I think my interest (and your patience) for discussion of the Templeton Prize has run its course—at least for this year. But let’s call it a good end with three new pieces, all on the anti-Templeton side.
You may remember science writer John Horgan’s article on his experiences with Templeton, “The Templeton Foundation: a skeptic’s take,” where he describes his experiences with—and expresses regret for—his tenure as a Templeton journalism fellow:
One Templeton official made what I felt were inappropriate remarks about the foundation’s expectations of us fellows. She told us that the meeting cost more than $1-million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion. But when I told her one evening at dinner that — given all the problems caused by religion throughout human history — I didn’t want science and religion to be reconciled, and that I hoped humanity would eventually outgrow religion, she replied that she didn’t think someone with those opinions should have accepted a fellowship. So much for an open exchange of views.
The title of Horgan’s new post at Scientific American, “Prize in the sky: The Templeton Foundation rewards ‘spriritual progress’, but what the heck is that?“, tells it all. It’s a hard-hitting piece, arguing that Templeton is just Jesus in a lab coat. Here are some excerpts; note that the present head of the Foundation, Jack Templeton, gives away the game in his letter soliciting nominations for this year’s Prize:
What bothers me most about the Templeton Foundation is that it promotes a view of science and religion—or “spirituality,” to use the term it favors—as roughly equivalent. Consider this e-mail that Jack Templeton sent me last summer soliciting nominations for the Templeton Prize. He wrote: “The Templeton Prize parallels growing attention to the idea that progress in spiritual information is just as feasible as progress in the sciences.” First of all, the Templeton Foundation has artificially created the “growing attention” to which Jack refers with enormous infusions of cash into science and other scholarly fields.
Moreover, the claim that “progress in spiritual information is just as feasible as progress in the sciences” is absurd, because there is no such thing as “spiritual information”. To answer the question I posed at the beginning of this post, the notion of a spiritual fact, finding or discovery is an oxymoron. Spiritual claims abound, of course—”God is love,” for example—but there isn’t a shred of empirical evidence for any of them, certainly nothing resembling the overwhelming evidence compiled for heliocentrism, evolution by natural selection, atomic theory and the genetic code. And if spiritual information doesn’t exist, how can there be “progress in spiritual information”?
Some Templeton-funded scholars have tried to drag science down to the level of religion by arguing that science can’t produce truth either. I heard this claim in 2005 when I spent three weeks at the University of Cambridge participating in a Templeton fellowship for journalists, which featured talks by scientists and other scholars. In one talk the Christian theologian Nancey Murphy asserted that scientific claims are just as tentative as religious ones, hence scientists such as Richard Dawkins—who was in the audience—have no right to be so condescending to people of faith.
This postmodern tactic is ludicrous, because millennia of theology, Murphy’s scholarly discipline, have not generated a single “discovery” (and historical or archaeological findings, such as the discovery of the Gnostic Gospels, don’t count).
In today’s Guardian, columnist Nick Cohen has an equally “strident” piece: “Science has vanquished religion, but not its evils.” It’s well worth reading in its entirety, but here are some bits:
In his often brilliant work and teaching, Rees has never “affirmed life’s spiritual dimension”. He has always said that he is a Darwinist without religious dogma. All he shares with the religious is a “sense of wonder at the universe”.
The religious nevertheless showered him with money because he is a symptomatic figure of our tongue-biting age. Like millions who should know better, Rees is not religious himself but “respects” religion and wants it to live in “peaceful co-existence” with it. . .
. . . But the respect the secular give too freely involves darker concessions. It prevents an honest confrontation with radical Islam or any other variant of poor world religious extremism and a proper solidarity with extremism’s victims. “I don’t want to force Muslims to choose between God and Darwin,” Rees says, forgetting that scientists “force” no one to choose Darwin, while theocracies force whole populations to bow to their gods. So cloying is the deference that few notice how the demand for “respect” gives away the shallowness of contemporary religious thought. . .
