The Templeton conundrum

Money is essential to science, and at the same time it can be a dangerous corrupter. There's a common argument, for instance, that a lot of biomedical research is untrustworthy because it is done at the behest of Big Pharma dollars — it's more persuasive to people than it should be, because there is a grain of truth to it, and it would be easy to get sucked into the lucrative world of the industry shill. However, we also have a counterbalance: scientists don't go into research because they want to be rich, and we are also educated with a set of principles that puts the integrity of our observations above all. But we also have to be honest: there is temptation, and there are tradeoffs, and there are scientists who lose sight of their principles when the stakes get higher.

We have sources of funding that are supposed to be independent of politics or ideological distortion, institutions like the NIH and NSF. Of course, we know they aren't pure — witness the influence of the religious right in crippling support for stem cell research — but for the most part we can at least feel secure that most of the money is distributed by scientists, for scientists, and that scientific values dominate.

There is a second kind of funding available that tug at the scientist, whether it's a pharmaceutical company, a military arms company, or an industrial conglomerate, that do stir some ethical concerns (or the potential of ethical concerns) that at least have one shard of hope to offer: they all ultimately want something that will work. They need scientists to generate innovations and build improvements on existing ideas, even if they may also pressure one to take shortcuts or hide confounding results. Scientists can work under those conditions and make progress. Don't ask us to make up data, and we can operate.

But what about a tobacco company that wants to obscure information about health problems with their own obfuscating 'data' to cast doubt? What about a mining concern that wants a fudged environmental report that downplays the impact of their operations? I think we'd all agree that this third class are cases where the scientist has betrayed his mission, and has violated a cardinal principle, that is, to follow the evidence where ever it may lead.

How about an institution that hands out large grants with the expectation that the work will help reconcile science and religion, or that it will actually find evidence of a deity?

I'd class that with my third group, the funding source that wants a particular conclusion and can't be trusted to be scrupulous about following the evidence where ever it may lead. They have an agenda, and it is one of the most corrupting and untrustworthy causes of all, religion. They already know the answer, and they only want to pay for results that can be interpreted to bolster their unsupportable claims. Even if they are not asking that anyone fake evidence, we know that any line of inquiry that leads away from their desired answer will be abandoned, even if it is leading to the right answer. They are antithetical to good science.

Such an organization exists: the Templeton Foundation. And, boy are they loaded, with a massive endowment and the willingness to throw large sums of money around. Scarily huge sums — the kind of money that will tempt even the most principled scientist to compromise a little bit.

The Templeton Foundation has every right to do this. They should be allowed to offer you a million dollars to make up a story to prop up their superstitious mythology, and they should also have the right to offer you a million dollars if you will let them sleep with your spouse. I would argue, though, that we also have a moral obligation to refuse either of those offers, and the fact that anyone would make that kind of offer is an indication of a kind of ethical bankruptcy on their part.

Templeton is wily, though. They don't make suggestions quite that blatant. Instead, they hand out money to scientists who they already know are sympathetic to their aims, who also want to see god in the universe. They also offer grants to scientific conferences, saying in essence, "Please include a discussion of the place of faith in science…you don't have to agree with it, but you must be aware that it is important to many people," and organizers take the money. They go to science magazines (like Seed) and buy ad space, just like Bio-Rad or Tanqueray Gin, and push their philosophy as if it belongs there. They blur the edges everywhere they can.

The devil's seduction techniques are devious and subtle, but there's no hiding what he ultimately wants.

That's what makes these decisions difficult — it isn't as simple as a demand to endorse their god on each individual's part, it's the gestalt, the assembly of a body of associations that the Templeton Foundation clearly hopes will add a scientific luster to their religious goals. Each little pot of money goes out with the intent of tightening the link between science and religion, and increasing the dependency of investigators on their largesse. It's a worry, because they clearly have a vision of what answer science should give, and that in itself is the antithesis of good science.

So I have to commend Jerry Coyne for turning down participation in a Templeton-sponsored event (and for sharing the correspondence on the topic). It's not an intrinsically bad event — it's the World Science Festival in New York, which looks like it could be informative and entertaining — but the Templeton Foundation has paid their money and has their name prominently slapped up there on the advertising. The Templeton gets to piggy-back their mission on the authority of the science being presented, and that's not comfortable.

I repeat, the meeting itself isn't bad, but it is tainted by the support of the Templeton Foundation, and that foundation does not support such meetings because they support science — they support religion, and want to draw science into its embrace. That is grounds for concern. If you want one reason to avoid Templeton like it was a plague rat, look at the Biologos site set up by Francis Collins with Templeton support. That is the future of Templetonian science — facile garbage where quantum physics is dragooned into somehow, magically providing a god a superficially scientific mechanism for intervention. He seriously wants to argue that an invisible god making undetectable changes in the world is scientific…and the Templeton gladly funds that nonsense.

