Glass houses, etc.: Templeton and global-warming denial

June 4, 2011 • 6:14 am

As the Templeton Foundation tries to claw its way up to respectability, it finds a number of willing pitons, ready to accept its largesse while ignoring the organization’s anti-science agenda.  For example, there are some journalists who have accepted prestigious and lucrative journalism fellowships from the Templeton Foundation, and yet, as journalists, decry the anti-science activities of the very organizations funded by Templeton.

The Heartland Institute, located here in Chicago, is well known for its anti-global warming agenda.  In 2009 they held a notorious “climate-change” conference partly sponsored by Free to Choose, an organization that not only has been funded by Templeton, but was in fact a recipient of a 2009 Templeton Freedom Award, money given to “free market think tanks.”  (The prize was for an educational-video website that distributes, among other right-wing material, climate-denial videos.)  Although the Freedom Awards are administered by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, they are completely funded by Templeton.  (For information on the Templeton/Atlas connection and more, see the paper by Sunny Bains and these two posts by Salty Current.)

Chris Mooney has condemned the Heartland Conferences as “idiocy,” which they are, but he is either ignorant of, or chooses to ignore, their connection with Templeton.  And just this week Mooney also condemned the American Tradition Institute (ATI) for “seeking scandal amongst the ranks of climate scientists.” And again, this condemnation is justified, for the ATI is simply trying to discredit global warming.  But the ATI is also a partner with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.

As Salty Current documents, Templeton has given money to other antiscience enterprises:

Building on the success of the Templeton Freedom Awards (Grant #10605), this expanded program seeks to improve research and education on the nature and benefits of freedom and free enterprise. The program will introduce a new competition to launch Free Enterprise Centers and establish a high-profile Templeton Leadership Fellowship program to advance the strategic impact of think tanks.

Salty Current notes that Atlas is affiliated with other sponsors of global-warming denialist activities:

I noted parenthetically in the previous post on the subject that several of the organizations listed as sponsors [of Heartland’s 2009 “global warming” conference] are funded by Atlas, and I’d like to be more specific. Most of these were listed by DSB as having “No funding records from Exxon, Koch, or Scaife,” but they all appear to be in the Atlas international stable:

  • Institute of Public Affairs, Australia
  • Instituto de Libre Impresa, Peru (2007 Templeton Freedom Award grant winner)
  • Instituto Juan de Mariana, Spain (2008 and 2010 Templeton Freedom Award winner)
  • Instituto Liberdade, Brazil (2006 Templeton Freedom Award grant winner)
  • Instituto Bruno Leoni, Italy (2004 Templeton Freedom Award winner)
  • Liberales Institut, Switzerland (2005 Templeton Freedom Award winner)*

Note the nepotistic connection between Templeton and its awardees, something we’ve seen before with Templeton Prize winners.  Those institutes affiliated with Atlas, which itself gets big-time funding from Templeton, also get Templeton Freedom Awards.

The point of all this, of course, is to show that Templeton is anti-science in more than one sense. It not only promotes woo, religion, and “spirituality,” but also, as part of its right-wing, free-enterprise agenda, supports—directly or indirectly—global-warming denialism. Those scientists and science-friendly journalists who take money from Templeton should be aware of this connection.  Let us also note that the World Science Festival, going on right now in New York (and I do approve of the event itself!), is heavily funded by Templeton.

I am wondering how anti-science the Templeton Foundation has to be before scientists become unwilling to take its money.  It’s an object lesson on how scientists and journalists can look the other way when there’s funding to be had.

45 thoughts on “Glass houses, etc.: Templeton and global-warming denial

  1. Which once again illustrates the unfortunately too rarely discussed connection between religion and denial of everything environmental…

      1. It makes sense – they only believe things that bring them comfort. I mean, why else would the main argument be that faith comforts grannies? Not only can they keep driving their SUVs, they are also comforted by the fact that everyone they disapprove of is going to hell 🙂

    1. Because Jebus is coming soon, we don’t need to worry about the environment. Leave it for the Left Behind to worry about. Except that we all seem to have been Left Behind.

      Behind the religious worldview is a pre-scientific worldwiew in which the earth is in a steady state, humans are the species around which all others revolve, and a “soul” is implanted in an “unborn baby” that does nothing but increase in size until it is born.

  2. Thor makes the lightening, but Jesus makes the rainbows. You can’t explain that. I’m throwing down with Jesus.

    1. ‘cept rainbows won’t fry you if you get caught out on the golf course.

      I’m down with Thor.

  3. Let us also note that the World Science Festival, going on right now in New York (and I do approve of the event itself!), is heavily funded by Templeton.

    Now you’ve done it.
    Is J*hn Kw*k banned here yet? If not, expect him shortly to defend the honour of Lisa Randall and his esteemed and accomplished fellow alumnus Brian Green and point out the superiority of Gould to Sagan and Stuyvesant to your highschool.

    1. Greene has gotten tangled in this? Oh no. I supposed it shouldn’t take away from his writing (which is excellent) but I still feel let down.

  4. I am wondering how anti-science the Templeton Foundation has to be before scientists become unwilling to take its money.

