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06/24/2011

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This is bad news. It looks like there is going to a lot more good philosophy and psychology I'm going to have to read. Sigh.

Congratulations to all anyway!

The fact that this is being partly funded by Templeton bothers me. The foundation is notorious for funding projects that try to show a bogus connection between science and religion.

Juan,

The researchers chosen for the Templeton science and free will grants are committed to rigorous science and philosophy, and thus are unlikely to be led astray by any implicit expectations coming from their funder. I think you're right that Templeton has a preferred view of the world it would like to see validated, but the researchers are aware of that and will take the usual precautions to make sure their studies are methodologically rigorous. I for one will be very interested to see whether anything comes out of BQFW lending scientific support to libertarian free will, the sort of free will I suspect Templeton hopes is real, http://www.naturalism.org/roundup.htm#templeton

Juan, I tell you what, feel free to identify other funding agencies that are willing to spend several million dollars on free will-related research. So, while I appreciate the general worries and concerns about the Templeton agenda, unless and until there are other avenues for funding this kind of research, I will happily take whatever funding I can. Plus, it's worth pointing out that several of the funded projects this time around have free will skeptics on board--e.g., me, Haggard, and Wheatley, to name a few. And I, for one, don't feel any pressure to draw any "bogus connections." The data will speak for themselves.

Clark and Nadelhoffer: Thanks for the replies. Yes, funding sources are an ever present problem, as money for this kind of specialized research is always short. I hope both of you are right in your reassurances of the scientific validity of the project; what worries me nevertheless is that whatever good research comes out of this will be tainted in its reputation by its association with Templeton, at least by people in the skeptic community.

Juan:

"...whatever good research comes out of this will be tainted in its reputation by its association with Templeton, at least by people in the skeptic community."

Yes, skeptics are as prone as any of us to stick to well-grooved assumptions, in this case that that Templeton funded research can't possibly be objective.

There is a perfectly general and valid point to this: given the necessity of seeking funding (necessary for doing certain kinds of work; in my case, necessary for continuing to be employed) and the large body of evidence that we can be swayed by all sorts of inducements and pressures, we are under an obligation to (a) take care to avoid bias, (b) recognize we won't succeed entirely (c) disclose our sources so that others can identify biases we don't and (d) ensure, to the extent possible, that there is a plurality of epistemic agents, with conflicting goals. The uses to which Templeton money are put should be scrutinized, but that doesn't make Templeton any different to other funding sources (disclosure: I am in receipt of Templeton money myself).

The announcement of grant-winners for the Theoretical Underpinnings projects is now on the BQFW website. Congratulations to Jenann Ismael, Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols, and Adina Roskies.

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