We need to make a stand now, before Templeton worms their fingers into more scientific pies. Turn down invitations from Templeton-affiliated events, and learn to recognize the Templeton logo as a symbol for dubious work trying to exploit science to prop up superstition.

And I also hope that Seed can afford to abstain from taking their ad money in the future.

If it's any consolation, PZ, blog posts like this set back the Templeton marketing budget back a few hundred grand.

There's one very good reason to participate in such an event: The attendees are much more likely to be open-minded than those who attend creationist/evolutionist debates. There is the possibility of changing a few minds.

There can be really only one accommodation between religion and science: Religion eventually must accommodate science, as it always has done (or as it had done among the more open-minded believers).

The more believers who can accept evolution along with their religion, the more the holdouts will look irrational and backward. The goal should not to convert people to atheism, but to convince them of the reality of the science, and let them make the accommodation in their own minds. That alone will diminish the power of religion to exert undue control over so many lives.

Templeton Foundation = Creation Ministries for liberal believers

Of course when Jerry Coyne refuses the money, it's more likely to go to someone more sympathetic to religion than he is.

So I don't know. Basically, I think the more money going to science, the better. As long as Templeton is a small amount of the total, I doubt it's much of a problem.

Don't forget, they gave ID a black eye, basically by offering money for real ID science, and then getting no actual ID science proposals (there were proposals, as I understand, but how could any be for real ID science?).

I don't blame anyone for turning it down, especially someone like Coyne who wouldn't want his own message corrupted. I wouldn't really blame anyone for accepting it, either, so long as their science was done properly.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

I was a little disturbed recently to discover that Bloggingheads.tv is now taking Templeton money. Bh.tv founder Bob Wright defended this in a recent monovlog, but I found it rather unpersuasive. Among other things, Wright cited the fact that bh.tv regular and nonbeliever John Horgan has taken Templeton money in the past -- but considering that Horgan has publicly regretting doing so, that's a rather poor argument. And of course there was the standard defense that the Foundation isn't dictating the views to be taken, but even that was expressed in rather vague and unsatisfying terms.

And now I see that Wright has a book coming out ("The Evolution of God") that sounds like it's going to be right up the Templeton Foundation's accomodationist alley.

By Screechy Monkey (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

I've been worrying for the past while about how science can continue to work at all. Science is a game, played by humans, for a variety of purposes. The pure noble goal of finding out how the world works, by curiosity-driven research, and the allied noble goal of telling the world (anyone who will listen) how the world works, are clearly strong motivators (and those goals and the desire to pursue them have likely evolved along with us--- started evolving probably a bit before language, even (what would be the purpose of listening to someone, if they weren't going to tell you something true or useful? Methods of deception likely came a BIT later though probably not by much)).

But there are other games to play besides Science, (e.g. the game of getting more than your share), and finding out how the world really works tends to impact heavily on those games (more efficient weapons, agricultural methods, logistics, the whole shebang) and so the noble goals get a little drowned and beaten up, from time to time.

The Templeton Foundation seems like a Johnny-come-lately to the party. LOTS of other interested groups funding research, and only a few disinterested groups. Let's hope the noble goals don't get totally lost in the shell game.

[No comments posted before I started writing this...I'm a slow typist (RSI, sigh), so let's see, this will be comment number...24, maybe :-)]

I would be nice if science was sufficiently funded that it could tell the Templeton people, "thanks, but no thanks. Stick your money where the sun don't shine." Or we could bankrupt them with one event. Until then, we will have to live with it. Sigh.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

Wow those guys at Biologos think God sent a flood and that there are lesson to be learned from it that are pertinent to the life of faith. Cuckoo!

By tweetybirdie386sx (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

The Templeton Foundation also sponsors the Federalist Society, which can fairly take its funds since it has a coincident agenda. And to whom I am grateful for a nice repast some weeks ago, which I could enjoy on free conscience since nothing at all was asked for my presence, except to hobnob with law students.

Templeton Foundation = Creation Ministries for liberal believers

I wouldn't necessarliy be giving them the benefit of the doubt about the myth that they're all about the "liberal believers" stuff. Go browse the Biologos site and you'll see what I mean.

That is the future of Templetonian science — facile garbage where quantum physics is dragooned into somehow, magically providing a god a superficially scientific mechanism for intervention.

It never fails: science does the hard work to discover the mysteries of the universe, and kooks of all kinds step in and try to turn it into something stupid.

By RamblinDude (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

Methods of deception likely came a BIT later though probably not by much

Much earlier. Baboons lie regularly.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

Ultimately, what this all comes down to is human greed and the pervasive desire to accumulate wealth, knowing that wealth equals power. It's the simplest economic formula on this planet. Sadly, wealth doesn't always correlate with intelligence, as many congressional supporters of creationism can attest. This flaunting of ignorance and wealth is what undermines our system of governance and hinders progress.

We see this type of ignorant money being thrown around by the Anti-Vaccine morons, the anti-global warming crowd, holistic medicine jerks, in addition to the Templeton foundation and its ilk.

