What on earth has got into the US National Academy of Sciences?

The John Templeton Foundation, that’s what.

And Richard Dawkins (among others) is furious over the fact that this body of faith-heads has managed to infiltrate the NAS, which has agreed to host the 2010 Templeton Prize this Thursday, March 25.

The Templeton Prize was established to recognise:

Exemplary achievement in discoveries regarding life’s spiritual dimension.

Its monetary value, currently £1,000,000, always exceeds that of the Nobel Prizes, which was the late Sir John Templeton’s way of underscoring his belief:

The late Sir John Templeton

That advances in the spiritual domain are no less important than those in other areas of human endeavour.

By agreeing to host the event, Dawkins said today, the NAS has “brought ignominy on itself”.

This is exactly the kind of thing Templeton is ceaselessly angling for – recognition among real scientists – and they use their money shamelessly to satisfy their doomed craving for scientific respectability. They tried it on with the Royal Society of London, and they seem to have found a compliant Quisling in the current President, Martin Rees, who, though not religious himself, is a fervent ‘believer in belief’.

Fortunately, enough Fellows made a stink about it to ensure that the Royal will not flirt with Templeton in future.

Dawkins also poked fun at the “fatuous” request in capital letters in the middle of the Foundation’s announcement of Thursday’s event:

If you guess the winner, please honour a strict embargo (you can’t tell anyone) until 11.00 am on Thursday March 25th 2010.

Snorted Dawkins:

Embargo a guess? It is one thing to put an embargo on privileged information, but embargo a GUESS? Well, I suppose that is just another indication of the way a faith-head’s mind works. Their whole world-view, after all, is founded on an inability to distinguish evidence from an ill-informed guess.

He added:

Well, let’s all guess away to our heart’s content. Which leading scientist has done the most to betray science in favour of his imaginary friend? You can rule out the people they’d privately like to honour (such as Intelligent Design “theorists”) because that would go against the official policy of courting respectability among scientists … In the early days they didn’t even make a pretence of finding a scientist at all: the 1982 winner was the notorious creationist Billy Graham!

Dawkins concluded by saying that the “smart money” is on Dr Francis Collins:

He’s the person who finds C S Lewis persuasive, and who saw the Trinity in a three-pronged frozen waterfall.

According Google Books, Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project:

Is one of the world’s leading scientists. He works at the cutting edge of the study of DNA, the code of life. Yet he is also a man of unshakable faith in God and scripture.

Collins is the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

23 responses to “What on earth has got into the US National Academy of Sciences?”

  1. Robert Stovold says:

    You can see Sam Harris’s devastating review of Francis Collins’s book here

  2. barriejohn says:

    They awarded the prize to Billy Graham in 1982 – I’m still laughing at that one!

    This is quite funny, though it’s the comments (as always!) that take the biscuit. A lot of them don’t even realize that it’s satirical – doh!!

  3. barriejohn says:

    I see that the first winner of the illustrious Templeton prize was that noted humanitarian, intellectual and rationalist, Mother Teresa, and the most recent was Bernard D’Espagnat, the physicist who very conveniently believes that there is an elusive “veiled reality” behind everything in the universe! Words fail me again!!

  4. David Lawson says:

    I don’t know what to say. First New Scientist magazine publishing psuedoscience articles, and NAS doing this.

    Talking of this kind of thing, Sam Harris updated twitter with his latest debate with Michael Shermer arguing (Sometimes quite heatedly) with Deepka Chopra and some other quack. It’s being aired on US TV tonight and took place last week or the week before at Caltech. A good watch if you don’t mind yelling at Deepak to STFU.

  5. William Harwood says:

    Has the Nationl Academy of Sciences learned nothing from the debacle when it allowed the now discredited Margaret Mead to browbeat it (or was it the AAAS?) into recognizing parapsychology as a legitimate field of scientific research, even though the parapsychology lobby neither then nor now has ever utilized a methodology that prevented experimenter-bias from producing false positives, and neither then nor now has ever obtained a single positive result except by invalid methods.
    Taking the Templeton Foundation seriously is analogous to taking seriously an endorsement of demon possession by a gaggle of priests.

  6. gsw says:

    So what has suddenly brought C.S. Lewis into the limelight after so many years – can it be the new Narnia film I wonder?

