Pharyngula

It’s tough to tread that line between contempt and admiration: Jerry Coyne writes about the Templeton journalism awards. It really is a smart move on the part of the Templetonites to coopt journalists to sell their bankrupt line by tossing a good-sized chunk of money at them.

One interesting revelation is that the journalism awards aren’t simply handed out by cunning Templetonistas who spot a promising compromiser in the ranks of reporters — you have to apply for the fellowship. Hey, should I? They’re closed for now, but I imagine there will be a bunch of 2011 fellowships awarded, and I wouldn’t mind spending time in Cambridge.

All I have to do is write an essay “outlining [my] interest in science and religion and detailing a specific topic [i] hope to cover”. Here’s my start:

Religion is the antithesis of science, an anesthetic for the mind that disables critical thought and encourages the acceptance of inanity as fact, and wishful thinking as evidence.

Do you think it will appeal to their review panel?

Oh, probably not. Here’s John Horgan’s experience.

One Templeton official made what I felt were inappropriate remarks about the foundation’s expectations of us fellows. She told us that the meeting cost more than $1-million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion. But when I told her one evening at dinner that — given all the problems caused by religion throughout human history — I didn’t want science and religion to be reconciled, and that I hoped humanity would eventually outgrow religion, she replied that she didn’t think someone with those opinions should have accepted a fellowship. So much for an open exchange of views.

Oops. And John is so much more polite than I am.

Now I really wish those application essays were available for public reading. I’m sure they’re exceptionally entertaining.


Mooney’fessesup.I’dloveitifhe’dposthisapplicationessay!

Comments

  1. #1 Aquaria
    February 27, 2010

    I can see Mooney’s now–I deserve money from you because I thought PZ Myers was mean, and said so. Can I haz $$$ now?

  2. #2 NewEnglandBob
    February 27, 2010

    I have an idea (yes, it does happen once in a great while)

    Why don’t we wait until they open 2011 fellowships and then EVERY Pharyngulite should enter an essay and application.

    We could swamp then with thousands of applications!

  3. #3 Walton
    February 27, 2010

    Why don’t we wait until they open 2011 fellowships and then EVERY Pharyngulite should enter an essay and application.

    What are the minimum qualifications? I wrote a travel article for a student newspaper once, so do I count as a “journalist”? (Most Pharyngulites can certainly write more coherently than many of the people who purport to be “journalists”…) :-)

  4. #4 Owlmirror
    February 27, 2010

    All we need to do is rewrite that a little more tactfully. As Sastra has pointed out, you can get away with anything with these people as long as you modulate the phrasing and the tone just right.

    Something like…

    Religion rejects the empirical boundaries of science. It gives the mind the impetus to transcend harsh critical analysis and encourages the acceptance of anything at all as fact, and magical thinking as potential evidence, to be carefully considered.

  5. #5 Pierce R. Butler
    February 27, 2010

    … I am convinced I’ll never get any money from the Templeton Foundation

    You might remind the Templetonians about John Cleland, author of Fanny Hill.

    The London City Council (or whatever it was called in the 18th century) was so shocked ‘n’ appalled by JC’s novel that they gave him a lifetime pension, on condition he never write anything of the sort again.

    But wait until your book is out before you approach them with this ploy!

  6. #6 mmelliott01
    February 27, 2010

    Perhaps you could use one of my favorite lines from the movie Kundun, delivered by Mao to the Dalai Lama: “Religion is poison.”

  7. #7 Owlmirror
    February 27, 2010

    By the way PZ, why is the title written using non-breaking spaces ( )?

    That’s why it isn’t wrapping around as it usually does.

  8. #8 Zeno
    February 27, 2010

    Mooney positioned himself perfectly for Templeton. Will he eventually feel a twinge of guilt about that? (Well, there’s always confession, the convenient “sacrament of reconciliation.”)

  9. #9 PZ Myers
    February 27, 2010

    IT’S FUCKING DRIVING ME MAD.

