The Templeton Prize used to encourage progress in religion. Truly impressive people like Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Stanley Jaki, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn once received this prize (go here for past winners). In the last decade, however, the Prize has been continually given to people inhabiting the Templeton Foundation’s inner circle, who promise to keep contemporary science inviolate and make sure that religion keeps its hands off. With Francisco Ayala’s receipt of the prize yesterday, the pattern continues. Ayala is as thorough-going a Darwinist as one will find. According to him, science and religion reside in air-tight compartments. So much for a fruitful dialogue between science and religion. The New Scientist appreciates the point:
Templeton prize is bad news for religion, not science
Michael Brooks, consultant | 25 March 2010
In his acceptance today of the £1 million Templeton prize for “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”, evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala forcefully denied that science contradicts religion.
“If they are properly understood,” he said, “they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters.”
I don’t believe this, and Ayala, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, should know better. Science is about finding out how the physical world works. The only way in which science and religion can “concern different matters” is if religion has absolutely nothing to do with the physical world occupied by its believers.
But — and here’s the rub — that is exactly what Templeton “religion” is all about. Its efforts to find common ground between science and religion have systematically destroyed pretty much every religious claim. Little in the creed of the Presbyterian church, for example — of which the late John Templeton was a lifelong member — survives its axe.
When I attended a journalism fellowship funded by the Templeton Foundation in 2005, I learned from Templeton-endorsed scientists and theologians that the way to establish a peaceful co-existence of science and religion was to make no religious claims at all.
They said that creationism is out, as is intelligent design. There can be no afterlife. Nor does anyone have an eternal soul. There was no virgin birth — that was most probably a story made up after Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. There was no physical resurrection of Jesus. None of the miracles actually happened. And prayers are not answered.