Thursday 4 December 2008

Funding homophobia

A.C.Grayling has fun in this piece with attempts to show that religious belief is 'hardwired' into human nature. The research is funded by the Templeton Foundation - 'an organisation keen to find, or to insert, religion into science and to promote belief in their compatibility'. I'm as hostile as Grayling to this kind of misguided and reductive abuse of neuroscience. But I sometimes think that Grayling, like his fellow atheist Richard Dawkins, is a little harsh on the Foundation. If a rich man wants to spend his money trying to find scientific evidence for his religious beliefs, then that's up to him - and other, more sceptical scientists are free to refute the resulting findings.

On the other hand, I don't think that John Templeton (son of the Foundation's founder and its current president) has any business using his financial resources to influence democratic elections, especially those that affect people's civil rights. It emerged recently that Templeton (acting in a personal capacity, not on behalf of his Foundation) was one of the biggest funders (after the Mormon church) of the successful Proposition 8 campaign. I'm still at a loss to understand why these homophobic religious types are so keen to stop gay people marrying, when it would have no impact whatever on their own practices or beliefs. There seems to be a certain failure to understand the separation of church and state - the churches don't own civil marriage, and they are perfectly free to carry on restricting church marriages to heterosexual couples, if that's their wish.

Supporters of gay marriage may have lost the battle - for now - but they can still laugh at their opponents. I liked this response from some of Hollywood's finest (The West Wing's Alison Janney does a good impersonation of an uptight religious matron):


N.B.Having received advice from the Templeton Foundation since writing this (see comment below) I've amended the above post to make it clear that John Templeton Jr's donation to the Prop 8 cause was made in a private capacity and had nothing to do with the Foundation.


Anonymous said...

Correction, please! The contributions in support of Proposition 8 by Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr. and his wife were private and strictly personal. They have nothing to do with the activities of the John Templeton Foundation, which does not support or endorse political candidates or causes. Dr. Templeton is a conscientious steward of his father's legacy and is very careful to separate his own political activities from the work of the Foundation.

Gary Rosen
Chief External Affairs Officer
John Templeton Foundation

Martin said...

Happy to do so. Post now amended. Apologies for any misunderstanding.