    For some reason, everything I enter into the editing boxes in the site control panel is getting mangled, sticking non-conventional characters everywhere. It’s mucking up the HTML, too.

    I have no idea what is going on.

  10. #10 alysonmiers
    February 27, 2010

    The procedure for Templeton Fellows appears to be:

    1. Wave something shiny at the foundation to get their attention.

    2. Tell them how much you like to annoy the New Atheists.

    3. Profit!

    Do they even have any criteria beyond that?

  11. #11 MAJeff, OM
    February 27, 2010

    I noticed that Mooney listed the previous winners of his fellowship, and among them was William Saletan. Worthless company to be in.

  12. #12 Walton
    February 27, 2010

    The London City Council (or whatever it was called in the 18th century)

    That would be the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and Common Council of the Corporation of the City of London. [/pedant]

    Confusingly, the Corporation of the City of London still exists today, but only governs a small area (known as the “square mile”) within the centre of London, coextensive with the city limits of London in medieval times. For a long time, there was no single governing authority for the whole of the “Greater London” urban area. (There was a “London County Council” from the nineteenth century to 1965, however, and then a “Greater London Council” from 1965 until its abolition in 1986.)

    Stupidly, however, in 1998 the Labour government created a new office of “Mayor of London” and a “London Assembly”. This means that there is now both a “Mayor of London” and a “Lord Mayor of London”, which are completely separate offices – something which tends to confuse foreigners and non-Londoners. The Mayor of London, currently Boris Johnson, is elected by and responsible for the whole of the Greater London area, with six million inhabitants; by contrast, the Lord Mayor of London is elected by the aldermen of the Corporation of London, and is responsible only for the one-square-mile area of the historic City of London. This is clearly ridiculous, but Labour legislators are not known for their common sense.

  13. #13 Pierce R. Butler
    February 27, 2010

    Walton – Thanks for the details (the word “clarification” is plainly malapropos here).

    The only emendation that I would suggest is that your closing line has one or two excess words: “Labour” is obviously superfluous, and “common” seems extraneous as well…

  14. #14 Sengkelat
    February 27, 2010

    Wait, so Mooney didn’t just unexpectedly receive a Templeton award, he actually applied? So he consciously chose to be a sell-out shill for religion? Wow.

  15. #15 David Marjanovi?
    February 27, 2010

    All we need to do is rewrite that a little more tactfully. As Sastra has pointed out, you can get away with anything with these people as long as you modulate the phrasing and the tone just right.

    Something like…

    Solid, massive genius.

    Confusingly, the Corporation of the City of London still exists today, but only governs a small area (known as the “square mile”) within the centre of London, coextensive with the city limits of London in medieval times.

    ROTFLMAO!

    Wait, so Mooney didn’t just unexpectedly receive a Templeton award, he actually applied?

    It’s not an award, it’s a grant; he had to apply for it.

  16. #16 Tronzu
    February 27, 2010

    True face of Templeton Foundation finally very clearly revealed!

    Intellectual bankruptcy.

  17. #17 komokda
    February 27, 2010

    Religion is the antithesis of science, an anesthetic for the mind that disables critical thought and encourages the acceptance of inanity as fact, and wishful thinking as evidence.

    Thats fantastic. Really, its almost as good as Dawkin’s line about the god of the old testamaent being unpleasant.

  18. #18 komokda
    February 27, 2010

    Also, I should really learn how to spell ‘testament’.

  19. #19 Zeno
    February 27, 2010

    sticking non-conventional characters everywhere

    While this problem is going on, PZ, I will be wary. As a non-conventional character, I would prefer not to be stuck everywhere.

  20. #20 Legion
    February 27, 2010

    Pat Robertson: “…True story. Many years ago, PZ Myers made a pact with the Devil, and that’s why his HTML is cursed today.”

