Templeton Prize awarded to physicist for blending science and woo

Well, once again the canny John Templeton Foundation has awarded its million-pound Templeton Prize to someone who’s not a religious figure but a scientist who enables religion and criticizes materialism and atheism. This time the Big Dosh went to Marcelo Gleiser, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College. He’s a theoretical physicist and also a prolific popular writer, having produced six books, some of which seem to emphasize the limits of science. And that’s apparently what he got he Prize for: for adhering to Sir John Templeton’s program that science and spirituality (aka religion) were both required to apprehend the “ultimate truths” about the Universe and answer the “Big Questions.”

Marcelo Gleiser

I don’t know his work, so I’ll just give excerpts from the media, taken to show what they say is the scientific/spiritual basis for his prize. It does seem to involve blending materialism with metaphysical speculations as a way to understand the cosmos.

The quotes from the media are indented, my splenetic take is flush left. All emphases are mine.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

A Dartmouth College professor who says he is a religious agnostic but whose work has focused on the links between science and the mysteries of creation is the winner of the 2019 Templeton Prize.

While Gleiser describes himself as an agnostic, he is an avowed critic of atheism.

“I see atheism as being inconsistent with the scientific method as it is, essentially, belief in nonbelief,” Gleiser said in a 2018 interview in Scientific American. “You may not believe in God, but to affirm its nonexistence with certainty is not scientifically consistent.”

No atheist/scientist I know of says that the nonexistence of God is certain, though many of us say that there is not a whit of convincing evidence for the existence of God, and thus we’d be willing to bet a substantial sum that a divine being who runs the cosmos doesn’t exist.

. . . In a videotaped acceptance of the award, Gleiser said the “path to scientific understanding and scientific exploration is not just about the material part of the world.

“My mission is to bring back to science, and to the people that are interested in science, this attachment to the mysterious, to make people understand that science is just one other way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are.”

The Templeton Foundation noted that through the years, Gleiser has become skeptical of pronouncements that “physics has solved the question of the universe’s origin. He also increasingly rejected the claims of fellow scientists who asserted the irrelevance of philosophy or religion.”

Gleiser told RNS that this position, as well as his agnosticism, stems from his belief that “science has to show soul” and that, in the end, both religion and science “share the same seed.”

That “seed” may be curiosity, but the difference is that science’s seed blossoms into a plant—understanding—while religion’s seed is like a jumping bean, hopping this way and that but never arriving at a final destination. Gleiser is very good at confecting Deepities.

Above he also touts the “other ways of knowing” trope: “Science is just one other way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are.” What he doesn’t say is that science is the only way to affirm the “truth” of what we are:—if “being human” means anything that can be apprehended and affirmed.

From the Daily Fail:

His bestselling book The Dancing Universe refutes the idea that science and spirituality are irreconcilable.

‘Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method,’ Professor Gleiser said.

‘Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against.

‘I’ll keep an open mind because I understand that human knowledge is limited.’

This is pure bullshit, if you’ll pardon my French. Atheism is the refusal to accept the existence of gods, and the refusal to accept something for which there’s no evidence is perfectly consonant with the scientific method. In fact, this is the kernel of the scientific method. Gleiser seems to think that all atheists say that the existence of gods has been absolutely, categorically disproven.  Well, they’ve been disproven with the certitude with which the Loch Ness Monster, or Bigfoot, have been “disproven”. Would Gleiser say that the refusal to accept the existence of Nessie is “inconsistent with the scientific method”?

It actually sounds as if Gleiser was angling for this prize, for why else would someone distort what atheism is, and make such ridiculous statements, unless he wanted Big Dosh and public acclaim? And he’s got it, of course. As for his last sentence, we all know the adage about not keeping your mind so open that your brains fall out.

And from Tempeton’s own citation of the winner (my emphasis):

Marcelo Gleiser, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and a leading proponent of the view that science, philosophy, and spirituality are complementary expressions of humanity’s need to embrace mystery and the unknown, was announced today as the 2019 Templeton Prize Laureate.

Gleiser, 60, the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, has earned international acclaim through his books, essays, blogs, TV documentaries, and conferences that present science as a spiritual quest to understand the origins of the universe and of life on Earth.

