About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Templeton Foundation

by Massimo Pigliucci

A few weeks ago I got an email from my book agent. She had been approached by an editor at a well known academic publishing house with a project she thought I would be interested in. Sometime later I met with the editor in question, a genial person with whom I clearly had quite a few interests in common. Nonetheless, a few days later I decided to turn down the offer and pursue other projects. The reason: the book, which would have been part of a series, was going to be produced as a joint venture by the academic press in question and the John Templeton Foundation.

A few nights later I was having dinner after an event in New York where I moderated a panel discussion with four colleagues. Over drinks someone asked me about my Templeton-related decision and I explained my motivations. Turns out three of my four colleagues (two philosophers and a scientist) were funded by Templeton, which frankly has only strengthened my resolve to buck the trend and remain unassociated with that outlet.

The JTF was established by Sir John Templeton to “support science, invest in the big questions,” which sounds great unless you know who Templeton was and what he was up to. Sir John was born in Winchester, Tennessee (he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1987 because of his philanthropy), was a Yale graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, and made his money by investing in the stock market beginning in 1938, and eventually by managing other people’s money through mutual funds, starting in 1958. The Templeton Prize, which is financially heftier than the Nobel, was established in 1972 to further scientific and other advances “in the spiritual domain,” whatever that means.

The first recipient of the Templeton was Mother Theresa, the most recent one Martin J. Rees, the Astronomer Royal. For some time I have been disturbed by JTF’s activities because they smack of ideological interference with research and scholarship, essentially buying credibility for the Foundation by giving large amounts of money to scientists, philosophers, and other scholars in an environment in which funding for research is increasingly scarce and competitive. Of course, the idea of wealthy and not exactly pure-minded patrons supporting the sciences and the humanities isn’t new at all, going back to the very beginning of civilization, both eastern and western. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

In thinking over my agent’s proposal I went to the JTF web site and poked around their “testimonials.” What I found was disturbing to say the least. There are five sections of short videos with various people telling us why JTF efforts are so important. The first one, on “Science and the Big Questions” is pretty plain and I found little to object to, except for the occasional popping up of strange words when it comes to a scientific vocabulary, like mentions of research on “virtue.” It also features Martin Nowak of Harvard regretting that most biologists find it “distasteful” to talk to theologians (they should). And then we find Charles Townes (UC-Berkeley) making the tired distinction between sciences dealing with facts (true) and religions dealing with meaning (on what basis, one might ask?), from which he comes pretty close to suggesting some sort of intelligent design at work. Okay, I guess I did have some problem with that section after all.

The second video concerns “character development,” which early on features David Myers (Hope College) talking about Templeton’s desire that science could eventually study and validate the “laws of life” (uh?) underlying good living, which led JTF to fund research on “forgiveness” (clearly a heavily Christian-influenced concept seldom found in the scientific vocabulary, until Templeton started giving out grants to study it). Following that, we have an appearance by David Blankenhorn, of the Institute for American Values, a neo-conservative think tank, naturally advocating rather vague “changes in public policies” stemming from JTF’s funded research.

It is only natural, then, that the third introductory video displayed on the Foundation’s entry page concerns “freedom and free enterprise,” and just from the title the savvy reader can tell where this is going. It opens with — and mostly features throughout — Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute (another conservative think tank), who delivers some bullshit about the morality of the free enterprise system, and who manages to belittle international aid to reduce poverty.

The fourth video is about genius, targeting young people with exceptional talents. I have no objection to that, though it seems to me that the problem the world has is not that geniuses don’t get a chance, it’s that too many people are functionally illiterate and incapable of critical thinking. Putting emphasis on the first rather than the latter problem will push society into an even greater divide between the elite few on one side and the large masses on the other — not a good trend for democracies and open societies.

The last video is not ready yet. It’s supposed to be about genetics, and the site says only that “the Foundation takes a particular interest in how major advances in genetics might serve to empower individuals, leading to spiritually beneficial social and cultural changes.” Sounds a bit Brave New Worldish to me, but at this point I may have developed Templeton-induced paranoia.

