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The John Templeton Foundation (Templeton Foundation) is a philanthropic organization with a spiritual or religious inclination that funds inter-disciplinary research about human purpose and ultimate reality. It was established in 1987 by investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. His son John Templeton, Jr. took over the presidency until his death in 2015. Heather Templeton Dill became president in June 2015.[2]

John Templeton Foundation
Formation 1987; 31 years ago (1987)
Founder John Templeton
Founded at Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Fields Religious studies
Official language
Heather Templeton Dill
Revenue (2015)
Expenses (2015) $225,900,726[1]
Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation
John Templeton, Jr., former president of the John Templeton Foundation, died in 2015. He was succeeded by his daughter, Heather Templeton Dill.

According to the Foundation, it gives away about $70 million per year in research grants and programs.[3] The Foundation accepts online funding inquiries each year. If the initial inquiry is successful, applicants are invited to make a full proposal.[4] Typically, grants are approved in a process that incorporates peer review.[5] The Foundation supports many research projects, usually by means of international competitions to which research teams from large universities apply. In 2008, the Foundation received the United States' National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities.[6]

Many scholars have raised concerns about the biased nature of the awards, research projects and publications backed by the Templeton Foundation.[7][8][9][10][11][12] According to Guillaume Lecointre of the French National Museum of Natural History, the Templeton Foundation has links with fundamentalist Protestantism, is openly creationist, and funds projects throughout the world whose aim is to unify science and religion, blurring the epistemological lines between the collective and public empirical enquiry and the individual and private metaphysical conviction. According to Lecointre, this type of private funding would be "disastrous for the autonomy of scientific research".[13] The Foundation has also been criticized for supporting Christian-biased research in the field of the scientific study of religions.[14] The Templeton Foundation has had links with the Discovery Institute, an American conservatist and creationist think-tank, and other similar organizations.[13]



Since 22 July 2015 the president of the Templeton Foundation is Heather Templeton Dill, daughter of the John M. Templeton, Jr. and granddaughter of John Templeton.[15][16]

John M. Templeton, Jr. was an evangelical Christian, independently wealthy and active in philanthropy outside of the mandate of the Templeton Foundation itself. He supported various American conservative causes.[17] He always maintained that his own personal religious beliefs did not affect his ability to administer the Templeton Foundation.[18]

Core funding areasEdit

The Foundation divides its primary activities into the following areas:[19]

Science and the big questionsEdit

The Templeton Foundation funds research project dealing with the fields of:

  • mathematical and physical sciences;
  • life sciences;
  • human sciences;
  • philosophy and theology;
  • science in dialogue.[20]

The Foundation promotes the search for answers to what it considers the "big questions", including:[21]

  • Does the Universe have a purpose?[22]
  • Will money solve Africa's development problems?[23]
  • Does science make belief in God obsolete?[24]
  • Does the free market corrode moral character?[25]
  • Does evolution explain human nature?[26]
  • Does moral action depend on reasoning?[27]

The Templeton Foundation organizes projects aimed at synthesizing science and Christianity, such as Evolution and Christian Faith[28] and Celebrating the Harmony Between Mainstream Science and the Christian Faith.[29]

Mathematical and physical sciencesEdit

The Foundation focuses its funding in this area on basic questions in mathematics or projects that seek a deeper understanding of the nature of reality within the realm of physics, cosmology, astronomy, chemistry or other physical sources.[30]

Examples of projects that have received funding include the Foundational Questions Institute established by physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Santa Cruz. FQXi supports research on questions at the foundations of physics and cosmology, particularly "new frontiers and innovative ideas integral to a deep understanding of reality but unlikely to be supported by conventional funding sources".[31]

Life sciencesEdit

Life Sciences covers projects examining the evolution and fundamental nature of life, human life, and mind, especially as they relate to issues of meaning and purpose, the Foundation supports theistic evolution.[32][unreliable source] Projects that have received funding from the Foundation cover a variety of fields including the biological sciences, neuroscience, archaeology, and palaeontology.[33] It funds the IHO Templeton Research Program at the Institute of Human Origins[34] at Arizona State University.

