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.