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Statement from the John Templeton Foundation

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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.

33 Replies to “Statement from the John Templeton Foundation

  1. 1
    Ben Z says:

    Well, it’s good the John Templeton Foundation called out high-level journalists to do a better job reporting this issue. But, it is bad for ID that their official position is against ID, and I think it’s all the worse for ID in this case.

  2. 2
    mentok says:

    Poseurs. Man, them cats is straight trippin.

  3. 3
    neurode says:

    Well, that’s more like it…a position consistent with Templeton’s slavish focus on academic credentials!

    Most academics are anti-ID, and the admitted fact that the Templeton Foundation toes the academic line against ID merely confirms that it is nothing more than an academic cash cow. After all, how can it maintain its prestige except by associating with all of the highly-credentialed atheists, materialists, and “theistic evolutionists” who accept its money, and how can it avoid criticism if it gives more than a few miserable cents to those untouchables whose ideas are repugnant to its highly-credentialed academic friends? From Templeton’s self-interested perspective, it’s a no-brainer: plant yourself where the sun is shining.

    What is far less clear is how the Templeton Foundation, which now seems positively self-righteous about limiting the encroachment of theology on the scientific/academic turf of its real friends, has managed to acquire its undeserved reputation as a helper of those who dare to explore the no man’s land between science and theology while enduring nonstop academic hostility or neglect along the way. Whether this widespread misapprehension is the product of accident, disinformation or deliberate hypocrisy, its sanctimonious repudiation by Mr. Harper raises serious doubts about the logical integrity and social impact of the Templeton Foundation.

  4. 4
    DaveScot says:

    Interesting. The author, Dan Golden, is a 2004 Pulitzer prize winner. That’s no lightweight journalist that doesn’t check his sources.

    Templeton’s backpeddling is funny. I wonder if any careers were threatened by the NCSE in motivating the backpeddling…

    I traded a couple emails with Dan, who was quick and courteous in responding, about using Mr. with professors. FYI he said it’s due to some people carping about calling associate professors and full professors both “professor” in a NY Times article. So now unless it’a a medical doctor he introduces the name with the correct title then uses “Mr.” thereafter.

  5. 5
    jboze3131 says:

    This statement says that the foundation is all for putting money into researching all views and not blacklisting people who support miority views…yet, before that the statement said they have spend tens of millions of dollars to basically combat ID theory.

    Those two statements make no sense together. You can’t claim that money and support can go to all fields, yet then admit you’ve spent tens of millions in actively going out and campaigning against ID!

    That’s just an idiotic policy in all regards.

    Also- I’m totally confused by Templeton’s positions. The WSJ story says many in the foundation didn’t want to attack ID, because it would lead more Evangelical Christians to science careers…yet, then they make a statement saying they’ve spent tens of millions in advocating against ID? What is the other choice? Unguided evolution…how would that appeal to Evangelicals?!?! Are they totally confused as to what their mission is, did a few in the foundation mistate this mission, or are they just clueless as to what their positions would mean for young Christians?

    I’m not sure how these groups that are all about Christian doctrine, young Christians in science, and that sort of thing actively attack an idea that would clearly lead more to science…and confuse the fact that their statement today completely conflicts with their own mission in general!

  6. 6
    ajl says:

    Talk about a vise strategy 🙂 Looks like ID is being squeezed from the athiest end, and the Christian end! I’ll be honest, I find that theistic evolutionists are just as strident in their views of ID as athiests.

    I wonder, is ID gaining any ground, or not? Looks to me that recently, more ‘educated’ people want to make sure they go on record as saying that ID isn’t science. And, this is especially true of Christian scientists. They seem less likely to want to criticize NS&RM but all the more eager to take a shot at ID.