Wealth also controls perception and influence of the general public. It is one of the reasons why events in the Middle East are projected with so much Israeli bias. Sadly, there is no objective future when income inequality remains a significant influential issue. The religious institutions with the most wealth will remain the most powerful in the world. The social and political organizations that maintain monetary control and inequality will continue increasing the divide. Ultimately, it is science, and progress that may help thwart a future of increased greed and inequality.

By Helioprogenus (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

The Simpleton Foundation exists only for the express purpose of furthering the cause and spread of religious idiocy, and it does this under the guise of bestowing cash awards to seemingly untainted scientists whose science is purportedly free from outside influence, both secular and religious. The lure of free money is indeed tempting, but there is also the innate responsibility not to be so persuaded by these pernicious lures which may result in compromising one's principles and dignity.
To those scientists who have been approached by the Simpletons with an offer of cash to endorse a compromise with religion and have declined the offer on purely ethical grounds I offer my highest regard and admiration. To those scientists who have compromised their work and principles with the promise of monetary rewards and endorsed what the Simpletons aspired to in the way of religious mention, I offer my contempt and low regard, and only hope you will be vilified on the petard of quasi-scientist and closet religionist. You deserve the Simpleton prize, literally and figuratively.

The Templeton Foundation did do one good thing.

They stopped funding the Dishonesty Institute and made no secret why. They called them a propaganda organization and said they didn't want to put their money into it.

There are a lot more worthwhile places to put their money than in supporting the murky intersection of science and religion. There is an urgent need for more TB, malaria, and flu drugs. We have many for the first two diseases and a whole 4 for the influenza virus. Most of the drugs are losing effectiveness because of resistance. A new TB, xdr TB, is resistant to all known drugs and has a mortality of greater than 50%. The new swine flu came preloaded with resistance to 2 similar old amantadine type drugs.

There's also the Fetzer Institute ("This work includes scientific research into the human qualities of love and forgiveness and scientific explorations of the interconnected nature of universe, life, and consciousness. It also focuses on exploring spiritual concepts and practices to foster the awareness of the power of love and forgiveness, and on healing the rift between these two approaches to discovery and understanding."):

http://www.fetzer.org/Programs.aspx?PageID=Programs&NavID=3

The Luce Foundation's Clair Boothe Luce Program (scholarships for women in the sciences with at least 50% going to Catholic colleges or universities):

http://www.hluce.org/cblprogram.aspx

And the George Foundation ("Programs and initiatives that promote an integrated approach to healing mind, body, heart and spirit and empowering patients to be responsible for their own health."):

http://www.georgefamilyfoundation.org/integrativeMedicine/

Pretty much any sponsor of the insipid "Speaking of Faith" public radio program is a suspect source of science funding, and they're the usual suspects for a progressive-flavored injection of woo into science and culture.

That is the future of Templetonian science — facile garbage where quantum physics is dragooned into somehow, magically providing a god a superficially scientific mechanism for intervention.

Collins may have convinced himself he has "reconciled" his faith with science by waving his wand and shouting "Stupefy!", but his spellbook has but precious little use when one is actually trying to do quantum physics.

On Templeton: The Templeton Foundation is just adding gold embroidery to the tattered shreds of people's faith. Science/faith integration is important to many because science has so clearly and decisively won. As such, I am optimistic that the Templeton Foundation will eventually be considered a crank institution like Focus On the Family (in which direction it rapidly seems to be heading). But, by all means, let's do what we can to grant them a speedy demise.

Wealth also controls perception and influence of the general public. It is one of the reasons why events in the Middle East are projected with so much Israeli bias

OT... I know this is a popular theory, but I think it's missing a big point. Israel is effectively a forward military base for the United States empire; that's the main reason it gets good press in the United States (plus end-times nuttiness plus a desire to keep israel within judeochristianity (heh)). Israel, for all it's wealth and (nuclear) power, is close to a pariah state in Europe.

To be honest I'd feel very little guilt in taking their money. The less money they have the better, and I don't think their agenda really works. In fact I think by conceeding science is good they just make it easier to shrug off religion for everyone.

By Marc Abian (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

Mike Haubrich, FCD #13

I wouldn't take a penny from the Templeton Foundation. They were among the top ten donators supporting Calif's Prop 8.

They also gave the $50,000 Epiphany Prize to Mel Gibson's anti-semitic movie The Passion of the Christ. The Templeton Foundation supports bigotry as well as religion.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

How do you figure their agenda doesn't work, Marc? I mean, if it's that YOU would take their money and ignore the agenda, that's all well and good, but it's not generally you they're looking to support.

Rob C@6:

Methods of deception likely came a BIT later though probably not by much.

David Marjanović, OM@12:

Much earlier. Baboons lie regularly.

Capuchins in Costa Rica also lie (video), so it either predates the old-world/new-world split, or was convergent (which seems more likely).

