You get what you pay for

Jerry Coyne’s take on the Templeton Prize is slightly different from Mark Vernon’s.

Templeton plies its enormous wealth with a single aim: to give credibility to religion by blurring its well-demarcated border with science. The Templeton Prize, which once went to people like Mother Teresa and the Reverend Billy Graham, now goes to scientists who are either religious themselves or say nice things about religion.

That’s why it really is a form of bribery. It’s open, transparent, accountable bribery, as opposed to back-room under the table bribery, but it is bribery: the prize rewards a predetermined ideological viewpoint, as opposed to research or inquiry or art. It rewards various versions of the claim that religion and science somehow work together as opposed to competing or clashing; it does not reward versions of the claim that they don’t and can’t.

Templeton’s mission is a serious corruption of science. Like a homeopathic remedy, it dilutes the core of the scientific enterprise, which has achieved its successes by holding doubt as a virtue and faith as a vice.

And by doing this it also balks and confuses the public understanding of science and of thinking in general. It obscures the fact that “faith” is not a useful tool for finding things out.

…although science and religion are said to be “different ways of knowing”, religion isn’t really a way of knowing anything – it’s a way of believing what you’d like to be true. Faith has never vouchsafed us a single truth about the universe.

And the “different ways of knowing” claim, again, is a snare and a delusion for people in general. It’s the wrong kind of “framing”…

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