Templeton hosts a biology-and-faith conference where the outcome is—surprise!—predetermined

August 21, 2015 • 9:00 am

As I claim in FvF, the largest monetary force behind accommodationism in the U.S. is the Templeton Foundation, which hands out millions of dollars annually to blur the borders between faith and fact. In my latest book I put the net worth of the Foundation at 1.5 billion dollars, but after FvF was in press I found out it’s risen to an astounding 3.34 billion dollars!

Now I know that Templeton funds some pure science, but much of it is mixed with woo (often theologians are included in their project grants); and grant recipients, no matter how secular, are touted by the Foundation to burnish its image. So all too often, cash-strapped scientists line up for Templeton handouts, knowing that the funding rate is around 50% (I may be off here, so take that with a grain of salt), compared to, say, the National Science Foundation’s rate of around 20% in biology, and even that’s an overestimate, as it counts more generously-funded proposals by students and doesn’t count preliminary “regular” proposals, which are rejected more often than not.

Far more human progress would result from Templeton’s deep-sixing its religious and “spiritual” aims and funding just pure science. The theology adds nothing to human progress; it only enriches theologians and promotes their useless endeavors. Let us remember the organization’s mission statement (my footnotes):

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.* We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights.

Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship.** The Foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.


*Ultimate reality—as opposed to what? Proximate reality?
**What the bloody hell is “new spiritual information”?

At any rate, Templeton handed out the huge sum of $1.92 million to BioLogos in 2012 for a series of woo-and-science seminars. Here’s the project description (my emphasis):

This proposal builds upon those foundations as follows: First, we will sponsor a series of annual workshops for leaders of evangelical Christianity (scholars, scientists, pastors and para-church leaders) to dialogue about specific topics at the interface between science and Christianity. These will be patterned after the Theology of Celebration gatherings that we have hosted in 2009 and 2010 and will host in early 2012. Second, we will make significant improvements to the BioLogos website: 1) We will create a resource center with multimedia content to meet the unique needs of various groups such as pastors, teachers, parents, and students. 2) Through increased moderation of our blog comments, we will ensure that our website remains a place where people can gather to respectfully dialogue about topics of interest and relevance to science and evangelical Christianity. 3) We will better articulate our core beliefs and values to maximize our trustworthiness among Evangelicals.

What a pathetic waste of money, yet Templeton folks continue to tell me that I have repeatedly misunderstood the Foundation’s aims. I don’t think so. Seriously, nearly two million bucks to hold useless workshops and improve the BioLogos website—the site of an organization that, so far as I can tell, hasn’t come close to its goal of converting evangelical Christians to accepting evolution? Instead, BioLogos itself is moving toward evangelical Christianity, engaging in apologetics like trying to harmonize the Biblical Adam and Eve with science’s conclusion that they didn’t exist.

But I digress—and fulminate. What we have now are the fruits of that big grant, touted by Templeton as an “Evolution and Faith in Harmony at BioLogos Conference” in Grand Rapids, Michigan from June 30 to July 2 (see also the announcement at the BioLogos page). I don’t know how much money Templeton wasted on this conference, but you can see the results at the links.

The telling but unsurprising thing about this conference is that it was touted as addressing a contentious and unresolved question—whether there’s conflict between religion and biology—but then choosing (as far as I can tell) only speakers who said “No–NO CONFLICT!” In other words, the conference was an expensive exercise in confirmation bias. I sure wasn’t invited, no were any of the many folks who do see conflict between faith and evolution (creationism, of course, is the most obvious example of the conflict). The conference’s outcome was predetermined.

Here’s how Templeton poses the question:

Are the biological sciences and religion in perpetual conflict with one another? Not necessarily, some believe, although the question remains a challenging one.

“Some believe” (the others weren’t invited to the meeting. And the question apparently wasn’t too challenging for Templeton, for the conference’s outcome was a unanimous affirmation of comity between faith and science:

The conference was a powerful demonstration of the idea that science and faith can indeed enrich each other. Its appeal went far beyond the world of academic science and religion with the apparent diversity of attendees, including scientists, pastors, teachers, students, and laypeople—all eager to learn about the harmony between the two areas. Many of the talks and presentations from the conference are now available online.