I'd totally take all the money they wanted to give me, and spend it on a Caribbean vacation. When they came after me asking for results, I'd show them my data set concerning the appearance of the virgin Mary in the ice cubes of my mojitos. It's as good a place as any to look for god, and a better place than most to spend Templeton money.

A related item as long as we are discussing science.

There is an excellent article on the neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran in the May 11, 2009, page 76 of The New Yorker. To those who log onto The Science Network, and especially the series Beyond Belief, Ramachandran was a delight to listen to and marvel at his knowledge and insight. Good man! I'm willing to bet if approached by the Simpleton Foundation he will utilize all his neurons and tell them what they can do with their religion tainted fraud money. Read it if you can. We need more scientists of this man's caliber.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, these are the New Creationists. They are embracing science slightly more than the traditional creationists, but they are still doing the same thing in principle: underming science in order to further a definitionally, in practice, and commonly acknowledged unscientific agenda.

I have to admit that my initial reaction was "How can I get some of that?"

Is there a way to interest the Templeton Foundation in avian phylogenetics?

By John Harshman (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

This makes sense...

"Templeton went on to found other successful investment funds such as Templeton World Fund. But in 1992 he sold the Templeton Funds to the Franklin Group for $440 million, a move which freed him to devote his time to the work he considered really important — the promotion of religion and spirituality.

Templeton believed in the possibility of religious as well as scientific advance, and argued that theologians should match the achievements of science with spiritual research, harnessing the tools of science to make “progress”.

From the 1970s onwards he devoted increasing amounts of his time and money to improving the world’s “spiritual wealth”.

In 1973 he inaugurated the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, an annual award to remedy the Nobel Foundation’s omission of religion from its prizes."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/2269415/Sir-John-Templeton.h…

By Umair Rahat (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

The doing of honest science contains a built in correction mechanism that needs to be used more often.

As a general rule science is an intensely social enterprise, with ideas and information shared widely and frequently.

More often than not, scientists who are making the latest discoveries are young, gregarious and love to solve problems.

There exists a publishing mechanism with numerous built-in features that attempt to tease reliable information from the flood of data that is continuously create.

Taking advantage of such an environment with vigor, with consideration of the reputation and role of basic and advanced research in times yet to come, might help to expose sell-outs to money mills like the Templeton Foundation.

Science is unusual among human pursuits in that it is an inborn trait; everybody gathers data, does experiments and draws conclusions. It's how children learn. But scientists require themselves to do so with a ball-busting rigor and a confining honesty uncommon to most human endeavors.

In other words, good, hard, honest work. Can't get much closer to traditional American values than that.

The price of scientific freedom is indeed eternal vigilance, known also as rigorous peer review. And, as necessary, rigorous peer pointing and laughing backed up by even more rigorous peer review.

E Pluribus Unum

By Crudely Wrott (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

That's funny - I've met a lot of people who said they'd like to get into science so they can rake in the money; I've always told them they'll be as wealthty as the church mouse as a scientist. Where do people get the silly notion that scientists are rich? Perhaps they only care to see the very few exceptions.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

My great-grandma, who was Irish, would have smacked me hard and told me she'd kill me before I got to spend any blood money. So on the one hand she wouldn't want me to take money from Templeton's foundation but on the other hand if I did take money she'd exercise her xian virtues (and trigger finger) on me. Of course my fears are based on the literal interpretation of a long dead ancestor's words.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

I got a Templeton mailer in my campus mailbox yesterday. I haven't recycled it yet, so that I could look the book they were hocking. Some scientific proof of god, or the like.

By Robster, FCD (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

Marc Abian

To be honest I'd feel very little guilt in taking their money.

I must admit the same mixed response. I'm fascinated by the importance that people attach to their 'religious' beliefs - be they supernatural, racial, political or sports related. So Templeton does seem like a good possibility for taking their money, even if it leads in directions that they won't like. Then again I'm still trying to finish my doctorate, so I'm not a master of the grant process by any means. Then again I read things like:

Mike Haubrich about their being in the

top ten donators supporting Calif's Prop 8

or 'Tis Himself noting:

They also gave the $50,000 Epiphany Prize to Mel Gibson's anti-semitic movie The Passion of the Christ. The Templeton Foundation supports bigotry as well as religion.

And those are definite non-starters for me. So, where do you go for grants (aside from the usual NSF, AAAS, etc) if you actually want to research religion? I'm open for any suggestions or criticisms - I'm (nearly) done with finals, and could use a reasoned debate fix. :-)

On another area...

Holbac's comment about Ramachandran:

Read it if you can. We need more scientists of this man's caliber.

He blows Sacks out of the water in terms of scientific rigor. If you haven't read his chapter on denial of paralysis in Phantoms in the Brain, I highly recommend it (along with the rest of the book). So nice to see somebody with an M.D. who's willing to test their hypotheses and actually do research.

Back to the last few paragraphs for tomorrow's class. Cheers!

