UPDATE: As a commenter noted below, Biola is committed to Biblical inerrancy, which you can see on the university website’s mission statement. See also their doctrinal statement, which besides accepting the usual divinity of Jesus, affirms the reality of Adam and Eve as humanity’s progenitors, proclaims the coming of The Rapture, and contains the following chilling statement:
All those who persistently reject Jesus Christ in the present life shall be raised from the dead and throughout eternity exist in the state of conscious, unutterable, endless torment of anguish. . .
There is a personal devil, a being of great cunning and power: “The prince of the power of the air,” “The prince of this world,” “The god of this age.” He can exert vast power only so far as God suffers him to do so. He shall ultimately be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone and shall be tormented day and night forever.
And check out the undergrad admissions form, which, besides requiring a letter from the applicant’s church (I guess you can forget going to Bioloa if you haven’t gone to church), has an essay question:
Essay Question. On a separate sheet of paper, please answer the following question in your own words. A 1-2 page, typed response is expected.
At Biola University our common foundation is our faith in Christ and becoming transformed into His likeness. In light of this fact, please describe: a) the circumstances surrounding your decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ, using various Bible passages as the framework for your salvation and eternal life in Christ, and b) using specific examples, describe your process of spiritual growth over the past three years.
So let us be clear: Templeton just gave over three million dollars to a college that, by requiring acceptance of Biblical inerrancy, absolutely denies the findings of modern science, including the history of humanity and the fact of evolution, and won’t take a stand on the age of the Earth. So much for Templeton’s pretense of accepting modern science. They’re looking for answers to the Big Questions while funding people who have the wrong answers to the Little Questions.
I thought that the Templeton Foundation was making a big push to attain respectability in the scientific community, and concurrently to distance itself from purely religious projects—until an alert reader spotted this.
Biola University, a conservative evangelical college in La Mirada, a town in southern California (the college’s motto is “Biblically Centered Education”), has received the largest grant in the school’s history—from the Templeton Foundation.
The $3,030,000 Templeton Grant, given for three years and starting in February, is to set up a “Biola University Center for Christian Thought, which will, according to the University’s blurb, be “an ambitious new initiative that will bring world-renowned Christian scholars together to research, collaborate and write about important questions facing Christianity in the 21st Century.”
Most of the money will go to 6-month and 1-year research fellowships. And the money will also fund a pastor in residence. Way to go, Templeton! Those people working on the Big Questions of Science and Faith will surely require spiritual counseling when they sense some incompatibility between the brain and the soul.
At the heart of the Center is a residential fellowship program that will bring together eight research fellows — four Biola faculty members and four external scholars — for a semester at a time to do work on a selected theme. The Center will also bring well-known “visiting scholars” to Biola’s campus for several days or weeks at a time to help facilitate the dialogue.
Over the course of each year, researchers will produce books, articles, blog posts, videos, lectures, podcasts and other resources to help address some of the questions that matter to the Church and the academy. Each year will conclude with a public conference where participants will present their research related to the year’s theme.
The Center will also include pastors’ roundtable discussions and a pastor-in-residence who will collaborate with the researchers each semester and produce a publicly available sermon series related to the research.
Who are the first big fish they’ve landed in this program? Why, none other than Nicholas Wolterstorff, a theologian/philosopher from Yale and—get this—Alvin Plantinga from Notre Dame. They’ve published together, and, as you may recall, Plantinga is a Sophisticated Theologian® who believes that there’s a conflict between science and naturalism (because our senses aren’t evolved to be trustworthy) and who favors the intelligent-design creationism of Michael Behe. I thought that Templeton had long ago distanced itself from intelligent design.
As usual, Templeton (and Biola) try to sell this as a way to harmonize science and religion (btw, have a look at the comments at the bottom of this page):
The $3.03 million grant is part of the Templeton Foundation’s wider efforts to promote research and informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, theologians and the public on subjects it deems to be of public importance. The foundation describes itself as a “philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.”
