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← A response from Shermer

godsbelow's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by godsbelow

How can somebody who’s a big name in the skeptic movement take money from an organization devoted to blurring the boundaries between faith and science? All it does is enable the Templeton folks to list him as one of the species in their petting zoo.

This criticism is specious. If a skeptic speaks up in defence of rational thought, it is irrelevant who is paying the skeptic to do so; the point is to give rational points of view as much publicity as possible. It does not constitute "selling-out", which Jerry Coyne is at pains to imply without actually verbalising. Whichever side of the debate over economics one is on, it can't be denied that it is a debate grounded, for the most part, on rational arguments. It isn't like Shermer, having received money from the Templeton Foundation, has suddenly changed his tune on science and superstition.

Christopher Hitchens has accepted invitations to speak at synagogues on several occasions, and he no-doubt receives a speaker's fee for doing so. One could hardly accuse him of being "one of the species" in the Jewish religious community's "petting zoo". Again, skeptics such as Steven Pinker, Lawrence M. Krauss, Hitchens and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have also contributed to the Big Questions page at the Templeton Foundation's website. (I can't say whether they've received a fee for contributing; maybe someone who knows something about freelance writing could explain the usual procedure for that sort of thing.) The fact that they have had arguments published by an organisation that aims to promote irrational thought does not automatically undermine their credibility as skeptics.

As I said on the earlier post, Coyne's criticism of Shermer puts me in mind of Hitchens' caveat over attributing a point of view with which one disagrees, especially when it is expressed by someone with whom one has agreed on other matters, to mere avarice:

It is a frequent vice of radical polemic to assert, and even to believe, that once you have found the lowest motive for an antagonist, you have identified the correct one.

Coyne ought to know better.

Thu, 02 Sep 2010 15:14:02 UTC | #509872