Professor Simon Conway Morris from the University of Cambridge was awarded a grant in this area for his "Map of Life"[35] project, which seeks to document examples of evolutionary convergence.

Professor Martin Nowak, Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University, was awarded a grant for the "Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology"[36] initiative, which seeks to advance fundamental questions in the context of evolutionary biology and to generate new understanding in the origins of biological creativity, the deep logics of biological dynamics and ontology, and the concepts of teleology and ultimate purpose in the context of evolutionary biology.

Human sciencesEdit

The Foundation provides funding to projects that look to apply disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, political science, and psychology to various moral and spiritual concepts, such as altruism, creativity, free will, generosity, gratitude, intellect, love, prayer, and purpose.[37]

Purdue University in Indiana, USA received money from the Foundation to establish its Center on Religion and Chinese Society, which studies the impact and role of religion in Chinese societies and among the Chinese diaspora.[38]

Philosophy and theologyEdit

The focus of this area is to support projects that attempt to develop new philosophical and theological insights, especially (but not only) in relation to advances in scientific understanding.[39]

Anton Zeilinger, Professor of Physics at the University of Vienna, received a grant from Templeton to run a fellowship for young scholars interested in the nature of quantum reality and its philosophical implications.[40]

Science in dialogueEdit

The Foundation also funds projects that try to bring one or more scientific disciplines into a mutually enriching discussion with theology and/or philosophy for an academic audience or the public.[41]

The World Science Festival received a grant from the Templeton Foundation for its Big Ideas Series. It used this to host public discussions of subjects like "Nothing: The Subtle Science of Emptiness," "What It Means to Be Human," and "Parallel Universes".[42]

Character developmentEdit

The Foundation supports a broad range of programs, publications, and studies focused on the universal truths of character development, from childhood through young adulthood and beyond. The qualities of character emphasized in the Foundation's charter include awe, creativity, curiosity, diligence, entrepreneurialism, forgiveness, generosity, gratitude, honesty, humility, joy, love, purpose, reliability, and thrift.[43]

Stanford University is among the recipients of a grant for William Damon's research on types of commitments young people hold and how those commitments develop, which was the first phase of the Youth Purpose Project.[44]

More recently the Foundation awarded a grant to the University of Chicago for its research on an interdisciplinary study of virtue.[45]

In relation to Character Development, the Foundation also supports the Purpose Prize, an initiative of The Purpose Prize recognizes people over 60 who are combining their passion and experience for social good.[46]

The Foundation has given $5.6 million in research grants to Robert A. Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, to promote his study of the "science of gratitude". Also in promotion of gratitude studies, it gave $3 million to the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley to launch a multi-year project called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude,[47] which, among other endeavors, fosters research grant competition, gives dissertation awards, funds the Youth Gratitude Research Project, and co-produced a one-hour special program[48] on the "science of gratitude" that aired on NPR in November, 2015.[49]

Freedom and free enterpriseEdit

John Templeton, a follower of classical liberalism from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, believed that individual freedom was the indispensable Foundation of economic, social, and spiritual progress, and that without economic freedom, individual freedom was fragile and vulnerable. To this end, the Foundation supports a range of programs which promote freedom and free enterprise.[50]

In 2007, a grant was awarded to Robert Townsend, from the University of Chicago for "The Enterprise Initiative" a research collaboration with MIT's Poverty Action Lab, Yale's Economic Growth Center, and the University of Chicago's Computation Institute. This initiative seeks to elucidate enterprise-based solutions to poverty by studying the specific factors that lead to success at the individual level.[51]

Since 2015, the Foundation has funded the media project CapX run by the Centre for Policy Studies. The project aims to popularize capitalism.[52]

Exceptional cognitive talent and geniusEdit

The Foundation supports young people who demonstrate exceptional talent in mathematics and science. In the U.S., they have supported accelerated learning for students capable of working well beyond their grade level, and a number of important national studies of the issue. Internationally, they have sponsored academic training and competitions for students who show extraordinary potential but whose talents might not otherwise be developed, especially because of their economic circumstances or insufficient educational support.[53]