. . . Today, you have to be a very ignorant believer to imagine that your religion or any religion can provide comprehensive explanations. When they study beyond a certain level, all believers learn that the most reliable theories of the origins of life have no need for the God of the holy books. The most brilliant scientists and the best thought have moved beyond religion. It is for this reason that religion, which once inspired man’s most sublime creations, no longer produces art, literature or philosophy of any worth; why it is impossible to imagine a new religious high culture. . .
. . . But the notion Lord Rees so casually endorses – that you must respect the privacy of ideologies that mandate violence, the subjugation of women and the persecution of homosexuals and treat them as if they were beyond criticism and scientific refutation – is the most cowardly evasion of intellectual duty of our day.
Finally, at his website Choice in Dying, Eric MacDonald (I’d call him “Uncle Eric”, but that adjective has unfortunately been bestowed on someone else) has two back-to-back posts on the topic, “Big bucks, big splash, small puddle,” and “The betrayal of reason.” From the latter:
In a parody of argument some are claiming that the fact that Newton was also religious shows that religion and science are compatible. So why should the Master of Trinity not have accepted the Templeton Prize? Well, quite aside from exposing Newton — as it does – to some well justified ridicule for his absurd alchemical fantasies and beliefs about the Jerusalem temple, this proves nothing more than that Newton, like most of his contemporaries, was, in some sense of that compendious word, religious, there being at the time little alternative, and all of them dangerous. Even Spinoza, rightly regarded as an atheist by his contemporaries, was a deeply “religious” man, and who, as a pantheist to Newton’s deist, illustrated clearly the deeply conflicted nature of thought about religion in the opening years of the scientific revolution. That Templeton is endeavouring to return human thought to that deeply conflicted state is a testimony at once to the persistence of the illusions of religion, as well as to the unceasing desire of the religious to restore theology as the Queen of the Sciences. That a scientist of Martin Rees’ stature should have aided and abetted this reactionary tendency towards irrationalism that continues to dog the heels of human thought is, in my opinion, a serious betrayal of reason. That he should have done so in evident ignorance of the Templeton Foundation’s continuing attempt to subvert reason in favour of its own Christian ideology is simply an act of treason against the science of which he has become a master.
58 thoughts on “Jesus in a lab coat: the last word on Templeton”
The directly harmful effects of religious dogma are bad enough: noxious, genocidal beliefs and respect for the fraudulent authority behind them. But just as bad are these attempts to resurrect the idea of a religious monopoly on morality.
I actually have a lot of respect for religious movements that play well with science (I even belong to one). But that’s not what’s happening here.
NOMA was never a great idea, and it becomes ever more ludicrous. Our understanding of ethics and spirituality *are* advancing, through experimentation (e.g. on moral paradoxes and on meditation), with organized religion seldom contributing anything meaningful at all. It’s not surprising that the clerics won’t get out of the way, just that so many still have patience for them.
It’s like open-source software vs. Microsoft. Science and philosophy, the ultimate crowd-sourced intellectual movements, keep adding modules of understanding and standards of reasonable behavior that expose the brittle bugginess of dogma.
And Templeton’s overtures to science are just the monopolists’ rear-guard attempt to embrace and extend (and eviscerate).
From the Scientific American article by John Horgan:
I’ve seen this said many times now, and it always makes me think that if true, surely it must raise everyone’s suspicions of whether or not John Templeton’s picks were ill-gotten. Being a “man of God” seems like the perfect cover for a string of “miracles”.
That was a great line from Nick Cohen’s piece when he asked exactly what “progress in spiritual information” the faithful can point to. What concrete advances have come about in two millennia and more of prayer and theology? More potent faith healing? More effective prayers, with a markedly improved response rate? More and better prophets who can do more and better miracles? Forgiveness for sins that couldn’t previously be forgiven?
No, religion is in the same place it always was, and is still offering the same explanations for why its beliefs and practices fail to have any measurable, tangible effect on the world around us.