    Sorry to be so crass, but isn’t that rather like wondering how much the pimp has to beat the whores before the johns switch to another brothel?

    We’ve all played those thought experiments of, “How much money would it take to do / accept something repugnant?” For me, it always comes down to so much money that I could use it for a hugely significant societal impact — like, say, enough money to fund a global public school system.

    The thing is, there’s this vast disconnect between the price I’d charge and the price anybody’d be willing to pay. I mean, really, who’d pay trillions of dollars for the privilege of watching me give a dog a blowjob? Of those who actually would, how many actually have the dough? It’s as silly as kids at a beach arguing over how long it’d take their dads to scoop all the sand into buckets using their bare hands.

    What we see with a whore such as Mooney is that he’s quite happy to abandon what he would have us believe are his core foundational principles for a rock of crack and a couple subway tokens.

    Really, Chris, is whatever sum they paid you enough to compensate you for joining them in preaching the benefits of zombie cannibalism? Personally, I think you could have held out for that 10% coupon for a Happy Meal — I’m sure they would have caved.



  5. As a physicist, I want to defend some scientists who take Templeton money. John Templeton decided that he wants to provide a modest amount of funding for research into topics like the nature of time. I personally have no qualms about applying for grants from the entity that actually supplies the funding, the Foundational Questions Institute, since it is run by scientists and has a solid reputation. It funds some ideas outside the mainstream, but they are still scientific ideas; they do not fund outright religious nonsense. Moreover, grant recipients are free to conduct their research without interference; indeed, some grantees never even know about the connection to the Templeton Foundation or its goals. Some other grantees are drawn closer into Templeton’s orbit, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

    1. This is a serious question for you, then: if part of Templeton’s money were used to fund white-supremacist organizations, would you still not have any qualms about taking money from their separate physics pot? Does it matter to you at all what the foundation does with the rest of its money?

      1. Yes, that’s the issue in its entirety.

        Templeton is trying to buy respectability and credibility on the one hand, while doing its darnedest to ruin both on the other.

        It’s a race to the bottom.

      2. In case anybody thinks Jerry’s question is entirely theoretical, it’s worth noting that Hamas funds schools and hospitals…as well as suicide bombers. Similarly, the Irish Republican Army also funded noble charity at the same time they bought pipe for roadside bombs.

        There’s something else crucial to remember: all funds are fungible. People who donate money to Hamas’s philanthropic arm are also funding their military operations. Invariably, when an organization engages in both charity and terror, the charities are used to launder money towards terror activities.

        I should hasten to add: I’m not in any way accusing Templeton of funding or participating in any sort of violent or illegal activities. They are, however, making use of the same kinds of financial tactics as other “dual-purpose” organizations.

        In short, scientists who accept Templeton funds may well do excellent work and further the advancement of the human condition. But, at the same time, they’re also putting a pretty face on Templeton’s quite reprehensible ulterior motives.

        Perhaps the moral equation works out that the good outweighs the bad. Call me a purist, but I’d rather not get my hands dirty that way.



          1. Thankfully, no, I don’t.

            If I did, I’m not sure if I’d get creative, starve, find another line of work, or swallow my pride if the only option was Templeton money.

            I can’t help but observe, though, that the majority of researchers seem to manage to pay the bills without Templeton’s money.


      3. My comment contained a small but significant error, which I didn’t notice on rereading. It was supposed to say: “I personally have no qualms about _people_ applying for grants from the entity that actually supplies the funding….” What I meant was that I would never think ill of another scientist for asking them for money.

        Personally, I would rather not apply the next time they advertise a round of grants. However, it’s not that easy for everyone to just blow off a funding opportunity that way. It’s really hard for physicists doing the kind of speculative research that the Foundational Questions Institute funds to get money. Given the necessity of getting funding in order for academic scientists to get tenure, I don’t think it’s fair to insist that people forgo this opportunity to get outside money.

        There’s also the flip side of the fungibility issue. Any money that the Templeton Foundation spends on real scientific research is money it’s not spending elsewhere. They may well be trying to buy respectability with the FQXi, but I suspect that the main motivation for creating the Institute was in the hope that the research it funded would find some kind of evidence for God, or purpose, or something like that in the fundamental structure of the universe.

        1. That’s how I feel, too. As long as there are no constraints on the scope, conduct or reporting of research, and as long as grantees don’t pander to the TF, I think it’s okay to take their money given current funding realities.

    2. There’s another point here.

      “indeed, some grantees never even know about the connection to the Templeton Foundation or its goals.”

      And that’s one way Templeton works – by hiding the connections. Lots of people hear the names “the Faraday Institute” and similar without ever knowing about the connection to the Templeton Foundation or its goals – and that’s no accident. That’s one reason it’s worth making the connections as public as possible.

    3. There’s an old saying, when one gets into the pen with the pigs,one may expect to emerge with a coating of mud.

        1. Except that oil companies provide a commodity, they aren’t anti-scientists and/or terrorists like the other cases.

          Not saying they are entirely good either, they do seem to try to affect politics more than most.