One example of its work is the grant given to an academic from Princeton University for the study: "Budapest: The Golden Years Early 20th Century Mathematics Education in Budapest and Lessons for Today".[54]


The Foundation's engagement with this funding area is still in its early stages. The Foundation is particularly interested in major advances in genetics that might serve to empower individuals, leading to spiritually beneficial social and cultural changes.[55] Previous genetics projects receiving grants from the Foundation include research on Genetics and the Origin of Organismal Complexity by Günter P. Wagner and Alison Richard from Yale University.[56] The Foundation established "Can Genetically Modified Crops Help to Feed the World?" as 2011 Funding Priority.[57]

Prizes and fundingEdit

The Foundation is involved both in the awarding of prizes for specific achievements in different categories, and the funding of research in science and theology.

The Templeton PrizeEdit

In addition to its central activity funding scientific studies, the Foundation awards the annual $1.5 million Templeton Prize to a 'living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works'.

The Templeton Prize was first awarded in 1973. The monetary amount is adjusted to be always slightly higher than the Nobel Prize. In 2010 the prize was $1.5 million.

Since its inception, recipients of the prize have included Mother Teresa, Brother Roger of Taizé, Billy Graham, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Baba Amte.

The 2016 prize laureate was Jonathan Sacks former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

The 2015 prize laureate was Jean Vanier, the founder of L'Arche, a revolutionary international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers.

The 2014 prize recipient was Tomáš Halík, a Czech priest and philosopher who risked imprisonment for illegally advancing religious and cultural freedoms after the Soviet invasion of his country, and has since become a leading international advocate for dialogue among different faiths and non-believers.

In 2013, Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, won the Templeton Prize. His teachings combine the theological concept that all human beings are shaped in the image of God with the traditional African spirit of Ubuntu, in which humanity achieves personhood only through other people.

In 2012, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, received the prize for his work regarding connections between the investigative traditions of science and Buddhism, specifically, by encouraging scientific reviews of the power of compassion and its potential to address the world's fundamental problems.

In 2011, theoretical astrophysicist Martin Rees won the prize.[58]

The 2010 Templeton Prize winner was Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist who has opposed the teaching of creationism in the public schools.

In 2009, the French physicist and science philosopher Bernard d'Espagnat won the prize.

In 2008, Polish cosmologist and Roman Catholic priest Michał Heller was awarded the Templeton Prize. Heller received the prize in recognition of scholarship and research that has, according to the Foundation, pushed at the metaphysical boundaries of science.[59]

In 2007 the Templeton Prize was awarded to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. Taylor is known for his belief that Western secular society does not satisfy the natural human desire for meaning. Commenting on the Templeton Prize award to Taylor, the United Kingdom's Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks said, "If there is such a thing as a saint in a secular age, he deserves that title".[60]

Other recent prize winners include:

Charles H. Townes, professor in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964[61] for his investigations into the properties of microwaves and his co-invention of the laser,[62] and theoretical cosmologist

George F.R. Ellis of the University of Cape Town,[63] who advocates "balancing the rationality of evidence-based science with the causal effect of forces beyond the explanation of hard science, including issues such as aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and meaning".[64]

Other prizesEdit

In addition to the Templeton Prize, the Templeton Foundation also provides grants for several independently administered awards. These include:

The $100,000 Epiphany Prizes for 'inspiring movies and TV'.[65] Winners of the movie prize include: Amazing Grace, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Passion of the Christ, Amistad and the Preacher's Wife.

The Purpose Prize, sponsored by with grants from The Atlantic Philanthropies and the John Templeton Foundation. This initiative annually provides five awards of $100,000 to people over 60 who are taking on 'society's biggest challenges.' Winners have been recognized for a diverse range of activities, from creating a mentor network for refugees to reducing rates of young offender recidivism.[66] Susan Burton was the winner of the Purpose Prize in 2012, for her work with her organization A New Way of Life.

