Templeton gets an invigorating massage, with a little deep pressure and an occasional gentle thump

The Nation has published an extremely generous profile of the Templeton Foundation. I’m trying to be charitable about it, but there’s little here that the Templeton itself will find objectionable — it’s one more swoop of the brush in an effort to always whitewash the foundation as sober, sensible, and serious, instead of the nest of delusional religious apologists that it actually is…apologists with astounding quantities of money and a willingness to spend it freely to promote its superstitious agenda.

For instance, it describes the founder, John Templeton, in terms that make him sound like a nice guy, open-minded and inquisitive, perhaps also eccentric and naive. From all I’ve heard, he probably was a very nice fellow, but he also had his weird ideological obsession, and his eclectic approach to religion makes him a very flaky dingleberry. He was a gentle-hearted kook with lots of money.

He’s dead now, and control has passed to his son.

Jack Templeton is little like his father. While the elder Templeton’s writings venture into the poetic and speculative, his son’s read like a medical report. Jack displays admirable filial loyalty, evident most of all in his decades-long leadership of the foundation under his father’s guidance; he has been president since it began, serving full time since he left a successful pediatric surgery practice in 1995. His memoir begins and ends with lessons his father taught him and is suffused by, as he put it, “a struggle to find acceptance and approval in my father’s eyes.”

Only now, though, are we beginning to learn how that struggle will express itself in his father’s absence. With Harper gone, and his replacement yet to be announced, there is a vacuum at the top. It is, says physicist and trustee Paul Davies, “an anxious time.” What seems to have people there most on edge right now, though, is not so much science as politics. In this respect too, the younger Templeton differs in kind from his father. He has financed a right-wing organization of his own, Let Freedom Ring, which once promoted the “Templeton Curve,” a graph he designed to advocate privatizing Social Security. Now Let Freedom Ring lends support to the Tea Party movement. Jack Templeton’s money has also gone to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and to ads by the neoconservative group Freedom’s Watch. In 2008 he and his wife gave more than $1 million to support California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.

That is not reassuring. Give it a few years, and I’m willing to bet that the Templeton Foundation will be getting far more attentive to the Teabaggers, and then we’ll be facing a major money institution run by a narrow-minded conservative religious zealot. We should be strangling this evil baby now.

But, you know, even if it were in the hands of gentle liberal Christians who also advocated equality and civil rights instead of opposing them, it’s still an organization dedicated to injecting foolishness into the scientific enterprise, throwing money at cronies willing to put a soft and accommodating polish on science that undermines their biases. Yet this article oozes softly over that fundamental issue; it has only brief comments from Richard Dawkins, Sean Carroll, and Harry Kroto. We really don’t need more funding for garbage science selected for its appeasement of religion, and that’s all we’re going to get from Templeton, because it is not dedicated to science, its sole goal is propaganda.

And this conclusion is pure gushing BS.

John Templeton built a place where the right’s hardened partisans, like Dreher and Rosen, can settle down and turn to life’s real Big Questions, in peace, for all mankind. But the foundation meanwhile has associated itself with political and religious forces that cause it to be perceived as threatening the integrity of science and protecting the religious status quo. This is quite the reverse of the founder’s most alluring hope: a spirituality finally worthy of our scientific achievements. As a result of such alliances, though, the foundation is also better positioned than most to foster a conservatism–and a culture generally–that holds the old habits of religions and business responsible to good evidence, while helping scientists better speak to people’s deepest concerns. On issues that range from climatology to stem cells, science has too often taken a back seat to the whims of politics, and Templeton’s peculiar vision offers a welcome antidote to that. To live up to this calling, Big Questions are one thing; but the foundation will have to stand up for tough answers, too, as it did when announcing the findings of a major study that intercessory prayer doesn’t improve medical outcomes, or when rebuking intelligent design.

What ‘deepest concerns’? Pandering to religious biases and reassuring people that their faith in angels is reasonable is not addressing a concern, it’s surrendering to it. I agree that science has been buffeted by the whims of politics, but I fear the whims of religion as much, if not more — and as we can see in the instance of Jack Templeton, religion and politics are not separable.

I am also not at all impressed with the occasional admission of failed politico-religious strategies, like prayer studies and ID. These are tactical retreats where they recognize that progress for their agenda cannot be made, but it doesn’t change their overall intent in the slightest. And, as usual for this kind of insidious religious apologetics, the goal isn’t to find clear answers to anything, but to blur all of the edges and foment further doubt and ignorance, because that is where religious wishy-washiness thrives best.