Templeton Foundation Funds Creationism Studies

The John Templeton Foundation has always rejected intelligent design. Five years ago, in Discovery Institute: Francisco Ayala’s Templeton Prize we referred to an earlier post — Discovery Institute: They Get No Respect! — where we said that there had been a note at the Templeton website titled: “Does the John Templeton Foundation support intelligent design?” but that link isn’t working. Fortunately, we quoted its contents at our post.

The result is that the Discovery Institute has been effectively locked out of ever winning a Templeton Prize, and they’re bitter at this rejection. The last time we looked, in 2007, the Templeton Foundation gave out approximately $70 million in grant awards. It’s potentially a rich source of funds for the Discoveroids and other creationist organizations, but we assumed that none of them would ever get any Templeton funds. Or so it seemed. Now we’re beginning to wonder.

In the Chicago Tribune we read Trinity awarded $3.4 million Templeton grant. The news is two weeks old, but we just learned about it. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School has been awarded a $3.4 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust for a multi-year study project that will examine and develop the Christian doctrine of creation within evangelical theology.

Are things changing at Templeton? The news continues:

The initiative, titled “Evangelical Theology and the Doctrine of Creation Project,” will unfold in three academic years with these theme topics: Reading Genesis in an Age of Science (2015-16), Affirming the Doctrine of Creation in an Age of Science (2016-17), and Reclaiming Theological Anthropology in an Age of Science (2017-18).

That sounds like straight creation science — the sort of thing one can read about at numerous creationist websites. Then the Tribune quotes someone at Trinity:

“Proceeding with both deep confidence in the utter truthfulness of divine revelation and commitment to the value of open inquiry, we are hopeful that this project will bear much fruit,” [Trinity’s Carl F.H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding] Thomas H. McCall said.

Instead of adopting a defensive posture, this project works hard to lay out what Scripture and the rich theological heritage of the church contribute to our understanding of creation,” Research Professor of New Testament D.A. Carson said. “That heritage must be allowed to speak boldly, graciously, and prophetically, to challenge every cultural stance with a different (and usually much narrower) frame of reference.”

So we went to the website of Trinity International University and found a news release about the grant: Trinity Awarded $3.4 million Templeton Grant. That says:

Among its many benefits, the grant will fund public lectures and events that will feature a broad array of outstanding biblical scholars, theologians, philosophers, scientists and public intellectuals. It also will establish four scholar-in-residence grants on the Trinity campus each year, support six pastors (and their congregations) who are willing to focus on the doctrine of creation, and initiate a writing competition for graduate students who research related topics.

How will this be any different from what goes on at the the Institute for Creation Research? They offer a degree in their brand of creationism — see: ICR Launches Online Apologetics Degree. Anyway, here’s one more excerpt from the Trinity website:

“This generous grant makes it possible for evangelical theological scholarship to explore crucial hermeneutical, exegetical, historical, systematic, and pastoral elements of the doctrine of creation, especially as these relate to important developments in scientific inquiry,” McCall said. An advisory council of about 30 biblical scholars, theologians, scientists and Christian leaders will guide the project.

We have no idea what this means. Is the Templeton Foundation now willing to give grants to outfits like the Discoveroids, or to ol’ Hambo? Who knows? Time will tell.

Update: Templeton Funds “Creation and Science” Course.

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33 responses to “Templeton Foundation Funds Creationism Studies

  1. In the Chicago Tribune we read Trinity awarded $3.4 million Templeton grant. The news is two weeks old, but we just learned about it. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

    Trinity Evangelical Divinity School has been awarded a $3.4 million grant from the Templeton Religion Trust for a multi-year study project that will examine and develop the Christian doctrine of creation within evangelical theology.

    Are things changing at Templeton? The news continues:

    The initiative, titled “Evangelical Theology and the Doctrine of Creation Project,” will unfold in three academic years with these theme topics: Reading Genesis in an Age of Science (2015-16), Affirming the Doctrine of Creation in an Age of Science (2016-17), and Reclaiming Theological Anthropology in an Age of Science (2017-18).

    It sounds like straight creationism to me, too, especially the bit about “theological anthropology.” (Say what?)

    One wonders whose arms have been twisted (or palms greased) at Templeton to bring about this apparent embrace of the dork side of the farce.

  2. Mike Elzinga

    “This generous grant makes it possible for evangelical theological scholarship to explore crucial hermeneutical, exegetical, historical, systematic, and pastoral elements of the doctrine of creation, especially as these relate to important developments in scientific inquiry,” McCall said.

    $3.4 million to word game it; and they don’t even need to buy erasers.

  3. This was a long winded way of saying we are going to throw away $4,000,000 that we could have used for helping people but instead we will just waste it.

