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onager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-06-11 08:21 PM
Original message
Faitheist Wins Templeton Prize
PZ Myers: So this year the Templeton Foundation has made the cunning decision to suborn somebody already sympathetic to their cause and with a respectable scientific reputation: an astronomer who doesn't believe in any gods but does suck up to the church and who detests vocal atheists.

I do love how he sneers at Stephen Hawking for knowing "little philosophy and less theology," and then when discussing his own philosophy of supporting the church, he says he likes the architecture of cathedrals and the hymns. Yeah, there's a deep thinker. I read the interview; it's like a conversation with a soggy piece of toast.


Not that long ago, Rees' religious opinions could have ended with him contemplating the architecture of the church's rack and gallows.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/04/faitheist_wi...

Great Jerry Coyne article in the Guardian on this:

Martin Rees and the Templeton travesty - Trying to find accord between science and faith is a mug's game sustained largely by infusions of cash from the Templeton Foundation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2011/apr/06/priz...

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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:17 AM
Response to Original message
1. Martin Rees: I've got no religious beliefs at all interview
Ian Sample, science correspondent

... MR: I was obviously rather surprised that I fitted the credentials, but as I see it, it is primarily because my work is on cosmology and astrophysics and they support work of that kind, because of its general interest. If you look at who has won it, I'm the 7th member of the Royal Society for instance. People like Freeman Dyson have won it, so I'm not out of line with the kind of people they have given it to in the past ...

MR: Well, I've got no religious beliefs at all. Of course some of the winners have, but I think not all of them ...

MR: They are very nice people who are doing things which are within their agenda, but their agenda is really very broad. I should say that I was reassured by the rather good piece in Nature a few weeks ago, which talked about the Foundation and I found that reassuring. Certainly Cambridge University, I know, has received grants from Templeton for editing Darwin's correspondence, which is a big Cambridge project, and also for some mathematical conferences. They support a range of purely scientific issues ...

MR: I suppose so. What I've said is I'm happy to attend my college chapel and things like that, because I see this as part of my culture, just like many Jews light candles on Friday night even though they don't believe anything, and my culture is the Church of England, as it were ...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/apr/06/astronome...
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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:38 AM
Response to Reply #1
9. Thanks. I was just about to go looking for that interview. - n/t
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:20 AM
Response to Original message
2. Martin Rees's Templeton prize may mark a turning point in the 'God wars'
Mark Vernon

... Last year, Dawkins published an ugly outburst against the softly spoken astronomer, calling him a "compliant Quisling" because of his views on religion. And now, Rees has seemingly hit back. He has accepted the 2011 Templeton prize, awarded for making an exceptional contribution to investigating life's spiritual dimension. It is worth an incongruous $1m.

Dawkins is no stranger to pungent rhetoric when it comes to religion. But "Quisling" is strong even by his standards. It was originally hurled against fascist collaborators during the second world war. Rees, a collaborator? What was the crime that warranted such approbation? The Royal Society lent its prestige to the Templeton Foundation by hosting events sponsored by the fund, which supports a variety of projects investigating the science of wellbeing and faith.

Dawkins and Rees differ markedly on the tone with which the debate between science and religion should be conducted. Dawkins devotes his talents and resources to challenging, questioning and mocking faith. Rees, on the other hand, though an atheist, values the legacy sustained by the church and other faith traditions. He confesses a liking for choral evensong in the chapel of Trinity College. It seems a modest indulgence. The ethereal voices of rehearsing choristers can literally be heard from his front door. But for Dawkins this makes the man a "fervent believer in belief". And that is a foul betrayal of science ...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr...
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LAGC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 01:34 AM
Response to Reply #2
6. So I guess we have to just put up with all the religious violence in the world...
...since their hymns sound so nice?

What a trade-off!
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 11:36 AM
Response to Reply #6
12. Yes, when Ree listens to the Trinity College choir, he may masquerade as a nice cosmologist
with a certain fondness for church music, but everyone knows that (behind his dissembling "non-religious" front) he is secretly overcome by a nostalgic admiration of the authors of the Vassy Massacre

Every honest person is aware that religion is uniquely responsible for the greatest acts of violence! In the twentieth century alone, millions died in the Mexican Revolution, the First World War, the Russian Civil War, the Russo-Polish War, the Riffian War, the Chinese Civil Wars, the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the Indochinese Wars, the Korean war, the French-Algerian war, the Biafran War, and countless other religious disputes. Sure, some folk will try to tell us that these wars fundamentally involved some tangential issue, like colonialism or nationalism or the control of material resources -- but they are merely religious apologists, trying to confuse us about the real history!

