Capping off a decent week

November 30, 2012

Much like the Friendly Atheist (where I first saw this) the mention of the Templeton Foundation makes me grimace. They’re well known in skeptical circles for blurring the lines between faith and science with as much punditry and offerings of cash as they can manage. Their mission as described on Wikipedia is

The mission of the Foundation is:

[to serve] as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.[1]

Knowing that theologians have damned little of import to say to scientists, it’s clear to me at least that this organization is mostly a waste of time, and observation of its work product bears that out – most notably the Templeton Prize, a nice chunk o’ change. When they’re not handing prizes to the priestly class (who can beg for money on their own by writing useless books) they’re shopping for scientists willing to harbor a little cognitive dissonance for pay, like Francisco Ayala, who won their prize in 2010 as “a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension” and whose book Darwin’s Gift related the theory of evolution as a theodicy, or a solution to the believer’s problem of evil.

I haven’t read that explanation but I bet it would be a laugher. I have not yet found a good answer to that problem of evil. It remains a personal favorite.

This video however, where Neil deGrasse Tyson answers the Templetons’ question “does the universe have a purpose?” ended much better than…well, some philosophical drek from Ayala, I suppose. I thought it was worth listening to. The animation put to Tyson’s answer makes it worth watching, too. Amusing, if for nothing else than what the bacteria in our gut might think our purpose is. (More poop!)



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