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From Nature News: On Science and Religion

I want to recommend an article to you that appears in Nature News. Work your way down to what I bolded below. Better yet, read the whole article: Religion: Faith in science : Nature NewsI was able to access this article without signing in, so you should be able to access it without a subscription to Nature.

It has nothing to do with the Shroud of Turin. It has to do with funding of science and religion studies by the Templeton Foundation. The article is, I think, even handed. There is clearly an underlying message about friction, that is not so even handed. (And, just for the record, I’m not suggesting that Templeton money might be sought for shroud research. Shroud science is far too disorganized at this time).

. . . It seems fitting that Templeton [metaphorically speaking] is keeping an eye on the foundation that he created in 1987, and that consumed so much of his time and energy. With a current endowment estimated at US$2.1 billion, the organization continues to pursue Templeton’s goal of building bridges between science and religion. Each year, it doles out some $70 million in grants, more than $40 million of which goes to research in fields such as cosmology, evolutionary biology and psychology.

As generous as the foundation’s support is, however, many scientists find it troubling — and some see it as a threat. Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, Illinois, calls the foundation "sneakier than the creationists". Through its grants to researchers, Coyne alleges, the foundation is trying to insinuate religious values into science. "It claims to be on the side of science, but wants to make faith a virtue," he says.

But other researchers, both with and without Templeton grants, say that they find the foundation remarkably open and non-dogmatic. "The Templeton Foundation has never in my experience pressured, suggested or hinted at any kind of ideological slant," says Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic, a magazine that debunks pseudoscience, who was hired by the foundation to edit an essay series entitled ‘Does science make belief in God obsolete?’

. . .  [E]xternal peer review hasn’t always kept the foundation out of trouble. In the 1990s, for example, Templeton-funded organizations gave book-writing grants to Guillermo Gonzalez, an astrophysicist now at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and William Dembski, a philosopher now at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. After obtaining the grants, both later joined the Discovery Institute — a think-tank based in Seattle, Washington, that promotes intelligent design. Other Templeton grants supported a number of college courses in which intelligent design was discussed. Then, in 1999, the foundation funded a conference at Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin, in which intelligent-design proponents confronted critics.

Those awards became a major embarrassment in late 2005, during a highly publicized court fight over the teaching of intelligent design in schools in Dover, Pennsylvania. A number of media accounts of the intelligent design movement described the Templeton Foundation as a major supporter — a charge that Charles Harper, then senior vice-president, was at pains to deny.

. . . The foundation’s critics are unimpressed. Avowedly antireligious scientists such as Coyne and Kroto see the intelligent-design imbroglio as a symptom of their fundamental complaint that religion and science should not mix at all.

"Religion is based on dogma and belief, whereas science is based on doubt and questioning," says Coyne, echoing an argument made by many others. "In religion, faith is a virtue. In science, faith is a vice." The purpose of the Templeton Foundation is to break down that wall, he says — to reconcile the irreconcilable and give religion scholarly legitimacy.

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