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← Correspondence regarding the Templeton Foundation

Correspondence regarding the Templeton Foundation - Comments

MichelleZB's Avatar Comment 1 by MichelleZB

Someone should pay me to be a science journalist for the Templeton foundation. I could donate my fee to the Richard Dawkins foundation. If we all did this, we could gradually re-direct Templeton funds...

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 21:17:00 UTC | #372527

Macropus's Avatar Comment 2 by Macropus

Well, good for Grayling and Dennett. Paying the journalists and not the speakers is an astonishing tactic. I hope they reported fully on its implications.

I do worry about refusing to engage with such organisations. One has to balance the (correct) strategy of thereby refusing to give them credibility, with the perception, no doubt encouraged by their propagandists, that we aren't up to the task.

At some point, though, we just have to say that it's not worth the time and effort of otherwise useful and productive scientists.

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 21:22:00 UTC | #372528

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 3 by Carl Sai Baba

The first time I heard of the Templeton Foundation, it was in reference to their prayer-healing study, in which they performed a decent experiment involving heart surgery recovery and published the obvious results.

That was rather respectable, but this business of paying journalists to show up is pure shiftiness.

It's too bad I will always have a tiny spot of sympathy in my brain for such a sneaky bunch.

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 21:27:00 UTC | #372529

walk's Avatar Comment 4 by walk

Josh,

Thanks for explaining the missing posts.

Hey - - stuff happens!!

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 21:35:00 UTC | #372532

aussieatheist_111's Avatar Comment 5 by aussieatheist_111

Excellent responses from Grayling and Dennett. We need more respected intellecutals to point out the obvious.

There's not much more loathsome than superstitious people using scientific respectability to cloak their uselessnes. That's not to mention all the impressionable people who start to think that religious inquiry is on par with science as a result of this rubbish.

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 22:21:00 UTC | #372536

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 6 by Peter Grant

Edwin Cartlidge's correspondence is somewhat repetitive.

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 22:40:00 UTC | #372537

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 7 by MrPickwick

We will never have enough of this "stridency",
remembering us that to templetonize is never nice.

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 23:27:00 UTC | #372542

DanDare's Avatar Comment 8 by DanDare

Peter Grant #389830 "Edwin Cartlidge's correspondence is somewhat repetitive."

I'm sure its just a form letter sent to each candidate at the same time.

It would be useful to get the list of all journalists paid to attend every such session and draw them away from the foundation. How could this be done? Suggest their own professional reputation is being tarnished? Pay them not to attend? Offer them more interesting gigs?

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 23:34:00 UTC | #372543

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 9 by Follow Peter Egan

Dennett: 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!”


I find this really depressing. Why are a lot of people swayed away from reason by clear charlatans£

Although I know plenty of people who had tentative cultural faith who are now "out" atheists thanks to Richard's book, as well as those by Grayling, Dennett, Hitchens etc; I always assumed that such literature would only confirm the faith of the feeble-minded who probably wouldn't understand the arguments on offer anyway and are happy with easy answers. But to actively be swayed the other way by reason...

Sun, 21 Jun 2009 23:44:00 UTC | #372544

Tumara Baap's Avatar Comment 10 by Tumara Baap

I hope Michael Shermer could learn a few things from Grayling and Dennet.

I'm glad these letters are being made public. TF is merely a propaganda machine and has been having a great run of late. About time someone countered them a little more forcefully.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 00:04:00 UTC | #372549

Tintern's Avatar Comment 11 by Tintern

It would be nice if someone could assume an identity and be invited as a speaker, and give such a disreputable display of chicanery - I'm talking about a professional comic/satirist - that people would simply have to laugh. Fight fire with fire.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 01:23:00 UTC | #372573

tomrees's Avatar Comment 12 by tomrees

It reminds me of those TV programmes where they show some Uri Geller type - spoon bending or whatever - and then ask a scientist whether it can be explained. It's a mismatch of expertise. They should ask a stage magician.

You won't get a useful discussion between scientists and theologians because the world view is irreconcilably different. They can't do anything but talk at cross purposes.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 02:10:00 UTC | #372589

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 13 by Roger Stanyard

Josh should flag this up: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2009/06/creationists_defend_darwin_fil.html

This is a far more serious case of deception, this time by the creationists.


On today's Sunday Sequence, the CEO of Creation Ministries UK responded to claims by one of the world's leading authorities on evolution that he was duped into appearing in an anti-Darwinian film.

Professor Peter Bowler, the author of a biography of Charles Darwin and many other books on the history of evolution, said he was interviewed for the The Voyage That Shook The World without realising that the film was being made by a Creationist group.

Professor Bowler, who has spent most of his academic career at Queen's University, Belfast, researching Darwinism, says he is unhappy to be appearing in what he regards as an "anti-Darwinian" film which offers an historically distorted portrait of Darwin. He claims that the film's narrative implies that Darwin's theory led him towards racism, whereas recent historical work by James Moore and Adrian Desmond shows that Darwin's scientific work was partly motivated by the naturalist's passionate opposition to racism.