Other recipients of fundingEdit


Individuals associated with Templeton-funded initiatives or who have received support from the Templeton Foundation include Paul Davies, Max Tegmark, John D. Barrow, James Otteson, Stephen G. Post, Martin Seligman, Harold Koenig, Laurence Iannaccone, Nicholas Colangello, and Alexander Astin.


Organizations that are associated or which have received grants include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), (formerly known as Civic Ventures), the Developmental Studies Center, Junior Achievement, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics,[67] and the Rotary International.


Many major research universities have received funding from the Templeton Foundation to carry out specific research projects, including the California Institute of Technology, Cambridge University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford University, Princeton University, Purdue University and Yale University among others. The Templeton Foundation has also had links with the Interdisciplinary University of Paris (France), which promoted creationist ideas.[13]

Nature magazine listed the top ten grants:[5]

  1. Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology ($10,500,000)
  2. Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology ($8,812,078)
  3. The SEVEN Fund: Enterprise Based Solutions to Poverty ($8,742,911)
  4. Establishing an Institute for Research on Unlimited Love ($8,210,000)
  5. The Purpose Prize for Social Innovators Over the Age of 60 ($8,148,322)
  6. Templeton–Cambridge Journalism Fellowships and Seminars in Science and Religion ($6,187,971)
  7. Accelerating Progress at the Interface of Positive Psychology and Neuroscience ($5,816,793)
  8. AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion ($5,351,707)
  9. Promoting a Culture of Generosity, Part I: Feature Film ($5,000,000)
  10. Promoting a Culture of Generosity, Part II: The Philanthropy Channel ($5,000,000)

MediaTransparency lists grant-receiving institutions for 1998 to 2004; the top five are:[68]

  1. Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences ($23 million)
  2. National Institute for Healthcare Research ($8 million)
  3. Philadelphia Center for Religion & Science ($4 million)
  4. Metanexus Institute ($4 million)
  5. Science and Spirit Resources, Inc. ($4 million).
Fenggang Yang—Center on Religion and Chinese SocietyEdit

The Center on Religion and Chinese Society of the Purdue University in Indiana is funded by the Templeton Foundation.[69] The current director of the center, the Chinese American Christian scholar Fenggang Yang, has been granted more that $9.5 million to support his projects,[70] The center has published research on religion in China, especially based on Yang's own theory of the so-called "religious market". Yang's statistics and projections about Christianity in China have been disputed by authorities in China;[71] Yang himself claimed that his speculations were based on a report of the Pew Research Center,[71] another publication backed by the Templeton Foundation.[72] Many scholars of Chinese religion have criticized Yang's sociological theories about religion in China.[73][74]

Pew Research CenterEdit

The Pew Research Center, an American fact tank or research organization, has been "jointly and generously funded" by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Templeton Foundation for its studies focusing on demographics of religions in the world, part of the series entitled Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures.[75][76]

Templeton PressEdit

The Templeton Foundation also runs its own publisher, Templeton Press,[77] and from 2004–2010, it published the periodical In Character: A Journal of Everyday Virtues.[78]


Critiques from the French National Museum of Natural HistoryEdit

Giullaume Lecointre of the of the French National Museum of Natural History has been scathingly critic of the Templeton Foundation, calling its type of private founding "disastrous for the autonomy of scientific research", as the French Center considers it aligned to fundamentalist Protestantism, creationism, and aimed at the dissolution of the epistemological distinction between the collective and public empirical enquiry and the individual and private metaphysical convictions.[13]

... Mais ce choix ne saurait en rien constituer un projet collectif de connaissance objective. Les connaissances empiriques, universellement testables, constituent la partie de nos savoirs qui unissent les hommes, et c'est pour cela qu'elles sont politiquement publiques. Les options métaphysiques restent personnelles et politiquement privées car elles peuvent diviser les hommes et donc devenir dans le champ politique une source d'oppression.
... But this choice [the promotion of individual metaphysical opinions] will not be able at all to constitute a collective project of objective knowledge. Empirical knowledge, universally testable, forms the part of our knowledge which unites humanity, and it is for this reason politically public. Metaphysical opinions remain personal and politically private since they can divide humanity and thus become, within the political field, a source of oppression.

— CNRS[13]

Critiques from individual scholarsEdit

The Foundation's views on the connections between religious and scientific inquiry and their ability to provide significant grants for scientific research has led to a polarising debate within the scientific community.

Chris MooneyEdit

Science journalist Chris Mooney, an atheist and author of The Republican War on Science, received a 2010 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship, enabling him to join other journalists for a three-week lecture program on science and religion at Cambridge University. In a 2010 article on his Discover magazine blog, Mooney wrote, "I can honestly say that I have found the lectures and presentations that we've heard here to be serious and stimulating. The same goes for the discussions that have followed them".[79] In 2006, Horgan, a 2005 Templeton-Cambridge fellow then working as a freelance science journalist, wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education that he had enjoyed his fellowship, but felt guilty that by taking money from the Templeton Foundation, he had contributed to the mingling of science with religion.[80] In another 2010 article, Mooney took issue with Horgan's point, calling the idea that the fellowship was a "Trojan horse" for religion "pretty untenable". Templeton critics Richard Dawkins, A. C. Grayling, and Daniel Dennett declined to answer[81] a Templeton-Cambridge fellow's interview requests, saying that they did not want to lend credibility to the science and religion journalism program. Mooney rejected this approach, writing, "You can't both denounce the fellowship for being intellectually tilted and also boycott it, thereby refusing to help lend it more of the balance you claim it needs". Grayling and Dennett answered this criticism as follows:

... I disapprove of the Templeton Foundation's attempt to tie theologians to the coat tails of scientists and philosophers who actually do have expertise on this topic [that materialism is in Dennett's opinion not an obstacle to an ethical life]. Many years ago I made the mistake of participating, with some very good scientists, in a conference that pitted us against astrologers and other new age fakes. I learned to my dismay that even though we thoroughly dismantled the opposition, many in the audience ended up, paradoxically, with an increased esteem for astrologers! As one person explained to me "I figured that if you scientists were willing to work this hard to refute it, there must be something to it!" Isn't it obvious to you that the Templeton Foundation is eager to create the very same response in its readers? Do you really feel comfortable being complicit with that project?

I cannot agree with the Templeton Foundation's project of trying to make religion respectable by conflating it with science; this is like mixing astrology with astronomy or voodoo with medical research, and I disapprove of Templeton's use of its great wealth to bribe compliance with this project. Templeton is to all intents and purposes a propaganda organisation for religious outlooks; it should honestly say so and equally honestly devote its money to prop up the antique superstitions it favours, and not pretend that questions of religion are of the same kind and on the same level as those of science—by which means it persistently seeks to muddy the waters and keep religion credible in lay eyes. It is for this reason I don't take part in Templeton-associated matters.

Donald WiebeEdit

Donald Wiebe, scholar of religious studies at the University of Toronto, criticized the Templeton Foundation in a 2009 article entitled Religious Biases in Funding Religious Studies Research?. According to him, the Templeton Foundation supports Christian bias in the field of religious studies, by deliberately imposing constraints to steer the results of the research.[14]

... A cursory review of these projects suggested to me that the religious (perhaps, speaking liberally, Christian) objectives of the Templeton Foundation were sufficiently problematic to warrant critical public scrutiny of their support for Religious Studies research. It seems to me that obtaining a grant from the Foundation involves constraints that impose a religious bias on the research they fund. As I see it, the Foundation seeks, whether directly or indirectly, to transform genuinely scientific research agendas into religious ones ...[14]

Jerry CoyneEdit

In 2011, the science journal Nature took note of the ongoing controversy among scientists over working with Templeton.[5] Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago evolutionary biologist sees a fundamental impossibility in attempting to reconcile faith with science.