  7. 7
    jboze3131 says:

    christians relying on NS which would mean an unguided, meaningless, purposeless mechanism- well thats just idiotic in a theological sense.

    funny…i read a quote yesterday from some behe interview where he said that for him, ID was, in a sense, a form of theistic evolution. yet, i see theistic evolutionists attacking ID. not that ID itself would be considered T.E. by ALL of those who adhere to it, but thats what behe said, so…

  8. 8
    ajl says:

    “christians relying on NS which would mean an unguided, meaningless, purposeless mechanism- well thats just idiotic in a theological sense. ”

    the argument I hear posited from T.E. is that NS is the process God used to cause it to happen. So, its not “unguided, meaningless, purposeless”. The argument is (at least as best as I can understand it) that God set up the initial conditions that would cause all this to occur, and part of the mechanism that he uses is RM&NS.

    Their big gripe against ID is that you will never find God in a flagellum, and you won’t find an absence of God there either. Therefore, ID is trying to use science to find God, and he can’t be measured by science. Also, they presuppose that you must stick to methodological naturalism in science, anything else is inserting God into the “gaps” so to speak. When I ask about things like miracles, they usually give a round-about answer, but it usually takes the form of that there is a naturalistic mechanism that can be used to describe it, but that doesn’t preclude God from willing it to happen in the first place. I don’t really understand that position too well. Seems to me they just want to be accepted in their academic community so adopting T.E. is the way to do it. Seems to me, T.E. is neither.

    But, I’m reading alot more about it (I’ve had tons of papers sent to me). If the discussions warrant, I’ll throw some of the ideas from the papers out there, and see what sticks, or what seems like psycho-babble.

  9. 9

    […] PS. The WSJ article couldn’t resist the temptation to do a little conspiracy-mongering, and portrayed the Templeton Foundation as a major backer of intelligent design. The Templeton Foundation has responded, and finds it “scandalous for a distinguished paper to misinform the public in this way.” […]

  10. 10
    dodgingcars says:

    “the argument I hear posited from T.E. is that NS is the process God used to cause it to happen. So, its not “unguided, meaningless, purposeless”. The argument is (at least as best as I can understand it) that God set up the initial conditions that would cause all this to occur, and part of the mechanism that he uses is RM&NS.”

    Yeah, I believe they take it to be similar to “fine-tuning.”

  11. 11
    cambion says:

    Think of it this way…

    If the universe is a deterministic one (if the uncertainly that seems to be inherent in quantum mechanics is an illusion, which I think is definitely possible), and God is all-knowing, then he can see exactly what the consequences of a particular set of initial conditions will be 15 billion years down the road. He just picks the initial conditions that lead to the universe unfolding how he wants it to unfold. What appears to random mutation to us, is actually predestined in the physics of the universe. This has the obvious benefit of saving lots and lots of tedious effort working miracles all the time to push the universe and life down the desired path (which is not to say that miracles are impossible…).

  12. 12
    Renard says:

    So why did God give us the brain, the curiosity and the freewill to examine our selves and our surroundings? Or are these the Devil’s base instincts that we must learn to curb?

  13. 13
    ajl says:

    Cambion,

    I think that is what T.E. says. That was a good description thanks. I liken it to a master pool player. When I take a pool shot, I’m lucky that I even hit the first ball 🙂 But, a master player can hit two or three balls, ricochet off the side once or twice, and after putting the ball in, have the cue move just into the right spot to set up the next shot.

    We can do the physics on it and see the velocity of the ball, the angles, etc. But, the initial condition was set up to pull off the whole shot.

  14. 14
    ajl says:

    p.s. Imagine only being able to watch the pool shot 10^-47 seconds after the shot. Therefore, we never see how the pool player lined up the stick, or where he actually hit the cue (to put ‘english’ on it, etc.). I suppose that is the explanation in T.E.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with this being a plausible thing. Although, I think ID is saying that there are certain configurations of the balls that just couldn’t happen even with that initial hit (sort of like Dembski’s chess table configuration). So, I guess it really does go back to the I.C. question: is there, or is there not a mechanistic process to form a B.F.? – I guess only time will tell?

