Because of Templeton

Brian Leiter hosted a discussion of the Templeton Foundation the other day.

Jason Stanley (Rutgers, moving to Yale) started a lively discussion on Facebook with this comment, which he gave me permission to repost here:

Because of Templeton, we may expect a huge number of papers and books in our field taking a religious perspective at the very least extremely seriously. This is not why I entered philosophy, and it is incompatible with my conception of its role in the university. I will not take any money from Templeton or speak at any Templeton funded conferences. Reasonable people may disagree, but I hope there are others who join me in so doing.

In the discussion that followed, the neuroscientist John Krakauer (Johns Hopkins) made a striking comment in support of Jason’s suggestion, which he also kindly gave permission to repost here:

In the Wikipedia entry on Templeton, Dennett describes the experience of debating astrologers at an event and finding to his dismay that just doing this raised the respectability of astrology in the eyes of the audience.  Templeton is not about the study of religion but about making sure that religion keeps a seat at the table when it comes to big questions. There is no better way to do this than to mix it up with scientists and philosophers. Can you imagine the reverse ever being necessary?

I think that’s true and I agree with Jason Stanley that it’s not desirable. The Templeton Foundation has pretty much created a discipline called Science&Religion, which has its own books and institutes and seminars, all funded by Templeton but all looking to outsiders like ordinary academic books and institutes and seminars. I think that’s a bad thing.