. . .Gleiser is a prominent voice among scientists, past and present, who reject the notion that science alone can lead to ultimate truths about the nature of reality. Instead, in his parallel career as a public intellectual, he reveals the historical, philosophical, and cultural links between science, the humanities, and spirituality, and argues for a complementary approach to knowledge, especially on questions where science cannot provide a final answer.

Okay, what ARE those “ultimate truths that Templeton’s always touting”? And how can spirituality and religion answer them with the certainty that science can apprehend its truths? Can we please have just one “ultimate truth” that spirituality or religion has revealed? Please? Just one?

He often describes science as an “engagement with the mysterious,” inseparable from humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Gleiser’s writings propose that modern science has brought humankind back to the metaphorical center of creation – his doctrine of “humancentrism” — by revealing the improbable uniqueness of our planet*, and the exceptional rarity of humans as intelligent beings capable of understanding the importance of being alive. This inversion of Copernicanism, he argues, prompts the need for a new cosmic morality where the sacredness of life is extended to the planet and all living beings.**

. . . . “The path to scientific understanding and scientific exploration is not just about the material part of the world,” said Professor Gleiser in his videotaped acceptance of the Prize at http://www.templetonprize.org. “My mission is to bring back to science, and to the people that are interested in science, this attachment to the mysterious, to make people understand that science is just one other way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are.”

Clop, clop, clop . . . yadda yadda yadda. Once again we hear the tedious drumbeat of Templeton’s Prize Horses being paraded through the town. Another million pounds thrown away to delude the public about Other Ways of Knowing. And another big horse takes its stall in the Templeton Stable. If those are the Augean stables, then I am Hercules.

h/t: James


*aka some Force Out There that made our Earth—and us—special

**you can get this from secular humanism, too


  1. Posted March 19, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, science is a “way of engaging the mystery” — and then clearing up the mystery so it becomes facts.

  2. Ignacio
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    You should just call it the Templeton Bribe.

  3. Steve Gerrard
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    “science is just one other way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are”

    Yes it is. But it’s the only way that ever produces anything resembling answers. Of course we can sit around contemplating the mysteries, but that contemplation never goes anywhere.

    Atheism just recognizes that “other ways of knowing” don’t produce actual knowledge, and that we will never know if there is a god.

  4. Posted March 19, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    And to my ultimate shame he is a Brazilian.
    His first 2 book were just plain old and acttualy good Science Information Book.I have read then and they did not wandered to the paths of shame(religion). After thet I did not followed him closely and did not read ny more of his books. But I had this bad feeling that he was going to the dark side.

  5. Posted March 19, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know if he is talking about vague god concepts like emanationism or dual-substance panentheism or is he trying to make room for the personal god of western monotheism? The latter seems quite falsifiable to me.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I am sure Gleiser does not believe in a god or gods of any type. What attracted Templeton to him is his constant yakking about the uniqueness of us humans – he is drawn to the idea that this uniqueness spans the universe that we know of.

      He is a fan of the theoretical physicist John Wheeler & his “Participatory Anthropic Principle” where we participate in creating reality. Worth looking up:

      He is rather similar in outlook to Paul Davies, the physicist who pulled in the big prize in 1995.

      Read this essay of his from a few years back where he rings all the Templeton Bells:

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    A Mysterian (minus their lead singer ?).

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      Where do you find things like this? I should say how? Do you enter “obscure, execrable rock bands” into the search box, or what?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        It’s the detritus — the flotsam and jetsam, if you will — of a misspent youth, Jenny. 🙂

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted March 19, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

          Haha! I did Google “obscure, execrable rock bands” and found none like the Mysterians (the bands I found were just bad), but off-topic, I did turn up this strange film on Jayne Mansfield, “he Wild,Wild World of Jayne Mansfield,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LXrDaETHmU which features a performance of a topless all-girls band. I haven’t yet had time to watch it, but it seems to be a wonderfully schloky film, for those into schlock.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted March 19, 2019 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for the link, Jenny; I’ll have to watch it. Sounds like something right out of the era of the Mondo movies — like the Italian trope-namer itself, Mondo Cane.

        • Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          My ethics of technology professor from UBC, Peter Danielson, said once that when he had free time he’d just take a stack of random CDs from the library and borrow them, listening to a track or two from each. He said that most things he didn’t even have to hear more than a track, but occasionally he found interesting and new music this way. I’ve always wondered if the folks (like you) who seem to have seen a lot of obscure movies and music worked similarly.

  7. Posted March 19, 2019 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I hate the “many ways of truth” trope. It can be used to justify pretty much any explanation. It has a cousin that is equally noxious: “My truth is just different than your truth.”

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Your comment reminds me that here in the SF Bay area, I often hear people saying, “I have to find my truth.” I have no idea what they’re talking about, but I gather that once they’ve found it, they are made whole and woke.

      • Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I hear that one a lot too. I’m in So Cal so I bet SF has us beat on that.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Your “lived experience” or “your truth”. It’s all annoying. What is the opposite? “Lived innocence” or “your falsehood”?

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 20, 2019 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      I think the Many Ways of Knowing (MWOK) magic spell originates with the well-known way that problems in mathematics, maybe physics, etc., can have multiple solutions, and I suppose multiple answers (I’m thinking +/- in front of the square root term in the solution to the quadratic equation for example). In this view, is true there are many ways of knowing. That doesn’t mean if the same answer is found by an accident of faith, then an invisible intelligence is at work. After all, the whole reason anyone would know an answer is correct or even plausible is by doing and checking the work in the first place, a criterion that faith is never required to meet, and is only strengthened by.

      • Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        But sometimes one root is useless – for example, in freshman (or even high school) level problems in projectile theory. One has to know how to draw conclusions correctly, even when using a great consequence drawer (math).

  8. Simon Hayward
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m not at all convinced by the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” argument. There is no evidence for a large herd of elephants in Yellowstone, however were such a thing postulated, the absence of tracks and turds could be cited as evidence of absence. Likewise one could reasonably (at least IMO) postulate the characteristics of a divinely created universe (especially one created by an anthropomorphic being) and cite the absence of celestial beard hairs as evidence of absence. The sheer scale and accelerating expansion of the universe, resulting in a terminal heat death might be a good marker of its incompatibility with life in the long term, suggesting that we are a temporary emergent characteristic of a cosmic phenomenon.

    Santa and the tooth fairy are on much firmer ground, at least they can be seen to deliver!

    • darrelle
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, as far as I can tell that old chestnut is dead wrong. Absence of evidence absolutely is evidence of absence. Depending entirely on circumstances it could be lousy evidence or it could be very convincing evidence, but any way you look at it it is evidence.

      I think what proponents of that saying really mean is, “Absence of evidence isn’t 100% absolute proof of absence.” Which leaves them a gap of indeterminate width to hide their mysterious mystery thing in. But it also demonstrates that they don’t understand reality or are knowingly engaged in sophistry. There is no such thing as absolute proof in the real world.

    • Posted March 20, 2019 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      Yep. It’s a crock.

      The absence of evidence that should be there if the thing is there is most definitely evidence of absence.

      I have seen it reformulated as “absence of evidence is not proof of absence”, which, I think is true, but then the existence of evidence is not proof of existence.

      In any case, when you are talking about God, people have been searching for convincing evidence for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and so far come up with nothing. I think I’m entitles to draw the tentative conclusion that there is no god.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted March 20, 2019 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        There’s also the question : what evidence can anyone expect of any of the figures from myths and fairy tales? Because there’s a whole set of religious figures who must approve of the evidence e.g. miracles by candidate saints. The possibilities are not completely wide open, yet, somehow, the miracles (evidence) are everywhere, according to the bumper stickers.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 20, 2019 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      I love PCC(E)’s knock-down argument of AoE : wisdom teeth!

  9. Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    1. Of course we can prove the non-existence of things, namely by confirming a rival idea that DOES have conclusive evidence for it. For instance, the easiest way to prove I don’t have a clockwork chest is to prove I have a heart, lungs, ribs, etc. like everyone else, and not cogs, wheels, and worm gears.

    2. I’d add that most concepts of a deity are so unintelligible or self-contradictory that truth or falsehood simply don’t apply. In those cases, you CAN be certain that the things don’t exist.

