Yet more science-n-religion

The more you look at this science-and-religion thing, the more Templeton you find. In fact, I wonder if there is any science-and-religion that has nothing to do with Templeton. So consider that a challenge: if you know of any, or find any, let me know.

Mark Jones did a really good post on the subject a few days ago, and he turned up lots of intersections of s-and-r and Templeton. He skipped one though.

 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).

He forgot to check John Hedley Brooke, so I did it. Well what do you know. He’s the current president of the ISSR, and he

held the Andreas Idreos Professorship of Science & Religion and Directorship of the Ian Ramsey Centre at the University of Oxford from 1999 to 2006…With Margaret Osler and Jitse Van der Meer, he edited Science in Theistic Contexts: Cognitive Dimensions.

The (Templetonian) Ian Ramsey Centre tells us

He has lectured at many universities in America, Europe, Australia and the Far East. He has also lectured at Templeton workshops in Adelaide, Berkeley, Manchester, and Toronto. In 1998 he joined the Templeton Oxford Seminars Steering Committee…

The guy is Templetonian up to his eyeballs. There seems to be no one in this “field” who is not.

Thomas Dixon replied again yesterday, which was generous and helpful of him. I think, though, that his work is more theologically-inflected than he wants to say here. Or maybe theologically-inflected isn’t the right way to put it, but it does seem to be part of this overall agenda to make a case that religion and science are “in harmony” and not in conflict – not in conflict in any way. I think they are in epistemic conflict, and Dr Dixon so far has not addressed that aspect of the issue.

It appears to be the case that all the people who are arguing this are from faculties of theology and/or Templeton-funded centres and institutes and the like, and are arguing for a particular conclusion, which is that religion and science are in harmony. I think that conclusion would be convenient for theology and religion, and not at all convenient for science. I think this agenda, if it is an agenda, should be open and public.

Eric MacDonald quoted us a bit from Dr Dixon’s Science and Religion: a Very Short Introduction.

I find it hard not to see it as a piece of religious apologetic, to be quite frank, although its author is an agnostic. I didn’t find the kind of detachment from the religious point of view that I would have expected, and I found it almost pervasive. So, when the Galileo issue was being discussed, there is a lot about realism and anti-realism, and about religion, like science, also wanting to provide knowledge about realities that lie behind the appearances of things. Take this quote, for instance:

In the religious case, what intervenes between the light hitting your retina and your thoughts about the glory of God is the lengthy history of a particular sacred text, and its reading and interpretation within a succession of human communities. …. Religious teachers, as much as scientific ones, try to show their pupils that there is an unseen world behind the observed one. (Locations 325-31)

There is a similar claim in Dr Dixon’s BBC article:

Science and religion have had the kind of close and troubled relationship you would expect between siblings or even spouses. They share not only wonder at the majesty of the world we can see, but also a desire to find out what’s behind it that we can’t.

Like Eric, I think that sounds like religious apologetics. It doesn’t sound like straightforward secular history. It’s flattering to religion. Religion does not have the same kind of desire to find out what’s behind the world we can see that science has. Religion doesn’t find things out; it transmits doctrine, and the doctrine itself is not a product of finding out, but of something more like legislation mixed with mythology.

I think Templeton and the ISSR and the other outfits are working very hard to inject this idea into the broader culture in the US and the UK (and no doubt elsewhere too, but we have names and places for some of the anglophone ones), and I think we should try to shine a strong light on this project.

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