  4. Mike Elzinga says: “and they don’t even need to buy erasers.”

    It’s very inexpensive to run a theology department. There’s no need for wastebaskets.

  5. Eddie Janssen

    How much money does Templeton have for its projects? Are we talking billions here?

  6. And to think Templeton could have used that $3.4 million to study something useful, like, say, Dungeons & Dragons.

  7. S.C.: “It’s very inexpensive to run a theology department.”

    They only need to purchase one book.

  8. Our financially-astute Curmudgeon audits the books and declares:

    It’s very inexpensive to run a theology department. There’s no need for wastebaskets.

    I respectively beg to differ.

    The modest sum they may save on wastebaskets is spent many, many times over on expensive surveillance equipment for the lavatories…

  9. Templeton foundation trying to bridge the gap between science and religion, it would be about as useful as unicorn research or dragon anatomy or maybe something like “gender studies”. So even if it goes to something creationist that has convoluted its actual intent with a lot of ten dollar words it isn’t that different in results. As long as it stays out of the grubby paws of the “Cast of Characters” I’m content.

  10. [I’ve much to explain about this topic for those who care about the details and implications–but for those who don’t, the bold-faced text provides the highlights you’ll probably want to know.] My apologies for likely typos and missing words. Still suffering from jetlag and not using my usual system.]

    “It sounds like straight creationism to me, too, especially the bit about “theological anthropology.”

    Not to me. Not even in the slightest. This grant is wonderful news!

    (I’m assuming you meant “creationist” in terms of Young Earth Creationist. If you meant the original sense of the word, one who believes God created everything, then, obviously, all Christians are creationists and everybody receiving the grant is that kind of creationist.)

    I see no significant downside in this grant. This is the kind of scholarship which could hasten the end of some of the key false dichotomies and arguments YEC leaders use to manipulate people.

    (Yes, a YEC-leaning scholar or two will probably be funded for some aspect–but that will be a very good thing, assuming the choose the right people. Because I have a general idea of how various origins positions will be required to justify their stance, and because I’m familiar with the rigor of Biblical studies peer review which the named individuals will demand, this project will surely produce important papers and books which will help hasten the death of multiple YEC mantras and logical fallacies. (In particular as a key example, Ken Ham’s various false dichotomies hold many of his followers in choke holds. He convinces many Christians that if they affirm The Theory of Evolution, they have abandoned the Bible and can’t be a “true Christian.” This also serves to silence and ostracize YEC-denying in many churches. It is the “Jim Crow rule of Young Earth Creationist churches and schools.” This project may provide credibility for and recruit and encourage YEC “Freedom Riders” to challenge the oppression in YEC environments.)

    I would even be tempted to say that I’m semi-ecstatic about the grant. (At my age working up to full-ecstatic is just too much work.) Because I’ve known many of the project’s scholars for years, I will be emailing my congratulations. (I’m even tempted to get involved in the project myself…but aging reduces the size of one’s plate.) Nevertheless, I’m still cynical enough to worry that some aspects of the project cold be poorly managed and admit that politics sometimes leads to those unfortunate choices. Wherever people are involved, Murphy’s Law will never be repealed.

    This grant represents a very clear statement by the Templeton Foundation–and a very real disappointment for the “scholars” of the Dishonesty Institute. I do wonder if the Institute’s “Senior Fellows” understand enough of what the grant will mean (in terms of threatening their long term survival), but they may not get worried until some well-educated pastor explains it to them.

    Peer-reviewed papers coming out of this scale of a project could eventually bring about major changes, gradually, but especially in making it far easier for evangelicals, and even some fundamentalists, to embrace The Theory of Evolution and billions of years without theological/scriptural conflict. I expect to see the scholarship eventually reflected in theology textbooks. (Expect even some types of homeschooling textbooks to embrace some of the topic.)

    Instead of seminary students being left to themselves on the chaos of what they and their future congregations should think about the creation and flood pericopes in the light of evolution, they will learn various “theological anthropologies” (which can harmonize with the positions of their respective denominational traditions) which will defuse some of the false dichotomies of the present and explain how Christians need not fear science. Here’s some examples of “theological anthropologies”.

    [e.g., They will learn that a 3+3 Chiasmic Framework-Hypothesis in Genesis 1 reflects an oral/literary genre common to the neighboring peoples of that ancient world and this poses no threat to the Adam discussed in the New Testament. The project will produce scholars explain the why in more detail so that students will understand the doctrinal harmony with the science.]

