As I reported a few days ago, Dan Dennett has withdrawn from a Templeton-sponsored symposium at the World Science Festival that had religious overtones (note the question at issue below: did humans arrive in incremental steps or in “one giant leap”?):
Now Dan’s withdrawal has been picked up by the Religion News Service in a piece called “Philosopher says ‘no; to major science forum over Templeton funding.”
Here are a few choice quotes from the piece:
Dennett said he objects to Templeton sponsorship because he finds some of the projects they fund scientifically questionable. He is one of several scientists and philosophers who have refused to take Templeton money in the past, including physicist Sean Carroll and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.
In a 2013 article in Slate, Carroll wrote: “Any time respectable scientists take money from Templeton, they lend their respectability — even if only implicitly — to the idea that science and religion are just different paths to the same ultimate truth. That’s not something I want to do.”
For Dennett, the issues were a bit different.
“I would be very happy to have the Templeton Foundation sponsor research on religion and science,” he said in a phone interview from Spain, where he is lecturing. “But what they are doing now is sponsoring some very fine science with no strings attached and then using their sponsorship of that to try and win prestige for other projects that are not in the same league.”
He pointed specifically to the Darwin Festival held in Cambridge, England, in 2009, which was also funded in part by Templeton. He wrote that some of the presentations there were “full of earnest gobbledegook.”
Check out the link to the gobbledegook stuff; Dan’s report on the Cambridge meetings, which he let me publish, is hilarious. And I love this quote from Dan:
“I compare it to an art collector who spends a lot of money on excellent art and then has a show with a few pieces by his brother,” Dennett said this week. “It’s trying to elevate the prestige of his brother by having them in the same room with a Cezanne and a Monet.”
Religion: the art collector’s brother!
I’ve had my differences with Dan over memes and, of course, free will, and with Massimo over many things, including the ambit of science. But I want to publicly applaud both of them, and also Official Website Physicist™ Sean Carroll, for putting principle over publicity and emoluments.
And from the Templeton side:
Earl Whipple, vice president of communications and public affairs for Templeton, said the organization invests in individuals with “an attitude of humility and open-mindedness.”
“Discoveries often result from competing ideas, rigorous scholarship, and civil dialogue, not from the inhibition or limitation of debate,” he said.
There’s the old “humility” trope, always found in conjunction with faith. As for “competing ideas,” when has Templeton ever set up a syposium about science/religion issues without stacking it with its own flacks?
For some laughs, read the comments under the Religion News Services’ piece.