Tangible? An effect that is perceptible by touch?
Not necessarily. “Tangible” as in “perceptible in any way by any sane human” would be a start.
I am surprised that we don’t see more religious people criticising Templeton. However poor a show it is for science, it is even worse for religion.
The worst Templeton does to science is sully it with mealy-mouthed woffle that signifies nothing and only demonstrates the money-loving speaker’s desire to display the required degree of accommodation and open-mindedness.
When ever Templeton tries to genuinely prove anything about religion – like the ill-conceived prayer experiment; it manages to utterly desecrate the hopes & dreams of the faithful and show religious memes for the ephemeral bits of nothingness that they are.
The religious should be begging Templeton to stop before it demolishes any more of religion’s castles in the sand.
I don’t think we are going to see the end of Templeton any time soon, not while there is so much nice money to be made. But I console myself that ultimately it is far more damaging to the religion is purports to serve.
Templeton itself shows a gross vulgarity of it’s own ideals, but using the evils of materialism (money) to promote its agenda.
Is that the example of spirituality? Is that how the spiritual dimension works by buying off its enemies, as if it’s really waging a war in the realm of ideas? A war between spirituality and honesty?
Then I say that spirituality is not only junk, but it’s hypocritical junk that exposes that spirituality, as followed by the likes of Templeton and its octopus offsprings, as the evil materialism that it so deludedly seeks to disassociate itself from.
I don’t really understand the concept of spirituality. I really tried to but I could never come close to experience anything resembling it. Emotions like joy and wonder and awe, yes. Spirituality, not so much.
I understand even less people who say they are ‘spiritual but not religious’. What does that even mean? I always ask, but I never get a reply that goes beyond vague evasion.
The concept for me now has become a semantic place-holder that people use when they don’t experience any religious stirrings either but feel obliged to pretend to something akin to it out of respect for the general consensus in society.
I think I can understand spirituality: it’s a rejection of the ugliness of modern life, for an alternative aesthetic experience.
Unfortunately, this same movement is itself an even uglier aesthetic movement that looks no different to the very modern life they sought to reject.
I understand even less people who say they are ‘spiritual but not religious’.
I do as well. After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that it’s a kind of societal peer pressure at work, i.e. people have somehow become conditioned to believe that not claiming some kind of belief system (be it an actual religion or a pseudoreligion) is somehow ‘uncool’; therefore, to respond with ‘I’m spiritual but not religious’ avoids having to actually practice or adhere to anything, but avoid that stigma of being ‘cold’ and ‘rational’.
Stupid, yes. But that’s never stopped people before.
Sam Harris espouses spirituality. In his case it seems to mean strange experiences of the brain brought on by fasting and meditation. No doubt LSD or temporal lobe epilepsy would have similar effects. I really don’t understand the value of the these experiences but apparently they can be enjoyable. I have also thought of spirituality as an understanding and contemplation of our place in the universe, but really that’s pretty much an attempt to be able to claim to be spiritual if not religious and I have decided that it’s a bad idea.
Doesn’t just about every religious/spirituality organization do this? It’s a trick of the trade.
Is that not the truth? As the article suggests, religion plays dress up, it dresses itself up as something opposite, and then does the very thing it claims to find immoral.
“in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion.”
I think this remark is the most telling. Do the Templeton officials make it clear up front that their “prize” is not just a gift? That they are expecting work with a specific outcome in return?
The reference there is to a Templeton journalism fellowship, and not the Templeton Prize.
lol wishful thinking! The battle will continue. Templeton has:
– Massive amounts of money
– An activist agenda and ideology to promote
They are just going to get more clever and more aggressive about their campaign.
“A fool and his money are invited everywhere.”
Believe Martin Rees is in Chicago at Art Institute tomorrow night.