Nate

One thing I have to clarify. The Templeton Foundation did not donate to the Prop 8 campaign. The Templeton family made personal donation to that cause.

Okay, I read the thing down to where you compared Templeton with Tanqueray Gin and then I said, "that's not fair". That's my Gin. I drink that stuff by the gallon (with the right mix of tonic water and lime juice). And they have a right to buy the ad space because it's a legal product that's for sale on its own merits. No slime. Templeton is pure slime. You do Tanqueray a gross injustice to put it in the same sentence with the sleaze bags at the Templeton foundation.

A tall, iced Tanq & Tonic on a hot afternoon is indeed one of life's great pleasures.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

With you on the Tanqueray Gin, Canuck. Nothing better to cleanse the palette between the courses of a good meal. Mmmmm. Tanqueray and tonic and lime.

If the gin was the basic foundation of knowledge and tonic (my grandfather called soda pop tonic) was a raft of confirmed test results and if lime was like insight, then you and I could knock off several controversial hypotheses before dessert!

Problem is, revealed knowledge, the kind the pious seem to value, hates anything new. If the religiotards were in charge, we'd be laying low. Resist religiotards with finesse and grace. We already know how to be as cunning as the serpent and as harmless as the dove.* And we know that they just can't stand it.

hee--hee

*ok, some here don't. that's the reason we keep coming back!

By Crudely Wrott (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

PZ

The Templeton Foundation did not donate to the Prop 8 campaign. The Templeton family made personal donation to that cause.

Still personally disgusting, but a lot like the dilemma we faced at the recent AERA meeting in San Diego. The Hyatt Regency there is owned by a big prop 8 donor. The Hyatt itself has decent non-discriminatory policies for employees, but the ownership (and profit from reservations) would go to the owner. As a result the Hyatt went from around 800 room reservations to around 200. I swung by to see what the results were like. Other hotels were crowded as you'd expect for a yearly conference. Hyatt was a ghost town. Felt sorry for the workers, felt great about what it was doing to the owner's profits. In a similar vein, we need better funding options than Templeton.

I picked up a copy of SciAm last Friday on my way through the airport - and Templeton had a huge ad (double page spread on the inside front cover).

I was tempted to put the magazine back - but there was nothing else that I hadn't already read.

Editorial policy used to have some control over ad placement -- it seems as if that's all forgotten now.

All I want to know is this -- what do people who don't believe in evolution do when there is a swine flu outbreak?

Should the evolution of a new virus be impossible according to their worldview? Can't we send them all to Mexico?

Can't we agree that those who don't believe in evolution only need a single dose of antibiotics when they go to the doctor? Shouldn't that solve our troubles?

I'm just asking.

Bernard d'Espagnat spoke here, at Imperial College, recently. Temple prize winner and all that. The talk was a load of fluff, followed by some insane questions from philosophers that did not make any sense.

In the aftermath there was a bunch of leaflets around the place. So my friend and I glanced at one. According to this leaflet, the Templeton prize awards research that has implications for some spiritual questions, and it listed some of the vague things it considered worthy questions, such as "how does the finite arise from the infinite?". I was quite astounded to read, amongst the questions, "How large is God?". I mean I could tell the prize was rather silly and all, but that was simply awe inspiring.

By bob loblaw (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

It should also be emphasized that Templeton the Rat from Charlotte's Web has never evinced public support for anti-gay-rights measures.

All I want to know is this -- what do people who don't believe in evolution do when there is a swine flu outbreak?

Ben, most of them will admit to believing in microevolution, but not in macroevolution. Convenient, isn't it?

All I want to know is this -- what do people who don't believe in evolution do when there is a swine flu outbreak?

So simple. They pray. Then pray some more. Then go to funerals or have one if they are really unlucky.

They also blame it on gays, atheists, scientists, MDs, and Obama. This is god smiting the USA. God has terrible aim and very indiscrimate weapons. It doesn't matter that to destroy a few atheists he takes out Mexico and the rest of the world and many of his victims are children. That collateral damage thing like in The Great Flood. God is smiting Alabama right now with tornados. God hates fundies a lot, every year they get slammed by tornados and hurricanes.

It's ironic that fundies may be sickened or killed by rapidly evolving viruses when they don't "believe" in evolution. And that half of them wouldn't even be alive if it wasn't for those atheistic baby killing, pseudointellectual MDs and scientists. They will bite the hands that save but they would really rather stone them to death.

Ben, most of them will admit to believing in microevolution, but not in macroevolution. Convenient, isn't it?

Convenient, and also poorly thought out. Apparently they think we can go a million little steps and not actually cover any distance. It's like saying that, yes, every one of the mutations that separates us from chimps can occur, but they can't add up.

Without forbidding the operation of addition, I'm not sure how that works in their world.

