Intelligent Design: Official statement on false and misleading information published in the Wall Street Journal today.*
By Charles L. Harper, Jr., Senior Vice President, John Templeton Foundation.
*[Monday November 14th, 2005. Article by Daniel Golden:
At Some Colleges, Classes Questioning Evolution Take Hold.]
Today the WSJ ran a front page story mentioning the John Templeton Foundation in a way suggesting that the Foundation has been a concerted patron and sponsor of the so-called Intelligent Design (“ID”) position (such as is associated with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and the writers Philip Johnson, William Dembski, Michael Behe and others). This is false information. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The John Templeton Foundation has provided tens of millions of dollars in support to research academics who are critical of the anti-evolution ID position. Any careful and factual analysis of actual events will find that the John Templeton Foundation has been in fact the chief sponsor of university courses, lectures and academic research which variously have argued against the anti-evolution “ID” position. It is scandalous for a distinguished paper to misinform the public in this way.
This is an immediate response statement put together in 60 minutes from the time we became aware of the publication of false and misleading information this morning. We presently are preparing a further appendix to this statement to document a number of major programs of the John Templeton Foundation which are fundamentally critical of the characteristic “ID” position of critique of the basic scientific facts and logics of modern evolutionary biology. For example, for almost a decade the John Templeton Foundation has been the major supporter of a substantial program at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the chief focus activities of which has been informing the public of the weakness of the ID position on modern evolutionary biology. (see: http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/ ) This program was founded under the advice and guidance of the prominent evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala when he was President of the AAAS, and was also supported by Stephen Jay Gould under his Presidency. The membership of the John Templeton Foundation’s Advisory Boards and Board of Trustees read as an international honor roll of the distinguished critics of the ID position. After investing literally tens of millions of dollars philanthropically, how strange and bizarre to read gross distortion of the truth in a distinguished international news outlet.
The Templeton Foundation employs rigorous processes of review using standard peer review and judging panels by distinguished experts. However, the Templeton Foundation refuses in its programs to blacklist scholars based on their ideological positions. We sponsor research and teaching across a very wide range of positions, believing in the value of widespread debate and engagement with important and controversial issues, including that of modern evolutionary biology and the debates over its meaning and philosophical significance such as are particularly intense in this country at this time. Blacklisting is ethically inappropriate in academic contexts. The Foundation believes that proper academic adjudication of important and controversial issues is not by censorship but rather by open scholarly debate and consideration of positions and arguments on the merits or lack thereof. Research scholarship does not proceed by processes of censorship and inhibition of debate. Rather, the best contribution a philanthropic organization can make is to support and promote research and rigorous debate. Consequently, it is true therefore that Templeton Foundation funding support from time-to-time will have been used by some scholars promoting an ID position whose proposals have passed muster in independently judged review panels. This is entirely appropriate in cases where competitive review panels have found merit in course proposals and have awarded grants. Professors who are winners of Foundation grants are not kept under ideological review for purposes of blacklisting but are free to pursue and debate ideas as they see fit. What is entirely false and misleading is the way in which the Foundation has been portrayed to have been in basic support of the ID position, when on balance the precise opposite is actually the case.
We have observed a pattern in our not infrequent interactions with high-level journalists, many of whom seem to be operating in a highly politicized “group-think” frame of reference, and for whom a “political” storyline seems to be fully clear well in advance of knowledge of any particular facts such as may be necessary and illuminating for actual understanding of what the real circumstances actually are. (We at the John Templeton Foundation have had many years of actual on-the-ground interaction with the ID movement and its many and wide-ranging critics. We have detailed understanding of these matters.) Many in the press appear have entered into this debate naively without taking care to orient themselves in any degree of appropriate detail to the actual situation. Today’s coverage in the WSJ would seem to be framed on imagined politicized conspiracy theory logics following the standard culture wars hothouse drama of uncovering deep-pocketed support for some or other social evil the reporter seeks to “unmask.” It would be far better if the media were to report actual facts to the public rather than to promote half-baked suppositions in the mode of politicizing propaganda.
The facts will show that in (very probably in excess of) nineteen out of twenty cases, Templeton Foundation money has supported critics rather than proponents of the anti-evolution ID position. The John Templeton Foundation challenges any responsible and honest scholar or journalistic reporter to check this assertion.