Note: the conference was not a discussion but a “demonstration”. The results were rigged beforehand. I despise this sort of pre-loaded result, for it’s intellectually dishonest. I can’t find a single speaker or talk that even whispers at possible irreconcilable aspects of finding stuff out via science versus gaining “knowledge” from religion. More:

Other speakers considered issues from the doctrine of original sin to the extraordinarily uncommon nature of human beings. Breakout sessions, recordings of which are also online, extended discussions to matters from divine action and human origins to education and church life.

You can find the list of speakers here, and you can see videos of the plenary speakers here.  Sadly, the only pure science talk, that of Mary Schweitzer, a paleontologist who’s found soft tissue remnants in dinosaur bones, is missing.

O! What a wonderful and mutually supportive display of harmony between rationality and superstition! (My emphasis below):

The organizers of the conference were delighted at the range of interests and backgrounds of attendees. Over a third were scholars and scientists; a significant portion were teachers; others were pastors. Disciplines represented included biblical studies and theology, paleontology and geology, biology and sociology. Many reported finding new ways of integrating their thinking about science and religion. One individual said, “Every speaker helped me to understand things better, to consider new ideas and prompt new questions.” “I am thrilled at what I heard and eager to learn more,” declared another.

All in all, it was clear that people of faith can engage with contemporary science and discover that it informs and deepens their faith. There exists a profound hunger for more learning about evolution. The conference demonstrated this truth: evolutionary science and biblical faith can live together in productive harmony.

Yes, you heard it: the conference demonstrated a truth. But is it really a truth? For some people, yes, though those people are suffering from cerebral compartmentalization of incompatible ways of apprehending truth. But not a single “incompatibilist” showed up, and I don’t see any young-earth creationists, either. And even Mary Schweitzer, interviewed by BioLogos in 2014, professes a harmony between her work and her Christianity:

I think the thing that surprised me most about that class [a class on dinosaurs taught by Jack Horner] was that I had no idea, coming from a conservative Christian background, that scientists are not all trying to disprove God in whatever way they can. What we were not told growing up is that there’s a lot of very rigorous, hard science that allows us to interpret the lives of organisms we’ve never seen—and knowing this made me rethink a few things, because I know God and God is not a deceiver. If you step back a little bit and let God be God I don’t think there’s any contradiction at all between the Bible and what we see in nature. He is under no obligation to meet our expectations. He is bigger than that.

. . . I don’t feel I don’t feel that I’m discrediting God with the work I’m doing, I think I am honoring him with the abilities he’s given me.

One of the churches I go to is very conservative—But the pastor and I have discussed what I do, and we have agreed to disagree on some things. I think that’s the appropriate attitude to have—after all, God is the only one who knows for sure—he is the only one who was there.

I go to church because I want to learn and be held accountable. I want to learn more and more about what the Bible teaches, and in a lot of progressive churches you don’t get that as much—you get politics, building projects, etc. Everyone has to figure out what they need and why they go to church. The hunger in me which is fed in the churches I go to has to do with the fact that they preach right out of the Bible, and I need that. I guess I don’t go to church to hear political views and hear about how they need money—I go to hear about God.

Is there any chance that Schweitzer even mentioned any disharmony between science and religion? I wouldn’t bet on it. So much for the “challenging question”! It seems to have been resolved quite easily—simply by stacking the conference with speakers on only the accommodationist side of the issue.

Templeton, get back to me when you’ve really changed your game plan. I don’t think I’ve misunderstood your aims.

69 thoughts on “Templeton hosts a biology-and-faith conference where the outcome is—surprise!—predetermined

  1. The conference was a powerful demonstration of the idea that science and faith can indeed enrich each other. Its appeal went far beyond the world of academic science and religion with the apparent diversity of attendees, including scientists, pastors, teachers, students, and laypeople—all eager to learn about the harmony between the two areas.

    “Diversity.” At least they admitted it was only “apparent.”

    The conference was a powerful demonstration of the frantic desire to shoehorn religion into any and all areas. By refusing to allow even a single voice against the idea that faith enriches science, they’re trying to place gnu atheism in the “crank” drawer, along with the creationists. Thus they win their case without actually having to fight it.

