Over at its Big Questions site, Templeton has highlighted two short (ca. 3 minute) videos—both touting the limitations of science and, by default, the importance of Jebus, and has also published an accommodationist interview conducted by Rod Dreher.
The first video, by Eric Priest, holder of the Gregory Chair of Mathematics at the University of St. Andrews, claims that materialism leads to an impoverished view of the world. He notes that there are many important questions that science can’t address (e.g., “Do I love my wife?, “Is that painting beautiful?” and “What is my purpose in life?”) Priest adds that are actually four different worlds: the physical one, the mathematical world, the world of Priest’s personal consciousness, which he sees as different from the physical world (really?), and the world of the ultimate (? I didn’t catch the word) consciousness, “which God inhabits.” All of these worlds, he claims, are necessary for a satisfactory understanding of reality. He doesn’t say why he’s so sure of God’s existence.
Priest, an Anglican, is a member of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, which is partly supported by Templeton, is a former member of the Templeton Board of Advisors, and has received grant money from the Templeton Foundation.
The second video shows physicist Russell Stannard of the Open University talking about the limits of science in “providing a common morality”. It’s all well and good: he talks about kin selection, reciprocal altruism, and so on, but then claims that science can’t understand the broader aspects of morality, like people giving money to starving Ethiopians, or loving their enemies. The question he’s actually addressing in this short clip is not whether science provides morality (we know that’s a subject that’s under hot dispute), but whether science can help us understand the origin of human morality. He notes that the “deeper levels of morality are extremely difficult for science to be able to explain.” As an opponent of Templeton, I see here a subtle injection of woo, i.e., a religious explanation, though Stannard is not explicit. In principle, I don’t see why science couldn’t at least explain human morality; in fact, we’re starting to do so now.
Stannard, a religious believer, has published four books with the Templeton Press, is the director of the Templeton Cambridge Journalism Programme in Science and Religion, and was winner of a Templeton Project Trust Award.
Let us not forget how Templeton cultivates these people, putting them on their boards, giving them money, and then recruiting them as talking heads. Let us also remember where Templeton’s goals really lie. If you think they’re heading towards pure science, just keep an eye on what they fund—and what they present on their webpage.
Finally, in a piece called “Darwin pushed to margins” Rod Dreher (director of publications at Templeton) inteviews Penn State political scientist Eric Plutzer. The interview starts okay, showing the dire state of evolution teaching in America, but then veers a bit off the rails when Dreher asks Plutzer how to deal with the problem:
Our research also points to another possible opportunity. We estimate that no more than 30 percent of Americans belong to faith traditions that emphasize a strict and literal reading of the Bible that may lead adherents to see a potential conflict between their faith and the findings of evolutionary biology. The contradictions are rooted in beliefs about the antiquity of the earth, Adam and Eve, and the idea that all current animals descend from those on Noah’s ark. Probably, the actual number is far fewer than 30 percent because many churches with their roots in the early Fundamentalist movement can accommodate some figurative passages in the Bible. Nevertheless, these ideas have diffused into the larger population and are held by others whose own pastors, priests and rabbis see no inherent contradiction between scripture and science. I think there are opportunities for those associated with these other faith traditions to better articulate how faith accommodates modern science, and vice verse.[sic] These positions have been eloquently made by Francisco Ayala, Kenneth Miller, and other scientists. But the challenge has not been taken up as effectively in the mass media or in individual congregations. We see an opportunity for greater accommodation and this would mean that more students would enter their high school biology class with an open mind.
More broadly, many people of faith are drawn to the study of evolution to explore God’s work, and find a spiritual connection in their study of nature. This perspective was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but is not often enough articulated in current debates about evolution. Maybe that is because nobody has yet stated it more eloquently than Darwin himself:
“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
Doesn’t this gratuitous osculation of the rump of faith remind you of Elaine Ecklund’s “conclusions” in her Templeton-funded book, Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think?
That’s not surprising, for the interview with Plutzer is based on a book he wrote with Michael Berkman, Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms. Guess who funded the book?
It’s no coincidence that Templeton funds these book projects, and then their authors go public asserting that the adoption of science in America requires that scientists make nice to religion. Templeton gets full value for its buck.