Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Stephen Jay Gould’s Contempt for the John Templeton Foundation

Share
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Flipboard
Print
Email

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?

Comments
mentok says: "Faith in God is the only thing which gives our lives meaning." Must be that I dont know how to discern the feeling of having meaning from actually having meaning in my life. As a freethinker, I still feel a strong sense sense of meaning in life; the representation that some kind of self-referential faith in the meaning of life would be more intense that just plain having it by serendipity or having it derived from considering my relationship to the universe as much as I know it, that sounds a bit like circular reasoning to me. "Without that [faith] there is nothing but the darkness of a nihilistic oblivion leading to eternal death." Sorry you find life so boring, but personally I find it sweet. I certainly find motivation in enjoying the here and now. It sure would be a shame if it turns out there is only oblivion at the end, and you postponed feeling the joy and meaning of the moment. "Faith in God gives heaven and eternity to people’s minds and ontological perception, evolution gives hell and death." Well, yes, an irrational sense of security does make things a bit simpler, although that too can lead to mis-steps like failing to properly value the life that we do have. However, Hell comes from faith, not from evolution and science. Hell really isn't a part of that world view. I dont know what this has to do with ID, but I always have problems with overly digested conclusions, whatever context they appear in. Anyway, I am skeptical about the idea that science proves God, as much as I am that it disproves Him. I think these side debates show how much ID is just one of many many strange theories, all of which conflict with each other, especially because they overload conclusions with more than their premises can support.jesguessin
November 19, 2005
November
11
Nov
19
19
2005
09:37 PM
9
09
37
PM
PST
cambion, please shoot me an email at dougmoran@adelphia.net. I've had a tough few days at the office, will be traveling, and my time on this site will be limited through the end of the month. I don't want our conversation to get lost in the noise of neglect. and forgive my spelling. im all thumbs on this mobile contraption. regards, dougdougmoran
November 19, 2005
November
11
Nov
19
19
2005
12:01 AM
12
12
01
AM
PST
The way I see it, the brain is a fantastic piece of hardware with tons of memory that allows us to perform complex approximate inferences due to massive parallelism. To extend this computer analogy, the soul could be analagous to a computer process -- it utilizes the memory and CPU resources, but it can be disassociated with that specific hardware too (ex. by jumping to another node, eg the 'mobile agent' approach).anteater
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
11:44 PM
11
11
44
PM
PST
"God would then be natural, or at least to some degree natural, and the supernatural part would be unprovable." The evidence for God would be natural.anteater
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
11:23 PM
11
11
23
PM
PST
teeheheheee. now i'm hungry.Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
06:12 PM
6
06
12
PM
PST
Hey Bombadill, are you sure Moreland's imaginary green pastures weren't a typo and he really meant green pastas? This would be well explained with the Flying Spaghetti Monster theorum. Whaddya think? LOL - I kill me somtimes.DaveScot
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
04:47 PM
4
04
47
PM
PST
Oh bombadill as far as determinism goes, there are several arguments about "free will" and determinism. I would try and mention a few, but I do not want to claim someone else's work as my own. Do a quick websearchpuckSR
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
01:03 PM
1
01
03
PM
PST
btw bombadill, i had to comment from earlier Why does everyone on here constantly lump every different form of Atheism into one giant group? I am not personally of the Atheistic persuasion, but it is rather scary that the people on this site lack the basic understanding of other world views. It would be similiar to assuming that all Christians read the bible as "absolute literalism". As to the frequent references to the "theistic" nature of numbers and colors. Those are not "theistic", unless the only way they could exist is if God created numbers and colors. The physicalist would simply argue, however, that they are both not real, but rather our own inventions for the sake of rationalization. Their is no way to tell if we all interpret the color "red" in the same way. It may appear different to everyone, and therefore it would not be "real".puckSR
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
01:02 PM
1
01
02
PM
PST
I stumbled across a brief review of a book by Moreland... "Firstly, our mental states possess properties not held by our physical brains. For instance, if I close my eyes and imagine a green pasture, nothing in my physical brain turns green. Moreover, as my thought of a green pasture is not an empirical phenomenon, it cannot be verified by the methods of the hard sciences. It doesn't have an odor, a length, a height, a weight or a physical location in space. Secondly, I am in a position to know my mental life in a way not available to anyone else. I, and I alone, am privy to my mental states. A brain surgeon may know more about my physical brain and its operations than I do, but he cannot know my mental life as well as I do. He doesn't experience my fear of being operated on, or my hope that I make it through the operation alive. Furthermore, I cannot be mistaken about my mental states. If I have an experience of a grey rug, the rug itself may actually be white due to poor lighting. But I cannot be mistaken that I am experiencing what I take to be a grey rug. Thirdly, our mental states possess the property of intentionality. The intentionality of our mental states is the most powerful argument against physicalist accounts of