Saturday, 19 September 2015

Another Open Letter to Luke Barnes

Hi Luke,

Re your latest at Letters to Nature (15 September 2015), I was struggling to find a previous mention of your imminent book deal, so I went snooping around.  What I can find is that you and Geraint and another astronomer, Pascal Elahi, are linked via a grant detailed on each of your University of Sydney web pages.  A grant titled "Galaxy Formation and the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life".

I'm astounded to see that this grant has, as its source, Templeton World Charity Foundation/Research Support.  I researched this a little and found that this organisation does not list you among its grantees, but I accept that they might be a little behind in their update cycle.  What worries me a little more is the basis on which this organisation issues grants.  For example, on their "What we do and do not fund" FAQ page, they state that "TWCF supports projects that aim to discover new spiritual information".

Their core funding areas are Humility in Theology (>60% of funding) and Individual Freedom and Free Markets, Genetics and Genius, Character Virtue Development and Other Charitable Purposes (less clear on the division of funding, but your area doesn't seen to fit into these categories neatly either).  It would appear that you are being funded from the Humility in Theology area since the page on this funding says:
"Theology reflects Sir John Templeton’s overriding vision for encouraging progress in spiritual information. The term “theology” is used because Sir John considered information about the fundamental structures and laws of the universe, and also about human capacities and character, to be central to illuminating our understanding of the divine."
So, as a person who has previously claimed to be neutral on this issue (how fine-tuning relates to apologetic efforts to prove the existence of their god), could you please explain what is going on here?

Also, I was curious about how a line of funding could be extracted from Templeton and, from what I can find, it appears that you have to apply in a multistage process - although admittedly that was from a web page on how to obtain funding from the John Templeton Foundation, not Templeton World Charity (which doesn't have an equivalent web page).  I think we'd also be interested to know how you managed to end up with this funding.

If you are not acting from the covert position as a theist with apologetic leanings, perhaps it's time to make that clear.  (On a related note, would denying that position put your funding in peril?)


PS: This may be of interest to you

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