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The criteria for the £1,000,000 Templeton Prize are laid out as:
The qualities sought in a Templeton Prize nominee include creativity and innovation, rigor and impact. The judges seek, above all, a substantial record of achievement that highlights or exemplifies one of the various ways in which human beings express their yearning for spiritual progress. Consideration is given to a nominee's work as a whole, not just during the year prior to selection. Nominations are especially encouraged in the fields of:
Research in the human sciences, life sciences, and physical sciences.
Scholarship in philosophy, theology, and other areas of the humanities.
Practice, including religious leadership, the creation of organizations that edify and inspire, and the development of new schools of thought.
Commentary and journalism on matters of religion, virtue, character formation, and the flourishing of the human spirit.
So, anyone who writes about science and religion could receive a £1,000,000 prize. Quite an incentive. What impact would that have? I wonder.
Science and religion have fundamentals at odds with each other. Science attempts to draw models of the world based on the best evidence that human methodology can uncover. In principle it is contingent, and never a complete explanation, since it's always open to variation based on new evidence. Religion settles arbitrarily on some preconceptions, vows never to examine those and proceeds to draw inferences about reality based on those preconceptions. In principle it is not contingent but a complete explanation; no evidence could gainsay its preconceptions.
Much has been written about their compatibility, including by me, which, considering the above, is surprising. It's understood that *people* can be scientific and religious, happily, but that's not the same. People can be adulterous whilst thinking it's wrong to be adulterous too. People can hold contradictory positions; it's a 'feature' of our thinking. But it's trivially true that science and religion contradict each other as world views at the above fundamental level. A test of someone's theism would be to ask them if they would revise their beliefs if evidence came in to shake their preconceptions; if they say they would revise their beliefs, they aren't really theistic, but scientific. If they say no, they wouldn't, then Don't Pass Go, go Straight to Jail; they're not scientific.
So why is there so much 'science and religion' talk going on? Consider this:
Ophelia Benson talks about some strange developments, including...
The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion, by Peter Harrison, from the Ian Ramsey Centre at Oxford University. The Ian Ramsey Centre has links with Templeton.
A BBC program on science and religion by historian Dr Thomas Dixon, which suggests more harmony than there is. His published work includes Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction, with this blurb:
As Thomas Dixon shows in this balanced and thought-provoking introduction, many have seen harmony rather than conflict between faith and science.
Harmony? What does that mean? It means religion before science, so science doesn't get to tell religion it's wrong. As Ophelia points out, both Harrison and Dixon are members of the The International Society for Science & Religion, a Religion in Science organisation, founded by Anglican priest and Templeton Prize recipient, Sir John Polkinghorne. Dixon's also contributed to Science and Religion, New Historical Perspectives, with fellow ISSR members Geoffrey Cantor and Stephen Pumfrey, which has this blurb:
The idea of an inevitable conflict between science and religion was decisively challenged by John Hedley Brooke in his classic Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, 1991). Almost two decades on, Science and Religion: New Historical Perspectives revisits this argument and asks how historians can now impose order on the complex and contingent histories of religious engagements with science.
Great, no conflict between science and religion, because they disallow science as an arbiter of religious claims. So who else belongs to this Society?
Michael Reiss, who recently wrote about Creationism in the classroom:
Effective teaching in this area can help students not only learn about the theory of evolution, but also better appreciate the way science is done, the procedures by which scientific knowledge accumulates, the limitations of science and the ways in which scientific knowledge differs from other forms of knowledge.Oh yes, the *limitations* of science and those other forms of knowledge. Not really science *and* religion then. Religion, then science.
Here's another article, by Cathy Lynn Grossman; she's connected to Templeton too. She asks:
Do you think a baby conceived in test tube is still a child in the eyes -- or mind or hands, depending on your theology/philosophy -- of God? Does the science behind this merit the Nobel Prize for Medicine or condemnation in the realm of faith and ethics?
This sickening question doesn't seem to be about science and religion, but religion, then science.
As Jerry Coyne notes as well, there's a lot of accommodationism about. Elaine Ecklund has conducted a survey of scientists and religion that shows that scientists aren't very religious, but against her own data she says:
As we journey from the personal to the public religious lives of scientists, we will meet the nearly 50 percent of elite scientists like Margaret who are religious in a traditional sense...So religion, then science again. Her work was funded by Templeton, you'll not be surprised to hear.
Not be outdone, at Cambridge we have The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, funded by Templeton. One of their aims is, supposedly:
Scholarly research and publication on science and religion, including the organisation of invited groups of experts to write joint publications.
Let's have a look; here's a paper called Nothing but a Pack of Neurons? by Dr Stuart Judge, a physiologist and neuroscientist. Scientific, is it? Well, there's a lot of expert science and intelligent discussion of the problems of dualism and non-dualism. But towards the end, Judge says:
What then of Jesus’s saying: ‘be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell’? This certainly reminds us that our Maker has the sovereign authority to do more than destroy our present embodiment. But does this use of the word soul (psyche) imply a separate kind of non-physical stuff that attaches to our bodies when we are alive and detaches from them at death, or can it be read as a way of indicating that from the point of view of the Creator our identity extends beyond space and time?He's begging the question. So, we again have religion, then science. Perhaps that's a one-off? Well, no; here's Human genomics and the Image of God; and Creation and Evolution Not Creation or Evolution (the author gets this the right way round for a change!). It's all a travesty of science.
So, now, let it be known that wherever you see the words 'Science and Religion', what you'll actually be getting is 'Religion, then Science', and, more than likely, a link to the Templeton Foundation somewhere in the background.