    … because I know God and God is not a deceiver. If you step back a little bit and let God be God I don’t think there’s any contradiction at all between the Bible and what we see in nature. He is under no obligation to meet our expectations. He is bigger than that.

    But they ALL say that, regardless of how much their beliefs do or do not comport with the discoveries of modern science. The creationists also believe they’re “letting God be God.” They’re gaping in awe at a God which is really, really big. They’re not making God into their image, they’re followers and seekers and so forth. So what?

    This style of “reconciliation” can reconcile anything because it’s empty. It’s like stepping into a controversy and advising everyone to “do the right thing” and then patting yourself on the back for giving them the key to all resolutions.

    1. I’m not quite sure how they could prevent ‘God being God’, actually.

      I’m also quite happy to let God be God, as it happens. I’ll leave an empty matchbox outside the back door for him to do it in.


      1. Isn’t it quite generous of her to let God be God? I mean, she clearly has the power to fuck with God however she wants, but she’ll be a gracious and gentle believer and let her God be the precious little snowflake it wants to be.

        …and then, of course, since she’s the only one who can actually see her God, she’ll be sure to tell us all about it, especially what it wants us to do…but it’s not her who’s controlling the God, oh no; she’s just letting it be itself.


  2. Theology – theo from the Greek “to pretend”, hence theology, “to pretend to know”.

    I thought the claim of soft tissue from dinosaurs had come under a lot of fire.

    1. I balked at theology being called an academic “discipline.”

      I think (might be wrong) that the controversy about soft tissue is that creationists claim it can’t be as old as the experts say it is. They say it’s impossible that it’s lasted millions of years, it must be more recent, therefore it’s proof both that evolutionists are liars and the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

  3. “The hunger in me which is fed in the churches I go to has to do with the fact that they preach right out of the Bible, and I need that. I guess I don’t go to church to hear political views and hear about how they need money—I go to hear about God.”

    YES! Hear about slavery, rape and bloodshed in the name of, expected and committed by GOD!

    But I have a notion they don’t preach that right out of the Bible.

  4. The tactics needed to change Templeton need to come from within, like most churches: self-extinguishment.

    1. Take money and run. This can only happen once.
    2. Take the money and provide a conclusion that is not in the interest of Templeton. This may happen more than once, but probably require Templeton to be more flexible (scientific) in the research outcomes they support.

    If these two things happen consistently and by all persons applying for Templeton funds, the foundation will change their agenda. Until them accomodationists will breed their our self-fulfilling prophecies until Templeton runs out of money…which may not happen for a long time.

  5. What the bloody hell is “new spiritual information”?

    Despite the global stock markets’ recent downturn, the spiritual information market has remained rock steady, continuing a multi-millennium trend of providing the exact same amount of verifiable information. In unstable times, it’s as close to a sure bet as you can ask for.

  6. One of the churches I go to is very conservative—But the pastor and I have discussed what I do, and we have agreed to disagree on some things.

    It’s astonishing that Schweitzer says this in the same breath as she maintains that there’s no incompatibility. If there’s no incompatibility, what the hell does she call a disagreement between her verified science and the pastor’s unfounded faith that it’s wrong?

    1. Apparently there’s “incompatibility” and then there’s “incompatibility.” Schweitzer and the creationist pastor can disagree on a topic and yet still agree that Christianity is the most important truth in the world. Yay!

      They can also sit at the same table and go together on walks and just do all the stuff companions do. They can stand each other’s company. Thus, “compatible.”

      Conflicts in the ideas? Oh, the main idea is to drop the conflicts and just be friends. Double yay.

      1. I think we need to start using the parallel to truth and Truth and go with incompatibility and Incompatibility. The former means what everyone thinks it means; the latter is nebulous and can be attributed to the theologians who define God in terms of what he isn’t as well as anyone who wants to create a deepity. Materialism is not incompatible with science, but it is Incompatible.

        1. Social incompatibility vs. epistemic incompatibility. To people whose main focus seems to be on a plaintive appeal to “why can’t we all just get along?” the first one is the only one that matters. Same with those who want to be religious AND scientific, both. “Can I manage it? Yes I can! And so can YOU or anyone!”

