Philosopher says no to major science forum over Templeton funding

May 26, 2015

By Kimberly Winston

A prominent philosopher-scientist has pulled out of a popular public science forum over concerns about one of its funders, the John Templeton Foundation.

Daniel Dennett, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, said he will not appear at the World Science Festival due to a long-standing “personal embargo” against Templeton money. The World Science Festival will be held May 27-31 in New York City and attracts upwards of 100,000 people to its public events.

The John Templeton Foundation, named for Sir John Templeton, a British-American businessman and philanthropist who died in 2008, funds numerous projects centered on creativity, love, freedom and gratitude. It focuses on what it calls “Science and the Big Questions,” and has regularly sponsored projects that investigate links between science and religion.

Dennett said he objects to Templeton sponsorship because he finds some of the projects they fund scientifically questionable. He is one of several scientists and philosophers who have refused to take Templeton money in the past, including physicist Sean Carroll and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci.


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14 comments on “Philosopher says no to major science forum over Templeton funding

  • Bribery and emotional blackmail are stock in trade for religions and their satellite organizations, so I can’t imagine Daniel Dennett ever accepting a single solitary penny from the Templeton outfit.



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  • @OP – The John Templeton Foundation, named for Sir John Templeton, a British-American businessman and philanthropist who died in 2008, funds numerous projects centered on creativity, love, freedom and gratitude. It focuses on what it calls “Science and the Big Questions,” and has regularly sponsored projects that investigate links between science and religion.

    Or .. . more honestly and accurately:-
    It sponsors projects which are supposed to show that science is compatible with religion.



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  • Taking money from crooks creates a self-censorship. Templeton sometimes funds what appear on the surface to be genuine science or educational projects. But you know their money warped the project a little, even if stayed far from the Ray Comfort/Ken Hamm level. I am glad Mr. Dennett stood on principle.



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  • [Dennett] said they used to require that fund recipients include input from theologians, and they no longer do that — “to their credit.”

    On the run. I hope. They are in danger of seeing all their efforts reduced to dross with the current (intellectual) climate change.

    Dennett from 2009.

    ) I disapprove of the Templeton Foundation’s attempt to tie theologians to the coat tails of scientists and philosophers who actually do have expertise on this topic. (that materialism is in Dennett’s opinion not an obstacle to an ethical life) Many years ago I made the mistake of participating, with some very good scientists, in a conference that pitted us against astrologers and other new age fakes. I learned to my dismay that even though we thoroughly dismantled the opposition, many in the audience ended up, paradoxically, with an increased esteem for astrologers! As one person explained to me “I figured that if you scientists were willing to work this hard to refute it, there must be something to it!” Isn’t it obvious to you that the Templeton Foundation is eager to create the very same response in its readers? Do you really feel comfortable being complicit with that project?[79][80][81]–Daniel Dennett



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  • How much research does it take to realise that science and the claims of supernatural events, and organised superstition, are not compatible ? No doubt there will be many willing attendees, ‘sharing’ old discredited ideas, whilst I’m sure, the menu will be very good and the location will also have its own attractions. A few days away from the norm, – and of course the temptation of all those potential greenbacks ! No wonder Dennett recoils from the smell !



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  • Professor Paul Davies, Arizona State University, won the Templeton Prize in 1992 for his book the Mind of God. It is an excellent book and explains in layman’s terms the physics from “Big” right back to the big bang, as it was understood at that time. I got a lot from the book.

    Except in the last half of the last chapter, having detailed the physics that explains the universe right back to the micro second after the big bang, he blinked, and said god did it. He got the Templeton prize $1million for the book. Very disappointed. However, I can recall that some 5 years later approx, he recanted and said that god didn’t do it. I wonder if he gave the million back.



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  • Clarification about the great intention of Sir John Templeton ! To bring science and theology together !!

    Presently, the achievements of scientific insight are resurrecting beyond the process of nature, and the graces of spirituality are descending to a dangerous abyss. In fact, his vision was to equalize scientific insight and the religious definitions that navigate our lives under the shadow of nuclear weapons. Although it appears impossible, in actual fact it is only possible through the “go-between” of literature.

    Though we have many books existing as the basis for our religions, faiths, and spiritualities, the ignored aspects of these sacred creations now seem to confuse and obfuscate the world community, separated by religious boundaries within the different logics of faith and spirituality. Thus, the gap and difference between our religious teachings are providing the safe ground for the business of fanaticism that exacerbate the basis of war and terrorism according to their own political stances and positions. Thus, the basis of war and terrorism are yet invincible for the world leadership and all the leading religious teachings struggling with the ensign of peace and solidarity. The graces of spirituality had been embroiled in the labyrinths of scientific insight and premeditated theories. Money and gun power are not potential enough to combat the thoughts of terrorism that conceal their sins behind religious narcissism.