    3. Science doesn’t HAVE to show soul any more than science has to show anything that doesn’t exist. Souls are myths invented before we had any genuine idea of how brains and, for that matter, human bodies worked. The “soul hypothesis” is not something you can responsibly presume is outside the field of mind sciences.

    This has the reek of moralistic hectoring, the laziest way to make a point sound substantial when the actual arguments embedded in it are as full of holes as swiss cheese.

    • Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      The matter at hand is of such a nature that we cannot definitively prove that only materialism exists. The best we can do is demonstrate that it is so very likely that only materialism exists, that we can proceed as if it is the only thing.
      The onus is on the Deepak Chopras of the world is to prove that something else exists besides materialism.

      • Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Actually, we can (modulo a tiny margin of error). This was first pointed out to Descartes, who retorted that the conservation law appealed to had “an out”. We know now that this conservation law is false; momentum has a direction.

  10. freiner
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Not much to say beyond what you said so well, except a hearty pardon to your French.

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Gleiser chooses to go after atheism. I wonder if he views atheism as equally big a deal to atheists as religion is to victims of faith. For me, it isn’t. Atheism is a tedious definition. In other words, to me, it really isn’t much. I think it’d have to be, if the long awaited evidence for the as-of-now supernatural creator appears. Then, click – change the definition. I’m not married to atheism.

  12. CAS
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Profit in crap!

  13. Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I will be slightly more impressed with Spirituality as a Way of Knowing when a shaman or whatever discovers the equivalent of the cell, or is able to demonstrate, through the use of tea leaves and the positions of stars, that the earth orbits the sun.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      The only importance of shamanism is the placebo effect.

      • Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        And the social equivalent (and sometimes even likely genuinely) – often what shamans are doing is “healing the community”.

  14. Steve Pollard
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    “Mystery…spirituality…soul…other ways of knowing…”

    What a smart guy. He’s worked out how to tickle Templeton’s fundament so that they disgorge loads of dosh. We should all try it. By the law of averages some of us should be able to strike gold. After all, Templeton seem to have no ability at all to distinguish between real science and pretentious b*llocks.

    • ploubere
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      I wish I had that lack of integrity and self-respect. I’d be much wealthier.

  15. Posted March 19, 2019 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    ‘Carl Sagan was fond of saying, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”’ (*) This summarizes Gleiser’s position: no one can deny him his childhood dreams of the transcendent.

    Gleiser needs the supernatural to be real. This motivates him more than the real world.

    (*) https://arxiv.org/pdf/1202.5042.pdf

  16. ploubere
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I think the best response is to challenge him to name one contribution that religion has made to what we know about the cosmos. Especially one that all religions agree on.

  17. A C Harper
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    “As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.”
    ― Bertrand Russell

    So… swapping ‘scientist’ for ‘philosopher’ in the above quote you realise that Templeton have bought a Straw Man for $1.4 million.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      I fondly remember that Russell quote. You’re exactly right about Gleiser’s Straw Man.

  18. Michael Fisher
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Marcelo Gleiser:

    [1] He was granted $3,500,458 by The Templeton Foundation for the period July 2016 to June 2019 as project leader to set up “The Institute For Cross Disciplinary Engagement” at Dartmouth College. Here is the bullshit content lite Sagan did this a lot too] blurb for it:

    The schism between the sciences and the humanities remains as large as ever, even as we live in an era where information is at everyone’s fingertips. Furthermore, there is little to no public engagement in some of the most fundamental questions that we can ask about our world. These are questions of pressing importance to modern society, as science is increasingly addressing issues of meaning and value that have traditionally been the province of the humanities and of the world’s religions. Some are questions that have endured and inspired since the dawn of civilization, as man contemplated existence in a mysterious universe. As such, they carry deep spiritual meaning and transformative power


    [2] $199,999 June 2014 to June 2015 as project leader to set up “Informational Complexity Of Physical Reality” & here’s the extremely ambitious blurb for that:

    Can we build a description of physical reality based on the informational content of the Universe?