consciousness. Our mental states possess the property of aboutness or ofness. We don't just think; we think "about" or "of" something. Our thoughts point beyond themselves to objects and things, even those that don't exist. Intentionality is troublesome for the physicalist, for how can our brain waves be "about" or "of" anything? If a neuroscientist could examine the brains of two classical music lovers, how could he tell one was thinking about the melodies of Bach and the other of Beethoven? And finally, the most interesting argument for dualism is the argument from qualia. When we see a red apple, it "looks" red. When we taste a chocolate bar, it tastes "chocolatey." When we smell a rose it smells "rosy." Philosophers call such things as the look of red, the taste of chocolate, or the smell of a rose "qualia." Moreland and Rae argue that qualia are experiences within our minds. For example, every time you place a wedge of a lemon in your mouth, you experience the sour taste of lemon qualia. This is a correlation between physical qualities and mental qualia. The physical qualities of lemons are very different in nature from the mental qualia they are correlated with. The "taste" of a lemon is not itself anything like the chemical composition of a lemon -- although it is caused by the lemon's chemical composition. Physicalism, in contrast with dualism, holds that our mental states are identical to our physical bodies. Some physicalists claim that if the mind is non-physical, it is not scientifically meaningful. But this objection fails for the simple reason that there exist many abstract objects that are non-physical. Numbers, for example, are abstract objects, having no weight, length or location in space. The numerals "5" and "V" each represent the number 5. In this case there are two numerals, but only one number -- the number 5 -- is expressed by the numerals. Also, if we are just matter, then we don't have free will. Our actions are determined by the laws of chemistry and physics, not our own human volition." Food for thought.Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
11:56 AM
11
11
56
AM
PST
"At this point, I do not think that science can either prove nor disprove the “soul”." I agree with you here. The supernatural is beyond the realm of science...cambion
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
11:29 AM
11
11
29
AM
PST
cambion Speaking of real neuroscience, have you read this? http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000519BF-3128-11E8-A28583414B7F0000DaveScot
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
11:16 AM
11
11
16
AM
PST
That's an interesting study, cambion. And I don't question the idea that the physical brain and the will are symbiotic. But I'm not sure that this study conclusively demonstrates that the panoply of expression and emotion that makes us who we are, can be reduced to the physical brain. At this point, I do not think that science can either prove nor disprove the "soul".Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
11:13 AM
11
11
13
AM
PST
"The point being that there is a case to be made for a “mind” or “will” which transcends the purely physical." http://tinyurl.com/deyq3DaveScot
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:56 AM
10
10
56
AM
PST
"Humans are their ultimate author and humans excercised volition of the “will” to create them." Interestingly, recent neuroscience findings have suggested that our free will may be an illusion afterall. From Benjamin Libet in Wikipedia: "Researchers carrying out Libet’s procedure would ask each participant to sit at a desk in front of the oscilloscope timer. They would affix the EEG electrodes to the participant’s scalp, and would then instruct the subject to carry out some small, simple motor activity, such as pressing a button. Additionally, the subject would be asked to note the position of the dot on the oscilloscope timer when “he/she was first aware of the wish or urge to act.” Pressing the button marked the end of the trial, and the position of the dot on the timer was noted again, this time electronically. From these two data points, the position of the timer when the subject gets the urge to push the button and the position of the timer when the button is pushed, researchers were able to calculate the total time of the trial from volition to action. On average, approximately two hundred milliseconds elapsed between the first appearance of conscious will and the act of pressing the button. Researchers also analyzed EEG recordings for each trial with respect to the timing of the action. Here, brain activity involved in the initiation of the action, primarily centered in the secondary motor cortex, occurred, on average, approximately five hundred milliseconds before the trial ended with the pushing of the button. That is to say, researchers recorded brain activity for the pushing of the button as many as three hundred milliseconds before subjects reported the first awareness of conscious will to act." Although far from conclusive, this research suggests that the "brain" conducts an action, and that it is only after the fact that our "mind" professes to have initialiated the action.cambion
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:51 AM
10
10
51
AM
PST
I agree that it is one of the more weak arguments.Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:48 AM
10
10
48
AM
PST
Bombadill, I agree with you here. I was just trying to point out that substituting atoms does not make for something different and is not a good defense of the duelist position.cambion
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:45 AM
10
10
45
AM
PST
I honestly don't know, cambion. But you are not comparing apples to apples. A computer has not shown that it has altruistic expression, and compassion, and moral judgements etc...Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:39 AM
10
10
39
AM
PST
"The car may still belong to me, but in a stricly physical sense, it is a completely different car." Let me put it a slightly different way. If one were to swap out all the atom's in your computer's hard drive for 'fresh' atoms of the same variety, the same exact information would be encoded on the 'new' hard drive, would it not?cambion