When Rees goes off to hear church music, he instantly becomes morally responsibly for all those who died in the Mexican and Chinese and Russian and Spanish revolutions! Those slaughtered at Verdun and the Somme lift their hands in protest against his dishonest pretense that church music had nothing to do with their deaths. He is drenched with the blood of Algerians and Biafrans and Rifs. He may try to ignore the primarily religious motivation of the Korean and Vietnam wars -- but we will not be misled! Shame! Shame! Shame upon him!
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LAGC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 01:27 AM
Response to Reply #12
34. I never said religion was the ONLY cause of violence in this world.
Edited on Fri Apr-08-11 01:35 AM by LAGC
But it certainly owns its fair share of the blame. I mean, using the examples you mentioned, don't you think people already have enough reasons to kill each other over ideological differences without adding religion into the mix? Does having rivaling religious ideologies really help keep the peace or does it rather contribute to the problem of ideological strife in the world?

You seem to be making the argument that wars are an inherent part of human nature. I disagree. I think we can achieve real peace in this world, if we rise above our petty ideological differences and unite behind a common cause, such as secularism and the promotion of science. That would seem like more of a compromise that all sides could agree to, rather than allowing any one religion conquer and "unite" us all (heaven forbid).
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:56 PM
Response to Reply #2
29. So how exactly does
valuing "the legacy sustained by the church and other faith traditions" have anything to do with "the tone with which the debate between science and religion should be conducted" And why is challenging and questioning faith or other unsupported beliefs something for which Dawkins should have to apologize, while Rees is praised for protecting "the gaps"? Does "tone" ever outweigh truth? You and many others here seem to think so.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 03:33 PM
Response to Reply #29
36. "Does "tone" ever outweigh truth?" The truth
Edited on Fri Apr-08-11 04:10 PM by humblebum
of which you speak is a conditional truth, arrived at using a very narrow epistemology designed specifically to address empirical existence. It considers nothing beyond that. Now that is not a good or bad thing, but simple reality. Good science cannot be conducted without a defined method.
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 04:11 PM
Response to Reply #36
37. It has no idea how to address the question posed
so it simply repeats its strawman mantra.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 04:25 PM
Response to Reply #37
38. The it that is being questioned by it seems set on avoiding
any discussion of its supposed truth.
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 04:30 PM
Response to Reply #37
39. Clearly.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 07:22 PM
Response to Reply #37
40. Truth outweighs tone because it has more letters.
Edited on Fri Apr-08-11 08:08 PM by humblebum
Before you can even answer such a question, you have to make sure your truth is absolute. Other wise it has little weight. Your "truth" is true only within its defined parameters. Rees is expanding those parameters.
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 08:31 PM
Response to Reply #40
41. We can only hope
that it didn't spend too much time trying to come up with an answer that it thought makes sense and shows understanding. As noted elsewhere, it cannot cite one example of "expanded parameters", nor even show that its statement has any meaning.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-09-11 03:45 AM
Response to Reply #41
42. We have been through this many times before. you should have
all the answers down pat. Just my same old schtick. other epistemologies - you know the story.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:21 AM
Response to Original message
3. Full transcript of Martin Rees's acceptance speech
"Big questions" are central to the Templeton Foundation's agenda. None are bigger than those posed by cosmology: How large is physical reality? What is the role of life in the cosmos? How did our complex cosmos emerge, giving rise to conscious beings able to ponder the wonder and mystery of their existence? I'm privileged to have spent much of my life engaging with these issues, mainly based in Cambridge where I've benefited from collaboration and discussion with many mentors, colleagues and students. Moreover, this has been a time when (owing to technical advances) our knowledge and understanding has enlarged at an unprecedented rate ...

The bedrock nature of space and time, and the unification of cosmos and quantum are surely among science's great "open frontiers". These are parts of the intellectual map where we're still groping for the truth where, in the fashion of ancient cartographers, we must still inscribe "here be dragons".

But to call this a quest for the "theory of everything" is hubristic and misleading. Biologists and environmental scientists (and even most physical scientists) aren't held up at all by the lack of such a theory they are tackling a third frontier: the very complex. Our everyday world presents intellectual challenges just as daunting as those of the cosmos and the quantum and that's where 99% of scientists deploy their efforts. It may seem incongruous that scientists can make confident statements about galaxies billions of light years away, while being baffled about issues close at hand that we all care about diet and common diseases, for instance. But this is because living things with intricate levels of structure (even the smallest insects) are far more complex than atoms and stars.

