A 24 page report(pdf) on the Templeton Foundation has been released. The author conducted a good overview on how the organization operates and analyzes how the prizes are awarded. The Templeton Foundation has faced criticisms over the last few years for its goal in reconciling science and religion, which annoys and angers many scientists who don’t think the two are compatible.
The problem is that atheists and scientists have received funding for their work. The report set out to investigate if the foundation was indeed willing to look all ideas or if the contributions of real scientists is just a smokescreen for their hidden agenda.
The report found that even though many atheists and real scientists are awarded prizes and grants, the majority go to anti-science or pro-religious topics. The report concludes that the scientific community ought to boycott the foundation and not accept any grants or prizes.
While I agree with the reasons, I don’t agree with the conclusion. I don’t think a real scientist should give up funding just because the source is sketchy. For some, it’s hard finding funds using conventional sources and since there is no evidence that the Templeton Foundation interferes with the research or publications, I don’t see any reason not to take their money if it’s being used for a good cause. Scientists are busy enough doing science so I don’t want them bogged down in pesky politics and ethics.
It reminds me of the time I worked in an old church. It was being converted into a library (I’m a land developer in real life). My colleagues joked that a militant atheist like me must be having a tough time working for a church. But I didn’t mind. I felt good that the building was finally being used for something useful and I wished I could do it more often. (Imagine how better the world could be if all churches were converted to libraries)
I think the scientists accepting Templeton funding feel the same way. While they understand that they’re likely being used to prop-up the foundation, they don’t mind because they have the resources to continue the research they know and love and, ultimately, that’s what’s really important.
h/t Jerry Coyne