On the other hand, I think I remember reading that Randy Stimpson had a disproof by Shannon entropy. We'll just have to wait to see that one in Nature. I'm sure he's getting close to his solution. (as close as Paul Nelson, at least)

@tony
Take it from someone in the publishing business (though not in science publishing but in consumer tech): editorial almost never determines ad placement, not since I've been in magazine publishing for the past ten years. Advertisers pay for certain placement. Editorial has some wiggle room, but for an inside cover spread--well, that pretty much pays for the whole book, so the advertiser who pays for that gets its ass kissed continually by ad sales people. Editorial is always fighting ad sales folks, but these days print publishing is so desperate for any money at all that magazines can't pick and choose anymore. It's a harsh reality. And it sucks.

Posted by: Mike Haubrich, FCD | May 7, 2009 6:17 PM

I wouldn't take a penny from the Templeton Foundation. They were among the top ten donators supporting Calif's Prop 8.

http://www.californiansagainsthate.com/dishonorRoll.html#templeton,

WOW!!! That's some SERIOUS homophobia when you've got individuals willing to donate 1 million dollars of their personal money to stop gay marriage. The perfect example of evil masquerading as morality. Think of how much good could have been done with all those millions.

To my mind, Coyne's core argument for not attending was that

Science and religion are truly incompatible disciplines; science and literature are not. That is, one can appreciate great literature and science without embracing any philosophical contradictions, but one cannot do this with religion (unless that religion is a watered down-deism that precludes any direct involvement of a deity in the world).

When I read those pharyngulaic statements along the lines of "I would have taken their money - the less they have to spend the better", my concern (not my opinion, for that I am too little acquainted with the actual impact of the Templeton foundation) is that the stakes are a bit too high to do so. One of the most sickening aspects (blatant ignorance aside) is the blurring of the lines between science and religion in the public mind - and one of the most dangerous, I may add. As TWhitley in the Matthews/Tancredo-Thread brought up, we are talking about precedents, and the diffuse opinions of incurious people:

[I am] concerned that this mutation of creationism --> ID --> weak-ID could be very dangerous in that it no longer seeks to represent itself as religious belief (creationism) nor as a scientific research program (ID), but simply as common sense shared by a majority of incurious people. That is, by most Americans.

Nota bene, while one might feel inclined to say, well these are not the kind of people we "want" anyway, in an ideal world science SHOULD be able to appeal to those people. And granting legitimacy and acceptance to religious organizations on our own field, doing science a disservice is a possibility not to be discounted too easily.

Then again, the view Glen Davidson (#4) proposed does have some merit, too, in that even if some scientists might be persuaded by the essence of what I just said, others less critical will step in their place. This is somewhat analogous to the question of public evolution/creationism-debates - someone will do it, it better be those who really understand the issue.

Two random asides, @Umair Rahat, #28, I found "Progress in Religion" a particularly hilarious phrase. And @Ben (#40), demonstrating the inconsequence in religious people's behavior by - on the one hand - denying science, on the other - e.g. concerning medical issues - endorsing it might cause some gravely needed cognitive dissonance in some incurious people...

This is a somewhat difficult question. I can understand Jerry Coyne's refusal, given his current advocacy of non-accomodationalism (a position of his I support). However science itself is a methodology that leads to progress based on physical results. The fact that some empirical data can come out of research sponsored by the Templeton Foundation is pretty good proof that it can be useful for science. PZ himself has used some of their research in his own writings in the past (showing that when you do the proper tests prayer doesn't work and can even be detrimental to heart patients when they know they are being prayed for).
I see the question overall as a subset of the methodological naturalism versus philosophical naturalism debate. In practical terms the methodological naturalism side has won this debate. If you use methodological naturalism in your research then you are doing science. If the Templeton Foundation sponsors research (like the prayer study) that uses methodological naturalism then they are supporting science in that instance.

If the Templeton Foundation sponsors research (like the prayer study) that uses methodological naturalism then they are supporting science in that instance.

Agreed, if they are actually still willing to tread these doomed paths. The danger at hand is, IMHO, more that of putting their stamp on public events such as these (in extremity, even to some research unrelated to religion) and thus buying them credibility in those too incurious to realize what they ultimately intend with this strategy. Yes, I realize this sounds somewhat paranoid.

PZ - how certain are you that the Templeton Foundation is deadset on reconciliations of religion and science that are, in fact, antiscientific and/or prop up existing religions. For one thing, they do at least claim on their website that one of their funding areas is 'new concepts of god.' What if someone decides to take the real, known universe, and describe, say, the emergent phenomenon of the biosphere as a whole as 'god,' (just because, with apologies to astronomers and whatnot, and on the questionable assumption that we're alone out here...the earth/biosphere is the coolest, most complex thing in the universe) with an attendant spirituality that is grounded, truthful, and embraces science? Such a spirituality could offer most of what good people honestly want out of their religions, i.e. a way to think about respecting our world and each other (everyone is part of god after all) that can help us form values and build community...since, after all, thinking about the real universe and our actual place in it CAN do exactly those things. And viola, religion compatible with science, billions flock to a religion with emotional value of the bullshit ones but without the bullshit, the world is a better place.