          To those of us who are interested in the actual topics, however, social or personal harmony isn’t the point, and it isn’t enough. The epistemic incompatibility doesn’t go away just because someone can come up with some neat compartmentalization tricks.

  7. I really don’t see much difference between what Templeton does and what any number of lobyist on K street do for a living. The lobyist buys their viewpoint and favor giving the politicians money for this favor. Get the outcome you desire by greasing the politician’s hand. Templeton calls it grants and the boys on K street call in campaign contributions.

    They are equally destructive and corrupting of advancing civilization and are in the business of buying opinion.

    1. New Zealand has a K Road instead of a K Street. On K Road they’re a bit more honest about what they sell.

  8. The conference demonstrated this truth: evolutionary science and biblical faith can live together in productive harmony.

    Wait. What?

    Biblical faith? And evolutionary science?

    Erm…this is the same Bible we’re discussing here, right? The one that opens with humans being created by an angry wizard as mud golems in an enchanted garden with talking animals? That says you can breed stripy goats by showing them picket fence pr0n? That claims a global population bottleneck for all terrestrial species of no more than seven individuals each?

    No, I’m sorry. You might be able to convince me to squint at pathetic credulity in general and pretend that some forms aren’t as crippling as others…but Biblical faith? Only if you’re trying to convince me that you’re an especially pathetic credulous idiot.


  9. The limits of my knowledge of the Primum Mobile are such that I am in no position to know whether she is a deceiver or not.

    However, I do know that many who have claimed to speak on God’s behalf really are deceivers or are self-deceived.

    The 8 seconds of sound here are perhaps better suited to Deepak than Templeton, but here we go.

  10. There is this fundamental misunderstanding that religion and science are not in conflict because a person can be religious and a scientist. The Templeton foundation fails (or doesn’t want) to realize that people can hold contradictory ideas.

    1. My favorite response to that misunderstanding is that marriage and adultery are clearly compatible, as evidenced by the significant number of married people with long-standing extramarital affairs.

      Of course, it’s intended as an argument from authority. “Mr. Smart Person is a really smart scientist, and he’s also a Christian. So, if somebody as smart as Mr. Smart Person says there’s no conflict, poor stupid little you has no excuse for worrying about it.”


    2. People can hold contradictory ideas, but not at precisely the same moment. Religious scientists put their religion aside when walking into the lab or office Monday-Friday, and then pick it back up, putting their science aside, on Sunday. I imagine much of this, as it is for so many people, is a way to not be so scared of death.

  11. 2nd comment.
    What exactly does Templeton do with the significant number of religious who do NOT believe in original sin?

    Newsflash- that isn’t just modernist/revisionist Christians. That’s all Jews, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Muslims.
    None of these believe in a genetically inherited guilt from Adam that makes humans “damned by default” requiring atonement.

    And would science perchance play a role in adjudicating these conflicting religious claims?

    IMO, the doctrine of original sin is a chief poisoner of moral discourse in Western Christianity, possibly worse than the faith principle per se. (However, belief in original sin exacerbates greatly the problems of the faith principle.)

    1. What Templeton means by, “Religion,” is, “Judeo-Christian religion.” And, by, “Judeo-Christian,” they mean, “Christian.” By, “Christian,” of course, they really mean, “Protestant,” though, as a matter of expediency, they’ll ignore their differences with Vatican II Catholics.


      1. Ah yes, the ‘Big Tent’ approach. Let’s make sure religion is firmly embedded within science and our education system then we can argue about the differences between the religions.

      2. No, it seems to me that Templeton as a whole is mostly interested in Spirituality, and they focus on Christianity only as a matter of expediency (because that’s where a lot of the action is.) In general, they seem to be aiming at a God-is-so-large-It’s-in-every-religion conclusion. That’s the vibe I’m getting, anyway.

  12. I know God and God is not a deceiver. If you step back a little bit and let God be God I don’t think there’s any contradiction at all between the Bible and what we see in nature. He is under no obligation to meet our expectations. He is bigger than that.