“Big Questions,” as we’ve come to learn, represent those Questions that Science Can’t Answer, questions like “Why are we here?” or “What is our purpose?” or “Where did the laws of physics come from?” And as we’ve also come to learn, theology (or religion) can’t answer those questions, either.
So what are the Big Questions about Science and Religion that this $3 million grant will address? Only one has been highlighted so far. Wait for it: it’s on “Neuroscience and the Soul.” But the details of this program don’t make it look very science-y:
This RFP is aimed at work on the implications of contemporary neuroscience for the existence and nature of the soul. Questions to be addressed include:
• Does the difficulty of solving the so-called “binding problem,” where this is a matter of explaining the phenomenon of the unity of consciousness, suggest an argument for the existence of the soul?
• Does recent evidence that various “mindfulness” techniques can affect neuroarchitecture suggest anything about (a) which views of soul are most plausible, and (b) how the soul might causally interact with the brain?
• What further can be said about claims by Libet and others that there is tension between recent findings in neuroscience and the existence of freedom of the will?
• What philosophical theories of soul best accommodate the deliverances of recent neuroscience?
• What are the most promising strategies for integrating the findings of contemporary neuroscience with Christian theological anthropology?
Much of this presumes the existence of a soul, of course, but that’s no problem for a university like Biola. And the program involves a lot of money:
Proposal requests from non-Biola-affiliated scholars will be for $70,000 to $90,000 (plus a $6,000 per semester housing stipend and relocation expenses) for projects lasting the full 2012-13 academic year and $35,000 to $45,000 (plus a $6,000 per semester housing stipend and relocation expenses) for projects lasting one semester that academic year. Proposal requests from Biola faculty will be for half-time course releases. We anticipate hosting a total of 8 fellows per semester. . .
The other Big Question has nothing to do with science: “Christian scholarship in the 21st century.” This is the program that will include Plantinga and Wolterstorff, and its purview is this:
Questions to be addressed include: What is Christian Scholarship? Why is it important? What are its proper aims and methods? What challenges does it face? Whom does it serve and how? How does Christian scholarship contribute to a life of obedience to the love commands of Jesus? Need it so contribute? Should Christian scholarship aim to influence culture? If so, how?
Remember, this is how the Templeton Foundation is spending its money (the Biola program is about 4.28% of Templeton’s total grants for the year). And the money is going not for pure science, but for completely useless lucubrations that presume the existence of a soul and the divinity of Jesus.
Once again, the Big Questions are being addressed, but there’s no hope in hell of answering them, because they rest on false premises.
You might have asked yourself, “Is Biola University down with evolution?” Not really: it seems to accept some form of ID that allows microevolution, but also requires the hand of God for both macroevolution and the origin of the universe. See here and here, for instance. (And note that their “evolution” conference included ID advocates like Jon Wells, Casey Luskin, David Klinghoffer, and Denyse O’Leary.) Biola appears to have a course in intelligent design, but I can’t find one on evolution.
J’accuse. To my colleagues Robert Plomin, Günter Wagner, Martin Nowak, and Brian Greene, among many other scientists on the Foundation’s payroll: have you no shame at all at about taking money from Templeton—an organization that’s just given three million dollars to fund studies about Jesus and ways to reconcile neuroscience with a nonexistent soul? And to hire a pastor in residence to counsel those who get into trouble when trying to reconcile brains and souls? Is there no organization so soaked in religious woo that you scientists won’t take money from it?
I must say that although these scientists turn their back on Templeton’s pro-woo activities so they can fund their own pro-science initiatives (e.g., The World Science Festival), I find that kind of cognitive dissonance contemptible. In the end, such scientists, by lending their Big Names to Templeton’s website, only put their imprimatur on the Foundation’s pro-religion and pro-right-wing agenda. I call that selling out.
And I call on journalists to question these scientists about how they can take Templeton money with one hand while covering their eyes with the other.