    These are authentic facts that cannot be ignored at any cost. In this regard, the world community needs an innovation of intellectual power to inform both the religious and scientific insight in one idea—namely, to bridge the gaps of religious boundaries and schisms without disgracing our organized systems of belief and faith. We all need to be cognizant of the true meaning of the “great intensions of Sir John Templeton” that have taught us to join and combine science and theology. In fact, science will never accept the invisible aspects of theology straightaway, and we have mostly disgraced the basis of our own religious teachings to achieve terrestrial bliss and fame. Although it is not possible to bring science and theology together immediately, there is a way to embody this great vision of Sir John Templeton—namely, in form of literature, the genre of a “go-between.”

    I believe, the world Elite should come forward to embody the vision of Sir John Templeton (to conjoin science and theology) to bridge religious boundaries within scientific insight through the academic sources under the observation of the United Nations. It will help the UN as a body to broach the common public of the world to unify the global community beyond its walls of faith and politics in the name of liberty from religious “business,” which has become embroiled in political puzzles, cartographical or otherwise.

    It would fundamentally take more than analysis to help the readership and the leadership to overcome the perils of religious conflicts deployed for political beneficence, creating the basis for war and terrorism. This is the only way to approach all theologians and atheists, as well, who are spiritually drifting and neglecting the existence of spiritualism on the path to peace and solidarity. It will appear as a new method to satisfy our own organized systems of belief and faith against the hatred of religious campaigns—philosophical, rhetorical, violent, or otherwise.

    No doubt, his great vision promises to empower the faith of the believers from any religion or sect by revealing the truth: Words of all our religious definitions are different, but the meaning is equally the same for all of us. Religion is a subject not only to be followed honestly, but also to evolve under the process of nature and on the basis of humanity and peace. It is lethal to use religious graces for terrestrial beneficence, now experiencing the proliferation of nuclear weapons



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  • Strange. I thought that scientists and philosophers would do anything for research funding. Isn’t that supposed to be why they lie all the time about climate change, evolution, the big bang and all that liberal atheist stuff ?



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  • Ajay
    May 28, 2015 at 2:29 am

    Clarification about the great intention of Sir John Templeton ! To bring science and theology together !!

    This is the delusion of being capable of squaring a circular triangle! Scientific methodology and “faith-thinking” (belief without evidence or proof), are diametric opposites.

    Presently, the achievements of scientific insight are resurrecting beyond the process of nature,

    Nothing is “beyond the precesses of nature”!
    Science gives us the best available data on, and modelling of nature. Religious “revelation” only provides self-deception.

    and the graces of spirituality are descending to a dangerous abyss.

    Spiritual delusions have always hovered over an abyss – just waiting for a trigger to set them off creating grief and destruction!

    In fact, his vision was to equalize scientific insight and the religious definitions

    An impossible task of combining objectivity with delusion, to make something alleged to be coherent!

    that navigate our lives under the shadow of nuclear weapons.

    Nuclear weapons are a manifestation of political stupidity. Safe (thorium) nuclear technology could have been developed for peaceful applications, but macho war-mongers wanted Uranium/Plutonium for weapons.

    Although it appears impossible, in actual fact it is only possible through the “go-between” of literature.

    All the literature does in trying to resolve the differences between opposites, is provide obfuscating confusion in those who are easily deluded by their cognitive biases and wish-thinking.
    Those who understand science, and the scientific basis of “spirituality”, know that science historically debunks religious claims, and will continue to do so.



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  • Sean B Carroll gets a mention here http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/from-eternity-to-here-sean-m-carrol-10-03-30/. Watching a Memorial Day movie brought it to mind.

    What’s not to love about Dan Dennett?!? When in hospital, he graciously said “thank goodness” for everyone that helped with his recovery. Compare that with the goofy / eye-rolling statement I heard recently – *if prayer fails, pray for a good doctor” chuckle / snort.



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  • 13
    Charles says:

    Here´s a joke in german, a german wordplay, that came into my mind as I noticed people with shields and books which stated ‘What really teaches us the bible?’, in german: Was lehrt uns die Bibel wirklich?
    The answer/die Antwort: ‘Die Köpfe’ (the heads).
    In german the word ‘lehrt’ (‘to teach’) sounds similar to ‘leert’ (to empty).



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  • 14
    christopher says:

    You know were all of this alleged convergence between science and religion, promlugated by the Templton foundation and their ilk, heads to? The land of woo woo metatwaddle , obscurantism, and right back to the pre-enlightenment dark ages. Dennet was right in refusing to particapate, and I am dispointed the learn that the World Science Festival, founded if I am not mistaken by Brian Green(whom I admire) has the Templton Foundation as a sponser.



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