Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Marking Ballots, Marking Time

All right, while we are waiting for the election results from Kansas, you can take a look at Barbara Forrest's illuminating article at the CSICOP site about the trial in Dover. Entitled "The 'Vise Strategy' Undone: Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District," it is a fascinating read in which Bill Dembski comes off particularly badly. The steady demolition by the seeming southern magnolia amply demonstrates why the IDers were so afraid of her.

Now for something completely different: there is a news story about the John Templeton Foundation launching a new effort to fund physics research with potential theological implications. Called the Foundational Questions Institute, the new organization is set to announce its initial grants totaling $2.2 million to 30 physicists at Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other leading scientific institutions.

But critics of the foundation said they worry the institute will be used to blur the line between science and religion.

"I think that bringing science and religion together is a not a good thing," said Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the University of Chicago who did not apply for a grant, and declined an offer to help select the winners. "It is not that different from the Vietnam War, when people wondered whether to take money from the Defense Department for their research, even if their research had no conceivable military application."

On the other hand, the Templeton Foundation has been critical if ID and, furthermore, while the new organization got its funding from the Foundation, it wiill be making its funding decisions independently, based on peer review by other scientists. It will be run by two well-respected researchers who deny being religious and its scientific advisory board is filled with top scientists.

"I’d like to see more religious organizations having this attitude and being pro science and pro Darwin, and pro education," said Janna Levin, who received one of the grants and is a physicist at Barnard College of Columbia University. Levin and others who will receive funding, said the money would allow more adventurous research, because government funding tends to be cautious, sticking to popular and well-established areas.

The grants are intended to fund research into such foundational issues such as the Grand Unification Theory; Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem; the fundamental constants and the existence of extraterrestrial life, all of which may have philosophical or even theological implications.

It can't be bad that such research is being funded . . . at least if the attached strings are not too confining.

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