Now, I'm prepared to believe that the Templeton Foundation is not actually open minded to that kind of 'new concept of god' if they have a 'secret' agenda of promoting existing religions or whatnot...but as I don't know of much evidence to support that claim, I'm not convinced it's true either. So I ask you: why should I believe they are not as open-minded as they would make themselves out to be?

What's the difference between a completely undetectable change, and no change at all?

Mhm seems a good sceptical point, Jake (#52), but until that matter is settled - and I suppose if there agenda was such, they were more open about it? -, one should be suspicious by default.

Crudely Wrott said:

With you on the Tanqueray Gin, Canuck. Nothing better to cleanse the palette between the courses of a good meal. Mmmmm. Tanqueray and tonic and lime.

Hmmmm . . . more of a Bombay Sapphire girl myself, but there's nothing quite like a nice cold, stiff G&T after a hard week's work - looking forward to it already!

By Lilly de Lure (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

Pony said:

What's the difference between a completely undetectable change, and no change at all?

From what I can tell advocating the former involves an entertaining display of intellectual tapdancing from desperate believers, mostly culminating in "I believe and I'm fluffy so don't criticise me or the nasty fundies will get you", the latter is actual science.

By Lilly de Lure (not verified) on 07 May 2009 #permalink

How do you figure their agenda doesn't work, Marc? I mean, if it's that YOU would take their money and ignore the agenda, that's all well and good, but it's not generally you they're looking to support.

That's only partly what I meant. By trying so hard to get scientists to say some nice things about religion they're really showing a lot of respect to science (disrespect to the intellectual honesty sure, but lip service respect), which I think will make religion more liberal, fewer creationists or exorcisms. As society's religosity becomes more progressive the worst aspects of religion are shed, and religion is also easier to abandon.

By Marc Abian (not verified) on 08 May 2009 #permalink

MadScientist: I suspect a lot of people confuse scientists with technologists (or technicians) when it comes to money - they think engineers and physicians. This, however, is a guess. What is pretty sure (I think David Hull did some stuff on this) is that the public has a very skewed perception of the *number of scientists*, too, and thus perhaps thinks they are all like the high profile Richard Dawkinses and Stephen Hawkings.

I recently attended (and live-blogged/tweeted) an event sponsored by Templeton: the Darwin200 Anniversary Conference in Istanbul. They paid my travel and accommodation expenses. In return, I was given 10 minutes to talk about The Beagle Project to a public audience of several hundred, mostly Turkish students. I agonized for a while over whether to accept this money (for all the same reasons you've articulated here, PZ), and in the end decided it was worth it both to have the opportunity to participate in promoting evolution in Turkey where it has been under attack by Oktar and his ilk, and to promote a project that I hope will ultimately do a great deal for science and rationality. I would probably not want to accept their money, however, for a research project, or to rebuild the Beagle, because that might actually imply some level of influence. A conference, though, I decided, is pretty harmless.

"I wouldn't take a penny from the Templeton Foundation. They were among the top ten donators supporting Calif's Prop 8."

Didn't know that. Ew. So much for that "liberal believers" nonsense. Had I known that before the Istanbul conference, I might have made a different decision.

Despite the Templeton Foundation's 'scarily huge sums' they havent managed to prove the existence of a single god so far.

By Harry Varty (not verified) on 08 May 2009 #permalink

If the Templeton Foundation are the only funding group supporting the examination of questions like does a carefully controlled study of prayer show benefits or lack of benefits of this activity, then I really don't see a problem with accepting their funding. Their push to publicly show religion is compatible with science seems to be an entirely separate endeavor that I personally don't like - its politics rather than science.

I think PZ's caution is well-founded, and that this type of funding should be handled with care, but I agree with Sigmund.

Templeton funded the prayer study, and it ended up being a terrific element of the atheist argument. That's because they approached the study scientifically, and while I believe there were some critics of the study--they had to criticize it on the basis of it's accuracy, not based on the results. They are letting the argument be framed by the scientific community, where they cannot win.

I see it this way: Science will trump faith. It will. If Templeton uses scientific shills to trump up bad results using crappy science, they will be mercilessly skewered by their peers. It simply will not work to influence the rational community--unless they actually DO discover God, which I doubt will happen. But if they scientifically prove God (chuckle) I will renounce my atheism.

It's like the great line by Rorschoch: "You think I'm locked up in here with you--but you got it all wrong. You're locked up in here with ME."

By submitting their theories to scientific scrutiny, people of Faith are sealing their fate. We should welcome it.

Are we really worried that pseudo-science will come out of it and be used to bolster the faith of the ignorant? I promise you that will always happen without the aid of Templeton funds.

I have to take issue with your statement that we have a "moral obligation" to turn down the offer of a million dollars for someone to sleep with our spouses.

Monogamy is the default tradition in our culture, but it is certainly not the only way to live (both for humans and for many other animals). If the decision is not coerced, and both spouses are OK with it, then how is it a moral issue at all?