  6. How much money does the Templeton Foundation have? As they seem to throw out millions of pounds like confetti. Is there any chance they will run out of money any time soon.

    1. The size of the foundation endowment was $1.5 billion.

      Which means that they’ll never run out of money. They can just use the interest on the interest of the interest of even extremely modest investments and still have enough money to fund woo-filled nonsense in perpetuity.

        1. yes, correct. Templeton was a gangster.”Templeton became known for his “avoiding the herd” and “buy when there’s blood in the streets” philosophy”

  7. Interestingly enough, the Heartland Institute was originally set up by the tobacco companies to spew out propaganda denying the relationship between cigarettes and lung cancer.

  8. “I am wondering how anti-science the Templeton Foundation has to be before scientists become unwilling to take its money. It’s an object lesson on how scientists and journalists can look the other way when there’s funding to be had.”

    I suspect willingness to deal with Templeton is related to the fact that independent money for journalism and scientific research is drying up. When a few people control most of the wealth in a society, and everyone else is struggling to get the scraps, this is what happens. Either you do what the wealthy want, or you do without.

    Given that there’s always some unemployed worker willing to take a job beating up other unemployed workers and that dictator/plutocrats always find employees willing to shoot demonstrators in exchange for a modest monthly paycheck, merely taking a check from the likes of Templeton to do research (even if “custom”) will doubtless seem minor to many. Maybe even laudable: a university Dean will likely be very happy if some prof. in his college brings in a million in Templeton cash, esp. in these tight times. How often does anyone ever get that much from NSF?

    If other money were available, untainted money, less people would be tempted to deal with the likes of Templeton, I’d bet. When many are struggling, there will always be plenty willing to cut ethical corners to stay afloat financially.

      1. Except that when I look at the people and projects they fund, I’m not finding any who remotely need the money to “stay afloat financially.” Also note that we’re talking about huge sums going to research projects that could be carried out for a fraction of what’s being given, and whose products often suck.

        1. I’m prepared concede your point about need, since I’ve not reviewed that in any detail and know you have. I assumed they were giving to a variety of researchers. Is it the case that that they give mostly to the prominent and already well-heeled? I know about the cronyism.

          I was thinking they were essentially trying to corrupt significant parts of the scientific enterprise by buying people off, and the like. The excessive size of their grants would be part of that.

          1. Is it the case that that they give mostly to the prominent and already well-heeled?

            Well, there’s a vast expanse between “prominent and already well-heeled” and having no other options or being unable to “stay afloat financially.” A very many of those they fund are the former, but it isn’t really necessary to demonstrate this to make a case that scientists and organizations accepting this funding aren’t generally desperate to survive or feed their families or even remain employed.

  9. Well, I mostly deal with climate anti-science and funding patterns thereof but then just spent a fun afternoon with Eugenie Scott and her team over at NCSE, whose efforts I’ve long admired. There are some parallels.

    But, back to funding.
    See the PDF at CCC.

    pp.93-95 is a matrix of funders vs entities that do climate anti-science,
    although the row at top notes tobacco connections (mostly by the ease of dining them in The Tobacco Archives.)

    You will find Templeton about 2/3 of the way down. Heartland is there (but they were hardly the only entity to help tobacco companies addict children).

    Every entity has a brief description and links in Appendix A.3, pp.49-78.

    Many of these nonprofit “institutes<" by curious coincidence, are located within a block Washington, DC's K-Street.

    1. The difference with Templeton, I think, is that it’s been relatively successful at concealing the extent of its involvement, as Ophelia Benson noted above. The involvement of these other foundations is well known, but Templeton’s role – directly or through Atlas – in supporting climate denialism (especially in the case of the 2009 conference) lurks more in the background. It’s especially worthwhile to note for two other reasons: first, as has been said, because it presents itself, successfully with some, as a pro-science organization; second, because, as many of the organizations it supports are spread around the world (especially in poorer countries where corporations are operating), it’s throughly involved in the ‘globalization’ of climate denial and anticonservation efforts.

      1. ] Unlike certain foundations, where climate anti-science is one of the pervasive themes, it’s not with Templeton, but they certainly fund organizations that do it. Money is fungible, so it is hard to say where it goes.
        But in #10, I pointed to the master table I had, which was derived from MMAN,
        but now that I return and look, I don’t see it, so I withdraw the Heartland comment. I’ll have to figure out where the $623K came from on p.93 of CCC came from. With ~3,000 cells in that spreadsheet, there are bound to be a few errors. Thanks to SC.

  10. Interesting that the Institute for Public Affairs here in Australia is on the list of Templeton funds. The IPA is an obnoxiously right wing think tank that toes an economic rationalist approach to everything, including being climate change deniers

    On ABC-TV’s Q&A a couple of weeks back, John Roskam, the director, opined that public school education and universal health care were examples of “middle class welfare”. These are the kinds of nuts that Templeton sees fit to fund in Australia…

  11. Climate change deniers make me want to spit with rage. I suppose it is too much to hope that Martin Rees, who has spoken out about this topic in the past, makes some comment on this.

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