In short, my reason for declining the book project is that I simply don’t like having my name associated with right wing and/or libertarian organizations like the JTF, the American Enterprise Institute or the Institute for American Values. But the dinner conversation with my colleagues gave me also an informal opportunity to find out why others don’t seem to be as bothered by the idea of getting money from the JTF. Broadly speaking, and based of course on my extremely limited sample (augmented, however, by similar conversations I’ve had over the past several years), there seem to be three reasons (or rationalizations, depending on how you look at it) for why scholars take JTF money:

* “I’m independent anyway.” The first response is that there is a distinction between the agenda of the funding source and what one does as an independent scholar. This is certainly true, and I was assured (and have no reason to doubt) that Templeton would have had no editorial say whatsoever in what I would have written in my book. Then again, research into the practice of science does show that the source of one’s money makes a difference (often unconsciously) on the outcome. The case in point is that of medical research that is much more likely to find a given drug effective if the researchers received funding from the pharmaceutical industry rather than from government agencies. At the very least one ought to be aware of the danger and not just dismiss the possibility out of hand. (This, of course, is a separate point from the one I made above concerning one’s name lending credibility to an institution whose ideological positions one may not share.)

* “It’s the same with the federal government.” NIH, NSF and other governmental agencies also have agendas, the argument goes, because the federal government has an agenda, and these days that agenda is significantly tilted toward an anti-science, pro-religion trajectory, largely because of the influence of Congressional Republicans. I find this argument rather specious. I am not aware of any evidence of this sort of influence in the pattern of NSF funding (with which I am most familiar), and that’s probably because there are many layers between Congressional Republicans and, say NSF or NIH officers, and because the funding process is entirely handled by professional scientists. Of course, one could very reasonably question funding amounts and priorities at the level of the entire federal research budget, and that discussion would indeed be political and ideological. But at the very least we are talking about a government of elected officials, not a private outlet that is free to push whatever agenda it wishes to push. There is also, of course, the question of whether a scientist should accept money from specific federal agencies whose goals may be ethically questionable, such as the Department of Defense. And indeed I am sympathetic toward scientists who do reject such funding, and somewhat critical of those who accept it.

* “Someone else would do it anyway.” This is the ethically most naive response I have encountered. First, this may not be true, as Templeton has gained influence and credibility precisely because a good number of legitimate scientists and other scholars have accepted their money. The Discovery Institute (the Intelligent Design “think” tank based in Seattle), on the contrary, has not succeeded in part because legitimate scientists have ostracized them. Second, one’s integrity is not helped, nor is one’s ethical responsibility diminished, by the thought that someone else would have stepped in and gotten the money, so we might as well. If we adopted that sort of standard, all kinds of unethical behavior would become acceptable on pragmatic grounds, the academic version of realpolitik.

There was one more thing I was curious about concerning Templeton and how it manages to get the attention of prominent scientists and other academic outlets, so I asked the editor at the press that will produce the new book series: why exactly do you guys need the JTF, particularly as you have an excellent reputation and the JTF people will have no editorial input into the series? Answer: because Templeton has money, and money buys publicity, and publicity sells books. There is capitalism at work, my friends.

42 comments:

  1. Massimo, I applaud your decision and your careful analysis of why you reached the decision, as well as your valid criticism of the rationalizations some scientists and philosophers use to accept JTF money. I'm sure you'll find another publisher for your book and I'll be the first one to buy.

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  2. We've had our differences, Massimo, but I'm 100% with you on this one. Templeton simply bribes scientists with its deep pockets (their endowment is said to be around a billion dollars, and they dispense $70 million per year in grants), and the scientists always find a way to rationalize taking their money. I just wonder how invidious an organization has to be before an impecunious scientist will refuse their funds. What about the Council of Conservative Citizens? The Defense Department?

    Our ability to rationalize is impressive, especially when explaining why we take money.

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  3. The best strategy to defeat capitalism is to not allow capitalists to unconditionally give you money.

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  4. The best strategy to defeat capitalism is to not allow capitalists to unconditionally give you money.

    Actually, I would have no problem with getting money "unconditionally." That would be sweet. The problem is that the strings are always there.

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  5. I always felt uncomfortable with this foundation for similar reasons, and your eloquent writing echo it.

    One small thing that is tangential to your post. For what do philosophers need funding to do research? Beside trivial expenses such as traveling to conferences and buying books, do they get money to think? I was just wondering..

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  6. gil,

    philosophers get grants to organize conferences and to take sabbaticals to write books (someone has to pay for their replacements in the classroom).

