More on the mischief caused by Templeton money

by It will fluctuate

I received a hilariously angry email in response to yesterday’s post, and also an email linking to this 2008 article by Dan Gardner in the Ottawa Citizen that does a much better job than me at describing the corrupting influence of the Templeton foundation. 

Here I reproduce some bits, with comment:

But John Templeton’s fundamental belief in the harmonization of science and religion still guides the foundation’s philanthropy, with occasionally dubious results. This includes the foundation’s funding of what Richard Sloan, a professor of behavioural medicine at Columbia University Medical Centre, called “garbage research” into the healing power of prayer. Sloan was so annoyed he wrote the book Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine in response.

I think when Gardner says “occasionally dubious results” he’s being too nice. I mentioned the $5 million afterlife study yesterday, and if you want another example of a Templeton funded study that is almost certain to deliver very little of value, look at this $2.7 million Philosophy and Theology of Intellectual Humility project. Gardner continues:

The Templeton Foundation is controversial in scientific circles. And yet, its influence grows. How could it not? Scientists and universities find it hard to say no to free money [itwillfluctuate: probably not as hard as I do, so I don’t blame them]. “Largely as a result of Templeton grants,” wrote science journalist John Horgan in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “some 90 American medical schools now offer courses on links between health and spirituality.”

Horgan himself was the beneficiary of a Templeton-funded fellowship for science journalists to attend Cambridge University — a fellowship he accepted reluctantly because, he wrote, “I had misgivings about the foundation’s agenda of reconciling religion and science.” The program of study provided by the fellowship was excellent, Horgan reported, but he was struck by the comments of a Templeton executive who told the journalists “the meeting cost more than $1 million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion.”

In conversation, Horgan told the official he felt humanity would be better off if, one day, it simply outgrew religion. “She replied that she didn’t think someone with those views should have accepted a fellowship. So much for an open exchange of views.”

Exactly. The foundation is out to promote the idea that science and religion can be BFF, however much it might want to pretend to be a “catalyst for discoveries”. Gardner again:

The Templeton Foundation is no disinterested benefactor. The Templeton Prize is no Nobel. Treating them as if they were is to accept and honour the crude force of money.

And that is an unfortunate legacy for a man devoted to higher things.

Yes, it is unfortunate. And it is an especially sad spectacle for value investors like me who admire Sir John for his investment skills and who hate to see money being wasted.

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