Latest Science Religion Links

By Chris Mooney | June 24, 2009 8:49 am

If I get a free moment–there haven’t been many lately–I may have more to say about these. But for now just a list:

1. Jerry Coyne slams the Templeton Foundation. He sees it as something that needs fighting back against. A head of the Foundation defends its activities in the comments.

2. Sean Carroll argues the incompatibility of science and religion. I followed him up to about the halfway point on my first reading, then didn’t any more. I’ll have to give it another read.

3. Great piece in the Guardian about historical myths of conflict between science and religion.

4. Chad Orzel speaks out for the silent majority!

More when I can muster it. And for shorter takes, find us on Twitter @UnscientAmerica!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Religion

Comments (10)

  1. John Kwok

    Speaking of the Templeton Foundation, physicist Lawrence Krauss did “slam” it during the World Science Festival session on science, faith and religion, but did it in what I thought was in a responsible manner, without seeking to attack the integrity of physicist Brian Greene and journalist Tracy Day (Mrs. Greene), the co-founders and executive directors of the World Science Festival (Afterwards, he did mention to me that his remarks had caught the interest of a journalist in the audience, so it is quite possible that we may be reading more about the Templeton Foundation – for good or ill – in the mainstream media in the near future.).

    As for Coyne’s latest criticism of the Templeton Foundation, it is especially disingenuous since he hasn’t mentioned that his employer, the University of Chicago, does receive tens of millions of dollars in support from the very foundation he’s been criticizing.

  2. Rien

    #1: Why is that disingenuous? I imagine the University of Chicago has thousands of recepients of grants and most of those funds don’t have anything to do with Coyne. I’d rather say that your argument is disingenuous, unless you can show that Coyne personally takes advantage of Templeton money.

  3. John Kwok

    I believe Coyne’s argument is disingenuous simply because he, himself, has noted consistently in his recent posts, stretching as far back as his public rejection of Brian Greene’s and Tracy Day’s invitation to participate in the WSF Science Faith Religion session (which, incidentally wasn’t funded, contrary to Coyne’s insinuation, by the Templeton Foundation. The foundation supported other sessions, presumably those pertaining to physics. I have this information from a most reliable source, whom I shall not disclose.), that he opposes the Templeton Foundation’s efforts at trying to forge a “bridge” between science and religion. That’s fair enough. So if he is going to be consistent, then why doesn’t Coyne write to his colleague, mathematician Dr. Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, advising Zimmer to try to cut off all financial ties between the University of Chicago and the Templeton Foundation?

    As for Coyne’s own research, I strongly doubt that the Templeton Foundation would be interested in Coyne’s ongoing work on biodiversity and patterns of speciation in West African Drosophila (fruit flies), merely since that work doesn’t deal with the “big questions” (unlike, for example, cosmological research at the University of Chicago).

  4. Walker

    The Sean Carroll article is bizarre. Science says that “dead souls are reincarnated in accordance with their karmic burden” is false? Really? Absolutely nothing in that claim is falsifiable (particularly if souls have no memory of their prior lives upon reincarnation). Saying that this claim is irrelevant is okay — but false? What magic science does he practice?

  5. Here’s mine:

    “The Silent Majority : It’s OK to be both scientific and religious”

  6. The Hannam piece in the Guardian is pretty much what I’d figured. You keep asking these self-professed “rigorous”, evidence-only types for their evidence of the actual problem for science and you get a blank stare.

    I know he’s considered out of bounds by his adoring fans but Carl Sagan was a pretty sloppy researcher outside of his field. He promulgated more than his share of old materialist tales. I used to like Sagan before he wrote Dragons of Eden, after that the veil had been lifted.

    I don’t like to think about being reincarnated, all that extra time to have insomnia, but expect I’m going to be answerable for getting into these arguments somehow. Or, maybe this is me working out a wayward past as Al Capone’s accountant or something.

  7. John Kwok

    @ Anthony –

    The only research Sagan did was in planetary sciences and astrophysics, especially in the realm of cosmology. You can’t dubb him a “researcher” or claim that it was “sloppy” for anything outside of his scientific expertise.

  8. Don Van

    When scientists get religion they stop searching. Science and religion are like oil and water.
    Religion is called faith or belief for a reason – it is not known.

  9. John Kwok

    @ Don Van –

    If your analysis is correct, then it certainly doesn’t explain the productive scientific careers of eminent ecologist Michael L. Rosenzweig (a devout Conservative Jew), noted vertebrate paleontologist Peter Dodson (a devout Protestant Christian) and distinguished invertebrate paleobiologist Simon Conway Morris (whom I believe is a devout Protestant Christian). Nor does it account for the highly regarded career of planetary scientist and astronomer Guy Consolmagno, who is both a member of the Vatican Observatory based outside of Tucson, AZ and the curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection in Italy, and a Jesuit brother.

  10. Alexander Hellemans

    @ John,

    Yes, many scientists are religious, and good in their research, Cees Dekker in the Netherlands is an example. But imagine if Newton, who as a believing Christian devoted more time to religious questions than to physics, had used this intellectual energy to physics full time. Physics would perhaps have been 100 years farther than where it is now.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs.For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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