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  7. "- from which he comes pretty close to suggesting some sort of intelligent design at work."

    Why wouldn't Townes do that? He's not hiding that he's a member of the United Church of Christ, and considers that "science and religion [are] quite parallel, much more similar than most people think and that in the long run, they must converge."

    And of course you see that as a bad thing, and that nothing at all designed the evolution of the universe, not even a chance that it's designing itself.

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  8. "There is capitalism at work, my friends."

    As someone who is not personally a fan of capitalism I eagerly await your exposition on, and implementation plan for, a viable alternative.

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  9. Thanks for the clarification. So this is similar support the other acedemics also get. I was just wondering if they get sometimes money to do research, such as to travel to unique archives or libraries. I guess my first thought about about a philosopher traveling to some secluded and exotic place where only there he can think clearly is not as common.

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  10. Gil,

    I know a number of philosophers (primarily philosophers of science, formal epistemologists, & formal ontologists) and logicians who have received NSF (for artificial intelligence research) and DoD funding (for everything from intelligence analysis and cryptology to Bayesian search theory and applications of game theory to military strategy). This is not to mention funding from private concerns such as IBM, Intel, and Microsoft. E.g. there were a number of philosophers who worked on IBM's Watson.

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  11. My concern is not primarily about the individual philosopher or scientist. It is true that people are unconsciously susceptible to influence based on their funding. Good researchers take precautions to avoid having beliefs affect one's data (although even here I look at the enormous number of rather poorly considered experimental designs in psychology or "experimental philosophy" and I see considerable opportunities for preconceptions to influence experimental design and interpretation of results). I am more disturbed by the distorting effect Templeton money has on the academy overall. Since tenure and promotion decisions are based on research, getting external funding such as a Templeton grant, can greatly increase one's odds of getting tenure or promotion. And even if one could publish exactly as much in just as respected journals without the funding, then the department and the researcher gain a certain amount of respect from one's university (and hence advantages in tenure/promotion decisions) for bringing in that amount of external funding. So, perhaps the individual researcher might not be influenced by Templeton's well-known bias, the average position or center of gravity on any academic issue can be shifted farther toward the Templeton position on any given issue because the philosophers who take the money are more likely to succeed than those who do not take the money. And the ones who receive the grant are much more likely to agree with Templeton's position than those who do not get the money. I want to ask my friend to submit a grant proposal to Templeton to prove that there is no God, that belief in God undermines one's ethical judgment, or something along those lines. I strongly suspect that the research gets the funding because it supports the Templeton position.
    Templeton's funding is significant in a field such as philosophy, and it can have a noticeable effect on the 'average' or default position in the field. If the most reputable scholars have a certain position, then it is taken (more) seriously than alternatives, and that affects how everyone thinks on the issue. Suppose my friend devises a study and finds that people who believe they lack free will are more likely to act immorally. (Studies such as these are fraught with methodological problems and uncertain application to the real world, but these studies exist and are published.) Then other philosophers will address this question, rather than questions, for example, of harms of belief in free will, and the default or ordinary position becomes that there are ethical problems with belief that we have no free will. Funding for philosophy is limited; Templeton can buy a lot of influence for a relatively small amount of money. If Templeton gets to set the starting point of research or terms of the debate (by helping those who produce research congenial to them), then it becomes even harder for a fair and complete evaluation of whatever philosophical issue they attempt to influence.

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  12. Massimo: You see the trouble that you cause when you make ideologically-loaded statements like "capitalism at work"? :-)

    Anyway, I took your point to be not "down with capitalism!" but "think critically about the provenance of the scholarship that you consume" or "just because it's highly publicized doesn't mean that it's high-quality work."

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  13. mufti,

    Exactly. My point is never that capitalism is inherently wrong, but that it does not guarantee, and sometimes directly interferes, with society's goals.