    The arrogance of saying “I know God and God is not a deceiver” is appalling. Then she steps into it deeper by adding that there is no contradiction between the Bible and nature if you just step back and let God be God. What the hell does that even mean? In Genesis we see God being God and it is a direct contradiction to everything we know about nature. Not one sentence of God’s creation in the bible has even a remote explanation or parallel to nature as we understand it today. But since “He is under no obligation to meet our expectations” (since he’s bigger than that, not petty like truth-seekers) Genesis stands tall in the face of reality. I’m terribly sorry if my expectations go beyond light is good, clay man, rib woman, talking devil snake and poof! the earth. One of the first premises of the bible is that knowledge is evil. That sums it up rather nicely.

    This preposterous type of thinking should be met with laughter. Sometimes I laugh for pity’s sake, but Schweitzer provokes in me the gag-reflex.

    1. The arrogance of saying “I know God and God is not a deceiver” is appalling.

      Yes, but don’t you see? That’s what all religious people have always done since the beginning of religion. In all cases, via faith or delusion or fraud or whatever, they’re certain they’re in personal contact with the relevant divinity and merely doing no more than relaying the words of the divine.

      What they’re actually doing, of course, is trying to play the ultimate trump card: “How dare you question the most ultimate imaginable authority, who just happens to say exactly what I would say anyway?”

      That’s all any of the gods have ever been: attempts to short-circuit reasonable discussion and provide ultimate unquestionable power and authority to those speaking on their behalf.

      Every. Single. Time.


    2. Shorter Schweitzer: “I fervently cling to the inexplicable hope that what I’ve long wanted to be true isn’t false and incoherent.”

    3. “I know God and God is not a deceiver.”

      How can you be sure? In order to know that with any degree of confidence, you’d have to be much smarter than God.

      (Besides, of course, when God ghost-wrote the Bible, he put in all those conflicting ‘facts’, so there’s counter-evidence right there).


    1. Granted, it’s not productive…but you’ve certainly gotta admit that religion is far and away the most profitable confidence scam in all of history….


    1. Seriously, though, this is a good catch by Prof. Ceiling Cat. Reality doesn’t come in degrees, and invidious comparisons of ultimacy won’t fly. Sadly, it isn’t only theologians and woo purveyors who make that mistake, though.

      1. Actually, if the past century of physics has taught us anything, it’s that what’s really going on (“ultimate reality”) is radically different from the world we perceive (“proximate reality”).

        I’m not saying that’s what Templeton means by “ultimate reality”, but to dismiss the phrase as meaningless seems to echo the Copenhagen attitude of “shut up and calculate”.

        1. Huh, that isn’t where I was going on this. Deeper explanations, with more scope and explanatory power (so, not “shut up and calculate”) tend to be good at discovering what reality actually is. Is “ultimate reality” a way of asking for “more comprehensive explanation”? Maybe – and in that case I’ve got nothing against it.

      2. Yes, I agree. I was making a Latin joke involving the comparative and mostly laughing at it alone. 🙂

  13. Whatever the pretensions of the rabble at Templeton to make religious twaddle a respectable partner to science, it is Templeton’s money that’s being spent and surely whoever it is that is paying the piper calls the tune?
    Ultimately just take the money to do the real science and ignore the rest(not not much effort is required for a bit of lip service) and sooner or later it will catch on to what is really happening and drop the whole thing, but in the meantime Templeton is a wonderful milch cow.

    1. Lip service is exactly what Templeton wants. It’s what they’re paying for. They don’t care about the science. They care about being able to say they have real scientists inside their tent.

      It’s all about optics (as the spin doctors say). As long as scientists keep taking their money and giving them the optics they want, they have no reason to change their strategy.

  14. [A jungle scene. The camera pans to the left to Sir David Attenborough who describes what we are about to see.]

    “Some say that it will one day exist. Others, mostly scientists, say that it is an impossible fantasy. I am speaking of the possibility that science and religion could together form a kind of miraculous hybrid in which objective hypothesis testing and falsification that is the venue of science could somehow be combined with the sensus divinitatis and unwavering faith that there is, somehow, a divine Creator. This, of course, is the characteristic of Western religion. We witness here, on this ground, yet another attempt to procreate just such an improbable creature who could truly wed knowledge of the material world with spiritual contact of the divine.”

