John Templeton Foundation – censorship – backstage

My e-mail message concerning the censored comment I left at the Templeton Conversation « Belief » page, received a prompt response, thanks to Charles Harper I suppose. Previous experience showed that other people wasn’t quite responsive.

Gary R, Chief External Affairs Officer of JTF was the main contact. He granted permission to display his messages, so below the fold you will find the whole thing, to be able to make a personal judgement of the behavior of JTF and of how I see it.

One of the sentences of the original commentary seem to be the most problematic.

JTF’s activity seems to fit the definition of scienligion, a softer than the ID creationism, denying the characterization of creationism, say as Miller, a roman catholic christian, who’s credo is a God creator of the universe

Gary R qualifies it as erroneous information about the JTF, without pointing to it specifically in his first message, but we came to it relatively quickly.

It’s a fact that JTF worked against Creation Science and Intelligent Design creationism, the first one being completely ridiculous, the second one using an approach too political for theJTF‘s standards [#] and not good science. That doesn’t mean that JTF don’t promote creationism. Science isn’t the main aim of JTF, Science and Religion is.
One can call them theistic evolutionists, evolutionary creationist, soft creationists, crypto-creationist or whatever other term he likes to differentiate them in the continuum of creationist approaches, the fact that they promote religions asserting the existence of a creator god remains constant and it will not change any soon. The visible part of the iceberg being the efforts to prove, or at least avoid the lost of the last traces of credibility of the idea, that the universe have a sense, a teleological (philosophical, religious) position, implying a beginning and purpose to reach an aim, purpose of a deity creator of the universe. This is the typical monotheistic religions message, say christians, who’s credo clearly states this belief at the very first sentence: « We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen… « 

The way JTF is perceived seems to be more important for Garry R then its real nature. His main concern is how people will perceive the foundation if they understand that they promote creationism. The concern is visible by the way the motto of the foundation changed recently, going from « Science and Religion » to « Big Questions ».
One would expect from such a powerful organization an educational effort to explain people the distinction between the different forms of creationism, to differentiate their way to consider the creation of the universe.
Instead, as this episode showcase, they try to avoid by any means the characterization as creationists, even in a sentence differentiating them from their last-in-date colleague, the ID movement.

The way Gary R dealt with my comment is quit immoral (by atheist’s standards at least, lying for Jesus may be considered moral for some people). As I understand the word « conversation » it’s all about bringing different versions together. JTF‘s a posteriori presented editorial standards exclude the expression of opposite opinions.
Somehow Gary R seems to be able to cut the majority of my message as moderator, but he, or some other of the JTF‘s people, is unable to reply to it, discuss it, converse. Maybe after all their open-mindness have nothing to do with open-minds, but just with the closed-mindness characterizing usual proselytes.
Censorship to avoid the expression of undesirable opinions is a common trait of propagandists/communicators with a narrow ideological field, lacking arguments to support their position if scrutiny concerns not only the front of the decorum but also what lies behind. Now, after this episode my feeling that JTF is of that kind of propagandists is quite stronger.

Crude censorship would be to just no accept the comment. That’s what I expected.
Gary R made it worse by editing it. Without warning that he did so, neither in the comment, or to me. He just arranged the decorum as he likes it.
Expecting what? That I wouldn’t see he done so? That I would accept his manipulation and leave the truncated and meaningful comment under my name? That I would accept the worse of censorships, the display of accommodated opinions?

When one become aware that such censorship is practiced in a conversation page, the assertion of Gary R « we are happy to represent all points of view in this discussion » (emphasis mine) seems ridiculous; how many comments aren’t displayed and how many are truncated, arranged by Gary R?

The second message from Gary R made me laugh.

You must know that the terms « creationist » and « creationism » have very distinctive meanings in the US. They describe an anti-science movement that denies evolutionary theory and challenges the well-established findings of evolutionary biology. JTF works very hard to counter the influence of this movement, and I can’t allow a posting on our website to say that we are « creationists.

At least he makes it clear that « creationism » is what bother him.

But that wasn’t the funny part. Let me explain: My first contact with JTF, was through a french non for profit association, the Université Interdisciplinaire de Paris (Interdisciplinary University of Paris, nothing to do with academia anyway) and in particular Jean Staune, it’s perpetual General Secretary, whom Charles Harper consider to be a fascinating and deep person of principle and vision.
Things become funny when one knows the ideological anti-darwinism of Staune, who calls himself super-evolusionnist adhering even to neo-lamarckism (denier of evolutionary theory), the way he purposefully ignores any part of the scientific literature opposing his views (anti-science) and critic of darwinians views imputable to fanatism and ideology for him, including (?) the one of Ken Miller.
JTF seems to be UIP’s principal founding agency actually. If JTF works hard to counter this kind of movements in the USA, they seem to be quite helpful and willing to expand them in France/Europe.
Now, that’s funny, isn’t it?

Maybe Gary R ignores that kind of activities of the JTF. I don’t. Maybe he don’t see clearly that the foundation finance (relatively heavily) such denials of evolutionary theory and well-established findings of evolutionary biology and he truly thinks that this is not so. I don’t.