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  14. That's true I think, the money given by the JTF is somehow at the border of being acceptable if one pursue "free" research. But I think that they are many agencies which have interests conflicts with the people they are funding and which are not questioned in the same way as JTF is. So I think JTF is only one of them. Why is it the one everybody points? Because as Massimo says, probably some of people in the committees giving the funds are not professional scientists (although many are) and the JTF is associated to Christianity. But I don't think it is an "objective" way of appreciating JTF. Imagine you are Christian (or embrace JTF ideology) and evolutionist at the same time, will it change your way of doing research whether your money comes from JTF or any other organization? Maybe, but I would be tempted to say that it wouldn't. Moreover we would need some solid evidence which would show that the money received specifically from Templeton (or the like) makes people doing bad science significantly more than when they receive their money from someone else. Do we have such evidence? There is some evidence of social psychology showing that when someone gives you money, you are more prone to accept their idea. But I think peer-reviewing and scientific methods as well as institutions and practices have definitely the role of preventing any drift from what is reasonable science.
    Of course, we need to be sure that there is a real "freedom" in the way one conduct science once they receive their funding. From what I know and my personal experience, this is the case and I would be ready that my publications would be somehow quantitatively compared to other publications would be funded by other sources. We can actually find some works in this direction but it not something made systematically (see for example: http://www.cognitionandculture.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=607:religion-science-do-piper-payers-call-the-tune-templeton&catid=32:oliviers-blog&Itemid=34)

    JTF funds for question which are related to Christianity: what a big deal.... That's their choice and it is a perfectly respectable one. Would we reproach a pharmaceutical company to fund project related to antibiotics? I don't think so.
    And of course they want to have more publications and big names to do their promotion in order to obtain a better reputation. Here again what a big deal. Why do we think the JTF will somehow contaminate these scholars with "bad Christian thoughts", why couldn't we make a completely reasonable opposite hypothesis: that these big names could make the JTF a more respectable source of funding over time? After all that is exactly how a university builds its reputation, and many universities have some links with Christianity.

    Even if I intuitively would agree with what is written by Massimo, because I am atheist (or rather agnostic) and do not want anyone to tell me what I should say or even how I should say it. But honestly, when I read this article I felt that Massimo first had an a priori that something dodgy was going on and then tried to show indeed that there was. I am not sure that it is an "objective" way of appreciating the JTF.
    For sure one needs to keep a check on the JTF but apart from that I am not sure I see any problem with accepting their money for scientific or philosophical investigations as long as the outcomes of the research are published in recognized journals and conferences and that the source of funds is clearly acknowledged. Everything is transparent and if someone thinks there is something dodgy going one, nothing prevents this person to make a solid case against Templeton like foundations with quantitative methods and less speculation.

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  15. pierrick,

    there is no direct evidence that Templeton funding has warped research findings, for the simple reason that nobody has looked at it, that I'm aware of. But there is plenty of evidence that even peer review science (e.g., medical research) can easily be affected by the source of funding.

    Besides, my main point was that I don't like Templeton's conservative-libertarian agenda, and therefore I do not wish to lend my name to it, regardless of their actual influence on individual scholarly products (I can guarantee you that I would have written precisely the kind of book they don't like).

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  16. Massimo,

    Generally, I'm not in the habit of kissing up to people, but I must say that this is why you're one of the best thinkers on the planet, maybe the universe (although probability teaches us that this is not likely). And you come with principles, too! Solid stuff.

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  17. "(I can guarantee you that I would have written precisely the kind of book they don't like)"
    Let's hope this book still gets written.

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  18. Yep. The fundamental purpose of the Templeton Foundation is corruption. Thank you for providing an absolutely clear explanation of the problem with whoring one's reputation out to them.

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  19. Massimo: Thanks for this piece and for the admirable decision it describes.

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  20. "there is no direct evidence that Templeton funding has warped research findings, for the simple reason that nobody has looked at it, that I'm aware of."

    Perhaps you could get a Templeton grant to take a look at this?

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  21. The comment by "unknown" above is actually by Jerry Coyne, who has published a longer commentary on this piece on his blog:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/massimo-calls-out-templeton/

    PZ has also commented over at Pharyngula:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/11/09/massimo-pigliucci-has-principles/

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  22. Dr P: Even though I agree with your critique of JTF and accepting their money or not, I strongly disagree with your statement:" I am not aware of any evidence of this sort of influence in the pattern of NSF funding (with which I am most familiar), and that’s probably because there are many layers between Congressional Republicans and, say NSF or NIH officers, and because the funding process is entirely handled by professional scientists." as an exculpatory for how the system works. Case in point: "professional scientists" (as if it there was another category)fund, e.g.: string theory projects overwhelmingly, in detriment of projects that address different approaches to study reality, which appear increasingly valid. We can go on for months with examples of "fashion bias" at NSF, NIH and possibly any funding federal or state agency. Bottom line: I argue it is not possible to claim "intellectual independence" within the current academic funding system. You want integrity: Gregori Pereleman. I acknowledge he is a painful example, yet powerful, of what needs to happen to argue for intellectual independence.