  15. 15
    neurode says:

    Theistic Evolution holds that God set up the laws and initial conditions of the universe in such a way that RM&NS would lead to life and biological diversity, with perhaps just a nudge or two by God at key junctures.

    Unfortunately, from the standpoint of methodological naturalism, it cannot be scientifically determined whether the initial conditions of the universe were random or set by God, or whether RM&NS is used as a mechanism by God. Moreover, since TE affords no causal model and no real possibility of divine causation, it cannot meaningfully assert that God initially set an evolutionarily “front-loaded” universe in motion, or originated life, or presided over the birth of mankind; it allows Him no scientifically intelligible means of doing so. Thus, insofar as TE endorses MN, it renders itself scientifically irrelevant.

    If left to its own devices, TE will ultimately be laughed off the academic stage. Given that prospect, its unconditional opposition to anything that ID might have to offer reveals it to be an empty, weak-minded capitulation to atheism and materialism, at least in the form in which it is usually presented. Show me that kind of theistic evolutionist, and I’ll show you somebody in need of an alarm clock.

    Surprisingly, this seems to apply to the Templeton Foundation, thus confirming that money and insight are at most only weakly correlated.

  16. 16
    ajl says:

    neurode,

    very good sythesis. I have often raised this question with them as well (thats why I joked that T.E. is neither. You are correct, I don’t think they have gained the ‘respect’ they hoped for from the atheist camp).

    But, that being said, the response is typically that yes, it is true that you cannot scientifically prove God. And, those answers won’t come from science, but rather the area of Natural Theology. So, the existence of God is not answered by science. It is answered by Natural Theology – which is not science. So, that falls into other domains. I think there are two big issues for them:

    1. They do not want to change the definition of science (only naturalistic causes)

    2. They want to believe that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything – and, I believe this includes miracles. I think I heard the example something like this: when Jesus told the winds and waves to cease, the weather pattern did actually do it. Jesus just timed his response in such a way he commanded them at the right time. Weak? Yeah, I think so, but lots of people are giving more thought to this than I am.

    In Dembski’s “Mere Creation” Del Ratsch (sp?) gives a simplistic explanation of this in terms of the need for a chocolate ice cream cone having to be sold at 2:00. He could ask his kid if he wants ice cream at 2:00. The kid will say yes. Then, he tells his kid to order whatever he wants – well, knowing his kid, its obvious he will order chocolate. So, he hasn’t interfered with his kid’s free will, but got the objective he wants. I think T.E. applies these ideas

  17. 17
    DaveScot says:

    “you cannot scientifically prove God”

    I’m very hesitant to bound science in this way. Give that science is the study of nature, and given that God is part of nature, then science can study God.

    Of course on a philosophical note science can’t prove anything at all but instead provides tentative explanations and working knowledge. I’ll concede it has yet to provide any tentative explanation of God or working knowledge thereof. It does not follow that it will remain that way in the future.

  18. 18
    neurode says:

    It may help to distinguish between the mechanism of TE and the veracity of TE, on which the relevance of its mechanism utterly depends. Unless TE can somehow be confirmed, its supposed mechanisms are scientifically vacuous; on the other hand, absent a mechanism through the action of which it can be confirmed, TE itself is scentifically vacuous. So TE stands or falls on whether or not is has a model supporting a verifiable mechanism of divine causation.

    The mechanism you describe here was long ago proposed by parapsychologists to explain supposedly psychokinetic phenomena. From a naturalistic standpoint, its downfall is that it involves precognition, which is just as hard to explain as psychokinesis. Of course, TE no more possesses a model supporting precognition than one supporting divine causation. In place of such a model, its proponents rest their case on the fact that if one first assumes that God is omniscient, then such a mechanism is implied. However, this assumption itself requires a model, and again, TE has none to offer. (One might as well stand on the assumption that God is omnipotent, and leave it at that.)