Maybe he should be kept more informed about how the foundation’s money is used, quite useful in his position as Chief External Affairs Officer. Maybe he would then be able to understand that I didn’t mischaracterized JTF, even by his standards.

At his third message, Gary R introduce « editorial standards » that weren’t displayed on the conversation page. He misrepresents the fact that editorial standards may include censorship as a technique to avoid controversial opinions to be expressed. « Censured », « censorship », the words are used between quotes, probably to avoid to be in full contact with them, as « creationism ». Well, he is not convincing. Hypocrisy.
The truth is mostly that (emphasis mine):

JTF works very hard to counter the influence of this movement, and I can’t allow a posting on our website to say that we are « creationists. »

I intentionally left the « we are ‘creationists' » part, as it may be replaced by whatever statement that don’t fit the decorum the JTF display.
Dear Gary R, please accept as a small souvenir of this brief contact the following definition:

censorship |ˈsensərˌ sh ip|
noun
the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts : details of the visit were subject to military censorship.

from the New Oxford American Dictionary.
You may want to reconsider the title of your position as Chief External Affairs Officer and Website Censor, for better visibility.

To: Webmaster Templeton.org

Cc : Pamela P. Thompson (as Vice President for Communications), Clio A. Mallin (as Communications Coordinator), Charles Harper (hoping that this will not be considered as a minor mistake) and Kenneth Miller (my comment being labeled by JTFs staff as RE: Kenneth Miller)

Sir,

A recently posted comment at the « http://www.templeton.org/belief/ » page of JTF’s website, a « Templeton Conversation » about « Does science make belief in God obsolete? » was heavily edited.

I didn’t received any notification about the changes of the content of my message (and yes, I did checked the spam folder of my e-mailer, just in case).
The result is quite afar from my argument. You can check Before/After screen capture at http://oldcola.googlepages.com/johntempletonfoundation%27seditingcapacity

The behavior is unacceptable. A conversation isn’t possible if you reserve the right to edit comments as you like to make them soft and hide critics. The name of such behavior is censorship. Worse than censorship. It would be just censorship if you just had deleted the comment. There is also manipulation of my phrases out of context.

There are two alternatives:
1 – You restore my comment at it’s initial content, and in this case there is a possible conversation.
2 – You delete the reconstructed comment as it does not correspond to my opinion. ASAP.

Whatever your decision, the case was posted at the Web already, and I’ll take care to publicize the way the JTF conceives the term « Conversation ». [https://coffeeandsci.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/john-templeton-foundation-censorship/]

Please, keep me informed,

Antoine V

PS copy will be included at https://coffeeandsci.wordpress.com/2008/04/23/john-templeton-foundation-censorship/


Dear Antoine,

Please accept my apologies. I’m afraid that I’m the one guilty of abridging your comment. I have now deleted that radically shortened version from the website.

As you will see from the other comments that have been posted, we are happy to represent all points of view in this discussion. My problem with your post was (1) I couldn’t understand much of it and (2) it contained erroneous information about the Foundation by suggesting that we support « intelligent design » and creationism. In fact, we have worked very hard to counter these movements in the US and abroad.

In any event, you are absolutely right that I should have cleared so drastic an abridgement with you. I thought it best to reduce your comment to a short statement that was definitely your own rather than to attempt an interpretation. We will now post a note on the website saying that comments will be edited for clarity and length.

In any event, please let me know if the version below is acceptable to you. We will gladly post it or a version of it with further editorial revisions on your part.

Yours,
Gary R

——————————————

Re: Kenneth Miller

« Revealed » knowledge fails to fit with real knowledge and has been transformed progressively into myths. Some organized religions even acknowledge that their own « revelations » are mythical, and yet they still make claims about truth.

Science has contributed to exposing the self-contradictions and flawed logic of religion, but the inconsistencies were always there, so I don’t think that science deserves praise or blame for this.

An irritating novelty in this regard is the effort to justify faith using science. I call this approach « scienligious. » The activity of the Templeton Foundation seems to fit this definition, and Kenneth Miller, who is a Roman Catholic, states its credo: there is a God Creator of the universe.

Being « scientific » is a more praised label than being « religious, » but for a believer like Miller to prefer to be scientific rather than religious makes it seem that gods (and religions) are obsolete, doesn’t it?


Dear Garry,

Thank you for explanation concerning the censored comment.

As far as I can see, other comments may be also edited and/or non accepted. Your movement with mine make the presumption plausible.

I don’t see what is the erroneous information you mention. I clearly say that « JTF’s activity seems to fit the definition of scienligion, a softer than the ID creationism, denying the characterization of creationism, say as Miller, a roman catholic christian, who’s credo is a God creator of the universe ». Nothing her to suggest that JTF supports ID. But clearly suggesting support for creationism, as per definition the credo to a god creator of the universe.
And you made my suggestion of denial from your part of the characterization ‘creationist’ a little bit stronger with your action. For this, and just for this point, I would like to thank you.

Usually, in a conversation, when something looks fuzzy, people ask for clarification, they do not just remodel the sayings of other people as they like it to be.

