Call for Proposals: John Templeton Foundation Fall 2013 Open Submission Cycle

As part of its fall open submission cycle, the John Templeton Foundation welcomes online funding inquiries in the areas of philosophy and theology. The submission window is August 1 to October 1, 2013. Proposed philosophical projects need not have religion or theology as a focus. To submit an online funding inquiry, please visit

Please note that the Templeton Foundation does not normally provide dissertation fellowships through this open submission process. For more information on the kinds of projects that the Foundation can support, visit

A list of Foundation grants in the areas of philosophy and theology can be found here:


    • Well I’m not much of a naturalist, so I come at this from a different angle. But one thing that has changed is that JTF has funded a diverse bunch of excellent projects in philosophy and the sciences, with no evidence that the work they fund is thereby contaminated by some nefarious agenda. (Full disclosure: several of those projects have been directed by friends of mine, including one by a colleague.) The discussion of this issue in a recent thread on Leiter’s blog suggested to me that Dennett’s position is a minority one even among naturalistically-minded philosophers.

  1. Wow, that was a monster Leiter thread. (I’m assuming you meant this one: .) I just went through it, and can’t say I came away with the same impression of folks’ opinions as you did… though either way, it’s a pretty small sample. What I did come away with was better evidence that JTF is transparently promoting a particular agenda focused on the alleged value and respectability of faith-based (especially Christian) thinking.

    In my book, JTF’s agenda is a harmful one. Faith-based thinking – usually a variation on starting with The Truth and making the evidence fit – is bad thinking, and it has played a deplorable role in American politics. (Naturalism/non-naturalism isn’t the point.) So then the question for me is whether taking money from them helps promote their agenda or not. I didn’t see anything in the thread to contradict the expectation that good scientists and philosophers participating in JTF projects (including the good projects you allude to) helps promote their agenda through credibility rub-off. Jason Streitfeld puts it quite well in his comment #62. (I’m talking about effects on the general public here, not the philosophical or scientific communities.)

    There’s plenty in the Leiter thread calling their agenda into question, but here’s another tidbit inspired by Mark Sheskin’s comment #34: looking at the first page of JTF’s funded projects (all from 2012), of the 8 funded to the tune of over $1 million, I find at least 6 to have objectionable aspects. These include $3 million to Biola University (closely associated with the Discovery Institute), $2.6 million for a project aimed at “renewing the spirituality” of doctors by (in part) giving them training in religion, $3.5 million to the independent Center of Theological Inquiry whose tagline is “Brings the Christian worldview to bear on all academic disciplines”, $2.2 million to study how the proselytizing Williamson Free School in Philadelphia benefits society, and $1.9 million to the Biologos Foundation for a project entitled “Celebrating the Harmony between Mainstream Science and the Christian Faith.”

    I think that anyone who shares my views about the harmfulness of their agenda should think twice about participating in JTF projects. But on reflection, maybe I should apply, since I would probably act as a credibility sink, rather than a source…

    • Dan, would you have similar reservations about giving a talk or speaking at a conference at Fordham, Georgetown or Notre Dame?

      More substantively, it seems to me that “faith-based thinking” as you’ve characterized it is too inescapable to warrant this kind of objection: is there something problematic if e.g. I start from the conviction that slavery is wrong, and work to develop an argument supporting it? Certainly that is not a position I am open to abandoning.

      As to the projects you list, I can see why someone might find several of them objectionable, or at least very strange. But it remains that JTF has supported a lot of philosophical and scientific work whose quality is beyond question, and there’s no evidence I know of that their funding comes with strings attached.

  2. PS. One other point, which I think is really important. As I’ve said, there are lots of excellent scholars, many of them early in their careers, doing work that is funded by JTF. Part of what alarms me about some of these very public discussions is the potential they have to derail these people’s careers, by throwing their work into question. In any case it seems much more likely that these discussions will have this effect than that they’ll somehow undermine the Templeton Foundation, which is doing fine with its billions.

  3. Good questions! Let me do my best to answer them. I would feel uncomfortable participating in any activity through which I might lend credibility to a religious agenda. It’s hard to imagine a plausible context in which that would be a risk at Notre Dame; for Dennett things would be different. By contrast, there’s a lot of Liberty University stuff that I would refuse to participate in. And I’m perfectly ready to assert that I find the religious agenda behind such institutions to be objectionable, and I’d be glad if more like-minded people would do what they can to address the problem. (I hasten to add that while I would bet that an atheist or Christian philosopher who disagrees with me is making some kind of mistake, I would not hold them in any less esteem for doing so!)

    You’re right that my quick characterization of “faith-based thinking” above is problematic, so let me try to clarify. I imagine you can come up with plenty of good non-question-begging reasons for why slavery is wrong. By contrast, it’s hard to do the same for candidate fundamental principles of reasoning and morality. However, what I’m calling “faith-based thinking” starts with “Truths” that are very far from being plausibly fundamental, and indeed they ultimately conflict with reason and morality. (Typically, they come from some ancient book or other.) Of course, philosophers are really good at dressing up this bias in fancy logic.

    In the Leiter thread, there is actually some evidence that subtle strings come into play even in the best JTF projects. (I have some personal experience with this myself.) But even if this were not the case, and some JTF projects were squeaky clean, that doesn’t touch the credibility rub-off problem. If anything, paradoxically, it makes it worse. This is not to deny that the good projects bring benefits with them, including benefits to younger scholars – just not enough to compensate for the problems, in my view. Plus I do think if more good scholars refused to participate in JTF projects, it would do quite a lot to undermine their agenda. (So I’m surprised that Leiter, for instance, seems happy to take JTF money.)

Comments are closed.

Back to Top
%d bloggers like this: