The John Templeton Foundation (Templeton Foundation) is a philanthropic organization that reflects the ideas of its founder, John Templeton, who became wealthy after a career as a contrarian investor and wanted to support progress in religious and spiritual knowledge, especially at the intersection of religion and science. He also wanted to fund research on methods to promote and develop moral character, intelligence, and creativity in people, and to promote free markets.[2] In 2016 Inside Philanthropy called it "the oddest—or most interesting—big foundation around."[3]

John Templeton Foundation
John Templeton Foundation logo.svg
Formation1987; 32 years ago (1987)
FounderJohn Templeton
Founded atConshohocken, Pennsylvania, U.S.
FieldsReligious studies
Official language
Heather Templeton Dill
Revenue (2015)
Expenses (2015)$225,900,726[1]

Templeton founded the organization in 1987 and ran it until his death in 2008. Templeton's son, John Templeton Jr., ran it until his death in 2015, at which point Templeton Jr.'s daughter, Heather Templeton Dill, became president.

The foundation administers the annual Templeton Prize for achievements in the field of spirituality, including those at the intersection of science and religion. It has an extensive grant-funding program (around $70M per year as of 2011) aimed at supporting notions associated with classical liberalism, like "character development", "freedom and free enterprise", and "exceptional cognitive talent and genius".[2]

Some scholars have raised concerns about the nature of the awards, research projects, and publications backed by the foundation.[4][5][6][7][8][9] The Foundation has been criticized for supporting Christian-oriented research in the field of the scientific study of religions.[10]



John Templeton (29 November 1912 – 8 July 2008) was an American-born British investor, banker, fund manager, and philanthropist. In 1954, he entered the mutual fund market and created the Templeton Growth Fund.[11] According to a 2011 profile of the foundation:

Like many of his generation, Templeton was a great believer in progress, learning, initiative and the power of human imagination — not to mention the free-enterprise system that allowed him, a middle-class boy from Winchester, Tennessee, to earn billions of dollars on Wall Street. ... Unlike most of his peers, however, Templeton thought that the principles of progress should also apply to religion. He described himself as "an enthusiastic Christian" — but was also open to learning from Hinduism, Islam and other religious traditions. Why, he wondered, couldn't religious ideas be open to the type of constructive competition that had produced so many advances in science and the free market?.[2]

These were the values he sought to promote first through the Templeton Prize which he started in 1972 and then through the foundation, which he founded in 1987 and ran until his death in 2008.[2]

John Templeton Jr. worked as a pediatric surgeon; he was chief of pediatric surgery at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in 1995 when he stopped practicing medicine and joined the foundation. He took over the leadership when his father died. He was an evangelical Christian and supported various American conservative causes.[12][13] He always maintained that he tried to run the foundation according to his father's wishes instead of his own wishes.[14] He died in 2015.[12]

Heather Templeton Dill, the daughter of John Templeton Jr., became president in 2015.[15]


As of 2011, the foundation had an endowment of around $2.1 billion. Around $500 million of that was a bequest from John Templeton when he died in 2008.[2]


The Templeton Prize was established by John Templeton and he administered the prize until the foundation was established in 1987, which took it over.[2][16]

The early prizes were given solely to people who had made great achievements in the field of religion; Mother Teresa received the inaugural award in 1973.[2] In the 1980s, Templeton began considering the intersection of science and religion, and after he appointed two scientists to the judging panel, scientists who worked at the intersection began receiving it; Alister Hardy was the first, in 1987.[2]


Templeton believed in capitalism and in competition in all things. Around 40% of grants are given in fields associated with classical liberalism, like "character development", "freedom and free enterprise", and "exceptional cognitive talent and genius", and also across all religions, since Templeton believed progress in the field of spirituality could come from anywhere.[2]

The field of grants was broadened in the 1980s to include scientific fields like neuroscience, psychology, and cosmology, that could be seen as being at the intersection of science and religion.[2]