And, essentially, the imprimatur of some pretty powerful entities, such as, oh, the US government…And the prospect of a conservative European backlash in response to Muslim immigration…
Eh? To confront radical fundamentalist Islam and its evils, we have to pick fights with religious moderates about whether or not Darwin=atheism?
This is no better than saying that to confront Stalinist North Korea we have to harass liberals and socialists. That kind of scapegoating and demagoguery is exactly where Cohen’s logic leads.
The rather important and obvious difference, Nick, is that no liberal or socialist I know of defends North Korea’s totalitarian state. However, religious moderates very often do make excuses about how faith is a positive trait or a private choice and shouldn’t be questioned – even when this puts them in the position of defending the anti-intellectualism or political depredations of religious fundamentalists.
“However, religious moderates very often do make excuses about how faith is a positive trait or a private choice and shouldn’t be questioned – even when this puts them in the position of defending the anti-intellectualism or political depredations of religious fundamentalists.”
This claim is often made but never supported by Gnus. Evidence please.
Here’s my evidence for the opposite position. I’ve read a lot of history of American fundamentalism. The dominant story there is that the split between moderates and fundamentalists arose precisely because the mainline churches were accepting Darwin and historical criticism of the Bible and the like, and they refused to sacrifice these intellectual pursuits, resulting in a huge decades-long battle with the conservative members of their denominations. These conservatives largely lost the denominational battles and went and formed their own Bible Colleges and the like, providing the foundation for the fundamentalist folks we have today. Accusing moderates of somehow being pro-fundamentalist is just ahistorical, almost to the point of being wrong by definition (since the definition of “fundamentalist” arose and still exists specifically in explicit opposition to moderates).
The lack of awareness in your ill-mannered post takes my breath away. If you took just a few moments to think before posting, the example of Salman Rushdie ought to have given you pause.
Leave aside the ranting, book burning crowds, recall what every ‘moderate’ religious leader at the time said: that it was Rushdie’s fault and they were at one with every offended Muslim.
Here in England the Archbish Of Cant lobbied for the Blasphemy Law to be extended to cover Islam. U.S. political scientist Michael Walzer said,
In other words, when it came to a real life choice, when the stakes were high, the ‘moderates’ happily fell in with the fundies.
Cohen was right on the mark.
Well, that Archbishop of Canterbury was being an idiot, I’ll grant you that, but 1 != every moderate religious person, and wikipedia says (a) that particular Archbishop died in 2000, (b) England’s blasphemy laws were completely repealed in 2008.
As for the current Archbishop, he’s been bashed for being pro-Islam and pro-Shaira, but that seems wildly overblown according to wikipedia:
Williams was the subject of a media and press furore in February 2008, following a lecture he gave to the Temple foundation at the Royal Courts of Justice on the subject of ‘Islam and English Law’. He raised the question of conflicting loyalties which communities might have, cultural, religious and civic and argued that theology has a place in debates about the very nature of law ‘however hard our culture may try to keep it out’ and noted that there is in a ‘dominant human rights philosophy’ a reluctance to acknowledge the liberty of conscientious objection. He spoke of ‘supplementary jurisdictions’ to that of the civil law. Noting the anxieties which the word Sharia provoked in the West he drew attention to the fact that there was a debate within Islam between what he called “primitivists” for whom, for instance, apostasy should still be punishable and those Muslims who argued that Sharia was a developing system of Islamic jurisprudence that such a view was no longer acceptable. He made comparisons with “Orthodox Jewish practice” (Beth Din) and with the recognition of the exercise of conscience of Christians.
His words were critically interpreted as proposing a parallel jurisdiction to the civil law for Muslims (Sharia), and was the subject of demands from elements of the press and media for his resignation. He also attracted criticism from elements of the Anglican Communion.
In response, Williams stated in a BBC interview “… certain provision[s] of Sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law; … we already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land as justified conscientious objections in certain circumstances in providing certain kinds of social relations” and that “we have Orthodox Jewish courts operating in this country legally and in a regulated way because there are modes of dispute resolution and customary provisions which apply there in the light of Talmud.” Williams also denied accusations of proposing a parallel Islamic legal system within Britain. Williams also acknowledged that Sharia, “In some of the ways it has been codified and practised across the world, it has been appalling and applied to women in places like Saudi Arabia, it is grim.”
