Sometimes I feel sorry for Michael Ruse. Usually I don’t — and I definitely don’t when he flees to the safety of the baby pen at HuffPo to cry about how mean everyone is to him. Now he is bleating about the criticisms given to Ayala for accepting a Templeton Prize.
The Templeton Foundation was begun by the late Sir John Templeton, who made a great deal of money by starting mutual funds, and is essentially devoted to the promotion of the interaction and harmony between science and religion. It is hardly too strong a term to say that it is an object of derision by many of today’s scientists, including my own colleague here at Florida State University, Sir Harry Kroto who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry (for discovering the structure of complex carbon molecules, “buckyballs”). Richard Dawkins has characterized the president of the Royal Society (of London), Sir Martin Rees, as a “Quisling” (after the war-time Nazi ruler of Norway) for his friendliness to the Foundation. Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago biologist and a deservedly respected scientist for his work on problems of speciation, runs a blog (Why Evolution is True) where he writes of the foundation’s “history of intellectual dishonesty.” When it was announced that the National Academy of Science’s premises would be used to introduce this year’s prize winner he called it an “outrage.” And then there is Minnesota biologist P. Z. Myers, who runs the blog Pharyngula, and whose splenetic keyboard surely qualifies him for the title of evolution’s answer to Rush Limbaugh. It is not only the Foundation that sends up his blood pressure, but Ayala now also is in his line of fire. He is accused of “intellectual cowardice” and is characterized as “the master of non-committal waffle.” Apparently Ayala received the award purely for “religious apologetics,” even though somewhat inconsistently Ayala is also faulted for not making clear his own position on the God question.
No, Ruse does not link to the article he quotes. After all, I actually addressed specific comments by Ayala which show that he does waffle. This is not inconsistent with winning a prize for religious apologetics, since waffling inconclusively is a fine theological tradition. And yes, he won for religious reasons: the first sentence of the Templeton announcement says he is a scientist “who has vigorously opposed the entanglement of science and religion while also calling for mutual respect between the two”. We know what is important to the Templeton Foundation, after all, and it isn’t scientific integrity.
After all that complaining about critics, what is Ruse’s point? As it turns out, there really isn’t one, just more vague grumpiness.
So while I am a bit wary about the Foundation and shall be watching its future developments – especially now that Sir John is gone and his far-more-evangelical son has taken the reins – I shall continue to defend its existence and its purpose. I don’t want to reconcile science and religion if this implies that religion must be true. At most, I want to show that science does not preclude being religious. But I don’t see that what I want and what others want means that we necessarily have to be bad friends and despise each other.
Ah. Nice to know that Ruse doesn’t despise fascist propagandists who make Oxycontin-fueled jaunts to partake of the sex trade on Caribbean islands.
That’s such a waffly conclusion to his argument that it confirms my suspicion that he’s angling for a Templeton bribe.