Packing the courts

This is familiar – there’s a new book out, The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, and guess what – it’s packed to the rafters with Templeton-connected people, and with the other kind of people not so much. The evolution section, for instance –

Denis Alexander is director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, which was originally funded (and still gets funds from) the Templeton Foundation. He’s also on the Board of Trustees of the Templeton Foundation.

We already know Michael Ruse, who is sympathetic to religion and, in fact, despite his atheism is very generous (and ingenious) in offering the faithful arguments for reconciling religion and science. I would hope his piece would highlight the incompatibility between Darwinism and religion, but I’d bet heavily against that.

The work of Simon Conway Morris, a paleontologist at Cambridge who studies evolutionary convergence, is supported by a grant from the Templeton foundation to the tune of nearly one million dollars. He believes that convergence (the independent evolution of similar features in diverse lineages) is evidence for God.

Stephen C. Meyer is an intelligent-design creationist and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Francisco Ayala won the one-million-pound Templeton Prize in 2010.

John Haught, whom I debated in Kentucky last year, is a theologian at Georgetown University who is famous for concoting the “Argument for God from Hot Beverages.” He is a member of the Board of Advisors of the John Templeton Foundation.

Paul Draper, a philosopher of religion at Purdue University in Indiana, is a Templeton Research Fellow.

Of the seven authors in this section, all are sympathetic to religion, and five are or have been associated with or supported by the Templeton Foundation. One is a creationist. Yet this book is not published by Templeton, but by Wiley, a (formerly) reputable publisher.

That’s familiar – the reputable publisher part. We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it all the way back in October 2010.

I was at the bookstore browsing for nothing in particular, and I spotted The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion and took it down for a look. There were other Cambridge Companions listed in the front and back, and they were all religious – which is not surprising, since I now see on the CUP site that it is in the series Cambridge Companions to Religion. Not Cambridge Companions to Science, but Cambridge Companions to Religion. Not Cambridge Companions to both religion and science, but Cambridge Companions to Religion – despite the fact that Science gets top billing in the title.

Well that seems to confirm an impression I’m always getting from this Sci&Relig stuff, which is that it’s a religious endeavor, period. The outreach is all on one side. Science doesn’t have any interest in yoking the two, or in trying to create a discipline in which the two are yoked; but religion apparently has an enormous amount of interest in that. Religion, apparently, wants to try to siphon off some of the prestige of science for its own more dubious ventures, and this is one of the wheezes it is currently trying.

I read some of the introduction by the editor, Peter Harrison. In the last paragraph, he says something to the effect that: you may notice that none of the essays defend the idea that science and religion are in conflict; this is not because of any bias but because nobody who knows much about the subject thinks that that idea has any legs.

Uh. Sounds like any bias to me, I thought. So later, I did a little googling – I looked up Peter Harrison. I was wondering, among other things, if I would find any mention of the Templeton Foundation anywhere. Well I won’t keep you in suspense – I did.

Harrison is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Harris Manchester College (which I have to admit is a college I’ve never heard of), and also connected in some way to something called “The Ian Ramsey Centre for science and religion in the University of Oxford.” What the hell is that? you may wonder. It’s “part of the Theology Faculty in the University of Oxford. It has the special aim of promoting high quality teaching and research in the exciting field of science and religion.” Aaaaaaaaand

From 1995 to 2003 the Centre was a beneficiary of the John Templeton Foundation through a grant administered by the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Berkeley.

And on this page we also find that Peter Harrison is the director of this Centre. A previous director, Dr Arthur Peacocke, won the Templeton Prize in 2001.

Now Wiley is doing what Cambridge University Press did. Templeton is having massive success in its enterprise of making it appear that religion and science are irrevocably paired and that both have something of value to offer to their yoke-mates.

There’s also OUP, as we learned the next day.