    A word of support for C.S.Lewis, a brilliant writer, and one of the joys of my childhood.

    Don’t run him down people. His “Screwtape Letters” are an eye-opener for every atheist!

    Like Chaudrey, Lewis has done more to help us understand our opponents than many a less talented ‘moderate’.

    C.S. Lewis and H.G. Wells (Men Like Gods) should be obligatory ready for all literate rationalists.

  7. barriejohn says:

    These poll results have been widely reported in America now. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

    24% of Republicans think Obama may be the Antichrist

    On the heels of health care, a new Harris poll reveals Republican attitudes about Obama: Two-thirds think he’s a socialist, 57 percent a Muslim—and 24 percent say “he may be the Antichrist.”

    To anyone who thinks the end of the health-care vote means a return to civility, wake up.

    Obama Derangement Syndrome—pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism—has infected the Republican Party. Here’s new data to prove it:

    67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.
    57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
    45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was “not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president”
    38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”

    Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama “may be the Antichrist.”

    These numbers all come from a brand-new Louis Harris poll, inspired in part by my new book Wingnuts. It demonstrates the cost of the campaign of fear and hate that has been pumped up in the service of hyper-partisanship over the past 15 months. We are playing with dynamite by demonizing our president and dividing the United States in the process. What might be good for ratings is bad for the country.

    The poll, which surveyed 2,230 people right at the height of the health-care reform debate, also clearly shows that education is a barrier to extremism. Respondents without a college education are vastly more likely to believe such claims, while Americans with college degrees or better are less easily duped. It’s a reminder of what the 19th-century educator Horace Mann once too-loftily said: “Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge.”

  8. shargraves says:

    @ David Lawson

    Thanks for the link – What a bonehead Deepak Chopra is. And a quick scroll down the page highlights some other imbecilic topoics for discussion – fatness – porn – adultery – LOL! And is nightline a seroious program?

    Highlight is the kirk cameron debate – hes a prizewining cretin.

    In the uk my fave show is a sunday morning bit of godbothering bottom fluff called the big questions where topics such as “is the devil real?” “Should gays marry” “Do angels exist” etc – its full of lunatics talking out of their arseholes and a few token normal people are there to be shouted down by the ass-hats of all religious denominations, and all the stereotypes are present in the panellists, the chrstians are weird and creepy, the jews are fat money obsessed loathsome and sleazy, the muslims guarded, strange, and you can tell they bite their lip when women talk over them or gays are mentioned!

    Its compelling car crash TV that is oblivious to how utterly shit it is. And no one EVER mentions how insane it all is!

    I never miss it!

    The intelligence squared debates are the best – bar none!

    This one is awesome, Stephen Fry rules!

  9. NeoWolfe says:

    Well, I’m about to anger all of you. In his book, “The God Delusion”, Richard Dawkins admits that he is a six out of seven atheist. Then, in an interview with Bill Maher changes it to a six point nine. He glibbly states that the doubt is based on the fact that he can’t prove that fairies and unicorns don’t exist.

    But, the real doubt exists on the horizon of science. The things we don’t know, and can’t explain, about the origin of the universe. For example, the weight of planet Earth can expressed in units of mass, but it’s almost mind blowing. Now, express the weight of the universe. Then imagine that it sprang out of nothing.

    You can burn a block of wood in a camp fire, and the energy that used to hold the atoms together is released as heat, but not a single atom is lost or created, they just change configuration. Those are the laws of chemistry. Nothing lost, nothing created.

    And while any freethinker knows that religion is mythical bullshit, so many questions remain about how the universe happened, that an open mind is still called for by any real skeptic.


  10. Broga says:

    @William Harwood. Margaret Mead: now there is a name that resonates with memories from my student days. This is the woman who was so brilliant that she was conned by the supposed “primitives” she was studying. Whatever she wanted they provided it. The whole farrago of nonsense was exposed later when the islanders said that they provided what she wanted to hear. I think she provided an explanation as to how the islanders escaped the “sturm and drang” of adolescent turmoil by a lifestyle they cooked up for her.

    Didn’t a priest get the £1 million one time from the Templeton outfit? Didn’t know Billy Graham got it. They must have overlooked that foaming-at-the mouth old ranter and raver “Dr” Iain Paisley.