    [e.g., The 2nd creation pericope deals with Adam similarly. Discoveries in anthropology may explain why other human-like peoples (Nephilim, Sons of God)–yet lacking the Imago Dei—existed and contributed to the human genome so that Adam and Eve did not represent genetic bottlenecks nor did Noah and family. The Bible appears to focus only on the Adamic line because they may have differed from those others tribes only in the absence of the Imago Dei. And even though HAADAM (the red-soil human one, aka Adam) served an important purpose in the Genesis 2 “teaching story”, there really was a first man to be endowed with the Imago Dei, and all of his descendants inherited the Imago Dei. (Under this theory, the means of “inheritance” is not vital. It could in a non-genetic sense.) [By the way, the idea of placing a real person, HAADAM, into a “teaching story”, is not so unusual and needn’t serve to rule out viewing Genesis 2 pericope as an Aesop-like fable. Douglas Hofstadter did it in his very first book, Godel, Escher, Bach:EGB.]

    I wrote the above not to say that those are the certain conclusions of the research project….but only to give examples of what “theological anthropologies” can mean.

    You see, this is the kind of project which could potentially produce the kinds of concise conclusions–even in the “theological anthropology” category–which eventually could produce new wording related to origins theology and less rigid dogma in the Statements of Faith which appear in church, seminary, and ministry institution’s employment contracts (especially for faculties.) Of course, such SOFs also apply to church membership and students at Christian schools. I’ve seen this happen in other areas of theological conflict after major confabs and research projects help scholars and the Christian ministries who look to them resolve contemporary areas of dispute.

    I whole-heartily endorse this milestone. Yes, it is always possible for the wrong people to squander the opportunity this represents, but if the key people selected to receive funding from the grant are at all of the academic caliber and character of Dr. Henry and three authors of the prospectus, this could help overthrow the false dichotomies which for generations has inoculated many Christians against embracing the compatibility of Biblical theology and evolution processes and the related sciences.

    So, in summary I’m very pleased about the award. Anyone who wants to see the end of anti-evolution/anti-old-earth nonsense in the U.S.A. should hope that this project achieves its goals. (I should know more details once I’m back in the States.)

    Obviously, the project leaders (when interviewed by the media) will speak very ecumenically about the project. And that is entirely appropriate. Nevertheless, this is the kind of process which can lead to the public realizing that the constant crying-wolf from YECists about evolution is lame and bogus. Yes, this is “first wave” in being very academic. But in evangelical history we’ve seen this lead to “second wave” [pastors] who do have much influence over their congregations’ thinking.[“third wave”] Young Earth Creationists will probably be very suspicious of the project–and I’ll bet that Ken Ham writes an article warning his followers that Trinity is filled with “compromising Christians” who will try to justify their love for the approval of secular peers.

    [Part #2 will be posted soon for those interested in more behind-the-scenes.]

  11. Part #2 continues: ]

    Thus, if you want to see better science education in our public schools without constant interference from Young Earth Creationist and IDists, you should at least feel some cautious optimism about the grant. (If you think that this grant will fund baraminology or “creation science” textbooks, you totally misunderstand what was most likely in the grant proposal prospectus. I’ll just say that the papers and projects funded by the grant will totally inflame YECists like Ham, Comfort, Lisle, Missler, Cameron, Wise et al because they are going to see their ministries, videos, webpages, and publications tactfully but honestly eviscerated. Most likely this will not be done in a TalkOrigins style shredding of their science but in exposing the implications of their ill-conceived theology and abuse of the scriptures.)

    I’ll reserve further judgments until I can talk with some of my friends and colleagues involved in the project and/or I at least know how the funds get allocated to particular Biblical scholars. That will tell me a lot about their overall strategy in terms of how they will even-handedly involve Young Earth Creationist Biblical scholars in the Quo Vadis of it all. This could , in the ideal, lead to a world where the Dover Trial doesn’t get repeated and only scientists write textbooks and YECs on state textbook commissions don’t veto

    Eric wrote:
    One wonders whose arms have been twisted (or palms greased) at Templeton to bring about this apparent embrace of the dork side of the farce.

    1) That’s not how Templeton operates. The staff members are no dummies. And Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is one of a handful of evangelical institution (perhaps 5) which are considered the “Harvard” or “Oxford” of Biblical studies. Looking at the three who submitted the proposal for the grant, Carson has a Ph.D. from Cambridge. Especially in OT and NT you won’t find a PhD that isn’t from a stellar doctoral program. Trinity is NOT like the places where so many “creation scientists” and Ken Ham fans get their denominational seminaries and even diploma mills “doctorates”.

    Eric, I don’t know if you have much experience with foundations, but your description of Templeton is quite contrary to reality. And Templeton would NEVER give a dime to someone like Ken Ham who has zero academic credibility….nor most of his “creation scientists”. They would laugh behind the scenes about the “baraminology”!

    2) I’m sincerely curious to know what “sounds like straight creationism” because the news stories I read provided none of the telltale signs I would have expected of “straight creationism”, even allowing for the variety of casual ways the word “creationism” get defined and used.

    3) All of the names (both scholars and institutions) mentioned are about as far from embracing “the dork side of the farce” as you can possibly get.

    (You may be confusing the very highly regarded Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the graduate school of Trinity International University with Trinity Theological Seminary, a heavily advertised, continuing education/correspondence school-style, unaccredited, nondenominational, distance education, college & seminary which purposely plays off the public’s confusing the name with the far more prestigious graduate school of TIU.) The Trinity graduate school professors generally hold Ph.D.’s from the world’s top universities, so you’ll find lots of Cambridge, Oxford, Munich, Harvard, Yale sheepskins on the wall that you’d rarely find at the kinds of Christian schools which endorse AIG and invite Ken Ham to speak at graduation. (Indeed, if you were to ask Ken Ham what he thinks of the Templeton announcement, he would say it’s a prime example of “compromising Christians” playing along with the “materialist atheists” while “ignoring the authority of the scriptures.” Then Ham would probably complain that because AIG and its “outstanding scholars” refuse such compromise, “we must depend upon your support”, the genuine Christians.)

    How do I know?

    If I restrict my answer to public information only, I would cite the names behind the foundation proposal: Drs. Tom McCall, D.A. Carson, and Dick Averbeck, exactly the caliber of scholars who could get Templeton’s ear. Moreover, it sounds like the grant proposal was submitted on the letterhead (so to speak, but probably literally as well) of The Carl F.H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding. Some will recognize that name. The late Dr. Henry was the “founding editor” (i.e., the first editor) of Christianity Today which continues to sharply contrast its “sane” tenor against the demagoguery-filled, Discoveroid-friendly, World Magazine . (Yes, Christianity Today isn’t nearly as scholarly as it was in its first years with Henry at helm. It has definitely succumbed to the pay-its-own–way realities of economics and the brutal competition of “pop journalism.” Therefore, it’s easy to forget that CT’s original purpose was to provide an evangelical world’s intellectual response to periodicals like left-leaning, theologically-liberal The Christian Century. Christianity Today magazine was also an intellectual response to an American fundamentalist movement which had become increasingly anti-intellectual and so myopically focused (generally speaking) on its “fundamentals” (literally) that it neglected the kinds of deeper studies of the Bible which could address the post-WWII needs of American society. Christianity Today magazine under Carl Henry’s leadership revered and reflected the richness of centuries of Christian theology, from the Church Fathers forward to the Reformation and beyond. Dr. Henry geared the magazine towards the “thinking pastor” as well as academics so that sermons from American pulpits could equip Christians for life in a changing world and for answering a growing atheism that was about to mainstream the God is Dead anti-theology. Dr. Henry had already published prolifically on these very topics and Billy Graham had picked him as his first choice for the Editor in Chief of the new magazine. I mention all this academic background to help underscore that Templeton had good reason for supporting a prestigious project supported by this kind of heritage of first rate scholarship which dwarfs anything the Discovery Institute will ever produce.)

    This was a long winded way of saying we are going to throw away $4,000,000 that we could have used for helping people but instead we will just waste it.

    I totally disagree. I consider ending the grip which Young Earth Creationist denialism holds in the U.S. a very good way to help people. If you care about the future of science education in this country, you should at least hope that the project is successful. This is where the demise of YECism will have to start: among Christians.

    The Templeton Foundation proudly considers academic research and education essential to the public good. Thus, if you would like to see Young Earth Creationists “enlightened” with the realities of science so that they no longer undermine science education in the U.S.A., that can only be done by helping them to see that their traditional beliefs and interpretations of the Bible need not conflict with the Bible. This is one of the major purposes of theological anthropology. Imagine an America where biology teachers don’t have to dread hassles from angry parents whenever evolutions processes get mentioned. Image a nation where voters don’t select the candidate who fears science and where Senator Inhofe can’t quote the Bible as if it denies climate change because citizens know better. (Imagine an America where Sen. Inhofe gets laughs and not votes when he cites “creation science” and praises the Creation Museum.) Imagine an America where people refuse to donate $165+ million for Ken Ham’s Ark Park.

    Because I want an America where the pseudo-science and defiant impudence of Ken Ham doesn’t mislead people into think that the teachings of Jesus Christ inform, endorse, justify, or excuse his science-denying, unBiblical message in any way.

    Therefore, I am cautiously optimistic and congratulate the Templeton staff for an excellent choice of award candidates and a very worthy research project. Hopefully future historians will be able to identify this Templeton grant as an important milestone in marking the beginning of the end of “creation science.”

  12. Thanks for your insights, Professor Tertius. I’ve always had a high regard for the Templeton organization, but my ignorance of the divinity school academic landscape is what caused me to worry about this grant. Let’s hope you’re right in your expectations.

  13. Stephen Kennedy

    Hambo has written about the Templeton Foundation in his blog a number of times and has been highly critical of it. He constantly complains about how Templeton gives large sums of money to compromising Old Earth creationists and theistic evolutionist Christians like Bio-Logos but will not give him one penny for his ark park.

  14. Stephen Kennedy nails it quite well. I was about to mention that Trinity and Biologos would be very compatible.

    Biologos has done a good job of providing a platform for the kinds of “integration” that Trinity plans to do. You could think of this Templeton project being sufficiently FOCUSED and FUNDED whereby they will be able to do systematically on a three year schedule what Biologos was only equipped to casually present and discuss.

    Once the Trinity project is publishing, I bet a lot of excerpts and reports will show up on the Biologos website or at least links directing people.

    Because the project will help people integrate their theology with what we know from science, the Trinity project will help people see how to integrate without depending upon pseudoscience—so Ham will hate it.

    Discovery Institute will be jealous because the Trinity project will produce ACTUAL scholarship.

  15. HELP PLEASE???

    I hate to be “that guy” but somehow I missed the setup for this joke from above:

    Mike Elzinga says:
    “and they don’t even need to buy erasers.”

    It’s very inexpensive to run a theology department. There’s no need for wastebaskets.

    They only need to purchase one book.

    ____________________________

    I’ll concede that sometimes it takes me a bit longer for a punchline to kick in than in my prime long ago… …but I must admit that all three of those went right over my head.

    I don’t always read every comment on every page…and don’t always follow the links. So I assume that to get the humor of these punchlines, I need to know the original joke or setup that I missed. (????)

    With some jokes, explaining them entirely kills the punchline–so I will just ask if someone could tell me where I can find the set-up.

    Is the joke based on one of those meme photos somebody posted or a URL linking to a strange World News Daily whopper????

    I’ve read through the above lines trying to figure out if they were separate jokes in some way OR if they all had something in common (erasers, wastebaskets, a book)….like they were all places that someone could place a hidden camera??? Is that it?

    I will freely admit that this is a puzzle that despite going through them several times…..I came up empty. (For me, it is like the old story about the composer’s son who would come in late at night while his dad was almost asleep and he would play a chord on the piano and then refuse to play the 1/3/5 major chord to resolve it….and the father couldn’t sleep until he went downstairs and played the chord. The above joke is like that for me.)

    It’s probably something totally obvious but I missed some prior post that explained them.

    As to theology departments, most of them have nothing to do with Young Earth Creationists……and plenty of them have nothing to do with ministers or Christians. (e.g., Yale Divinity School has nothing do with training pastors or creationists—and the YECs would vehemently denounce it as a “godless place”.) So I didn’t see how they could relate to that news story about some creationist planting a camera in a bathroom.

    “They only need to purchase one book.” was curious also but I assume it is the clue that connects the others???? The only thing I could think of was that people make fun of the hard core King James Bible *only* people. Some of them are so hard-core that they even refuse to care about the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts of the Bible so they don’t have to buy those three bibles like students in other theology departments. (???)

    So…..my guess is that all three were probably spun somehow from some story that SC cited about a King James Onlyist….and the infallibility of the KJV somehow is so extreme that it extends to the KJVer….. who brags that he never made a mistake because of his infallibility…..so he never had to throw a paper of notes away……and because the perspicuity of the KJV is so total that no commentaries or study guides or textbooks are needed like in other theology departments/school….and he never writes notes in the margins to explain it and therefore he doesn’t need an eraser because margin notes are unnecessary???????

    Therefore, I would assume it’s all related to some King James Only joke. And perhaps meant to make fun of all other theology departments because everybody but the KJVers are known for carrying big stacks of books (multiple Bible translations and interlinears as well as the Greek and Hebrew Bibles…..and there’s long been jokes about students “cheating” by needing all of those extra parsing and lexical aids to help them translate.)


    I might as well make that my guess: It is making fun of the fact that stereotypical theology/seminary students always carry tons of books but noting that the most extreme KJV Onlyists don’t have that problem and only need the one Bible ?????

    Of course, the really extreme KJVers deny the need for seminary and theology departments….so the joke is related to that fact and that IF such a seminary existed, the students would carry only one book.

    How about a hint for the old man? Where do I find the setup?

  16. By the way, I was also stumped by this statement:

    So even if it goes to something creationist that has convoluted its actual intent with a lot of ten dollar words it isn’t that different in results

    That wasn’t one of the jokes but I was equally perplexed by it. Young Earth Creationists are known for being clueless and lacking big words and correct terminology of actual scientists and theologians.
    ____________________________
    By the way:
    Does everybody realize that Trinity International University is not a Young Earth Creationist institution?

    I’ve guest lectured there but it was so long ago that the faculty has turned over a lot, but it is probably still as diverse there as ever, within the boundaries of standard evangelical theology, of course. The Biblical Studies faculty is NT, OT, and ST (i.e.,Systematic Theology) and I would say out of those departments I recall just two professors being likely Young Earth Creationists, and I only knew that somewhat semi-accidentally. They wouldn’t have been promoting it.

  17. Only one comment..
    Retch

  18. Professor Tertius, when Mike Elzinga made his comment about not needing erasers, it reminded me of an old joke about some university deans arguing about which discipline is the least expensive. One said it was mathematics, because all a math professor needed was pencils, paper, and a wastebasket. Another said it was philosophy, because philosophers never discard anything, so they don’t need wastebaskets.

  19. Dave Luckett

    To which a mathematician responded that a math department needed only one sheet of paper per scholar per day, at most, while a philosophy department required its own dedicated paper mill.

  20. A few comments:

    1) Prof Tertius is wrong to set up a definitional dichotomy of ‘Creationism’ between YEC and ‘Creation’ simpliciter. There is also the meaning of ‘religiously-motivated rejection of evolution’, which includes both YEC and OEC (including ID).

    2) “Theological Anthropology” is unfortunately named to the ears of more experienced Creationism watchers, as it echoes phrases like “Creation Science” (YEC) and “Theistic Science” (ID), that have been code-words for subjegating scientific inquiry to religious doctrine.

    3) What little I have seen of Theological Anthropology has not impressed me. It appears to be almost entirely theological, with only superficial engagement of anthropology — with scientific discoveries merely coloring, not constraining, conclusions. Lacking such a constraint, the discipline will contain ‘no wastebasket’. An example from Prof Tertius’ exposition above would be the unfounded and unsubstantiated assumption that Imago Dei must be a real phenomenon, not a mere literary metaphor. Has Theological Anthropology proposed a testable hypothesis for the existence of Imago Dei? I doubt it. For one thing, if it existed, it would be perfectly co-extensive with Original Sin, meaning that theology cannot state with any certainty whether the net effect should be positive or negative. I think we can safely sell off that wastebasket as superfluous now.

  21. Strictly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty are never cheap.

  22. Does everybody realize that Trinity International University is not a Young Earth Creationist institution?

    No, but it does appear to be a hotbed of Intelligent Design Creationism. Francis J. Beckwith was on staff there, William Dembski has taught courses there, and a number of faculty there have written favorably about ID.

  23. OK, Prof. Tertius, you have made me optimistic about the Templeton grant. I take back my Dungeons & Dragons crack, and recind my joke that theology departments only need one book (The Bible).

    BTW, the jokes stem from Curmy’s comment that theology departments are very inexpensive. I didn’t get the wastebasket and erasers reference either.

  24. Mike Elzinga

    @ Professor Tertius:

    I hate to be “that guy” but somehow I missed the setup for this joke from above:
    Mike Elzinga says:
    “and they don’t even need to buy erasers.”

    As Curmudgeon has mentioned, it refers to that old joke about a dean wanting to know why physics departments are so expensive. The mathematicians need only pencils, paper, and wastebaskets; the philosophy departments don’t even need wastebaskets.

    But as Dave Luckett has pointed out, philosophy departments need dedicated paper mills.

    I very much appreciate your hope and optimism about this grant; however, I suspect the issue will be just as confused after all the scholarship as it is now. The Fundamentalists already know that to really understand the implications of science, the literal reading of their holy book goes out the window. I seriously doubt that any of this will change their minds; there are socio/political issues of power and authority involved that they won’t give up.

    But even further, for the more moderate or mainstream believers, digging into the implications of scientific knowledge will mean that their deity can be nothing like it has been portrayed in Christianity or any other religion for that matter. It will mean coming to grips with why religion is an integral part of human history; and many of those reasons have to do with the business of keeping people in line as the human population grew and started living in large clusters.

    I suspect – from looking at the religious jargon that is being used regarding this grant – that the scholarship will simply become a much more painstaking apologetic for the “traditional” views of the Christian deity. Science will be bent in the service of apologetics rather than deities being rethought in the light of scientific knowledge.

    But I admit that I have no idea about how this will go. Many people need a deity and a religion for their traditions and templates for living and just getting on with life. I suspect that many theologians know this and would be reluctant to take that away. What happens to society without deities? Would it be better or worse?

  25. My impression is that there are many people in the USA who believe the advertising of YEC, that there is no way that one can accept “deep time” and “macroevolution” and be a Christian. Despite campaigns like the Clergy Letter Project. Perhaps this project funded by Templeton can change that.
    But that there are people who take, for example, the Ark story seriously as an account of an actual historical event doesn’t give one much hope.

  26. docbill1351

    Prof T is, alas, totally wrong in a charmingly optimistic way.

    Nope, here’s how the project ends:

    “Heretics! Burn the witches!”

    The god squad has had thousands of years to become rational. Why start now when the Simpleton Foundation will give you millions of dollars to weave belly button fuzz?

  27. SC: “How will this be any different from what goes on at the the Institute for Creation Research?”

    Apologies if this has been mentioned above, but I don’t see anything about misrepresenting evolution, so that may be a huge difference. I know this is an unusually optimistic speculation from an unrepentant cynic, but this could make the job of scam outfits like AiG and the DI harder. People on the street who believe a literal Genesis (any of the mutually-contradictory versions) do so not because there are “gaps” in the fossil record or because life is too complex to arise by “chance.” They don’t care what the evidence says. Anti-evolution organizations target the undecided and “flood” them with misleading sound bites. I can see many of those undecided (a growing segment, per several recent polls) reacting to this study with “Oh, so there really is no evidence for Genesis; it’s all just interpretation of the Bible.”

  28. OK, I read the comments, and am glad that some of my points have been echoed. It seems like most agree that this will be bad news for YEC peddlers. The question is whether this will help the ID scam or Theistic Evolution (assuming it won’t dissuade some “undecideds” from both, which is a possibility). If you don’t like ID or TE, and consider both “creationism,” this is bad news. But ID and TE are opposites. Even “atheistic evolution” agrees with creationism/ID on the “either a designer did it this way or nature did it that way” dichotomy. TEs like Kenneth Miller are among the staunchest critics of the anti-evolution movement, especially in its ID form.

    At this point I must acknowledge that TE and AE are personal beliefs. The science is only E, which is neither T nor A, and makes no claims for or against ultimate causes. YEC and OEC are personal beliefs too, which deny evolution and other varying parts of natural history. But don’t confuse “belief of YEC or OEC” with “scientific” creationism, and it’s logical end, the ID scam. Those are strategies, primarily concerned with promoting unreasonable doubt of evolution, and only secondarily (if at all) with promoting a literal Genesis. They are not about finding “evidence of a creator/designer” to anyone not already convinced of one. The only ones they scam are those whose faith in a creator/designer is not strong enough, and needs “evidences.”

    Some stats (about adult Americans) are in order: Like it or not, ~80% believe that “Goddidit,” I strongly doubt that this study – or anything imaginable in the near future – will change that by even 1%. When asked questions that are not weasel-worded only ~10% buy all the YE nonsense. Another ~20% are strict Genesis literalists – not YEC but sympathetic to it. But another ~40% (most but not all in the ~80% theist group) has either some doubts of evolution, or if not, thinks it’s fair to “teach the controversy” on the taxpayers’ dime. How will this study affect that ~40%? Surely some will be driven to ID sound bites, but I think they will be outnumbered by those who say “So you don’t have to deny evolution to believe in God and appreciate the Bible.”

  29. I might have shared Prof Tertius’ optimism but for the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s own website, which says (http://divinity.tiu.edu/who-we-are/statement-of-faith/) ” As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. … We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath…. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment ”

    That’s you, Curmudgeon, me, and most if not all of us here that they’re talking about. And serve us right (read the fine print about Adam, who is historical).

    Indeed, Templeton does seem to have lurched towards the dark ages of late, and their Wikipedia page (which shows every sign of having been purged) does not say who is in charge now or what the dates were of previous incumbents.

  30. @Paul Braterman:

    Since you mention “historical Adam,” a good question for Trinity and Templeton (which I doubt anyone will ask) is: “Do you think that Adam was created from nonliving matter within the last ~10,000 years, and thus had no parents?” Their answer, or evasion, will be more revealing than anything we can assume.

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Templeton can no longer be counted on to support science (yes, I know that many of you will insist that they never supported science, but their rejection of ID helped, whether or not that was their intent). Unlike anti-evolution activists, who will quote mine anyone (Gould, Wallace, etc.) to pretend to have their “support,” we will not resort to such sleazy tactics. I guess, like Hebrew National hot dogs, we have to answer to a higher authority.😉

    A phrase that popped into my head a few years ago, when reading material from the “scientific” YEC peddlers is “Slouching towards Omphalos.” It seems that, almost from the beginning, “scientific” creationism (the pretense that independent evidence validates scripture) was in trouble, in that promoters were painfully aware that the “evidences” were not on their side. But they always had the fallback of “never mind the evidence, just trust scripture,” and revert to “evidences” only to fool new audiences. Some activists completely gave up trying to validate scripture, and concentrated on just promoting unreasonable doubt of evolution. And they started before they claimed to be “ID proponents, not creationists.”