Everything, however complicated breaking waves, migrating birds, and tropical forests is made of atoms and obeys the equations of quantum physics. But even if those equations could be solved, they wouldn't offer the enlightenment that scientists seek. Each science has its own autonomous concepts and laws. Reductionism is true in a sense. But it's seldom true in a useful sense. Problems in biology, and in environmental and human sciences, remain unsolved because it's hard to elucidate their complexities not because we don't understand subatomic physics well enough ...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/apr/06/templeton...
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laconicsax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:39 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. At what point should I alert for spamming?`
Posting excerpts from articles related to the OP isn't really contributing to a discussion or even discussing anything.

Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? A personal insight into the subject introduced in the OP? An individual response to the sentiments expressed in the OP? Anything more to offer than what other people have said?
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 10:49 AM
Response to Reply #5
10. Feel free to alert the mods about me whenever you want: I'm sure they share your concern about spam
Since the OP contained a link to a Guardian article, I thought I'd post links to all the other articles on the Guardian website -- but there are thousands and thousands and thousands of articles there, and I got a blister on my mousefinger before I could post them all
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 11:48 AM
Response to Reply #10
16. The sites serve different purposes.
If people wish to read article after article posted at the Guardian website, they can go to the Guardian website and do so. Here, on the other hand, we have a discussion board. If you have nothing to contribute in the way of discussion then you're just wasting the time of other readers as the scroll past your flood.
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struggle4progress Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 11:51 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. Feel free to alert the mods about me whenever you want: I'm sure they share your concern about spam
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:02 PM
Response to Reply #17
18. Still nothing of merit to contribute?
I wasn't talking about rules, and I wasn't talking about alerting on posts, and you know it. You're simply hiding behind the fact that you're getting away with riding the line to defend your tedium. It's the discussion board equivalent of "I'm not touching you!"

My point was simple, and had nothing to do with moderation: With each non-contributory post, you further reduce the possibility that someone will glance at your writing in search of your opinion.
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sudopod Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 12:26 AM
Response to Original message
4. When Cthulhu calls
PZ Myers picks up the phone. :D
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 03:31 AM
Response to Original message
7. Rees is to be applauded for having the courage to extend his
thinking and reasoning skills beyond the strict artificial bounds of positivism or at the very least for having the courage to admit those boundries exist and can be crossed.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 06:49 AM
Response to Original message
8. Coyne's piece also makes this obvious yet brilliant observation:
Equally specious is Rees's notion that science and religion are complementary because they "concern different domains". (If that were true, there would of course be no need for a conversation between them.) But there is considerable overlap, for, as I've shown, religion constantly makes truth claims that directly conflict with scientific knowledge. These include assertions about the existence of souls that are separate from our bodies, virgin births, the resurrection of dead messiahs, the ascent of humans directly into Paradise, and the efficacy of prayer.

It is precisely this overlap that produces an annoyance I face daily: religiously based attacks on evolution. And although science and religion are said to be "different ways of knowing", religion isn't really a way of knowing anything it's a way of believing what you'd like to be true. Faith has never vouchsafed us a single truth about the universe.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 11:31 AM
Response to Reply #8
11. He zeroed in on the heart of the debate:
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 11:32 AM by humblebum
"And although science and religion are said to be "different ways of knowing", religion isn't really a way of knowing anything it's a way of believing what you'd like to be true. Faith has never vouchsafed us a single truth about the universe."

When the ONLY lens that one views the world through is that of logical positivism, Coyne's statement is the only answer that can be arrived at. However, thinkers who do not use ONLY that single epistemology (way of knowing) can arrive at different conclusions and logically turn Coyne's piece on it's ear.

If my ONLY criteria for assessing, or researching, or validating anything is: that data be obtained only by the direct use of any, or all, of my five senses OR extensions of those five senses, i.e. indicative data, instrumentation, etc. (logical empiricism or positivism), then any conclusions drawn will also be limited. But if I allow other epistemologies (ways of knowing) to be used then the possibility of reaching alternative conclusions increases dramatically.
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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 11:36 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. Deleted sub-thread
Sub-thread removed by moderator. Click here to review the message board rules.
 
trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:53 PM
Response to Reply #11
19. So, to summarize:
"You have to let me make up whatever shit I want."