Professor Bowler says he, along with his colleagues Sandra Herbert and Janet Browne, only discovered that they had inadvertently contributed to a Creationist film a month before the film's release. Peter Bowler also raised concerns about how the editing of his own interview could leave viewers with a false impression of his own perspective on Darwin.

Phil Bell, CEO of Creation Ministries UK, acknoweged that his organisation established a "front company" called Fathom Media, because they were concerned that experts such as Peter Bowler would not agree to take part in the film if they realised it was an "overtly Creationist" production. "At the end of the day," he said, "[when] people see 'Creationist', instantly the shutters go up and that would have shut us off from talking to the sort of experts, such as Professor Bowler, that we wanted to get to."

I asked Phil Bell if this method of securing an interview was "deceptive". He said: "Well, it could be called deceptive. But I think, at the end of the day, I would say that more people are concerned about how we've made a documentary, that's a world-class documentary, clearly with wonderful footage, with excellent interviews, and balanced open discussion."

Phil Bell also denied that his organisation had broken the ninth commandment by "bearing false witness" against Professor Bowler and his colleagues. "Nobody was told any lies," he said.

Watch the film trailer, below, which includes a short clip from Peter Bowler's interview.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 02:24:00 UTC | #372600

ryouga's Avatar Comment 14 by ryouga

It wasn't so long ago that Templeton sponsored endeavours were considered legit by some scientists, and maybe still considered at least semi-legit by some.
I remember at one of the Beyond Belief conferences the astrophysicist Sean Carroll had to chide some of his peers for taking Templeton money to fund research.
That was a few years ago but I'm guessing the argument as to the legitimacy of Templeton sponsored events is still ongoing. I suppose it shows what shape some scientists will contort themselves into to get a little funding.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 03:01:00 UTC | #372621

Humanist Wikitopian's Avatar Comment 15 by Humanist Wikitopian

I would find it interesting to see/know how Mr Cartlidge responded (if at all) to this correspondence, particularly in response to the closing questions posed in Dan Dennett's e-mail, and whether Mr Cartlidge subsequently did indeed actually go ahead and proceed with his participation with the Templeton Foundation?

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 04:31:00 UTC | #372667

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 16 by Cartomancer

I would be interested to know just how influential the Templeton Foundation and its money have been on the public perception of science and its incompatibility with religion. Obviously it has the potential for great harm, with its many millions of pounds to distribute, but as far as I can tell its actual impact on public perceptions has been rather limited. To be honest I had never heard of the Templeton Foundation before I read about it in The God Delusion, and I hardly ever meet anyone who knows what it is outside the charmed circle of internet atheists. I suspect it is rather better known among academic scientists of course.

Does Templeton money do what the foundation wants it to? If a scientist received a huge cash prize from another institution completely unrelated to science, but with its own agendas and preferences, would that do anything to affect their scientific standing? More importantly, would it affect the credibility of the company itself? Obviously scientists in the pay of tobacco companies are somewhat untrustworthy, but what would we think of a legitimate scientist who, say, received a massive prize from the British Cheese Council, or the Red Arrows Aerobatic Display Team, or the Walt Disney Company? Would that make us think that double gloucester or aerial displays or mickey mouse were any more compatible with science?

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 04:32:00 UTC | #372669

cnocspeireag's Avatar Comment 17 by cnocspeireag

Can anyone say how much journalists have been paid to attend Templeton funded conferences?

I ask not in a spirit enquiry so much as one of mean and vulgar curiosity.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 04:37:00 UTC | #372671

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 18 by hungarianelephant

cnocspeireag - I hear the standard fee is £87.50. Cheque, not cash.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 05:05:00 UTC | #372678

brunette's Avatar Comment 19 by brunette

Using Dennett's words I'd say: Does Cambridge University really feel comfortable being complicit with that project?

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 05:17:00 UTC | #372681

picaroon's Avatar Comment 20 by picaroon

This bit of Templeton propaganda is also enlightening.

'This is the fourth in a series of conversations among leading scientists, scholars, and public figures about the "Big Questions."

Scanning the list, I don't see *any* scientists. I do see some libertarian (in the American sense of the word) economists.

Templeton strikes me as a gateway think tank to the Disco Inst.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 05:25:00 UTC | #372684

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 22 by irate_atheist

18. Comment #389974 by hungarianelephant -

Marked as 'Offensive' due to avatar.

Edit: 20. Comment #389982 by Lucas -

Your comment may have been removed as per information from Josh (see top of front page). Nothing personal.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 05:28:00 UTC | #372688

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 21 by Dr. Strangegod

I'm pretty sure there was a post here yesterday (that seems to be missing now) that said that the Templeton website had a photo of Richard on it from a few years ago. I'd imagine you'd want that removed, wouldn't you, as it implies your support of their organization?

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 05:28:00 UTC | #372686

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 23 by bendigeidfran

Comment #389984 by Irate

Without God, any avatar is permissable. But that's going too far. Marked as 'grotesque'. No deal, hungarian.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 05:30:00 UTC | #372691

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 24 by hungarianelephant

21. Comment #389984 by irate_atheist

I would be disappointed if you didn't.