  11. barriejohn says:

    Brother Roger(Taize): Cardinal Suenens: Tmomas Torrance: Lord Jakobovits: Charles Coulson: John Polkinghorne: and so it goes on, Broga!

    Full list here:

  12. Tim Danaher says:

    Still, at least the Templeton prize provides us wit h the entertaining spectacle of Frank Tipler coming out with his increasingly bizarre ‘The Physics of…” books (God, Immortality, etc) in a desperate attempt to grub for Templeton’s lucre. After all, his mate John Barrow won it by prostituting himself, so why not Frankie?

  13. shargraves says:

    @Neowolfe, mate, calm down dear. We know this.

    Maher is a bit of a dildo. Not too bright- just mouthy (and nasal) He believes in woo when it comes to medicine and vaccines.

    As for the origin of the universe – We are looking into it. Rationally and purposefully, at places like CERN.

    Infinitely more rational, methodical and 100% more reliable than the awful superstitous wank, shat out verbally by cave welling religidiots of all denominations, and still propogated by evil or stupid people today. We’ll get there.

  14. Broga says:

    @barriejohn. Oh no! Its worse than I thought. Is that the Mother Theresa, friend of tyrants, loved flying first class while whining about austerity, where loads a money slipped through her fingers, or is that another. When I think of the good that could have been done with kind of money.

  15. William Harwood says:

    For all of his accuracy on other issues, Richard Dawkins refuses to get it through his head that, while the nonexistence of “gods” as a class can no more be proven than the nonexistence of fairies or unicorns, Victor Stenger in particular has proven the nonexistence of “God”, defined as a god with the specific oxymoronic qualities attributed to him/it by Jewish/ Christian/ Muslim religion.

  16. barriejohn says:

    No, Broga, it was Mother Teresa the atomic physicist! It really is a strange conglomeration of people, but after listing the very wide-ranging criteria upon which prizewinners are selected (“The judges seek, above all, a substantial record of achievement that highlights or exemplifies one of the various ways in which human beings express their yearning for spiritual progress.”), they go on to say: “These fields do not exhaust the areas in which achievement might qualify for the Templeton Prize, nor is it necessary for a nominee’s work to be confined to just one field.” Waffle!!

  17. Janstince says:

    @ Tim

    Personally, I prefer “The Physics of Star Trek.” Much better read, grounded in popular culture, and I’m a Trek fan (not full-blown trekkie). I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone.

    @ NeoWolfe

    We do know that there is a lot we don’t know, and possibly will never know. Truth be told, we cannot disprove God entirely, at least not yet. Who knows what the future holds. But one of my biggest beefs is that those who ascribe all these events to some kind of god stop looking for reasons, causes, and explanations. That is no way to do science. Keep an open mind, yes, and one person cannot do everything, but just because we don’t understand it yet doesn’t mean we should stop looking.

  18. Stonyground says:

    I Followed the link to Sam Harris’ review of the Collins book. The quotations from the book are just astonishing, that such a Highly accomplished scientist can simultaniously be such an idiot. The frozen waterfall story is unbelievable, as is the assertion that the biblical statement that the Earth is fixed and doesn’t move does not contradict Gallileo when he said that the Earth revolves around the sun.

    I used to feel duty bound to read this kind of book, as I think that it is pretty stupid to comment on something that you haven’t read. But I have read so much of this stuff now, all equally tiresome, all equally unconvincing, all equally dishonest that I don’t wish to spend any more of my one and only life on them.

    On C.S. Lewis, great writer of children’s adventure stories but his Christian apologetics are as bad as the rest, full of unsupported assertions, inapt allegories and twisted logic.

  19. barriejohn says:

    C S Lewis: a sort of intellectual Norman Vincent Peale!

  20. William Harwood says:

    The difference between C.S. Lewis and L. Frank Baum is that Baum realized that The Man Behind the Curtain created the Great and Powerful Oz, while Lewis thought it was the other way around.

  21. Steve says:

    I’ve read the intelligent comments here and can’t believe that not one sides with the NAS.

    They’re validated by even considering Dr. Collins for the Templeton Prize. He saw the trinity in a waterfall! Are you people blind?

  22. William Harwood says:

    Steve: The problem with satire is that it only works if it is recognizable as satire. Obviously you are not dangerously, subhuman, certifiably insane. But your comment is identical with what someone who does fit that description might have written.

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