In Ophelia Benson’s writeup of the Ron Lindsay/Chris Mooney discussion, there’s a passage about the Templeton Foundation that jumps out as deeply problematic:
Then they talked about the Templeton Foundation, and Mooney’s “fellowship,” and the fact that it was controversial. Would you accept a fellowship from the Discovery Institute? Lindsay asked. No. Liberty University? Probably not. But they interfere with science, and Templeton doesn’t. Templeton, he said, “are generating a dialogue about the relationship between science and religion.” He thinks that’s a good thing.
On its own, this point hardly matters. Certainly Benson is entitled to her opinion, but so is Mooney, and “I don’t” is hardly an argument, in any event.
Benson proceeds with the effort at equating Templeton and the Discovery Institute:
I also don’t think he is thinking about it carefully enough. He’s not, for instance, apparently aware that the knowledge he thinks he has is largely Templeton knowledge — it’s knowledge that fits right into Templeton’s agenda and that is produced by Templeton funding. The books he’s read that tell him about Newton’s motivation and so on very often turn out, when one looks at the copyright page and then at google, to have been written by people with Templeton connections. I’m not a bit sure they don’t always turn out to have been written by such people. I don’t think he realizes the extent to which he’s parroting a line.
Lindsay differs. Yay Ron. Lindsay says one can see Templeton as in fact interfering with science just as the Discovery Institute does, but in a more subtle fashion. Yes indeed one can; that’s exactly how I see it. They fund most of the blather about “science and religion” that’s out there, and they do it very subtly. But Mooney was just frankly dismissive of that suggestion.
As well he sound be. There’s no question that the Discovery Institute is ideologically driven, that their fellowships are wingnut welfare, a way to employ creationists and give them the gloss of respectability. Disco. ‘Tute fellows seem to have lifetime appointments, while Mooney’s fellowship from Templeton was a single event ‑Â a financial award and a series of lectures and discussion which, once ended, entail no ongoing obligation. That’s not how DI fellowships work.
The DI does not fund external research. They have a Potemkin laboratory, and a house journal dedicated to publishing their own staff’s “research.” All of this is oriented towards creating a pseudoscientific infrastructure, the semblance of an active research program and academic community, so that they can convince schools to teach claptrap and can interfere with the administration of colleges and universities, the content of textbooks, and by such means to advance a narrow version of Christianity. Their fellows are chosen because of their support for this ideological agenda, just as papers in their pseudo-journal are selected for their adherence to the Disco. ‘Tute agenda, and so forth.
By contrast, Templeton doesn’t run its own journals. They do help fund societies which run journals, but no one has given any evidence of Templeton interfering in the editorial independence of those journals. They fund research projects, but no one has shown any evidence that they interfere with the research or the researchers’ interpretation of it. While the Templeton folks did provide some funding for IDC-related work, they did so at a time in the 1990s when quite a few people held out hope that there might be some real research program spawned by the movement. In time, they learned better, making clear:
We do not believe that the science underpinning the intelligent-design movement is sound, we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and the foundation is a nonpolitical entity and does not engage in or support political movements.
The New York Times asked about their involvement with ID creationism, and they took an evidence-based, scientifically justified stance:
after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.
“They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.
“From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.
As we’ve discussed before, Templeton seems to be moving towards a more transparent granting process, one driven more by the community of researchers and ever less by the vagaries of Templeton Foundation staff. That’s good, and important. But even under the old system, no one has built a case that Templeton was using its influence to change research results (either by changing how the researchers wrote their papers, or by suppressing some publications, or by greasing the skids for bad papers). I’m open to such evidence being presented, but the case against Templeton so far simply doesn’t sustain this attempt to equate them with the Discovery Institute.
Templeton staff or fellows don’t show up at school board meetings to demand time for creationism. They don’t circulate draft legislation attacking science education. They may have been overly credulous about the early claims of the ID creationists, but that also makes their ultimate rejection of IDC all the more devastating. Where the Disco. ‘Tute is dedicated to promoting a single view, Templeton seems much more to be funding a wide range of research and letting the chips fall where they may. Again, I’m open to counterevidence, but so far the charge against Templeton seems to amount to: some people don’t care for the idea of studying the interaction between science and religion, and therefore don’t like Templeton.
That’s certainly their right, but it’s hardly grounds for the campaign under way for nearly the last year (or longer), or for these spurious comparisons to the Discovery Institute. It’s not grounds for the guilt-by-association charges thrown at any book written by a person associated with Templeton in any way, or to any extent.