    [The camera pans further to the left, and follows a passage through some bushes to show a gathering of mingling priests, academic theologians, and scientists. The scientists all carefully avoid eye contact with each other and the camera crew. S.D.A. continues].

    “In the center of this gathering, we see the Templeton Queen and a scientist who will bravely attempt to mate with her before the gathering. He circles her, eagerly tapping her extremities with his grant proposals while he coos scientific theories about biology and physics. These are mixed with seemingly random references to scripture and sophisticated apologetics. She judges him for his ability to obscure meaning while also seeming sincere. Look! Just now she signals her willingness to donate a golden egg! He approaches, nervously osculating the rump of the Templeton Queen as he drops his pants and climbs aboard…”

    [The camera quickly pans away to the gathering around the mating pair. They stare and confer with one another. The religious among them muttering prayers, while the scientists frantically take notes and compare charts with each other, nodding approval and looking very thoughtful. The camera switches back to the center, and we see a golden egg plop to the ground, now fertilized by the scientist].

    “The scientist, having done the deed, will soon wither away and die, shunned by his colleagues. What happens next is… not unexpected if experience is any judge”.

    [The egg starts to quiver and crack. The gathering leans in expectantly. A nose appears in an opening, then a wet, scaly head. The hybrid between science and religion glows and we here an angelic chorus from nowhere. The clouds part, and a ray of sunlight opens up onto the creature now emerging from the egg. It has reptilian eyes with horn-rimmed glasses].

    “See how the eyes, though not human, glimmer with intelligence. It seems to gather its thoughts as it surveys the crowd around it. Now it raises its head to utter it first revelation…”

    [The hybrid suddenly vanishes in a puff of smoke with a slight pop as air collapses into the space that it occupied. The gathering sighs resignedly.]

    “This…. is always the result in the end. Usually the egg never hatches. Even when it does, the seemingly impossible creature that supposedly knowledge of the divine with knowledge of objective reality never exists long enough to give any proof of success. Why? The theologians say that it is because scientists are, no matter how sincere they may seem, really attached to the materialistic side of reality and lack the True Faith that is needed to complete the creation that the theologians long for.”

    [The camera pans back to S.D.A. whose expression now becomes very earnest. He speaks from his heart].

    “But scientists– the vast majority of them– simply say that the problem with this endeavor is that it is simply impossible. It is impossible to compatibly combine knowledge of what exists with belief in what, in fact, does not exist. They propose that the hybrid always vanishes from this universe because it was not real in the first place”.

    [The camera pans to the gathering, which is now dispersing, and we fade to commercial].

    1. I, for one, bow to… oooh, shiny! [/runs away clutching a newly osculated magic golden egg that somehow appears for the imagination]

      I join the choir. Fun and apt on so many levels!

  15. Reblogged this on Nina's Soap Bubble Box and commented:
    It really shows how money corrupts everything and Templeton can’t fund actual science, when their mission is about religion

    worse, just christian as if other religions didn’t exit with completely other creation myths and rules

    this is why science is awesome it’s consistent and the same no matter where you are in earth




      1. I got in trouble recently with a similar analogy. Someone tried to explain that his Creation ‘Story’ was historical, whereas others was just a story. He got annoyed when I said his creation story wasn’t historical, but hysterical, however not nearly as funny as some of the others. He took offense to that, for some reason. Does theology require the remove of a sense of humor?

      2. I don;t have one, I accept evolution and science’s process of best guess. Given that nothing actually turns on it, it is horrifying that we genocide over stories

    1. It is better. It is the same science in low orbit nowadays, see the ISS astronauts do science experiments and – surprise, surprise, – agree on the results!

      1. when I first heard of “interfaith committess” I thought – that has to be the end of religion for them to pretend it’s the same *magic source* – just different cultural expression of it. … awkward

  16. In a way it is very heartening that religionists now have to pay, out of their own deep pockets, for evangelism in modern societies:

    Many reported finding new ways of integrating their thinking about science and religion. One individual said, “Every speaker helped me to understand things better, to consider new ideas and prompt new questions.” “I am thrilled at what I heard and eager to learn more,” declared another.

