Is philosophical naturalism up for sale? If so, the John Templeton Foundation is the leading buyer. This free-spending institution has cut a mighty swath across fields from science to psychology, ethics to religion. Its impact on philosophy may be among the greatest of all, if only because there was so little high-dollar grantmaking in academic philosophy before Templeton entered the field.
If the Templeton name is new to you, here’s a thumbnail history.
Mutual-fund magnate (and devout Christian) John Templeton entered high-profile religious philanthropy in 1972, when he instituted the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. (Secularists might be forgiven for wondering whether “progress in religion" is oxymoronic.) The first winner was Mother Teresa (1973). Later winners ranged from scientists (Paul Davies, 1995; Freeman Dyson, 2000; John Polkinghorne, 2002; Martin Rees, 2011) to social activists (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1983; the Dalai Lama, 2012; Desmond Tutu, 2013), philosophers (Charles Taylor, 2007; Michael Heller, 2008), and religious innovators (Thomas Torrance, 1978; Billy Graham, 1982; Bill Bright, 1996).1 The current Templeton Prize winner is American theologian Alvin Plantinga, who developed newly subtle (some would say, devious) arguments for belief in God.2