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  23. David Blankenhorn was the most important witness for the defense of Proposition 8 at the recent federal trial (still in appeals). His testimony was lukewarm and discounted as non-expert by the presiding judge anyway. Nonetheless, I know I would balk at associating with an organization that publicizes his endorsement, particularly one that claims to be driving science forward!

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  24. Sean,

    I disagree. Yes, NSF, NIH etc. budgets are subject to fashions internal to science, I don't think one can make a serious argument that it is political ideology or Congressional foibles that drive funding for string theory.

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  25. I wasnt thinking of anything but "science internal fashion" as a problem to "intellectual honesty" in research funding. The point is not political foibles, religionists or political 'ideologies"; the point is the largely ignored (ducking) role of this fashion on dictating research agendas. The scientific establishment at large ignores it. To argue the contaminating role of the JTF in science without recognizing "science fashion" as a real problem is not correct.

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  26. artikat,

    the argument is correct insofar the two problems are distinct, and they are. That doesn't mean the problem you mention is not a problem, but I do believe it is different and, frankly, less serious.

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  27. Dr P, forgive me for dragging this further. Of course, "fashion in science" is a different problem, but at the core of both problems is the question of "intellectual honesty", when requesting and granting funds. I suggest that there is enough data to show how the fashionistas at funding agencies determine the short and mid term course of research. Think e.g.: bacteria and stomach ulcers (a glaring example of non fashionable being true, in the long run). I dont think it "less serious". Maybe we just dont want it to be true?

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  28. I agree with artikcat. The problem is when one set of people approaches a monopoly on funding in one area, then their biases, whether political/religious/broader intellectual in some other outside-science way, or simply a matter of scientific fashion, may distort the field. NSF panels and NIH study sections can fall into this category. I am pretty sure this would be easy to track bibliometrically. Eg, look for an NIH call for announcements, pick out the keywords, and track the increase in their use over the appropriate range of years.

    Or to see the influence of the outside world, look at "eugenics" in the mainstream biology literature before and after the second world war. There are legitimate questions about dysgenic trends in human evolution, that impact human health. Can anyone see the NIH funding their study? Is this really for scientific rather than political reasons?

    I do agree that JTF's near-monopoly is some fields is a big problem, I just think that many, many other fields share similar, unrecognised problems.

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  29. Kudos Massimo, I think you did the right thing as well.

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  30. Let's say a certain project coordinator started at a lab, unbeknownst to them, that his paycheck comes out of a Templeton grant sought out years ago.

    The bulk of his work in the lab is to 1) draft manuscripts (earning him authorship) presenting research findings funded by the prior Templeton grant and 2) draft grant applications (with one in the near future slated for Templeton).

    What's a guy like this going to do if he's opposed to the foundation? Is he essentially committing career suicide by being entangled with these folks prior to grad school? Research jobs are hard to find (especially those with a pay check).

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  31. I think that having a tenured position and a career already might make your decision somewhat easier. If I am awarded a Templeton, I shall not lose any sleep over it, since it means I can eat.

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  32. I somehow overlooked this at the time.

    Very well done and well said, Massimo.

    John Wilkins, surely that's too glib. If it's a choice between Templeton and starvation it may be understandable to accept, but that doesn't mean one should be entirely tranquil about it. You could make a point about desperation or need without dismissing ethical concerns altogether.

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  33. If I meet ethical concerns I will address them, and if that means giving up a grant, then I shall. But I have spoken to a number of awardees of JTF grants, and none of them, not one, atheist or Christian liberal, has ever suggested the slightest influence direct or indirect. So at best it seems to me the objection to them is in the choice of topics to be funded. So ethically if there's a problem it must lie in my choice as a researcher to study a topic that JTF funds. This seems an odd objection.

    A bigger problem is indicated by Massimo's point about capitalism. It seems to me that so long as there are private corporations funding research directly, such foundations and institutions will exercise influence on the choice of topics to research. As somebody noted, this is not unlike the problems encountered before with IBM and various large corporations involved in DoD research, but a better case study is medical research and the involvement of pharmaceutical companies. Some are ethically clean, while others have the taint of ghost writing and hiding unwanted research outcomes. Do we permit credible researchers to accept funding from private corporations or not? I'd prefer not, but I can't see an alternative, as Thameron noted.