"Religion is based on dogma and belief, whereas science is based on doubt and questioning," says Coyne, echoing an argument made by many others. "In religion, faith is a virtue. In science, faith is a vice". The purpose of the Templeton Foundation is to break down that wall, he says—to reconcile the irreconcilable and give religion scholarly legitimacy...[85]

A fierce Templeton critic, Coyne told Nature writer Mitchell Waldrop that the Foundation's purpose is to eliminate the wall between religion and science, and to use science's prestige to validate religion. Other scientists, including Foundation grantees like University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and Anthony Aguirre, a University of California—Santa Cruz astrophysicist, told Nature that they have never felt pressured by Templeton to spin their research toward religion-friendly conclusions.

John HorganEdit

John Horgan, a science journalist and the author of several books, in 2006 wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education (reprinted in Edge) of his "misgivings about the foundation's agenda of reconciling religion and science". He said that a conference he attended favored scientists who "offered a perspective clearly skewed in favor of religion and Christianity", and says that:

One Templeton official made what I felt were inappropriate remarks about the foundation's expectations of us fellows. She told us that the meeting cost more than $1-million, and in return the foundation wanted us to publish articles touching on science and religion.[86]

John Horgan fears recipients of large grants from the Templeton Foundation sometimes write what the Foundation wants rather than what they believe.

Several areligious scientists told me privately that they did not want to challenge the beliefs of religious speakers for fear of offending them and the Templeton hosts.[86]

Nathan SchneiderEdit

In 2010, journalist Nathan Schneider published a lengthy investigative article about the Templeton Foundation, entitled God, Science and Philanthropy, on The Nation,[87] a leading magazine of the left. In the article, he aired familiar complaints about the Foundation, but observed that many of its critics and grantees alike fail to appreciate "the breadth of the foundation's activities, much less the quixotic vision of its founder, John Templeton". Schneider observed:

At worst, Templeton could be called heterodox and naïve; at best, his was a mind more open than most, reflective of the most inventive and combinatorial strains of American religious thought, eager to radically reinterpret ancient wisdom and bring it up to speed with some version from the present.

Schneider wrote that to call the Foundation "conservative" is to misunderstand it:

The founder's relationship to the notion was especially paradoxical; in The Humble Approach, Templeton writes, "Rarely does a conservative become a hero of history". Although Templeton could be nostalgic, harking back to time-tested values and homespun sayings, he wanted above all to move the world forward, not hold it back.

Though the Foundation, in Schneider's view, "has associated itself with political and religious forces that cause it to be perceived as threatening the integrity of science and protecting the religious status quo," these alliances mean the Foundation "is also better positioned than most to foster a conservatism—and a culture generally—that holds the old habits of religions and business responsible to good evidence, while helping scientists better speak to people's deepest concerns".

Paul DaviesEdit

Professor Paul Davies, physicist and member of the Foundation's Board of Trustees, gave a defense of the Foundation's role in the scientific community in the Times Higher Education Supplement in March 2005. Responding to concerns about the funding of such research by religious organisations that might have a hidden agenda and in particular the Templeton Foundation, Davies said:

If the foundation were indeed a religious organisation with its own specific doctrine, [the] objections would have substance. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. The benefactor, Sir John Templeton, bemoans the way that religious leaders often claim to have all the answers. Imagine, he says, consulting a doctor about an ailment, only to find him reaching for a volume of Hippocrates. Yet priests rely on ancient scriptures to deliver spiritual guidance. Sir John wants to address the big questions of existence with humility and open-mindedness, adopting the model of scientific research in place of religious dogma. "How little we know!" is his favourite aphorism. It is a radical message, as far from religious fundamentalism as it is possible to get.

... recurring research themes supported by the foundation are the search for extra-solar planets, the properties of liquid water, the evolution of primate behaviour, emergent properties of complex systems, the foundations of quantum mechanics and the biological and social bases for forgiveness in areas of human conflict. In none of these projects is anything like a preferred religious position encouraged or an obligation imposed to support any religious group.

Britain is a post-religious society. Yet ordinary men and women still yearn for some sort of deeper meaning to their lives. Can science point the way? Science has traditionally been regarded as dehumanising and alienating, trivialising the significance of humans and celebrating the pointlessness of existence. But many scientists, atheists included, see it differently. They experience what Einstein called "a cosmic religious feeling" when reflecting on the majesty of the cosmos and the extraordinary elegance and ingenuity of its mathematical laws.