On 4 July 2008 Sharia again became a topic of media interest, following comments by Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. He supported the idea that Sharia could be reasonably employed as a basis for “mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution”. He went further to defend Williams’s position from earlier in the year, explaining “It was not very radical to advocate embracing sharia law in the context of family disputes, for example, and our system already goes a long way towards accommodating the archbishop’s suggestion.” and “It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law.”
Ah yes, that would be the one who said (in reference to this sharia thing) that the notion that “there’s one law for everybody” is “a bit of a danger”. Do you agree with that position, Nick?
In addition to Mike B’s excellent comment, I’ll cite just one example out of the many I could have drawn on.
This exchange was one Sam Harris had with a member (he doesn’t say which one) of the President’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, who buttonholed him after one of his TED talks (you can see the full account here):
In your usual haste to osculate the rump of faith, you’ve missed Cohen’s point, which is that wholesale demands for “respect” of the faithful (combined with failure to condemn bad acts motivated by faith, as often happens in Islam), simply enables extremists. Where is Rees’s condemnation of Muslim extremism? I doubt you’ll find any, anywhere.
“Harass” is a bit strong, but there were indeed many pro-Stalin socialists in that era (I knew several of them), and they should certainly have been criticized for saying, as I have heard them do, that Stalin’s many murders were necessary for the greater good. Do you call that “demagoguery”? We should indeed harass liberals and socialists if they fail to condemn the excesses of regimes (or faiths) that they claim to admire.
I find it telling that secularists condemn religious extremism far more often than do the “liberal” faithful. There is of course a reason for this: religious people think that if you “disrespect” some brands of religion, it casts doubt on their own. And indeed it does.
Where are all your blog posts bashing North Korea, Jerry? I don’t think we can take your pro-liberalism posts seriously unless there is a frequency of North-Korea-condemnation higher than 13.6% amongst them. If you don’t reach this, it’s obviously evidence that you are either secretly sympathetic with the extremists, or so blinded by your liberalism that you don’t realize the dangers of Stalinist systems, which are obviously and unarguably just a minor variation on liberalism.
C’mon, reaching some judgment about Rees because of his lack of condemnation of radical Islam (alleged lack, anyhow, I’m pretty sure you haven’t any thorough review of his works to check) is no better than my logic above. It’s far more likely that Rees is just as horrified as every other scientific liberal by radical Islam, but, also like everyone else, he picks his interests and worthy causes on which to comment out of a near-infinite list.
Oh, sweet Jesus, shouldn’t you be in church today? Ask Dick Lewontin how we used to argue about Stalinism and Russian communism! And as for faith, well, you’ll find plenty of comments from me condemning religious extremism.
If Rees and other liberals are so horrified by radical Islam, why don’t they condemn its excesses? For a good example of “failure to condemn” check out R. Joseph Hoffmann, who prefers to excoriate Terry Jones rather than the enraged Muslims who sever heads.
My point stands: it is the secularists and not the faithful who come out to condemn the hideous extremes of faith. You have to be a real faitheist not to notice how reluctant the “liberal religious” are to condemn religious extremism.
Now go nom that wafer, Nick. You know you want to . . .
“Ask Dick Lewontin how we used to argue about Stalinism and Russian communism!”
Sure, if if someone were seriously going to make a claim that you were insufficiently hostile to communism, they should ask you about it and relay evidence like this. But you didn’t give the same courtesy to Martin Rees. I think it’s highly unreasonable to imply some kind of softness on radical Islam on his part based on absence of evidence. It’s overwhelmingly more likely he is a completely standard pro-human-rights liberal.