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:36 AM
10
10
36
AM
PST
The car may still belong to me, but in a stricly physical sense, it is a completely different car. And the problem with simulated neural networks is that the simulations are designed and controlled by cognizant intellects. Humans are their ultimate author and humans excercised volition of the "will" to create them. The point being that there is a case to be made for a "mind" or "will" which transcends the purely physical.Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:29 AM
10
10
29
AM
PST
dougmoran, Are you still around? I'm much more interested in talking economics than in the duelist flame-war. Did you see my last post on the subject (#162)?cambion
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:25 AM
10
10
25
AM
PST
"//I think I’m going to go tell the inmates at the local prison that they can go free after 7 years, regardless of what they’ve done because every atom in their bodies is renewed every 7 years so they are not the same person and therefore no longer accountable for past crimes." The basic shape of their neural networks remain the same, even if the physical parts are 'recycled.' Similar analogy would be keeping a car for a number of years, eventually all the physical pieces get swapped out one-by-one for new physical pieces, but the overall connections remain the same. It is still 'your' car.cambion
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:23 AM
10
10
23
AM
PST
"Until you’ve told me how much 2 + 4 weighs… I’ll remain a dualist." 2+ 4 doesn't weigh anything. The relationship betweent these two numbers in encoding within the connections forming the neural network, just as the number "2" in encoded within the connections as well as the number "4". We can do this within simulated neural networks, that is encode all sorts of information that don't have a physical reductionist basis. The information exists purely as ephemeral connections. The cybernetics literature has been concerned with this since the 50s.cambion
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:21 AM
10
10
21
AM
PST
//I think I'm going to go tell the inmates at the local prison that they can go free after 7 years, regardless of what they've done because every atom in their bodies is renewed every 7 years so they are not the same person and therefore no longer accountable for past crimes. ;)Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:19 AM
10
10
19
AM
PST
HEY EVERYONE! IF YOU BELIEVE THAT THERE IS MORE TO "YOU" THAN THE PHYSICAL TISSUE INSIDE YOU... THEN YOU'RE A MYSTIC! *climbs back down from rooftop.Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:17 AM
10
10
17
AM
PST
Conjecture. Are you a Neuroscientist? Perhaps you should submit your quick little explanation to the J.P. Morelands and the John C. Eccles of the world and save them from any further research. Programming a machine to produce non physical models is a far cry from the human mind with all of it's subtlties and expression. I don't think the computer model is going to experience angst over a broken relationship, or decide that it wants to abandon it's role in computing and serve the needy in Calcutta. Until you've told me how much 2 + 4 weighs... I'll remain a dualist. And you have every right to remain a physicalist.Bombadill
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:15 AM
10
10
15
AM
PST
The model of reality that the brain creates can be very convincing. Who hasn't had a dream that, while immersed in it, wasn't convinced it was real? But who among us that has woken up with a memory of our dream doesn't realize it was just a dream and wasn't nearly as rich in detail as physical reality? Mystics, that's who. ;-)DaveScot
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:14 AM
10
10
14
AM
PST
That which is not natural is not provable....let us say that you could prove the existence of God. God would then be natural, or at least to some degree natural, and the supernatural part would be unprovable. If God appeared...and told you that he could lift a rock without touching it You would watch and the rock may rise up, but if there were no natural forces at work, you could not prove that God was moving the rock. I know, it sucks, and it is contrary to what you would think, but to "prove" something, you have to do more than make casual relationships. This is why the Theory of Evolution is not proven. Just not would it have to be directly observed, but all of the mechanisms behind the act would also have to be observable and proven. Supernatural...by definition...is unprovablepuckSR
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:13 AM
10
10
13
AM
PST
http://www.godandscience.org/evolution/ape-language.htmlMGD
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:08 AM
10
10
08
AM
PST
"Whatever, Dave. What you have exposed is that there is a legitimate debate about the nature of the mind and it’s relationship to the metaphysical. Ignore it if you want… denial ain’t just a river in egypt." Whatever, Bombadill. Debate it if you want... cranks aren't just pieces of internal combustion engines.DaveScot
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:06 AM
10
10
06
AM
PST
What Penfield's experiment supports is a non-physical reality but this non-physical reality is a MODEL of reality that the brain creates. Then, instead of blindly interacting with the physical world (which can be hazardous to one's health) the brain interacts with its internal model of reality and then uses these results as a guide to what will happen when interacting with physical reality. It's all very straightforward to me as computer scientists create non-physical models of physical systems all the time for the same reason the brain does - it's cheaper and safer to test things against a non-physical model first. There's nothing at all mystical about non-physical models of reality in the brain. They make perfect sense.DaveScot
November 18, 2005
November
11
Nov
18
18
2005
10:04 AM
10
10
04
AM
PST
1 2 3 9

Leave a Reply