    If current trends continue, decades from now the only creationism will be Omphalos creationism. That really has always been the case for the great majority of rank-and-file Biblical literalists. But eventually the activists will be forced to give up pretending that “evidences” either “prove Genesis” or “disprove evolution,” and just ask people to “take on faith” whatever alternative they’re comfortable with. Even Dembski said 5 years ago that it was good to believe a literal Flood despite no evidence. The latest Templeton endeavor will either be no factor, or possibly accelerate this trend.

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but while ~30% of Americans taking scripture literally, but not misrepresenting evolution, is far from ideal, it’s much better than ~70% repeating catchy but misleading anti-evolution sound bites.

  31. @Third Prof: “I’m assuming you meant “creationist” in terms of Young Earth Creationist.”
    Your assumption is wrong. SC specifically mentioned the Discoveroids, who are not YECers.

    “I consider ending the grip which Young Earth Creationist denialism holds in the U.S. a very good way to help people.”
    Also when it’s replaced by IDiocy?

    “If you care about the future of science education in this country, you should at least hope that the project is successful.”
    Don’t think so. Remember: the synonym for the scientific method is methodological naturalism. What Templeton Foundation does has everything to do with smuggling supernaturalism into science. That’s not going to benefit science education in any country.
    One example:

    https://www.templeton.org/templeton_report/20121116/

    “an understanding of how human individuality might continue beyond the death of the individual—and also the death of the cosmos”

    “Stephen Kennedy nails it quite well.”
    Not really. BioLogos specifically tried to rationalize away the impossible: a more or less literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve story with evolutionary history of Homo Sapiens. There is a reason Francis Collins (a christian), who supports the goals of BioLogos, nonetheless has left it – it became unscientific.

    SC is right asking his questions, exactly because we’re not talking a dichotomy “science vs. YEC”, but rather a spectrum. I’d say we need more evidence before we can arrive at the conclusios with confidence, but it seems to me like Templeton Foundation is moving away from unconditional acceptance of science indeed – like BioLogos before. And it should not be a surprise.

    http://biologos.org/blog/biologos-and-the-june-2011-christianity-today-cover-story
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-historical-adam-and-eve

    On SC’s site “creationist” usually means “evolution denier”. Accommodating a historical Adam and Eve with the evolutionary history of Homo Sapiens requires some evolution denial indeed. So the question “does Templeton Foundation fund creationism studies” is totally justified.

  32. mnb0: “Accommodating a historical Adam and Eve with the evolutionary history of Homo Sapiens requires some evolution denial indeed.”

    Depends on how people interpret “historical.” Most people who talk favorably of A&E are concerned only with the origin of “knowledge of good and evil,” not with how molecules assembled in the dust to form fully-grown adult bodies. Or as I say, they “think souls, not cells.” When I mention the rib thing most of them concede that they don’t take that literally. With a little more effort I get most to admit that A&E could have had biological parents. Or even that they are allegorical, and that the real origin of “knowledge of good and evil” was more “evolutionary.” The minority that still insists that A&E popped up from the dust invariably either admits that they believe the story “on faith” in spite of no evidence, or just changes the subject.

    You are correct that “creationist” usually means “evolution denier” (any kind, not just YEC), here, and on most sites critical of the anti-evolution movement. But that still gives too much slack to anti-evolution activists by lumping them in with rank-and-file deniers, most of whom have not given 5 minutes’ thought to the evidence, and conclude only from feel-good sound bites. We really don’t know whether anti-evolution activists personally deny evolution, only that they’re hell-bent on having the “masses” deny it. If I were to speculate, I guess Ken Ham believes some YEC story, but “on faith” while admitting only to himself, and maybe an “inner circle,” that there’s zero evidence for it. Much like the rank-and-file, but with a much more active Morton’s Demon. Though I think most or all Discoveroids privately accept 100% of evolution. They will never admit it of course.

    I didn’t know that Collins left BioLogos. It sounds like it’s because they retreated from science to theology. Apparently Templeton is doing the same thing, having learned the hard way that ID’s “science” was bogus. If so, that also tells me that they have given up even pretending that the evidence supports Genesis or refutes evolution. In which case we should be applauding their tacit concession. Note: that’s not the same as what anti-evolution activists do when they quote mine people to pretend to have their support. They may not be actively supporting science, but they know better than to challenge it. If anything our side too often makes the opposite mistake – looking for the slightest evidence that someone sold out to “creationism.” All that does is help the DI’s “big tent” scam.

  33. Note: The “they” in “They may not be actively supporting science…” in my last paragraph refers to Templeton and BioLogos, not anti-evolution activists. The latter don’t just “not support” science, but actively oppose it by relentlessly promoting unreasonable doubt. Though they too know better than to attempt to support an alternate “theory” on its own merits.