Certain individuals associated with the Templeton Foundation see it as their duty to put as much distance as possible between the foundation and intelligent design. The most recent case is Billy Grassie’s explanation of how the Templeton Foundation could have been in their right minds when they awarded me a $100,000 book grant back in 1999: “The Case of the Missing Book: Setting the Record Straight on William Dembski, the Templeton Foundation, and Intelligent Design.” (Go here and here for earlier posts on this topic at UD).
Grassie was responding to a piece by Joseph Campana at ResearchID.org (go here), and Campana has now provided a detailed reply (go here). I therefore don’t see the need to offer a detailed reply of my own. But there are a two points in Grassie’s piece that deserve notice:
(1) Grassie dismisses ID with a single stroke, calling it POLITICS. As if that dismissal destroys its scientific case for design in biology or its critique of conventional evolutionary biology. ID theorists have and continue to produce a large body of work detailing the problems with a reductionistic conception of science and the ID alternative. Yes, there’s politics connected with ID. But no less with the Templeton Foundation, which, among other things, uses its money to expand college curricula to include science and religion courses of a particular bent (the emphasis being on purpose, efficacy of prayer, love, and altruism). Read Stephen Jay Gould’s last chapter in ROCKS OF AGES, and you’ll see that Gould had every bit as much contempt of the Templeton Foundation for its politicizing of the dialogue between science and religion as Charles Harper has for the Discovery Institute’s politicizing of ID. Just because ID has a political dimension does not mean that it does not have a solid scientific and intellectual core than can be weighed apart from political considerations.
(2) In describing Templeton’s early dalliance with ID (which included supporting ID-friendly conferences, such as Baylor’s Nature of Nature Conference in April 2000 — go here), Grassie makes it clear that one of the things he and others at the Templeton Foundation were concerned about was the ID community’s refusal to ostracize young earth creationists from its ranks. As Campana notes in his reply, Grassie was clearly mistaken when he identified the bulk of ID supporters (whether among the intellectual leaders or among the sympathizers in the broader public) as largely young earth creationists. But Grassie was right that I have never distanced myself from young earth creationists. Grassie suggests that this was wrong of me, and of my colleagues in the ID community, and that as a consequence ID was discredited in the eyes of the Templeton Foundation. That’s too bad. Many young earth creationists are quite bright and have good insights. Many Darwinists are quite bright and have good insights. And I work happily with both camps even though I belong to neither (my published writings include collaborations with young earth creationists, e.g., Paul Nelson, and Darwinists, e.g., Michael Ruse). I am a Christian, and the example of our Lord is not to shun people or set up a caste system of more, or less, acceptable people. It’s therefore my policy to firmly resist all pressures from people who think it’s their right or duty to tell me whom I may associate with and what sorts of penalties I will face if I don’t distance myself from the wrong crowd (I faced such pressures continually in my days at Baylor, and I never buckled to them).
Question: How healthy is it for the Templeton Foundation that its associates such as Billy Grassie and Charles Harper feel such an obsessive need for the foundation to place its stamp of approval on only “the right sorts of people”?