sure that Trump cannot escape one of the two absolutes in nature…maybe taxes but not the other.

      The Des Moines lawsuit has about as much chance as $7.00 a bushel corn. Maybe we will see $7 a gallon water.

  3. Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I have seen well-water cost estimates for Africa of the order of $10 per person, so the answer to your last question is 160K persons. But the African village argument troubles me because it makes almost everything seem wasteful. For the $8 billion cost of the Webb Space Telescope we could provide clean water to all 800 million people in the world who lack it. Is the telescope worthwhile? And let’s not even ask about the $150 billion spent on the ISS.

    Some of the topics look interesting and some of the speakers distinguished (eg, Hans Halvorson.) Big money can buy that.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      Some of that money could go to birth control, and birth control techniques teaching. It won’t do for a third world mother to have as many as ten children. But not a few do for some reason(s). What would it take for some “social entrepreneurship” venture capitalist to invest in that, eh? What would it take for the pope and capitalists to admit that the Earth has a finite carrying capacity?

  4. Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    These people remind me of the so-called “sophisticated theologians” referred to by Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett & Harris (, who get by on these ridiculous mental gymnastics surrounding religion. What an absurd waste of money to fund their endeavours.

  5. Jonathan Livengood
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Wow! This looks like a *fantastic* series of lectures. Could you say why — aside from the association with Templeton — you think they are worthless?

    Just glancing at the titles and presenters, it looks to me like there is going to be interesting work on formal epistemology and decision theory, on when and why testimony is justified (if ever), on the nature of evidence and how beliefs in general are justified, and much else of general interest inside and outside of philosophy. I would be shocked if Hajek, White, Lackey, Halvorson, Weisberg, and Williamson (at least) didn’t have something interesting to say in their lectures. I think I’ll go listen to one of them now, actually!

  6. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    You might be able to raise interest in the same series of talks for considerably less
    $$¢¢/£sd. The sheer ostentatiousness of the proceedings is vexing.

    Pascal’s wager is beyond salvaging!! It is invalidated by the multiplicity of religions, and the basic immorality of its central premise.

    Both Sean Carroll and Christopher Hitchens are on record as saying the fine-tuning of the physical constants is (relatively) the best of the theistic arguments, though it is somewhat of a tautology which is not testable or falsifiable.

    I object to classical Christianity to a large degree because of the ethereal and disembodied (Nietzsche said “afterworldly”) nature of its “spirituality”, and the genocidal xenophobia of the Hebrew Scriptures.

    Even if these folks were to completely convince me of the viability of confident theism, quell my definite doubts re a providential God (often strong suspicions of none), the quantum leap from a designer (a la Plato & Pythagoras’s demiurge) or first cause (a la Aristotle’s primum movens), it could not convince me that the genocidal deity of the ancient Hebrews was an any way worthy or worship.
    (BTW, Christian apologists, both Aristotle and the early Israelites were henotheists, not monotheists.)

    If I have nothing better to do over vacation, “Foundations of Fine-Tuning” sounds interesting, but I’ll be listening to Sean Carroll on the same topic.

    • bobkillian
      Posted December 21, 2016 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      Thanks for mentioning “henotheists.” which sent me scurrying to the dictionary. I was aware of the concept (particularly in re early Hebrews) but hadn’t known there was this tidy word for it.

  7. Historian
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    “How much clean water could have been given to African villages for 1.6 million dollars?”

    I would add: How much clean water could have been given to the residents of Flint, Michigan?”

    • Posted December 21, 2016 at 2:34 am | Permalink

      Also, it would be useful for many American poor women and families who have listened to the message not to abort their unplanned babies, and are now up to their eyes in bills.

      (Let me immediately disclaim that, in a well-governed society, people should not feel forced to abort because of poverty. I am just repelled – like many others – by the hypocricy of those who advocate for the fetus/baby until he is born, and then to hell with him.)

  8. John
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Notice how the poster says “valued at 1.3M GPB”. It’s as if they know “cost” would highlight the utter waste.

  9. Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Swinburne is one of those folks (like Plantinga) who seems to selectively turn off their brain when it comes to matters close to their faith.

    As for the rest: what a waste. There are all sorts of interesting questions in epistemology that need attention, including testimony as referenced. But I fear that the latter is would be sloppy or apologetic. (It might not be.)

  10. Brett
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Templeton ‘religion’ is different than mine… obviously you are upset because yhey promote a religion different than yours also.

    • dabertini
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Hey!! Follow DA ROOLZ!!

    • Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      I have no religion, and your comment is therefore senseless. Also, do you even know why I’ve long objected to Templeton? I don’t think so.

  11. dabertini
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    How to appear to know that g*d exists? Show and tell (isn’t this part of the kindergarten curriculum?)!! Wtf?!!

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      Eventually the cookbook becomes bland and trivial when you have to repeatedly serve up thin air in some way or other.

  12. Posted December 20, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    hmmm, “how to appear to know that God exists?”

    this one makes me curious. It sounds like a monty python ski.

  13. Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    #26 ‘understanding and knowing by testimony’ – the level of evidence in religion.

  14. stuartcoyle
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    “Salvaging Pascal’s Wager”, that bet was lost long ago. Like some bets on the recent U.S. election.

  15. chris moffatt
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    If in fact the whole christian charade were true then the message of Yeshue bar Yussef would have to be pitched, as it was, at the level of mostly illiterate, highly ignorant magic believers. It could not have been, and would not have been, so complicated as Templeton finds it because no-one would have understood it. I doubt if Socrates would understand the stuff modern theologians come up with to justify their personal magic beliefs.

  16. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Wow! All those lecture titles strike me as desperate efforts to salvage something -anything – from the increasingly unconvincing products of departments of theology in the face of much more rigorous and evidence-based work from the rest of the academy.

    But who are they hoping to convince? Their own adherents are impervious to evidence. The rest of us see little evidence of any sort, let alone anything convincing. Maybe the idea is that if they get hold of some of Templeton’s gold, that might persuade other funding bodies to keep their threadbare faculties in existence.

  17. Joseph Stans
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Lots of people with too much time on their hands.

  18. Joseph Stans
    Posted December 20, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    If you read:
    John Hawthorne is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California.[1] He is recognized as a leading contemporary contributor to metaphysics and epistemology.[2]

    His 2006 collection Metaphysical Essays offers original treatments of fundamental topics in philosophy, including identity, ontology, vagueness, and causation, which one reviewer called “essential reading for anyone currently engaged in analytic metaphysics”.[3] In his book Knowledge and Lotteries, Hawthorne defends a view in epistemology according to which the presence of knowledge is dependent on the subject’s interests (he calls this view ‘Subject-Sensitive Invariantism’).[4] Unlike contextualism, Hawthorne’s view does not require that the meaning of the word “know” changes from one context of ascription to another. His view is thus a variety of invariantism. However, whether a subject has knowledge depends to a surprising extent on features of the subject’s context, including practical concerns. This position can be classed as a form of pragmatism. The American philosopher Jason Stanley holds a similar view.

    It will suddenly be very clear why today there is such confusion about facts and truth and meaningful dialog.

  19. Posted December 21, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    “How to appear to know that God exists.”


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