We also have a BBC article by Thomas Dixon saying, in a roundabout sort of way, that science and religion are compatible. Dixon wrote the Oxford University Press Science and Religion: a very short introduction. Under “About the author” on that page we learn that

Thomas Dixon is Lecturer in History at Queen Mary, University of London. A member of the International Society for Science and Religion and an expert on modern intellectual history…

So, all agog, we look into what the International Society for Science and Religion might be – and we find out.

the Society has now grown to over 140 members, including many of the leading scholars in the science and religion field. Indeed the last two presidents, George Ellis, a theoretical cosmologist and Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, and John Polkinghorne, are both recipients of the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities – the world’s best-known religion prize, awarded each year to a living person to encourage and honour those who advance spiritual matters.

We find that it’s really about Religion and science, not Science and Religion; that it’s by and for and about theism and theists trying to connect their theism to science; that it’s nothing to do with scientists as scientists trying to connect to religion. We find that it’s what looks very much like a stealth Templeton outfit giving an appearance of an extra splash of prestige to authors who write books about Religion and science.

If we dig around a little more we find one of Templeton’s grants to the International Society for Science and Religion:

Through this project, the International Society for Science and Religion will select an essential reference library for the field of science and religion. Upon selecting some 250 books, a companion volume will be prepared with short summaries and critical evaluations of each book. The project will distribute approximately 150 sets of these books through a competitive program to establish new science and religion libraries throughout the world, particularly in India, China, and Eastern Europe.

Why – that sounds like missionary work, or like cold war propaganda, or both. It certainly sounds like yet another brick in the edifice of this new discipline “Science and Religion” which, thanks largely to Templeton, is eeling its way into major universities in the UK and the US.

Cambridge UP, Oxford UP, the BBC, and Wiley. They’re doing well.



  1. Michael Fugate says

    It is very telling to look at the bios of the editors of the Blackwell Companion:

    J. B. Stump is Professor of Philosophy and directs the philosophy program at Bethel College* (Indiana, USA). He is the philosophy editor of Christian Scholars Review, and has published articles there as well as in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science and Philosophia Christi. He has co-authored (with Chad Meister) Christian Thought: A Historical Introduction (2010).

    Alan G. Padgett is Professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Long involved in the dialog between theology and science, he is a member of the International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) and has lectured in Europe, Canada, the US and China on religion and theology. He has authored or edited ten other books, including Science and the Study of God (2003).

    Not religion – Christianity – and not very near science.

    *Bethel College, affiliated with the Missionary Church, is a Christian Community of scholars and learners dedicated to building lives of commitment for leadership in the church, the nation and the world. Bethel provides liberating academic programs to challenge the mind, to enlarge the vision and to equip the whole person for lifelong service.
    God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and the Author of salvation.
    The Bible is the divinely inspired, only infallible, authoritative Word of God, and the unchanging rule of faith and practice.
    Man’s relationship to God, which was lost through sin, is restored through faith in the redeeming work of Christ, God’s divine Son.
    The Church is composed of persons who are born of the Spirit and empowered by Him to live a holy life devoted to the fulfillment of the Church’s Great Commission.
    The personal return of Christ will bring about the end of the present age, the Judgment and the beginning of the glorious age to come.

  2. Sastra says

    Of course the whole ‘Science & Religion’ movement is coming from the religion side. We know what it would look like if it were coming from the science side: a well-formulated testable hypothesis and some solid studies in peer-review journals leading to a growing body of research and, eventually, progress, as the skeptics become persuaded by the amount of evidence and the expert consensus shifts to the acceptance of the theistic/spiritual model of reality and a refinement of our understanding of the mechanisms and details.

    Don’t hold your breath.

    Kudos to you for getting there before Jerry.

    It’s frustrating that rejecting the view that “everything exists because of a giant Mind” is being relegated to the “crank” category.

  3. jasonfailes says

    There is indeed “Science & Religion” outreach from the science side.
    It’s called Anthropology; we have a decent idea when people first started making up religious myths and what roles those myths have played in societies since.

    Something tells me that work will never win a Templeton Prize, however.

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