Science cannot and should not be a substitute for religion. But I see nothing sinister or unprofessional about scientists working with open-minded theologians to explore how science might be a source of inspiration rather than demoralisation.[88]

Peter WoitEdit

Peter Woit, a mathematical physicist at Columbia University, occasionally writes about his misgivings with the foundation on his blog (which is hosted by Columbia University). Woit feels it is unfortunate that Templeton's money is used to influence scientific research towards a convergence between science and religion.

In June 2005, Woit wrote:

Look not at what the Templeton people say (which is relatively innocuous), but at what they do. They explicitly refuse to support serious science, and instead fund an incredible array of attempts to inject religion into scientific practice. ... Instead they are heavily funding the one part of the field that most people consider dangerous pseudo-science and a serious threat to the whole concept of what it means to do science.[89]

In October 2007, he gave this more qualified, but still largely critical, assessment of the Foundation following attendance at a Templeton sponsored seminar:

The symposium I attended had not a trace of involvement of religion in it, and it seems that Templeton is careful to keep this out of some of the things that it funds as pure science ... They appear to have a serious commitment to the idea of funding things in physics that can be considered "foundational". People working in some such areas often are considered out of the physics mainstream and so find it hard to get their research funded. For them, Templeton is in many ways a uniquely promising funding source.

... However, they unambiguously are devoted to trying to bring science and religion together, and that's my main problem with them. ... I remain concerned though about the significance for physics of this large new source of funding, out of scale with other such private sources, and with an agenda that seems to me to have a dangerous component to it.[90]

Nonetheless, Woit's impression is that the Foundation is careful to keep conservative politics out of its activities and he does state that "their encouragement of religion seems to be of a very ecumenical nature".[90]

On 16 March 2012, in an article entitled Templeton Millions, Woit expressed a more scathing critique of the Templeton Foundation:

... I think what is going on here is very dangerous. The Templeton Foundation's agenda is not the advancement of science, it is the advancement of a particular religious point of view about what science is and how it should be done. They are very cleverly putting large sums of money into backing theology and pseudo-scientific research at the most prestigious academic institutions in the world. One reason that these places are happily taking the money is because public funding is drying up. The organization is extremely wealthy, and now led by Templeton's son, who when he isn't spending his father's money on this is spending it on promoting Rick Santorum’s political career or other far-right causes.[91]

Woit wrote that the Templeton Foundation that year funded a project led by the astronomer Donald York of the University of Chicago because he is an evangelical Christian, quoting a statement of the Foundation itself.[91]

PZ MyersEdit

On 7 May 2009, PZ Myers, biologist at the University of Minnesota Morris, wrote:

They have an agenda, and it is one of the most corrupting and untrustworthy causes of all, religion. They already know the answer, and they only want to pay for results that can be interpreted to bolster their unsupportable claims. Even if they are not asking that anyone fake evidence, we know that any line of inquiry that leads away from their desired answer will be abandoned, even if it is leading to the right answer. They are antithetical to good science. ... And, boy are they loaded, with a massive endowment and the willingness to throw large sums of money around. Scarily huge sums — the kind of money that will tempt even the most principled scientist to compromise a little bit.[92]

Richard DawkinsEdit

In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist) repeatedly criticizes the Templeton Foundation, referring to the Templeton Prize as "a very large sum of money given ... usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion". Concerning the conference that he and John Horgan attended, and to John Horgan's resulting article, Dawkins comments, "If I understand Horgan's point, it is that Templeton's money corrupts science".[93]

In 2016, Templeton funded a study specifically targeting Richard Dawkins, authored by a team led by the Templeton-funded sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, of the Rice University. Out of a total number of interviewed scientists, the authors selected those who didn't like Dawkins, and compiled an entire publication based on their opinion. In the article Dawkins is variously called "Mr. Anti-God Europe", "extremely arrogant" and "overly aggressive".[94]

