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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Power struggle over ID at the John Templeton Foundation?

Over at ResearchID, Joey Campana offers some surprising revelations about the tricky and widely misinterpreted relationship between big faith and science donor, the John Templeton Foundation (JTF) and the ID guys.

The background is that Laurie Goodstein, writing in The New York Times (December 4, 2005) announced that JTF had asked ID proponents for research proposals but none came in, and that JTF used to be interested in ID but no longer is. Campana, who - as the name of his blog indicates - specializes in covering ID research - writes,
In response to an inquiry about whether the JTF put out a call to ID scholars for grant requests, [JTF honcho] Harper specifically stated that, “No such request [for proposals] was made. There never was a call-for-proposals to the ID community. All I said [to the reporter] is that, like anybody else, ID people could apply and proposals submitted would be reviewed on their merits. No blackballing.”[5] The New York Times article also describes the JTF as being formerly pro-ID but becoming disillusioned with ID. But Harper responded to the article’s claim saying, “This is completely false. It is a creation of media narrative manufacture. ”[6]

In short, Charles Harper explicitly denies that there ever was any call for research proposals made to ID scholars and disavows the accuracy of the entire New York Times' narrative describing the JTF’s disillusion with ID.

And Harper himself actually opposes ID, so he has no motive for questioning Goodstein's account except to set the record straight.

Now, if this was just another story about fabricated reporting at the New York Times, well, take a number and wait. Anyone who still treats the Times as a paper of record should choose their fiction from the fiction aisle.

Note however that Goodstein needs to send the screenplay back to rewrite specifically in order to remove reader anxiety that materialism might not be true. As I have saidelsewhere, " most media people are unidirectional skeptics - they are very skeptical of non-materialism but not the least bit skeptical of materialism."

Campana identifies ID-friendly astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, quantum chemist Henry F. Schaefer, and ID mathematician Bill Dembski as recipients of Templeton funds via various programs, along with a number of others. As for Harper, while he thinks that ID is "bad science, bad philosophy, bad theology", he says he has argued for funding research on the relevant topics.

So far so good. But what are we to make of communications vice Pamela Thompson's letter to the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times (February 4, 2007)?

You have to sign up to get both letters, but here's a key swatch of the Times letter:
We do not believe that the science underpinning the intelligent-design movement is sound, we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and the foundation is a nonpolitical entity and does not engage in or support political movements.

The foundation has provided tens of millions of dollars in support of research academics who are critical of the anti-evolution intelligent-design position.

She also cites the generous support provided to American Association for the Advancement of Science program, "one of whose chief activities has been to inform the public of the weakness of the intelligent-design position on modern evolutionary biology."

My own view is that a power struggle is going on at the Foundation.

Update 3:20 p.m. Toronto time: One commenter wondered what I meant by a power struggle because he thought that both Harper and Thompson hate ID. So perhaps I had better explain: Yes, it is true, Harper does not like ID, but he denies that ID flubbed Templeton. From Thompson's post, however, the animus against ID is palpable. Read the whole letter to the media in question (you have to sign in, but I can't help that).

If you believe as Harper believes, you might fund ID even though you question it (and he has, he says, not dissented), but if you believe as Thompson believes, it would be unethical to do so.

That is why I think there is a power struggle going on.

Templeton senior's demise will likely mean a changing of the guard. The ID guys would like Templeton money, of course, but materialists would love to grab the whole pot. Indeed they must. They have big expenses. But not all the money in the world will keep materialism from going down in flames.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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