    TE thus displays the very shortcomings of which it accuses ID … but even more so, because its proponents have foolishly locked themselves into a no-win position on the gameboard. So in the final analysis, it is really quite asinine for these selfsame TE proponents to pretend serene detachment from the questions raised by ID as they gratefully soak up the comforting rays of bounty and good fortune now bathing the atheist-materialist knuckleheads to whose intransigent opinions they are so obsequiously deferential, and so close to whom they stand.

    Of course, although time is running out on TE, it is running out a bit more slowly due to the handfuls of money apparently being thrown at its confused proponents by old John Templeton.

  19. 19
    jmcd says:

    jboze

    “christians relying on NS which would mean an unguided, meaningless, purposeless mechanism- well thats just idiotic in a theological sense.”

    NS is not “an unguided, meaningless, purposeless mechanism.” When scientists use the word random it does not have the same meaning as it does in everyday usage. The simplest way to explain it is that you cannot predict what will happen next. It does not imply a lack of menaing or purpose. Any scientists who use words like unguided or purposeless are being irresponsible and they are then preaching their own ideology or worldview. They have stepped out of the realm of science when they do that.

  20. 20
    neurode says:

    (The above response was directed to ajl.)

  21. 21
    Neal says:

    I traded a couple emails with Dan, who was quick and courteous in responding, about using Mr. with professors. FYI he said it’s due to some people carping about calling associate professors and full professors both “professor” in a NY Times article. So now unless it’a a medical doctor he introduces the name with the correct title then uses “Mr.” thereafter.

    Interesting … what does it say about Mr. Golden, and others, who will ONLY call a Medical Doctor “Dr.” and not Ph.D.’s? I don’t think it’s ostentatious or elitist (or improper) to expect my students to refer to me as “Dr.”, just as medical doctors expect to be called the same. What’s even more interesting is that in the course of correcting the laziness (btw. misusing proper titles of Associate Professor So-and-so, etc. and just using “Professor”) Golden then removes a part of the status which was never questioned – that this person has earned a doctorate. I think there seems to be an assumption of grand-standing for a Ph.D. to be asked to be referred to as “Dr.” and not an equal understanding of all that has been required and that will be expected of this individual. All this is an aside, of course, and very initial thoughts at best.

  22. 22
    ajl says:

    “TE thus displays the very shortcomings of which it accuses ID … but even more so, because its proponents have foolishly locked themselves into a no-win position on the gameboard. ”

    well, yeah. I think they really do run the risk of boxing themselves into a corner. They are fighting to keep RM&NS as the mechanism. Then, if they win that fight, its not too difficult for someone to raise Okham’s razor, thus marginalizing their theological beliefts. The argument of “well, science doesn’t answer that question, my belief in God is not based on that” makes it appear that they are just inserting God to feel good about themselves, with little tangible reason to believe it.

    “I’m very hesitant to bound science in this way. Give that science is the study of nature, and given that God is part of nature, then science can study God.”

    Dave, the argument I hear from T.E. folks is that “I’m very hesitant to bound God in this way”. What someone recently told me is that it means “we can find God on our own”, while the Christian faith says God is the one who does the revealing. I think this is a weak argument because Romans 1 says that we CAN perceive God in the things he has created. But, it is the argument they use, nonetheless. In a discussion I had with the T.E. regarding Romans 1, he said “no, you can’t perceive him by science”.

  23. 23
    jmcd says:

    Dave Scot

    God is not part of nature because nature is “his” creation.

  24. 24
    neurode says:

    “God is not part of nature because nature is ‘his’ creation.”

    It’s not quite that simple. One can stipulate that the source and process of creation are themselves natural, and then produce a model supporting that stipulation by providing the requisite causal mechanisms and relationships. The fact that neither ID nor TE has yet succeeded in producing such a model is not proof of its impossibility.

  25. 25
    jmcd says:

    I cannot see how natural laws are capable of spontaneously creating matter/energy.

