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Correspondence regarding the Templeton Foundation

The Templeton Foundation organizes an annual meeting in Cambridge where science journalists are invited (and paid very handsomely, not to speak but to listen! When were you last paid to go and be a part of the audience at a conference?). A few years ago, when I was more naive than I am now (and not knowing that the audience were being paid to listen) I agreed to speak (unpaid) at one of these meetings (I described the experience in The God Delusion.) If I were invited again, I would decline – indeed I did decline when I was invited the following year. One of this year's paid journalists, Edwin Cartlidge, wrote a letter to Anthony Grayling and Daniel Dennett, soliciting their cooperation. These two distinguished philosophers shared their correspondence with a group of people, including me. Dan's and Anthony's reasons for not cooperating with Templeton seemed to me so good, and so well expressed, that I suggested that they should be more widely publicised. All three gentlemen gave their permission. In Mr Cartlidge's case it was especially gracious of him because he is obviously vulnerable to being tarred with the Templeton brush. I hope that commenters on this thread will reserve their fire for the Templeton organization rather than Edwin Cartlidge himself. I see him as in much the same position I was in when I agreed to go, a victim of exactly the kind of subversion of science that Templeton is making its speciality.

Richard Dawkins




From: Edwin Cartlidge
To: Anthony Grayling

Dear Prof Grayling, I am a science journalist currently taking part in the
Templeton Cambridge journalism fellowship programme in science and religion..
As part of the programme each fellow takes an indepth look at one particular
topic, and I have chosen "materialism". In the first place I want to
understand simply what is meant by the term (as it seems to have various
forms) and then to understand how a materialistic viewpoint can or cannot be
reconciled with the world around us (particularly as regards human nature).
For this I will be speaking to a number of different experts, including
scientists, philosophers and theologians. Since you have written extensively
on many topics relevant to this (and having heard you talk on it with Melvyn
Bragg) I thought that you would be a good person to talk to, and wondered
whether you might be free at some point in the next three weeks to speak over
the phone. I imagine the conversation would last around 20 to 30
minutes.

If you would like to speak to me I would be grateful if you could tell me
when would be a good time for me to call and what number I should use.

best regards,
Edwin Cartlidge.




Dear Mr Cartlidge
Thank you for your message. I hope you will understand that this is by no means
directed at you personally, but I don't engage in Templeton-associated matters.
I cannot agree with the Templeton Foundation's project of trying to make
religion respectable by conflating it with science; this is like mixing
astrology with astronomy or voodoo with medical research, and I disapprove of
Templeton's use of its great wealth to bribe compliance with this project.
Templeton is to all intents and purposes a propaganda organisation for religious
outlooks; it should honestly say so and equally honestly devote its money to
prop up the antique superstitions it favours, and not pretend that questions of
religion are of the same kind and on the same level as those of science - by
which means it persistently seeks to muddy the waters and keep religion credible
in lay eyes. It is for this reason I don't take part in Templeton-associated
matters. My good wishes to you -

Anthony Grayling




From: Edwin Cartlidge
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 9:55 AM
To: Dennett, Daniel C.
Subject: Questions on materialism


Dear Prof Dennett, I am a science journalist currently taking part in the Templeton Cambridge journalism fellowship programme in science and religion. As part of the programme each fellow takes an indepth look at one particular topic, and mine is “materialism”. In the first place I want to understand simply what is meant by the term (as it seems to have various forms) and then to understand how a materialistic viewpoint can or cannot be reconciled with the world around us (particularly as regards human nature).. For this I will be speaking to a number of different experts, including scientists, philosophers and theologians. Since you have written extensively on the philosophy of mind and related areas I thought that you would be a good person to talk to, and wondered whether you might be free at some point in the next three weeks to speak over the phone. I imagine the conversation would last around 20 to 30 minutes.

If you would like to speak to me I would be grateful if you could tell me when would be a good time for me to call and what number I should use.


best regards,

Edwin Cartlidge.




From: “Dennett, Daniel C.”
To: Edwin Cartlidge
Sent: Saturday, June 20, 2009 11:53:16 PM
Subject: RE: Questions on materialism

Dear Mr Cartlidge,

I have had my say about materialism and the persistent attempt by religious spokespeople to muddy the waters by claiming, without a shred of support, that materialism (in the sense I have defended for my entire career) is any obstacle to meaning, or to an ethical life—see, e.g., BREAKING THE SPELL, pp302-307.

I see no reason to go over that ground again, and I particularly don’t want to convey the impression, by participating in an interview with you, that this is, for me, a live issue. It is not. If you had said that you were studying the views of scientists, philosophers and, say, choreographers on this topic, I would at least be curious about what expertise choreographers could bring to it. If you had said scientists, philosophers, and astrologers, I would not even have replied to your invitation. The only reason I am replying is to let you know that I disapprove of the Templeton Foundation’s attempt to tie theologians to the coat tails of scientists and philosophers who actually do have expertise on this topic.

Many years ago I made the mistake of participating, with some very good scientists, in a conference that pitted us against astrologers and other new age fakes. I learned to my dismay that even though we thoroughly dismantled the opposition, many in the audience ended up, paradoxically, with an increased esteem for astrologers! As one person explained to me “I figured that if you scientists were willing to work this hard to refute it, there must be something to it!” Isn’t it obvious to you that the Templeton Foundation is eager to create the very same response in its readers? Do you really feel comfortable being complicit with that project?


Best wishes,

Daniel Dennett

TAGGED: RICHARD DAWKINS, SCIENCE


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