    If there is evidence of JTF acting poorly then we have a problem. The fact that the funders are religious is not, ipso facto, a problem, certainly not for the terminally underfunded like me. Call it glib, all ye who have jobs. I really can't afford that moral high ground especially when the danger is only potential.

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  34. John,

    to me a better analogy is with the tobacco industry: I think that what Templeton stands for is intellectually corrosive, so I don't want to support it, even indirectly.

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    1. I appreciate that Massimo, and I find your stand to be principled. What I object to is the presumption that anybody who accepts Templeton money must somehow be (i) being corrupted, or (ii) disingenuous. In the tobacco case (or the pharmaceutical bastardry I mentioned) there was and is direct evidence of corrosion. But in this case there is none. You say nobody has ever looked - I have spoken to as many JTF recipients as I can meet and none report any undue influence whatsoever. I looked (not statistically validly, of course, but I'd need a grant to do that).

      So your presumption is not one I share. I do not think JTF is obviously or ipso facto corrosive, and I have good reason for thinking that. So the only alternative for someone who thinks JTF is corrosive is to think the recipients are disingenuous, and again, I know these people and think otherwise. They are good scholars (in one case working on time, which I can't see to be corrosive to anyone but presentism) with good track records. So I do not agree with you and other critics. I will apply for a grant.

      Had I a position and prior career of good funding, such that I were able to live on savings until the next position comes around, I might be less inclined, but then I might also wish not to take money from defense or intelligence agencies, indeed from national governments that have agendas I think are wrong, as well as from corporations that only fund scholarship to look good. Like the Medicis...

      So, in the absence of these ethically impure sources, where should I seek funding? Or should scholars be independently wealthy, as they were before scholarship became something anyone could do, in the latter half of the nineteenth century? I'm really asking.

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    2. John,

      That's not exactly what I meant. I realize that plenty of smart people take Templeton money either in good faith or at least while giving Templeton the benefit of th doubt. And I have never accused Templeton of directly exerting pressure on people. But their agenda is clear, especially as explained on their web site, and I simply do not supportive because I find it intellectually corrosive.

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  35. I haven't read the comments, so this may be redundant, but there's a fourth defense. Suppose some outfit really is involved in harmful activities. They've got tons of money, which they're spending on -- torturing little old ladies, or whatever it might be. They offer me $100,000 so I can do research on exactly what interests me--free will, or character, or the good life, or whatever it might be. It's not just OK for me to take the money, it's obligatory, because that's going to reduce what they have left for torturing little old ladies. The main problem is with my feeling tainted, but what's that, compared to the welfare of the little old ladies? There are roughly 10 objections one could make to this argument, but I'll leave it there. There's something to be said for helping Templeton devote a piece of its pie to perfectly respectable philosophical projects. The more people who refuse, the more the whole pie is going to go to religious and conservative projects.

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  36. Try as I will, I cannot locate a clear argument here. Prof. Pigilucci above asserts that "I have never accused Templeton of directly exerting pressure on people", and has direct testimonial evidence that they do not (to which I could add my own). In fact, he was approached about writing a book over which, by all accounts, he would have complete control. So what is the accusation? That Templeton is " essentially buying credibility for the Foundation by giving large amounts of money to scientists, philosophers, and other scholars in an environment in which funding for research is increasingly scarce and competitive". But what is the distinction between "buying credibility" and deserving credibility by supporting a rather wide variety of research and not interfering with it? Of course, there are topics that Templeton prefers to support: in physics, at least, it tends to be foundational work with little direct practical consequence that is hard to get support for from, e.g., the NSF. Objecting to particular positions taken by other people supported by grants seems to me about as relevant as trying to decide whether to accept a book contract from Oxford by leafing through the catalogue and then getting upset because I strongly disagree with positions taken by other authors, or maybe even with the orientation of entire fields of study. If Prof. Pigliucci prefers only to deal with organizations who only support ideologically like-minded people, that is his prerogative. But to compare Templeton to the tobacco industry and consider that a good analogy, given the considerations brought forward, is not defensible.

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