As for wafers and communion wine, I’m gonna have to pass, I’m still hungover from last night’s whiskey party. 🙂
No hang on – that really can’t be assumed. There’s more than one kind of “standard.” It really is standard for one kind of pro-human-rights liberal to be more pro-religion and pro-respect for religion than pro-secular rights and pro-individual rights, and to be more eager to defend “Muslims” as a category than to criticize illiberal aspects of Islam. That’s especially true in the UK, because of its history in South Asia and the like.
This has nothing to do with Rees’s entirely hypothetical position, but:
Given the large amount of ignorance, bigotry and discrimination against Muslims in Western society — up to and including violent anti-Muslim hate crimes — it would be perfectly reasonable for a standard pro-human rights liberal to think their time in a Western society is better spent defending the large body of innocent, peaceful, pro-democracy Muslims in their own society, instead of implicitly or explicitly targeting those individuals for the crimes of violent fundamentalist Muslims in other countries who are essentially unreachable through editorials and blogs and the like, and who everyone already agrees are Bad.
It’s not the only reasonable decision — e.g. there are many ways Westerners can support the cause of religious tolerance and human rights abroad, without increasing religious intolerance and the probability of human rights abuses at home — but it is a reasonable decision.
This simply won’t do Matzke. It’s not simply a question (as you say in a moment) that Jerry doesn’t give him a chance to reply. His respect for religion, in accepting the prize, is unqualified. If he had wanted to make a qualification, he should have made it at the time of his acceptance, but he didn’t. So, he provided the kind of respect religious idiots need to deflect criticism. And moderate religionists give it all the time. Christians have banded together to defend Islam, even though, given half a chance, Islam would shunt Christianity smartly into the category of dhimmis. It’s unacceptable for a scientist of Rees’ eminence to accept a prize like the Templeton without giving serious thought to the implications of doing so, and it seems to me that he simply didn’t think about it at all. He shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction. It’s a decision virtually impossible to defend on rational grounds. The man is already reasonably wealthy. He didn’t need a million pounds, especially if accepting it meant that he gave comfort, as Nick Cohen points out, to religion.
Um, I’m not sure where you are from, but in the U.S. at least we’ve the American public has been subjected to several years of cheap, ginned-up-for-political-purposes anti-Muslim propaganda spewed by Christian right wingers and Tea Partiers — Obama is a secret Muslim, there is a danger of Muslims passing Sharia law throughout the states, the controversy in NYC over the “Ground Zero” mosque which is neither at Ground-Zero nor a mosque, Newt Gingrich’s recent warning about the dangers of the U.S. becoming a “secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”, etc., on and on.
How one can make any kind of simple declarations that “Christians have banded together to defend Islam” is beyond me. There are Christians who are moderates and who believe that religious tolerance is worth defending and unfair bigotry against any ethnic or religious group is worth opposing, but that’s a different thing.
No no no, it’s the other way around – scientific claims are more tentative than religious ones, in fact they are tentative while religious ones are generally not (more “liberal” denominations being the exception). Scientific claims on the other hand are much better backed by evidence than religous ones, in fact they are backed by evidence while religious claims are not (including the more “liberal” ones).
Scientific claims: more tentative, more evidence.
Religious claims: less tentative, less evidence.
Or, more bluntly and accurately:
Scientific claims: tentative; evidence.
Religious claims: not tentative; no evidence.
I think another important difference is that science ANSWERS questions rather definitively, whereas religion merely ADDRESSES them. It’s one thing to provide an answer to a question, and another to answer the question CORRECTLY. Many people give religion a great deal of credit for just making very bold assertions, putting aside the trivial question of whether those assertions are actually TRUE.
Another very important aspect of science is that it’s quite content to say “we don’t know the answer”. This is because science concerns itself with what can be known and with the truth; if something as yet can’t be known, science says so. Additionally, science doesn’t feel ashamed admitting its ignorance; it simply means there’s something yet to discover. Which is awesome – it’s the whole point!