I do understand that you wouldn’t like being considered as YECs or ID creationists, but the JTF movement is creationist, promoting the idea of a creator. Ken Miller, for example, is an evolutionary creationist (theistic evolutionist).

But I don’t like people thinking at my place and mixing my phrases as they think adequate. So, now you personally, fall in this category of people I don’t like.
Your new « version » is unacceptable. I do prefer clear censorship rather than reinterpretations. So, no need to put your point of view under my name. The original or nothing.

Please, keep me, and maybe Charles Harper, informed about your decision.

Antoine V


Dear Antoine,

You must know that the terms « creationist » and « creationism » have very distinctive meanings in the US. They describe an anti-science movement that denies evolutionary theory and challenges the well-established findings of evolutionary biology. JTF works very hard to counter the influence of this movement, and I can’t allow a posting on our website to say that we are « creationists. » We are happy to publish whatever comments you wish to make on the Big Question we have posed, but I can’t let our website be used to mischaracterize the Foundation’s aims and activities.

Ken Miller is indeed a theistic evolutionist, but to say that he is a creationist flies in the face of his long-standing efforts to combat the creationist movement in the US. We must insist on accuracy. Again, I am happy to work with you on a comment that will reflect your views on these questions.

Yours,
Gary R


Dear Garry,

I exchanged a few words with Dr Miller and it appears he doesn’t like the term « theistic evolutionist ». Avoid to call him so in the future. I will keep « evolutionary creationist »: evolutionary to clearly remind his combat against anti-evolutionists (e.g. the Discovery Institute), creationist to remind his credo, mentioning a God Creator.
I would find insulting for him, for anybody declaring to be a catholic christian actually, to doubt his professed credo [We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen… http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/credo.htm%5D
And I don’t like much people who declaim this credo in church and try to hide their creationism once outside. In fact I don’t like hypocrisy.

I’m not in the public relations business, so the confusion made by people about « creationist » and « anti-evolutionist » (where evolution is the actual scientific theory of evolution) is not relevant for me. I do understand that JTF work hard to counter anti-evolutionists, and had the opportunity to read a lot about that. But the JTF is promoting creationism anyway.
The distinction must be clear between the creationism JTF promotes and the one promoted by Creation Science or the Discovery Institute; your burden, to make it clear. Personally, I always make the distinction, using either « soft creationism » or « neo-creationism » to describe it, like in: « JTF’s activity seems to fit the definition of scienligion, a softer than the ID creationism, denying the characterization of creationism… »

I’m going with the dictionary, you are going with the public opinion.
I’m trying to educate my few readers that there is a continuum of creationist approaches, you are afraid to face the fact that you promote some kind of creationism.
I’m insisting in accuracy, you seem to adopt the public’s by ignorance issued opinion.

I wouldn’t be happy to work with you on my comment.

Let’s consider the discussion closed. I think it would be a waste of time for both of us.
You may use it to clearly state on the « Templeton Conversation » web pages that comments that don’t fit your (the JTF’s) opinions and/or strategy will be banned.
I will use it to discuss your censorship policy. And my understanding of the word « conversation ».

Antoine V


Dear Antoine,

I am sorry about this contretemps, but the JTF website is a publication, and like all other publications, we have editorial standards. Upholding these standards is not « censorship. » We will publish a wide range of views on these questions over the coming weeks. They will run the gamut from piety to anti-religion. But we cannot publish a comment that mischaracterizes the Foundation and its place in the debate over evolutionary theory.

If you write about this episode, I do hope you will explain our reasons for this decision even if you disagree with them.

Yours,
Gary R


Gary,

I already wrote about this episode and I would be glad to add your messages (mine being already public), to avoid any misrepresentation of your position. I need your permission do to so. Granted?

And of course, you are welcome to add your comments as you think appropriate; be sure, my editorial standards are transparence and no censorship, your comments will not be mistreated or erased.

And you can even mischaracterize me, I will not censor anything, I will just reply. You know, in a conversational manner.

Antoine V


Thanks, Antoine.

Permission is granted to use my correspondence with you, assuming it is represented fairly. And please do let me know if you feel that I have mischaracterized your views, because I do not wish to do so.

A crucial difference between your blog and the comment section of our website is that you will have an opportunity to reply. In our comment section, the only protection we have against misrepresentations or false accusations is to exercise our editorial discretion and not allow them to be posted in the first place.

Yours,
Gary R


Fairly enough I hope, no quote-mining, the whole thing without editing anything. And Gary R is welcome to comment. And I do understand there is a crucial difference between my blog and JTF‘s website, as Gary R points out. Here comments are welcome and I will reply, there, only politically correct (where politically means fitting JTF political agenda) are accepted, and a JTF‘s Officer is able to practice censorship but not reply to comments; a great handicap.

,

  1. #1 par ilovecash le avril 28, 2008 - 7:05

    I’m a « creationist » and I don’t « deny » evolutionary theory. What I do deny is my belief in just that… a THEORY. Evolution is a theory. Creationism is a theory. I believe creationism. Neither one can be really proven completely, so I don’t know why people get so bent out of shape about it. It takes faith to believe in creationism just like evolution.

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