Hey remember the Templeton Foundation? Sean Carroll says (not for the first time, but perhaps hoping it will be for the last) what he thinks of it.
I don’t think that science and religion are reconciling or can be reconciled in any meaningful sense, and I believe that it does a great disservice to the world to suggest otherwise.
That’s all I need to know. Next subject?
No seriously. There’s more. The question is just how nefarious Templeton is.
I don’t see much evidence that the JTF is actively evil, in (say) the way the Discovery Institute is evil, actively lying in order to advance an anti-science agenda. The JTF is quite pro-science, in its own way; it’s just that I think their views on science are very wrong.
There is (at least) one thing they do that I think is deceptive: it’s their habit of setting up “institutes” and similar in places like Oxford and Cambridge and next door to the NIH so that they can use the names Oxford and Cambridge and thus trick people into thinking they’re part of the eponymous universities. It’s their habit of making their stuff sound sciencey when it isn’t. The Faraday Institute, for example – does that sound sciencey or does it not? Well then.
Any time respectable scientists take money from Templeton, they lend their respectability—even if only implicitly—to the idea that science and religion are just different paths to the same ultimate truth. That’s not something I want to do. If other people feel differently, that’s for them and their consciences, not something that is going to cause me to shun them.
But I will try to explain to them why it’s important. Think of it this way. The kinds of questions I think about—origin of the universe, fundamental laws of physics, that kind of thing—for the most part have no direct impact on how ordinary people live their lives. No jet packs are forthcoming, as the saying goes. But there is one exception to this, so obvious that it goes unnoticed: belief in God. Due to the efforts of many smart people over the course of many years, scholars who are experts in the fundamental nature of reality have by a wide majority concluded that God does not exist. We have better explanations for how things work. The shift in perspective from theism to atheism is arguably the single most important bit of progress in fundamental ontology over the last 500 years. And it matters to people … a lot.
Or at least, it would matter, if we made it more widely known. It’s the one piece of scientific/philosophical knowledge that could really change people’s lives. So in my view, we have a responsibility to get the word out—to not be wishy-washy on the question of religion as a way of knowing, but to be clear and direct and loud about how reality really works. And when we blur the lines between science and religion, or seem to contribute to their blurring, or even just not minding very much when other people blur them, we do the world a grave disservice.
Can I help in any way?