Yesterday Charles Harper issued a press release taking to task Daniel Golden for his piece in the Wall Street Journal in which he suggested that the John Templeton Foundation has been a patron or sponsor of Intelligent Design (for the press release, go here). In that press release, Harper ritualistically underscored just how much money and effort the John Templeton Foundation has spent on critiquing ID. In particular, he noted that
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.
For Harper to cite Gould as an ally here is ironic since Gould had nothing but contempt for the John Templeton Foundation. In his book Rocks of Ages, Gould attacks what he calls the “syncretic school,” which embraces “the oldest fallacy of all as a central premise: the claim that science and religion should fuse to one big, happy family, or rather one big pod of peas, where the facts of science reinforce and validate the precepts of religion, and where God shows his hand (and mind) in the workings of nature.” (212)
Worse yet, as far as Gould is concerned, “the spectacular growth and success of science has turned the tables for modern versions of syncretism. Now the conclusions of science must be accepted a priori, and religious interpretations must be finessed and adjusted to match unimpeachable results from the magisterium of natural knowledge! The Big Bang happened, and we must now find God at this tumultuous origin.” (213)
And who is the worst offender here? Who, more than anyone, is responsible for this resurgence in syncretizing science and religion? Read on:
In the summer of 1998, a deluge of media hype enveloped the syncretist position, as though some startingly new and persuasive argument had been formulated, or some equally exciting and transforming discovery had been made. In fact, absolutely nothing of intellectual novelty had been added, as the same bad argments surfaced into a glare of publicity because the J. M. Templeton Foundation, established by its fabulously wealthy eponym to advance the syncretist program under the guise of more general and catholic (small c) discussion about science and religion, garnered a splash of media attention by spending 1.4 million bucks to hold a conference in Berkeley on “science and the spiritual quest.” (214)
Question: Would it help the Templeton Foundation to accept Intelligent Design if a Harvard professor as famous as Stephen Jay Gould could be found to support it?
Follow-up Question: If an equally prominent ID proponent treated the Templeton Foundation with Gould’s contempt, would the Templeton Foundation nonetheless fawn on him and invoke his name to counter less respectable elements in the science-religion dialogue?