Tell you what - when human beings' "alternative conclusions" about gods converge on ANYTHING approaching consensus, let me know.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 03:47 PM
Response to Reply #19
25. OR, in other words:
If you cannot see, hear , smell, taste, feel or touch it - then there is no sense in thinking it exists. And it's so simple! Why didn't I see it before? Dogs and cats and horses really are brilliant you know. They have been using that reasoning forever.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 06:27 PM
Response to Reply #25
26. And it's back to the humble bum STRAWMAN!
You really need to find a new shtick! :rofl:
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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:23 PM
Response to Reply #26
27. Deleted message
Message removed by moderator. Click here to review the message board rules.
 
skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:58 PM
Response to Reply #27
30. Do you not comprehend
that NOTHING is empirically proven?

Silly me...of course you don't.
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humblebum Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 08:16 PM
Response to Reply #30
31. Only something sensed can be empirically proven. If I sense nothing
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 08:20 PM by humblebum
or obtain data that nothing exists - then yes NOTHING has been empirically proven. But, nothing being empirically proven does not mean that nothing exists. Unless of course one relies solely on empiricism.
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 08:22 PM
Response to Reply #30
32. 18 minutes.
Your point was illustrated in 18 minutes without your assistance. Do you suppose this could be a record?
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 09:06 PM
Response to Reply #32
33. It has a talent
for making itself look foolish, without even realizing.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-08-11 07:20 AM
Response to Reply #33
35. Yeah but lucky for us...
it's entertaining as hell. :rofl:
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skepticscott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 07:47 PM
Response to Reply #11
28. And of course, you offer NOTHING
Edited on Thu Apr-07-11 07:48 PM by skepticscott
in the way of actual examples or evidence to back up your claim. Just the same tired old strawman that no scientist adheres to. Tell us, then....what truths about the universe has faith helped to reveal? What are these alternative conclusions that faith has demonstrated (as opposed to just declared)?
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 11:44 AM
Response to Reply #8
15. The sickening thing about the obviousness of that observation is that so many miss it.
How many different people have made this observation? I know I've read it in different words from several different authors, and yet no one who wishes to continue the debate of religion v. science dares acknowledge it.

Good quote, though: "Faith has never vouchsafed us a single truth about the universe." That's almost good enough to be a sig line.
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:54 PM
Response to Reply #15
20. No, the sickest are those who get it but try to convince people of the opposite for their own ends.
In my humble opinion.
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 02:55 PM
Response to Reply #20
21. Good point.
Nicely done. ;)
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 03:08 PM
Response to Reply #21
22. I just noticed something.
Yesterday, I had changed my avatar to a grinning brown face to mock a "whites are going to be the minority" piece of news. In light of what happened today in Rio, I felt that wouldn't be right and went back to Tux temporarily. And just now I realized yours is Tux, too.

By the way, Linus Torvalds is an atheist. :thumbsup:
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 03:19 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. Avatars are funny.
I was disappointed when I first signed up here, because all of the built-in avatars didn't really speak to me, until I found the Tux one closer to the bottom. I thought that would be fitting for me on many levels, not least of which was your point about Torvalds.

But what I find funny about avatars is that so many people on this site end up with the same one. More than once I've found myself surprised by a POV put forward by someone with a familiar avatar, only to find that it was a different user who just switched to that generic pic. The peace sign and union avatars have some of the most confusing and contradictory posts put up under them... ;)
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Commie Pinko Dirtbag Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 03:29 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. Well, that's the tired "Hey, look, I have a (X) avatar! Hence, I'm a liberal!" troll tactic.
Not fooling anyone since 2003.
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darkstar3 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-11 11:40 AM
Response to Original message
14. Headline: Man uses imagination and conjecture, makes money from fools.
Nothing new here.
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onager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-09-11 01:59 PM
Response to Original message
43. Addendum - Mark Vernon sure is a slimy little weasel
A Google turns up the following bio lines:

On the Guardian website: Mark Vernon is a writer and journalist whose books include The Meaning of Friendship, Wellbeing (Acumen, 2008) and Teach Yourself Humanism (Hodder Education, 2008) and Plato's Podcasts: The Ancients' Guide to Modern Living (Oneworld)

At the Big Questions website: Mark Vernon is a journalist, writer, and former Anglican priest...

Then there's this: Mark Vernon is a writer, journalist and author...He began his professional life as a priest in the Church of England, left an atheist, and is now agnostic. He is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck College, London.

No wonder his writing is so contradictory and muddled.

Oh, and Vernon received a Templeton Cambridge Journalism Fellowship...but I'm sure that had NOTHING AT ALL to do with his praise for the Templeton Foundation.
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