However, when religion hears “we don’t know”, it pricks up its ears because: a) many sects view every current knowledge gap as big enough to jam their gods into and b) other sects see any & all unanswered questions as evidence that science is false, a fraud, a conspiracy, a fool’s errand and something not to be trusted.
Science answers questions definitively?
So Newton’s laws still hold in all cases? Or protons and neutrons are completely elementary particles?
I suspect that a great many people, including professionals, see Templeton not as a corrupting influence on science, but rather as a defense against the corrupting influence of godless science on a culture of faith. From that perspective, scientists should be hugely grateful for Templeton, and consider it a valuable friend of science.
Unless, of course, they don’t care that they’re killing God.
“(I’d call him “Uncle Eric”, but that adjective has unfortunately been bestowed on someone else)”
Just read an article (link below) by the man that keeps Jerry from calling Eric ‘Uncle’ .. and it’s weirdly simplistic: Jesus would believe evolution because he cares for the truth. (or, as the article starts out explaining IS the Truth).
Wow! Now THAT’s going to convert quite a few creationists, me thinks.
(Btw, why would an all-knowing being have to ‘believe’ anything, and what on earth does it even mean to BE ‘the Truth’?)
I found his other (rhetorical, I assume) question far more interesting: What car would Jesus (had he been alive today) be driving?
I think he’d be driving a Smart car .. SO Jesus-like!
Ooh, I hadn’t thought of that. If those were Christian scientists, I may need to reconsider this evolution thing. But what if they were, like, Papists trying to spread confusion? This Giberson fellow seems pretty clever, but I need to be on my guard.
“This Giberson fellow seems pretty clever”
What lead you to THAT inference?
Not anything in that article I must presume.
To qualify that: He DOES say a lot of things in that article that we all here agree with.
It’s just that you don’t need to be overly ‘clever’ to come up with the notions he put forward.
Ken is pretty clearly being sarcastic.
It is not really the Guardian that Cohen’s bit is in – it is the Observer, which is not a Sunday version of the Guardian, though they share a stable in Kings Cross, but yet they are historically different.
Yes it WAS (also) published by the Guardian (online).
See the article’s history (also published):
Science has vanquished religion, but not its evils | Nick Cohen.
This article appeared on p39 of the Main section section of the Observer on Sunday 10 April 2011.
It was published on guardian.co.uk at 00.06 BST on Sunday 10 April 2011.
It was last modified at 00.06 BST on Sunday 10 April 2011. “
I’m waiting for the movie to come out:
The Last Temptation of Martin Rees
Mr. McDonalds’ characterization of Issac Newton as a Deist is simply wrong. Newton believed in an intervening god as evidenced by his conclusion that the intervention of god was necessary to preserve the stability of the solar system. Deism is a religious view that proposes that god created the universe and did not intervene after that event.
“The most brilliant scientists and the best thought have moved beyond religion. It is for this reason that religion, which once inspired man’s most sublime creations, no longer produces art, literature or philosophy of any worth; why it is impossible to imagine a new religious high culture”
I do love this point. I am often annoyed by the claim apologists make that religion deserves credit for inspiring art and literary works. If anything, religion restricted the scope of work produced by artists and philosophers under its patronage.
How much further along would our culture be if religion hadn’t held it in a vice gripe for so long?
The other side to that coin: how could our culture have been held back had religion been allowed to keep that vice-grip? The obvious answer: imagine any of today’s theocracies and Christianise them.
Religion definitely has a ‘vice gripe.’
I agree, I’ve become a lot less sympathetic to efforts like those of Templeton over the years because the effort doesn’t seem to be progressive or constructive overall.
It seems to be largely a one-way dialog: loosen our standards of evidence and the tightness of theories in order to help make sense of theologically rooted perspectives in their own terms. It’s like a phenomenological exercise taken too far and then reinforced to keep going even farther with grants, fellowships, and prizes. I feel as if it’s not honest inquiry when you look closely at it, even though it can be rationalized as useful in various ways.