    I propose a fully interdisciplinary exploration of the nature of physical reality, combining cutting-edge research in theoretical physics and information theory with a follow-up in-depth philosophical investigation of the meaning of truth and knowledge in the physical sciences. If I am successful, and preliminary results indicate that I am on the right track, I will deliver both new fundamental physical results and a novel way to think about Nature and our place in it.

    My goal is ambitious, as I intend to obtain a new principle of how Nature works, based on the information content of interacting physical systems. I will provide a concrete theoretical platform to give life to Wheeler’s celebrated “It from Bit” aphorism, as I will use in novel ways conceptual and mathematical tools from information theory to describe the essence of physical reality. In practice, I intend to obtain a quantitative measure of an “entropy of shape” and show that it is minimized in physical systems supporting localizing interactions. I will then explore the philosophical consequences of this approach, in particular as a potential ontological shift from fields into information as the currency of modern physics.

    I will combine techniques from cosmology and high energy physics with numerical work and conceptual tools from information theory.

    The potential for this research approach is truly transformative. If I am successful, I will obtain a new physical principle of truly broad applicability, from particle physics to biology to astrophysics, relating dynamics and shape, energy and information.


    I’m not aware of anything new arising out of [1] or [2] above – it is the usual bollocks

    He’s been involved with Templeton since 2010 [or earlier] when he was involved in the so-called “Humble Approach” project

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      Wow. Both [1] and [2], but especially [2], are virtually devoid of meaning. It is difficult to see how any rational individual, still less a supposedly rigorous grant-awarding body, could possibly hand out sums like that for such worthless projects.

      The consolation, I suppose, is that none of these spurious activities will have the slightest influence on science as it is practised in the real world. But think how many more worthwhile research programmes it could have been spent on!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 19, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Frittered. It has a double whammy effect because these projects are full small departments that suck expertise from more worthwhile projects. Luckily ‘science’ hasn’t been hit hard because the geezers who win these sums are past their research best anyway. [PS I’m a geezer]

        It is philosophy that’s hit hardest – a LOT of very poor ‘work’ being done [so what’s new?]

        • Posted March 19, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          In my name OG, g stands for geezer.

    • ploubere
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      That is a Chopra-worthy stream of consciousness.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 19, 2019 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      As for [1] “The schism between the sciences and the humanities remains as large as ever…” I note that he begins by pitting the sciences against the humanities. But that’s a false opposition and it debases and corrupts the very nature of “the humanities” by using “the humanities” in this duplicitous manner as a stand-in for religion/spirituality, which is what he’s really talking about but which he doesn’t introduce into the proposition until later on.

      When I think about it, this is a sleazy but craftily constructed and complex fallacious proposition designed to obfuscate, not clarify. But he’s probably someone who’d assert that Art (with a capital “A”)arises out of spiritual/religious expression and is inherently spiritual, so he’d have no problem including spirituality/religion as essential components of the humanities.

      As for [2]”I will use in novel ways conceptual and mathematical tools from information theory to describe the essence of physical reality. In practice, I intend to obtain a quantitative measure of an “entropy of shape” and show that it is minimized in physical systems supporting localizing interactions. I will then explore the philosophical consequences of this approach,”

      I don’t know what that bs is, but it kinda reminds me of the “21 grams experiment” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21_grams_experiment, limited in and performed on a much smaller scale in 1901 by one Dr. Duncan McDougall of Massachussets, “who wished to scientifically determine if a soul had weight, identified six patients in nursing homes whose death was imminent. Four were suffering from tuberculosis, one from diabetes, and one from unspecified causes. MacDougall specifically chose people who were suffering from conditions that caused physical exhaustion, as he needed the patients to remain still when they died to measure them accurately. When the patients looked like they were close to death, their entire bed was placed on an industrial sized scale that was sensitive within two tenths of an ounce (5.6 grams).”

    • darrelle
      Posted March 20, 2019 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      What is “informational content of the universe?”

      • rickflick
        Posted March 20, 2019 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        “The information in the Universe measured in bits or nats is just 10^123 from the holographic bound; the actual entropy of the known matter except black holes – is about 10^90”

        “The number 10^123 emerges as (roughly) the number of Planck areas contained within the boundary of the observable universe.”

