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Templeton tactics

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This is an interesting tidbit. The Templeton Foundation is a private foundation which provides support for thinkers who try to integrate contemporary science with traditional religion. It’s an enormously wealthy foundation which awards the biggest cash prize in the world, for anything (bigger than the Nobel). It’s always seemed a little fishy to me, since some of the awardees seem to me to be plenty smart but hardly the greatest intellects around.

Anyway, the link is to Dawkins’ blog, which recounts some of the correspondence between a journalist and Dennett and A.C. Grayling about being paid attendees of a Templeton conference. The main question is whether you do more harm than good in engaging in public dialogue with those whose views you think are silly.



  1. Rob says:

    Yeah, Templeton kinda seems like a more sophisticated Discovery Institute, a contemporary promoter of that religion-securing “canny skepticism” (cf. Antichrist, section 10; Genealogy, 3.25). On the other hand, it sponsors what are to me some of the more stimulating Bloggingheads exchanges (“Percontations”), at least one decent book, and Jonathan Haidt has defended the support his research has gotten from it (see the 2007 “Beyond Belief” videos).


  2. Huenemann says:

    It’s taken me a day to sort out what I think about this, but I’ve decided Dennett and Grayling are being proud and foolish or simply insincere. That fact is that there will always be lots of people believing silly things, whether or not serious philosophers and scientists show up to their meetings or not. The idea that, by not showing up, they will help nudge humanity towards a golden age of reason, is an overestimation of their own significance and of human rationality. Maybe the real reason they don’t want to show up is that they just hate having that same ‘God vs. reason’ discussion over and over again, and can’t bear to do it again even if they do get paid for it. That’s a good reason to decline, but if that’s why, then they shouldn’t hide behind some dopey moral shield.


  3. Mike says:

    I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation.

    Nietzsche (GS §277)


  4. Huenemann says:

    I was thinking this morning that maybe I was too harsh on Dennett and Grayling. Maybe they aren’t expecting to nudge our population towards rationality. Maybe their only aim is at least not to contribute to (and thus help to sustain) the kind of talk they regard as silly. I guess I know that feeling, when you hear the talk going on and on, and think to yourself, “Maybe if I just sit silently and stare into space it will end soon.” Hey, that might make a good t-shirt….


  5. Rob says:

    Now, this is a Templeton event Dennett should have been invited to attend!


  6. Clay says:

    Users on this forum quote Nietzsche in the same way that born-again Christians quote the bible. Nothing against Nietzsche, I own and enjoy a couple of his books. It is just a trend I noticed.


  7. Mike says:

    I’ll try to quote more from Yet Another Testament to balance things out.

    Fear not: if thou keepest silent, and stareth into space, it will soon end.

    Yet Another Testament (author unknown)


  8. Mike says:

    and Bokonon

    Verses 2-4 (?): In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.

    And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done.” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. “What is the purpose of all this?” he asked politely.

    “Everything must have a purpose?” asked God.

    “Certainly,” said man.

    “Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God.

    And He went away.


  9. Clay says:

    Awesome! Thanks Mike.


  10. Rob says:

    Dennett’s amusing report of Templeton-sponsored sessions at the Cambridge Darwin Festival:

    In the second session:

    “[David Sloan] Wilson offered very interesting data from a new study by his group on a large cohort of American teenagers, half Pentecostals and half Episcopalians (in other words, maximally conservative and maximally liberal), finding that on many different scales of self-assessment, these young people are so different that they would look to a biologist like ‘different species.'”


  11. Jake says:

    Hi everyone, I do not mean to get off track with this thread, but I found a book that I think looks interesting. It is written by a professor at Princeton and it is called “Saving God”. The author calls Hitchens and Dawkins undergraduate atheists, and that religion needs to be saved from their distortions. That jumped out at me. Anyways I thought I would share it, it might be of some interest for future discussion. Here is the link:
    Anyways I hope everyone is having a good summer. Seeya
    Im sorry that the link will not put you there directly, I guess you will have to type it.


  12. Jake says:

    Oh, I guess the link works. I am not that computer savvy. Haha


  13. Rob says:

    Thanks, Jake. I’m especially interested since the second endorsement for the book is by my undergad mentor ( –who, by the way, disagrees with Waugh’s gloss on Wittgenstein’s deathbed remark about having had “a wonderful life”: he thinks Wittgenstein was too fanatical about truth telling to have made it ironically).


  14. Mike says:

    I haven’t had a chance to read any books by Edwards yet but I appreciated this book review from a while back. Maybe I’ll pick up that one.


  15. […] on usuphilosophy, we once had a discussion about atheists trying to decide whether they ought to accept money from the Templeton foundation. […]


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