    But I can’t agree that this is just “intellectually” dishonest. It is, stronger, scientifically dishonest to cherrypick your experts among the yea-sayers. If anything it ironically demonstrates the incompatibility Templeton doesn’t want to show.

    the extraordinarily uncommon nature of human beings

    About that… This is a few hours old:

    “Galaxies like the Milky Way may not be the best cradles of life in the universe — giant galaxies devoid of newborn stars [which minimizes supernova extinction events] and at least twice as massive as the Milky Way could host 10,000 times more habitable planets,”. [ http://www.space.com/30335-giant-galaxies-habitable-planets.html ]

    These superhabitable galaxies join superhabitable planets (slightly larger, so more and longer productive, terrestrials) among superhabitable stars (slightly smaller, so longer lived, stars) as better places to be.

    That we appear on a runt planet circling an overgrown star in a backwater galaxy all speak for the humongous number of planets with language capable species the universe must have. If only 10, or even 1, of 10^11 stars in the Milky Way have them throughout history, the 10^11 other galaxies would suffice to explain why we happen to be here instead of where most life would be.

    So species analogous to us in that sense may be rare, as biologists think, but “extraordinarily uncommon”!? A figure around 10^11 of us, if so 10^6 or 10^14, isn’t making us ‘uncommon’.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, God, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. You – a being of a small mind, it appears – just don’t get _large_, do you?

  17. “considered issues from the doctrine of original sin to the…”

    That word ‘doctrine’ snagged my eye like a rusty nail. The word ‘doctrine’ is completely antithetical to science. How could you say – the doctrine of particle physics, or the doctrine of geographic distribution of species? Only in a vague metaphoric sense would the word ever appear in good science writing. Doctrine indeed!
    What about the ‘hypothesis’ of original sin? Now you’ve donned the white lab coat of real sciencey science.

  18. *Ultimate reality—as opposed to what? Proximate reality?

    “Ultimate reality” is what you nail your way up (or down, or across, or under) with a string of pitons known as Realized Ultimate Reality Pitons, or RURPs.
    I can’t remember the details of the origin of these, but I recall from reading Doug Scott’s (History of) Big Wall Climbing book many moons ago that two nut jobs (climber’s joke!) were trying a climb which they joked about as being “Ultimate Reality” in some form, but they had to invent and manufacture these lunatic pitons to “realise” the route … leading to the name. But it’s decades since I saw a copy of that book, let alone read it.
    It was the early 1960s. I suspect drugs were involved. Or severe dehydration. Inclusive OR.

    1. Oh, and for afficionados of high-brow BBC quizzes, “RURP” once appeared on “Call My Bluff, I think being bluffed by Dennis Norden, though the memory is distant, vague and YouTube doesn’t admit to knowledge of the episode.

    2. ‘nut jobs’? – I believe* in those days they really did carry a pocketful of nuts to jam into cracks. (*From reading about it – I get vertigo at the top of a ladder)


      1. Coonyard and Frost invented the RURP (and lots of other less unconventional pitons) through the early to mid 60s, then when they recognised the damage their tools were causing (routes first led on RURPs now taking channels and bongs) started to introduce specifically designed “nuts” and camming devices in the early 70s.
        By the time I learned what the sharp end of a rope is in the late 70s, it was rare to see someone carrying pitons without accompanying ice axes and crampons, but it’s probably a couple of decades since I saw a piton of any sort in real life. I’ve never placed or retrieved one.
        The original “nuts” were drilled-out machine nuts. Then people started filing the sides off-centre (for parallel-sided cracks), drilling them out more(for weight reduction) and then just machining their own deranged imaginings at lunch time in the milling shop. If you could put a pin in the map for the start of nutting and camming, the gritstone “Edges” around Sheffield are probably about right, but it was probably one of those cases of an idea whose time had come. The idea of “belaying” on a “jammed knot” goes back to … well, certainly the 1920s, and likely back to the likes of Whymper. You’re stretching the limits of my knowledge of climbing history now.
        You get UP a ladder? My Mum would get vertigo on a thick carpet.

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