Who got the $50,000 Epiphany Prize for "Passion of the Christ"? Gibson? Does that mean his wife is going to get half of it in the divorce now that Mel is off shagging someone new? Wasn't there some intimation that all that (literally) excruciating agony Jesus went through was because of "sins," like, oh I don't know...adultery? That's some cold shit there, Mel. Perhaps the foundation should seek a refund.

By Greg Peterson (not verified) on 08 May 2009 #permalink

I attanded the World Science Festival last year and have already purchased tickets for several events this year, but I was given pause when I saw the Templeton Foundation prominently listed as a donor this year. I don't know if they were involved last year, but I did attend a panel last year on science and faith that was heavily tilted in favor of faith-- Francis Collins and two other theistic scientists against one not particularly articulate agnostic. Supposedly Julia Sweeney, who is of course not a scientist, was also supposed to be on the panel, but had to cancel for some reason.

@Platypus #65

Well, "moral obligation to turn down the offer of a million dollars for someone to sleep with our spouses" is quite different from moral obligation to turn down the offer of a million dollars for someone to sleep with you. To ask someone to prostitute ones SO or even for a permission to have sex with them implies a proprietary relationship. In my mind the question of morality in this case is not about monogamy, it's about independence and equality. Oh, and manners, too.

This is a SUPERB post PZ.

Once again.

...And keep following the goddamned money.

By astrounit (not verified) on 08 May 2009 #permalink

"And I also hope that Seed can afford to abstain from taking their ad money in the future."

Man oh man, I hope that statement isn't about anything you have heard through the grapevine, but just saying so is alarm enough!

By astrounit (not verified) on 08 May 2009 #permalink

Re: Frost at #68:

Note that I said "if the decision is not coerced" and "if both spouses are OK with it".

You say the moral issue is independence and equality. So lets put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose someone propositioned my wife (for free, never mind a million dollars), and she liked this other person, and she was asking me for permission. As long as I have permission to do the same thing if someone is interested in me (equality), I would have no problem at all with her being with someone else for an evening (independence).

I would even be so crude as to say that it sounds hot, and we would surely go over a play-by-play recap as part of an intensely erotic evening. But that's what turns our mutual cranks

So I repeat the question. Why do we have a "moral obligation" to turn down an offer like that, if the proposition is mutually agreeable to me and my spouse?

The thing I don't get: why are so many scientists atheists? Since there's no scientific evidence for or against the existence of God, then there is no scientific basis for being an atheist. Yet you pretend that everything you do, think, and believe is so scientific. Those of you who are REALLY honest should simply be agnostic. But the fact that so many of you are atheists shows that there's something else going on here. May I suggest that it might be EGO?

It seems to me that ego is the common denominator in ALL fundamentalism, because the ego wants to pretend that it knows more than it actually does, and then force that orthodoxy on everyone else. Atheism is just another form of fundamentalism. Simple as that.

The fact that some of you won't take money from the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), because of its "impure" source, is a strong indicator that you have become talibanized in your own thinking (if you can call it "thinking"). In your minds, the JTF and their ilk are the "infidels" (non-atheists) who should be burned at the stake. That's the major tone I'm getting from this thread.

Now, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Mendel, Darwin and Einstein were all somewhere between being strong believers (in God) and agnostic. So the overwhelming empirical evidence is that having some degree of belief in God does not in any way, shape, or form affect ones scientific output. It is only when you start getting into religious fundamentalism (e.g. of the Jerry Falwell kind) that you might have a problem.

PZ Myers seems to believe that there should be a zero tolerance policy among scientists about accepting money from anybody who has the slightest belief that there might be a God, for fear that such an association will taint the research product. But isn't *zero tolerance* one of the primary aspects of fundamentalism? I rest my case.

Now, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Mendel, Darwin and Einstein were all somewhere between being strong believers (in God) and agnostic. So the overwhelming empirical evidence is that having some degree of belief in God does not in any way, shape, or form affect ones scientific output.

Having a belief in God isn't exactly overwhelming empirical evidence that the belief doesn't have an effect. If you want to make an exception for scientific output, then I cannot imagine why you would!

Unless you were wishing to apply some hyperbole for rhetorical purposes, then I could see why you would want make this special exception...

Of course there are reasons to be an atheist, mainly an atheist of civilizations' gods. Now, all scientists you just mentioned were deists or mistics or whatever but didn't believe in the gods of any civilization. Because if you believe in Jehova or Krishna, then you should believe in their alleged self spoken scriptures and illuminations. THen you start having real problems with the sceientific acuracy of their old and dusty books, e.g. Job stops the sun in order to win a war.

dd sm pctr pls

thy shld ls hv th rght t ffr y mlln dllrs f y wll lt thm slp wth yr sps

busana muslim

The price of scientific freedom is indeed eternal vigilance, known also as rigorous peer review.