The journal Nature drew attention to concerns about the Templeton Foundation’s activities on the occasion of the death of John Templeton in 2008. At that time, the editors indicated that “human moral impulses” have a natural, rather than a spiritual explanation and that their stance is to “turn away from religion in seeking explanations for how the world works”. That editorial elicited a blog from me, pointing out that many funding bodies have agendas that can raise suspicions of advocacy rather than following the evidence wherever it leads.
“This publication [i.e. Nature] would turn away from religion in seeking explanations for how the world works, and believes that science is likely to go further in explaining human moral impulses than some religious people will welcome. Thus it shares a degree of suspicion with many in the scientific community at any attempt by religiously driven organizations to fund science. A chief concern is that the influential Templeton Foundation might be seeking to inject religion into the scientific world.”
Now, Nature has revisited the topic in a news feature authored by Mitchell Waldrop, one of their US editors. The Templeton Foundation logo has the phrase “Supporting science – Investing in the Big Questions”. This claim to be the friend of science is not accepted in some quarters – which is why Waldrop asks: “So why does it make so many researchers uneasy?” First witness is Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, who calls the foundation “sneakier than the creationists”. Through its grants to researchers, Coyne alleges, the foundation is trying to insinuate religious values into science. “It claims to be on the side of science, but wants to make faith a virtue,” he says. This is countered by the testimony of Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic and recipient of a Templeton grant: “The Templeton Foundation has never in my experience pressured, suggested or hinted at any kind of ideological slant”.
Apparently, starting before and continuing since the death of its founder, the Foundation has been “radically reframing its research programme”. According to Waldrop, “it is reducing its emphasis on religion to make its programmes more palatable to the broader scientific community.”
For more, go here.