  26. 26
    neurode says:

    Again, that’s not a proof of impossibility. To see why in an approximate way, imagine that you’re in a Matrix-type computer simulation, and that you’re a function programmed to react to certain inputs as matter and energy. I.e., you acquire information formulated with respect to simulation parameters as input, and according to your functional configuration, react both cognitively and behaviorally as though the input is “matter” and “energy”. Bearing in mind that informational reductionism is a strongly recurring theme in various fields of science, it may be the case that this “simulation paradigm” admits of a comprehensive mathematical and naturalistic generalization.

  27. 27
    ajl says:

    “I cannot see how natural laws are capable of spontaneously creating matter/energy.”

    right, and thats what I understand is the point of T.E. and why they say you have to look at Natural Theology for those answers. According to them, that is not a scientific question but the theological one.

  28. 28
    neurode says:

    ajl: “According to them, that is not a scientific question but the theological one.”

    If theology is irrelevant to how scientific questions are answered, then there is no bridge between science and theology after all. But this raises a number of vexing questions, for example:

    1. Why would people who feel this way name their feeling “Theistic Evolution”, when insofar as evolution is a scientific concept, it’s an oxymoron?

    2. What business do such people have weighing into a debate about how that bridge should be constructed, given their summary denial of its existence?

    3. What business does the Templeton Foundation have funding such people while loudly proclaiming its ardent desire to help build such a bridge?

    It really seems to make no sense at all.

  29. 29
    jmcd says:

    neurode

    I certainly agree that for all we know our “reality” could be some sort of Matrix like program. If we are then a creation of some natural entity the same question of their creation is begged. They would still be supernatural in a sense because even if their reality is governed by the very same forces that they “programmed” to govern ours, they still would not be constrained by our perceived natural laws.

  30. 30
    neurode says:

    To repeat: “it may be the case that this ‘simulation paradigm’ admits of a comprehensive mathematical and naturalistic generalization.” Deciding for or against this possibility is likely to be an arduous task requiring a novel and complex conceptual apparatus, and until this is well in hand, a firm decision is out of the question.

  31. 31
    curtrozeboom says:

    This is the question that leads me in the direction of T.E. How can we be certain that any of our theories of how the universe works (laws of physics, chemistry, biology, etc…) do not already or might in the future, incorporate the actions of God in their formulation? Since we exist as inhabitants of this universe, our perception of its working would be incapable of distinguishing “God’s actions” from “nature”, similar to how we can’t feel the earth moving through space because we are moving with it. You can point to miracles as examples of God’s hand, but without the ability to replicate those events we are no better off.

    You also have to contend with the fact that in many cases “supernatural” events are only supernatural to a particular observer (one man’s mumbo-jumbo is another’s science and another’s religion) What we are left with, then is that either the universe is completely “natural” or should be treated as such, or the universe is completely supernatural, but works consistently. Either assumption leads you to adopt metaphysical naturalism as a default position from which to study the cosmos.

  32. 32
    neurode says:

    “Either assumption leads you to adopt metaphysical naturalism as a default position from which to study the cosmos.”

    Of course, people will draw whatever conclusions they like. But a theist who feels this way should keep two things in mind: (1) the consistency of this position has not been established, and (2) “theistic evolution” is not a consistent way to label this position.

  33. 33
    jboze3131 says:

    NS is not “an unguided, meaningless, purposeless mechanism.”

    sure it is. NDE posits that selection isnt guided- that its just acting on random mutations and has no goal at all. if it has no goal, it clearly isnt guided…a goal is needed for guidance. something doesnt truly guide something if it has no plans, no purpose, or goals.

    the big names in NDE always say that its unguided and purposeless. what purpose would NS within NDE have? you cant really have a purpose unless you have goals- and selection cant see the future, thus cannot really have true goals. it cant even contemplate the future, which is also needed for a goal.

    fact is- most NDE refer to NS in this manner…and proclaim (as provine did, as dawkins always does, as scott pretty much does) that this means no meaning or purpose to life. heck, livescience.com has an evolution section, and their info. says that darwin showed that human existence is meaningless and theres no purpose in the universe. i posted it in another comments section a few weeks ago- it was the epitome of anti-science.

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