By the way, I have this banker on the phone. Says you're not getting his pension no matter what's in the box.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 05:53:00 UTC | #372701

Lisa Bauer's Avatar Comment 25 by Lisa Bauer

#20 Lucas

I'm pretty sure there was a post here yesterday (that seems to be missing now) that said that the Templeton website had a photo of Richard on it from a few years ago. I'd imagine you'd want that removed, wouldn't you, as it implies your support of their organization?


Oops, that was my comment, which disappeared in the crash. No, it was just assorted random photographs of the 2005 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship events, which if nothing else prove that Richard was in fact there as The God Delusion says -- it wasn't any kind of endorsement so far as I know, unless you count attending in the first place to be an endorsement (he isn't even named as there are no captions). Nevertheless, I admit it probably would be rather embarrassing to have one's photograph on Templeton's site in any capacity, so I'll leave you to find them on your own!

#17 cnocspeireag
Can anyone say how much journalists have been paid to attend Templeton funded conferences?


The 'Fellowships' are for $15,000, plus study for several weeks in Cambridge. See science journalist John Horgan's article about his experience at the 2005 conference, and this is mentioned on Templeton's site itself.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 06:38:00 UTC | #372717

Gary Rosen's Avatar Comment 26 by Gary Rosen

A.C. Grayling and Daniel Dennett have refused to talk to a serious journalist (Edwin Cartlidge of Physics World) about a serious subject (philosophical materialism) because the journalism fellowship under which he is pursuing this subject is sponsored by the Templeton Foundation. They will have nothing to do with the Templeton Foundation, they say, because our aim is somehow to "muddy the waters" about the relationship between science and religion.

That's not how we see it at all. First-rate, peer-reviewed science is essential to our work at the Foundation and to the progressive vision of the late Sir John Templeton, who was deeply committed to scientific discovery. Many of our largest grants go to pure scientific research (like our support for the Foundational Questions Institute in Physics and Cosmology, the Godel Centenary Research Prize Fellowships, and the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard).

But, yes, we do like to include philosophers and theologians in many of our projects. Excellent science is crucial to what we do, but it is not all that we do. We are a "Big Questions" foundation, not a science foundation, and we believe that the world's philosophical and religious traditions have much to contribute to understanding human experience and our place in the universe. For Grayling and Dennett to compare this rich, expansive discussion to a dialogue with astrologers is silly. They know better.

Gary Rosen
Chief External Affairs Officer
John Templeton Foundation
grosen@templeton.org

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 08:40:00 UTC | #372752

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 27 by Cartomancer

We are a "Big Questions" foundation, not a science foundation, and we believe that the world's philosophical and religious traditions have much to contribute to understanding human experience and our place in the universe.
Why do you believe this? Philosophy has indeed made valuable contributions to our understanding of the universe, but philosophy is basically the same thing as science, a part of the combined intellectual project of applying reason to evidence. Theology has made no such contribution to this project, and must first be shown to have some validity before it can be admitted. Just "believing" that it is relevant does not make it so. Its relevance must be demonstrated.

The astrologers have comprehensively failed to demonstrate the relevance of their discipline, though it was not always so. Astrology formed a respectable part of mainstream science for many centuries, but now we know that their claims do not stand up to scrutiny. The theologians have also failed to sustain the validity their discipline. Why, given this, is it obviously silly to exclude the former but not the latter?

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 08:46:00 UTC | #372756

Tezcatlipoca's Avatar Comment 28 by Tezcatlipoca

re Comment #390049 by Gary Rosen

For Grayling and Dennett to compare this rich, expansive discussion to a dialogue with astrologers is silly. They know better.


For the Templeton Foundation to compare bronze aged mythology to science and try to frame it as a rich, expansive discussion under the veneer of "Big Questions" is silly. You should know better.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 08:48:00 UTC | #372757

root2squared's Avatar Comment 29 by root2squared

25. Comment #390049 by Gary Rosen

we believe that the world's philosophical and religious traditions have much to contribute to understanding human experience and our place in the universe. For Grayling and Dennett to compare this rich, expansive discussion to a dialogue with astrologers is silly. They know better.


Even astrology has a much higher probability of being true than religion. Because planets and stars do exists. On the other hand, talking snakes do not. Idiot.

We are a "Big Questions" foundation


Like, does an apple fall down when no-one is there to see it? Does the law of gravity apply if we close our eyes? Why did snakes stop talking?

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 08:57:00 UTC | #372760

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 30 by Steve Zara

Comment #390049 by Gary Rosen

For Grayling and Dennett to compare this rich, expansive discussion to a dialogue with astrologers is silly. They know better.


You are far too harsh on astrology. It has a very rich history. People have been examining the heavens for millenia and have found great meaning in the patterns and movements of the planets and stars.

This prejudice against tradition is unacceptable. I think it is only fair you invite Mystic Meg
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/mystic_meg/
to your philosophical discussions.

Mon, 22 Jun 2009 08:58:00 UTC | #372761