        Test some HTML:

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted March 20, 2019 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        A likely prediction from the latest Planck data release is that it is zero.

        If matter entropy is used it comes back to the energy density of matter as it becomes spread out as entropy microstate possibilities, That is high for the local universe of course, we have entropy and it increases over time. But it can be diluted to zero by ongoing inflation elsewhere, the inflation field entropy being zero.

        But I am not convinced by Wheeler’s “it from bit” hypothesis. Information can be measured in many ways and seems to be relative a system and a measure. Sean Carroll points out that meaningful structure information (“complexity”) – the one Gleiser seems to be on about – is maximized right now, increasing from zero and returning there as all matter will go into black holes which will eventually evaporate. Quantum information is pathway likelihoods (so sum to a constant 1 if you normalize, consistent with the field entropy above and the observation that everything including gravity can be approximated as a field most of the time). Shannon information is channel information relative to your messages (such as selection on the genome or transmission of code). Kolmogorov entropy (“information”) is compressibility (or “complexity” of code). And so on.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 20, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      “The potential for this research approach is truly transformative”
      The only likely transformative effect would be the transformation of dosh into Gleiser’s bank account.

    • Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      What a ridiculously ambitious project. I guess one could make something like those two as a life goal (though why he thinks information theory is relevant I am not sure), but a funded project? Sheesh.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Yes, what he’s saying he’s aiming to achieve with his little group over a short period is obviously an already decades long quest that will keep scientists/mathematicians busy for many more decades [or it’s an endless gaol].

        The information theory thing is probably from Wheeler’s “it from bit” – he loves a bit of Wheeler. The grants committee are drawn from many disciplines & must have known he was being hyperbolic [lying] – not their money being flushed away.

        • rickflick
          Posted March 20, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          And, as fortune would have it, the members of the grant committee will, in turn, switch musical chairs, expecting generosity from Gleiser facing them across the table. That’s what a trust fund means.

        • Posted March 21, 2019 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          Yeah, “it from bit” is silly – “bit” is a *unit* of a property (information content of a channel, or whatever).

  19. Posted March 19, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Not surprisingly, the set of scientists who have won both a Nobel prize and a Templeton prize is empty.

  20. Myron Flabites
    Posted March 19, 2019 at 8:29 pm | Permalink


  21. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    “… someone who’s not a religious figure“

    I’m puzzled by this stipulation – could a Templeton winner ever be considered anything less than a religious figure? And why the stipulation in the first place – as an attempt at impartiality?

  22. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    “Belief in non belief”
    Such grubby disingenuousness.

    The position of an atheism that can be described so is the direct result of the endless absurd claims made by the religious pundits making claims that there is a god.

    Not one single claim as to the existence of a god has been shown to have any substance.

    Every supposed bit of material evidence (weeping statues, dancing suns) has been shown to be bogus.

    There simply is not any god that has ever been described. And that’s the only god we care about.

    There is no god of this sort. It is obvious.
    There is no god at all. That too is obvious.
    Any god hiding under a plant on some as yet undiscovered part of the universe is not the god we are talking about and if it it so well hidden then it is not much of a god.

    Finally, so much is known about how subjective experiences can seem external that all said subjective experiences can be dismissed.
    I have had some of these experiences. God fun, but not god and nothing more than neurotransmitters and synapses.

    There is no god.

    To believe that there is no god is sensible and what is demanded by evidence.

    As others have said above.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted March 20, 2019 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      When I said god fun I Freudian slipped but meant good fun.

  23. Posted March 20, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    The finetuning nonsense again too. Bleah.

  24. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted March 20, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Gleiser is a prominent voice among scientists, past and present, who reject the notion that science alone can lead to ultimate truths about the nature of reality.

    Yes, for those rare persons.

    Marcelo Gleiser joined Adam Frank to be the sanctimonious religious spokesmen that made NPR science sections unreadable for the rest of us. He fits the Templeton brand.

    • Posted March 20, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Einstein: “Hey! Leave me out of this!”

      • Posted March 21, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Also, yes, science does do “declarations” – though provisional ones.

        Well established background knowledge (including hypergeneral ones that are “philosophical” in a way) can be taken that way.

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