Thursday, September 29, 2011

Abuses of biology, indeed.

So I recently learned of a grant competition for projects on "The Uses and Abuses of Biology":
The aim of the interdisciplinary Programme is to investigate contemporary non-scientific uses and abuses of biological thought (beneficial, benign or negative) in the domains of philosophy, the social sciences, the media, religion and politics. Collaborative projects between those engaged in the biological sciences and investigators from other disciplines are particularly welcomed.
Sounds good, I thought. So I went to the web site...
The Uses and Abuses of Biology Grants Programme, organised by The Faraday Institute [...for Science and Religion, founded in 2006 with a $2 million grant from the Templeton Foundation], St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, and funded by a generous grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation,...
The Grants Committee, in classic Templeton style, is comprised entirely (or almost) of members of the Templeton "family" who work on the the so-called intersection of science and religion (John Hedley Clarke, Nidhal Guessoum, Elaine Ecklund, David Livingstone, Ard Louis, Alister McGrath,...). I could have guessed the nature of the suggestions for sample projects without even looking, but it was fun to look. Here's a selection*:
•Does the teaching of biology convey implicit philosophies?

•Have the publications of the ‘new atheists’ in biology stimulated a rise in creationism and Intelligent Design?

•What is the sociological impact of notions of biological altruism on the interpretation of altruism within human societies?

•How does the field of biological complexity impact on ideas of human value and purpose?

•Are the biological sciences communicated in ways that are implicitly materialistic or teleological?

•Biology and the Imago Dei – an investigation into the ways in which the biological sciences have influenced interpretation of this theological concept.

•The impact of biology on the interpretation of Jewish food regulations.
•Biology and natural theology - contemporary attempts to utilise biology in the justification of theological ideas.

•How does contemporary eugenics impact on notions of human freedom and spirituality?
*What's excluded is also interesting:
Topics excluded from the Programme include: bioethics, history (unless with strong contemporary relevance and application), ethical issues in the application of science, questions of sexual identity and policy, and race.
This last is especially strange as some of the reading suggestions are about race.

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