    Dizzy Doe-eyed Sycophant Assistant: “Amen Pat. Now let’s hear from our Templeton correspondent, Chris Mooney…”

  21. #21 Blake Stacey
    February 27, 2010

    I noticed that Mooney listed the previous winners of his fellowship, and among them was William Saletan. Worthless company to be in.

    Word.

  22. #22 george.wiman
    February 27, 2010

    They should give you money, even if under the table. You scare the crap out of people who donate to them.

  23. #23 David Marjanovi?
    February 27, 2010

    They should give you money, even if under the table. You scare the crap out of people who donate to them.

    Good point. Very good point.

  24. #24 Zetetic
    February 27, 2010

    @ Owlmirror:
    LOL! Nice…I would suggest one minor correction though.

    “and magical thinking other ways of knowing as potential evidence, to be carefully considered.”

    That (IMHO) would be much more likely to get by their censors, even though it means the same thing. They seem to like that particular phrase… “other ways of knowing”.

  25. #25 MadScientist
    February 27, 2010

    I’d like to see Mooney’s essay – it should not only be good for a laugh but should discredit himself as well.

  26. #26 chezjake
    February 27, 2010

    If I recall correctly, just over a year ago Mooney had a grant/fellowship for a semester at Princeton studying the history of science. Now he has applied for and received a grant from the Templetonians.

    Hypothesis: Mooney’s writing does not make him a decent living, therefore he goes looking for grants, etc. just to keep himself afloat.

  27. #27 Bryson Brown
    February 27, 2010

    I love the whole ‘open discussion’ thing– open, that is, to anything except conclusions they don’t like. Talk about not getting the point of scientific inquiry.

    I actually approached them years ago with a research proposal on religious explanations, aiming to explore what constraints there are on them– I did emphasize that there were real challenges, given that ‘agentive explanations’ involving an omnipotent being seemed in principle limitless (and I pointed out how the tradition has relied–at least in principal, if not in practice– on substantial commitments re. the nature and values of God to constrain the use of “Goddidit” explanations). For some reason, they just weren’t interested…

  28. #28 a.human.ape
    February 27, 2010

    Religion is the antithesis of science, an anesthetic for the mind that disables critical thought and encourages the acceptance of inanity as fact, and wishful thinking as evidence.

    Brilliant. This just got added to my list of favorite quotes.

  29. #29 Sioux Laris
    February 27, 2010

    The thing is, these really are the “good Christians,” but most of them seem only slightly discomfited by the work of the Ken Ham- and Sarah Palin-Xians (and only when something openly racist or “originally” stupid gets major publicity). Like the typical “otherwise reasonable” Muslim who was justifying of Rushdie being targeted for death, etc., most seem both aware and accepting of anything that will maintain their current position of power, and are peevish (and ever more willing to defend any unlawful actions by their extremists).

    There ARE (many) Christians, Muslims, and other believers who do NOT put up with this. They’re the ones who admit their faith is silly, from any rational viewpoint, but have had personal experiences that make it the basis of their lives. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  30. #30 Insightful Ape
    February 27, 2010

    That just leaves one question. Is this the type of character the CFI want to be associated with?
    Terribly disappointing.

  31. #31 Janet Holmes
    February 28, 2010

    Someone needs to go underground. All it would take is a previously rabid atheist to start writing the sort of pap suggested above, talk about how they’ve expanded their beliefs due to other worldly experiences and then when they get the prize to make a speech on the podium about how pernicious religion really is! A diary of what was written and for what purpose, detailing how the judges were sucked in, so easy because they wanted to be sucked in, would make the whole excercise all the more instructive. Then if several people in row did the same thing they might get the message.

    It would take more skill at subterfuge than I posess but someone must have the necessary talent.It would be interesting to see how much blather from a well known atheist it would take to get $1.5mil. Not that much I suspect.

  32. #32 Paul
    March 1, 2010

    Think Mooney ever gets around to adding “Templeton Fellow” to his introductory blurb on The Intersection? He’s well out of the closet, but this is missing from his list of accolades.