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Subject: [BOBPARKS-WHATSNEW] What's New Robert L. Park 18 Feb 2011
Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2011 14:26:25 -0500
From: Robert Park <bobp...@umd.edu>
WHAT’S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 18 Feb 2011 Washington, DC
1. THE EPIPHANY: DOES THE TEMPLETON FOUNDATION MAKE YOU UNEASY?
It certainly makes me uneasy. An excellent News Feature in this week's
Nature by Washington editor Mitch Waldrop gives some of the reasons why it
should, but something important was left out. (Much of what follows was
drawn from my book Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science (Princeton,
2000)). As Waldrop points out, the Templeton Prize was not originally
created "to pursue Templeton's goal of building bridges between science and
religion." Indeed, the first Templeton Prize winner in 1973 was a fanatic
Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta and wore a
cilice. A bridge to science, Mother Theresa certainly was not. But then,
neither were the next 26 winners of the prize, most of whom had founded
religious movements that few scientists have ever heard of, except for
Billy Graham who founded the Evangelistic Association, and Charles Colson
of Watergate fame who founded the Prison Fellowship. Later, the nicety of
a prize committee would be added, although Templeton seems to have remained
in total control. The first notable exception was Paul Davies in 1995, a
theoretical physicist who authored the Mind of God, and numerous other
popularizations of cosmology. Templeton wrote little and we know almost
nothing first-hand about what was going on in his head during this period.
He appears to have had an epiphany. In 1999 the prize went to Ian Barbour,
a physicist who had been Enrico Fermi’s student at the University of
Chicago and who played a major role in building the first the nuclear
reactor. Certainly the most interesting winner of the Templeton Prize,
Barbour was disillusioned by the atomic bombing without warning Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. After finishing his doctorate at Chicago, Barbour dropped
out of physics and took a degree in theology from Yale. At Carleton
College he taught both physics and theology and is generally credited with
having created the Dialogue Between Science and Religion. Barbour marked a
sharp change in Templeton prize recipients. From that point on, recipients
have been, almost without exception, physicists or cosmologists who, as
Dawkins put it, "say something nice about religion." Sir John died in
2008, but things have changed little under his son. The 2009 prize went to
a physicist; 2010 to biologist Francisco Ayala.
2. SELLING SCIENCE: THE PROBLEM WITH DISPROPORTIONATE WEALTH.
Sir John Templeton saw Ian Barbour’s "dialogue between science and
religion" and he coveted it. There is no point in being one of the richest
men in the world if you can't buy the things you want. So the Templeton
Foundation bought a magazine, Science and Spirit, and devoted it to
publicizing the dialogue, but who reads Science and Spirit? So next,
Templeton went to the American Association for the Advancement of Science
with an offer of one million dollars to create the AAAS Dialogue between
Science and Religion. That still sounds like a lot of money to
scientists. The AAAS later backed out, but it serves to remind us that,
however obtained, a disproportionate share of the world's wealth, even in
the hands of the well-intentioned, is a threat to us all.
3. NO. NO. : IF YOU SEE THAT IN STRANGE PLACES, PLEASE IGNORE IT.
I'm forced to use word recognition these days, and for unexplained reasons
the Dragon keeps hearing no no. Sometimes, depending on context, it spells
it know no. We're working on it. Please be patient.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.
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