Thanks for the recent articles making it clear what those folks are up to.
Can Templeton be criticized for promoting only Christian spirituality?
If it wants to be objective, it should give the same weight to Hindu spirituality, Buddhist spirituality, something you can call Atheist spirituality (Tim Minchin? The idea Dawkins had of a symphony about evolution?), and just non-religious
“spirituality” – art and literature.
Religion/supernatural/magic beliefs are not hard to understand and will never go away.
– Uncomfortable moods and feelings of the moment need to be managed socially and with stories, e.g., fear of death
– In-groups need to defend against the “other”
Easily perceived, mainly visual and audio signals, are the easiest and cheapest to use to identify “others” — how they look or sound different.
When social story telling became formalized, 6k-8k yrs ago, societies tried different stories to address these “urgent” (feeling) needs. Lots of different stories were tried, e.g. Homer tried the heroic stories, but likely all who adopted this died young in battle!
Zoroaster and the Egyptians came up with some good stories and the same in India, SE Asia. The successful stories were codified in written form and “books” — but there is very little difference in the tropes of the successful stories.
Human imagination is rather canalized and not exceptionally inventive — it doesn’t need to be. The demands of the brain are pretty limited.
The fact that new tropes and stories aren’t needed in roughly 3k years shows that good stories are economic and get institutionalized.
Religion is highly efficient since it both manages uncomfortable moods at the same time it handles the in-group vs out-group imperatives.
I think what Sam Harris misses, maybe not, is that there are good scientific and local ecological drivers for “kill or be killed” speak-act (verbal -physical) behaviors.
If we evolved–or ‘memevolved’–our way into these, we can mem/evolve our way out (and seem to be doing so, many would say). One desire you omitted is the need for explanation/causality. Now that science has made enormous strides in those areas, one motivating factor is assuaged. Any evolutionary ‘need’ for physically agressive young males (as you describe in your subsequent post; and btw, you neglected the very different ways of bonobos) began to be mitigated with the development of weapons and machinery and the need to fight smarter, not stronger. IMO the toughest nut to crack is/will be an innate tribalism, but, by symmetry, that too will be better addressed by putting our biggest asset–thinking brains–to the task.
As to new tropes/stories not being needed, I beg to differ. See Mormonism & Scientology, for instance, not to mention countless less successful cults that flourish time and again…and cultural cohesions that stem from politico/philosophical rather than religious grounds.
It’s past time to throw off the yoke of ancient superstitions and put our minds to figuring out how to address the emotions and drives you mention in a manner that best serves the species, which is Harris’s goal, I’d say. In many ways our cultural advancement has involved just the sort of overcoming of innate drives that you think is impossible.
…and another thing…it is said that
– the great books and religions of the world are focused mainly on controlling the hostile-aggressive behavior of young men — women are incidental in the great books
– gods are generally stern punishing older men because teenage boys don’t listen to any other kind of character
– religious fundamentalism is mainly about defending male prerogatives — mainly over reproduction — males most critical but vulnerable evolutionary task
Believe chimps and baboons who are the most violent achieve tribe dominance — which mainly leads to more childbearing opportunities. Chimps and baboons are murderous as well.
…most individual’s exhibiting “kill of be killed” speech-actions are men of mating age.
Saw Martin Rees in Chicago tonight. He was very good and straightforward. One of the best presenters we’ve seen. We saw Sam Harris at U of C Friday as well.
You know if anyone wants to give bone fide scientists any amount of money — we’re for it.
As long as Templeton doesn’t require human sacrifice — who cares?
Scientists get the table scrapes in our societies and do the most good for the most people. They are a precious resource for all mankind and we need to use gorilla tactics to help them get funding or even money to make their harried lives a bit more comfortable.
If Rees does credible cosmology and claims the Great Pumpkin as his personal savior — it’s OK wid us.
(No, he did not say that — don’t think!)