FAITH Magazine July-Aug 2007
The Templeton Foundation
The Templeton Foundation, www.templeton.org, based in Philadelphia in the US, is a private grantgiving body dedicated to promoting the scientific investigation of the spiritual side to man. “Supporting Science – Investing in the Big Questions” is its motto, and it has been supporting such research worldwide since 1987. Founded by Sir John Templeton, an American billionaire financier, now aged 94, it manages funds which allow awards of some $60m a year to various investigators. It states that its aims are: “to pursue new insights at the boundary between theology and science through a rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodology, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise.”
Even before the establishment of the Foundation, Sir John Templeton began awarding the famous ‘Templeton Prize,’ known more fully as ‘The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.’ Its first recipient was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, in 1973, and has been granted over the years to scientists, religious leaders, philanthropists, political figures or philosophers, of many religions. Apart from Mother Teresa, Catholic recipients over the years have included Chiara Lubich, Cardinal Suenens, and Fr Stanley Jaki. There have been a number of British recipients of the prize, too, including scientists John Polkinghorne, Paul Davies, Arthur Peacocke, and the hospicemovement pioneer, Dame Cicely Saunders. The prize, one of the largest prizes in the world todate, standing at some £800k, is awarded annually for the purpose of heightening awareness of the spiritual realm of human life. As Templeton himself has said, “If even one-tenth of world research were focused on spiritual realities, could benefits be even more vast than the benefits in the latest two centuries from research in food, travel, medicine or electronics, and cosmology?”
See:their website .
The Cambridge – Templeton Consortium
A particular collaboration has been forged in recent years with the University of Cambridge, UK, with this consortium itself considering applications for grants within fields allied to those of the Templeton Foundation. Under the overarching theme of ‘The Emergence of Biological Complexity,’ its three specific areas of research are listed as: ‘Biochemistry and Fine Tuning,’ ‘Evolutionary History and Contemporary Life’ and ‘Becoming Fully Human.’ The consortium describes the Templeton Foundation as having “made up to $3 million available for research grants to stimulate and sponsor new research insights directly pertinent to the ‘great debate’ over purpose in the context of the emergence of increasing biological complexity, ranging from the biochemical level to the evolution of life andthe emergence of society and culture.” One of the consortium’s panel, Prof. Simon Conway-Morris of the Earth Sciences Dept. of Cambridge University, has written and lectured recently on precisely the question of evolutionary convergence – this was highlighted in the Cutting Edgeof May/June 2005. Details of the consortium’s work can be found at: See their website
The Templeton–Cambridge Journalism Fellowships in Science & Religion
This is another contemporary spin-off of the Templeton Foundation’s work. These fellowships were initiated in 2005 to provide, as their website states, “a small group of print, broadcast, or online journalists and editors annually the opportunity to examine the dynamic and creative interface of science and religion.” It enables up to twelve participants a year to benefit from a two-month intensive course of learning about the relationship between science and religion, through university seminars and private study. “The goal is to promote a deeper understanding and more informed public discussion of this complex and rapidly evolving area of inquiry.” Certainly much contemporary media debate on this issue is far too superficial to engage with the issues that are truly significant. This newventure will hopefully allow some journalists the opportunity to delve far more deeply into these issues, and allow them then to contribute more constructively to informing the public about the real state of the religion–science debate. www.templeton-cambridge.org has details about how to apply for these fellowships, and provides access to articles written by some of the first journalist-fellows of the programme.
The most recent of these articles, by Madeleine Bunting in the online Guardian of 7th May 2007, picks up on a highly pertinent theme. Her piece is entitled, “The New Atheists Loathe Religion Far Too Much to Plausibly Challenge It,” and analyses the vitriolic style in which recent books such as Dawkins’s The God Delusiontreat their anti-religious subject. She concludes: “Dawkins is an unashamed proselytiser. He says in his preface that he intends his book for religious readers and his aim is that they will be atheists by the time they finish reading it. Yet The God Delusionis not a book of persuasion, but of provocation – it may have sold in the thousands but has it won any souls? Anyone who has experienced such a conversion, please email me (with proof). I suspect the New Atheists are indanger of a spectacular failure.”