Sean M. CarrollEdit

Sean M. Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, wrote, in describing his self-recusal from a conference he discovered was funded by the Foundation, that "the entire purpose of the Templeton Foundation is to blur the line between straightforward science and explicitly religious activity, making it seem like the two enterprises are part of one big undertaking. It's all about appearances". But he also said, "I appreciate that the Templeton Foundation is actually, in its own way, quite pro-science, and is not nearly as objectionable as the anti-scientific crackpots at the Discovery Institute".[95]

Sunny BainsEdit

Sunny Bains of University College London Faculty of Engineering Science[96] claims that there is:

... evidence of cronyism (especially in the awarding in those million-dollar-plus Templeton prizes), a misleading attempt to move away from using religious language (without changing the religious agenda), the funding of right-wing anti-science groups, and more.[97]

Bains feels the Templeton Foundation "blur the line between science and religion". Bains' claims have been disputed by Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education.[98]


American conservatismEdit

Like all 501(c)(3) organizations, the Templeton Foundation is prohibited from engaging directly in political activity. However, a number of journalists have highlighted connections with conservative causes. A 1997 article in Slate Magazine said the Templeton Foundation had given a significant amount of financial support to groups, causes and individuals considered conservative, including gifts to Gertrude Himmelfarb, Milton Friedman, Walter E. Williams, Julian Lincoln Simon and Mary Lefkowitz, and referred to John Templeton, Jr., as a "conservative sugar daddy".[99] The Foundation also has a history of supporting the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, as well as projects at major research centers and universities that explore themes related to free market economics, such as Hernando de Soto's Instituto Libertad Y Democracia and the X Prize Foundation.

In a 2007 article in The Nation, Barbara Ehrenreich drew attention to the Foundation's president John M. Templeton Jr. funding of the conservative group Freedom's Watch, and referred to the Foundation as a "right wing venture".[100] Pamela Thompson of the Templeton Foundation, responding to Ehrenreich's allegations, asserted that "the Foundation is, and always has been, run in accordance with the wishes of Sir John Templeton Sr, who laid very strict criteria for its mission and approach", that it is "a non-political entity with no religious bias" and it "is totally independent of any other organisation and therefore neither endorses, nor contributes to political candidates, campaigns, or movements of any kind".[101]

Climate change denialEdit

In 2013 it was highlighted that the Templeton Foundation has been funding the climate change denial movement.[102]

Intelligent designEdit

There have been questions over whether the Templeton Foundation supports intelligent design because its grants can cover projects of a scientific and religious nature. The Foundation has always strenuously denied supporting the movement.[103]

In 2005, the Foundation disputed suggestions that it promotes intelligent design saying that, while it had supported unrelated projects by individuals who identify with intelligent design, it was one of the "principal critics" of the intelligent design movement and funded projects that challenged it.[104]

The same year the New York Times reported that the Foundation asked intelligent design proponents to submit proposals for actual research and quoted Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, as saying "They never came in" and that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other Foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned. "From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review", he said.[105]

In 2007 in the LA Times, the Templeton Foundation wrote "we do not believe that the science underpinning the intelligent-design movement is sound, we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and the Foundation is a nonpolitical entity and does not engage in or support political movements".[106]

In March 2009, the Discovery Institute, a supporter of intelligent design, accused the Templeton Foundation of blocking its involvement in Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories, a Vatican-backed, Templeton-funded conference in Rome. On the lack of involvement of any speakers supporting intelligent design, the conference director Rev. Marc Leclerc said, "We think that it's not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one…This makes a dialogue difficult, maybe impossible".[107] At the conference, Francisco Ayala, an evolutionary biologist, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and longtime advisor to the Foundation, said intelligent design and creationism were "blasphemous" to both Christians and scientists.[108]

Religion and medicineEdit

Harold Koenig, Dale Mathews, David Larson, Jeffrey Levin, Herbert Benson and Michael McCullogh are scholars to whom Templeton have provided funds to "report the positive relations" between religion and medicine.[109]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit