What kind of interface?

Michael Ruse says why the Templeton Foundation is a good thing.

More recently, the award has been given to academics working on the science-religion interface. It was therefore appropriate that this year the Prize went to Francisco Ayala, a Spanish-born population geneticist at the University of California at Irvine. Ayala (a former Catholic priest) has long been interested in the science-religion relationship…

The science-religion interface? What’s that? That’s the kind of thing that Templeton always talks about, but what exactly is it? And what does Michael Ruse think it is?

It could just mean, or be intended to mean, scientists and religious believers talking. That would certainly be unexceptionable. The trouble is, that doesn’t really seem like a very plausible understanding of what it means. One doesn’t hear about a history-mathematics interface as a way of referring to historians and mathematicians talking, nor does such an activity seem worth millions of dollars of foundation money. As far as I know, Templeton’s idea of the science-religion interface or relationship or whatever is that they are supposed to contribute to or enrich each other. But that’s just what’s contested. Critics think the two don’t have anything to contribute to each other, especially in the direction religion—>science. Ruse seems to be endorsing or at least taking for granted Templeton’s project, without spelling out exactly what he’s saying.

The Templeton Foundation…is essentially devoted to the promotion of the interaction and harmony between science and religion.

But interaction in what sense? Just chatting in the halls? Or substantive, disciplinary interaction? It does make a difference, to put it mildly.

But it’s useless to repine. Ruse goes on to say a lot of wholly irrelevant things, so it turns out that actually this jumble of a piece was just an excuse to tell the world yet again about his expert witness gig in Arkansas and, more amusingly for him, to say rude things about Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne and especially (wait for it) PZ Myers. The closest he gets to explaining why Templeton is all right is to say ‘I don’t see anything morally wrong with someone trying to reconcile science and religion. Clarifying that a little, I don’t see anything morally wrong with religion as such.’ Morally wrong isn’t the issue! The point is that it’s epistemically wrong.

But all of a sudden at the very end he simply agrees to that, or at least seems to.

I don’t want to reconcile science and religion if this implies that religion must be true. At most, I want to show that science does not preclude being religious.

Well – quite. So what did – oh never mind. Ruse just likes to mouth off. It’s pointless to expect him to make sense.

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