The top ten grants as of 2011 were:[2]

  1. Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology ($10,500,000)
  2. Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology ($8,812,078)
  3. The SEVEN Fund: Enterprise Based Solutions to Poverty ($8,742,911)
  4. Establishing an Institute for Research on Unlimited Love ($8,210,000)
  5. The Purpose Prize for Social Innovators Over the Age of 60 ($8,148,322)
  6. Templeton–Cambridge Journalism Fellowships and Seminars in Science and Religion ($6,187,971)
  7. Accelerating Progress at the Interface of Positive Psychology and Neuroscience ($5,816,793)
  8. AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion ($5,351,707)
  9. Promoting a Culture of Generosity, Part I: Feature Film ($5,000,000)
  10. Promoting a Culture of Generosity, Part II: The Philanthropy Channel ($5,000,000)

American conservatismEdit

Like all 501(c)(3) organizations, the Templeton Foundation is prohibited from engaging directly in political activity. However, a number of journalists have highlighted connections with conservative causes. A 1997 article in Slate Magazine said the Templeton Foundation had given a significant amount of financial support to groups, causes and individuals considered conservative, including gifts to Gertrude Himmelfarb, Milton Friedman, Walter E. Williams, Julian Lincoln Simon and Mary Lefkowitz, and referred to John Templeton, Jr., as a "conservative sugar daddy".[17] The Foundation also has a history of supporting the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, as well as projects at major research centers and universities that explore themes related to free market economics, such as Hernando de Soto's Instituto Libertad Y Democracia and the X Prize Foundation.

In a 2007 article in The Nation, Barbara Ehrenreich drew attention to the Foundation's president John M. Templeton Jr. funding of the conservative group Freedom's Watch, and referred to the Foundation as a "right wing venture".[18] Pamela Thompson of the Templeton Foundation, responding to Ehrenreich's allegations, asserted that "the Foundation is, and always has been, run in accordance with the wishes of Sir John Templeton Sr, who laid very strict criteria for its mission and approach", that it is "a non-political entity with no religious bias" and it "is totally independent of any other organisation and therefore neither endorses, nor contributes to political candidates, campaigns, or movements of any kind".[19]

Intelligent designEdit

In the 1990s, organizations funded by the foundation gave grants for writing books to Guillermo Gonzalez and to William Dembski, who are proponents of intelligent design and who both joined the Discovery Institute after receiving their grants.[2][20] The foundation also gave money directly to the Discovery Institute which in turn passed it through to Baylor University, which used the funds to support Dembski's salary at the short-lived Michael Polanyi Center at Baylor,[21]:306[22] which was a major step forward in the Discovery Institute's wedge strategy, in that it established a beachhead for intelligent design within a major US university.[22] Bruce L. Gordon, another intelligent design proponent, was associate director of the center, and the foundation continued to fund his projects at Baylor after the center was dissolved.[23]

In the 1990s the foundation funded people and organizations in the field of intelligent design; some media outlets described the foundation as a supporter of intelligent design during the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District litigation in the mid-2000s, a charge which the foundation denied.[2] The foundation "explicitly warns intelligent-design researchers not to bother submitting proposals: they will not be considered."[2][24] Charles L. Harper Jr. or the foundation told BusinessWeek that the foundation had become one of the "principal critics" of the intelligent design movement and funded projects that challenged it.[25] Harper Jr. told the New York Times: "From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review".[24]

A 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times described the foundation as having "drawn criticism for its early support of intelligent design."[26]

In March 2009, the Discovery Institute accused the foundation of blocking its involvement in Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories, a Vatican-backed, Templeton-funded conference in Rome. On the lack of involvement of any speakers supporting intelligent design, the conference director Rev. Marc Leclerc said, "We think that it's not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one ... This makes a dialogue difficult, maybe impossible".[27]

Religion and medicineEdit

Harold Koenig, Dale Mathews, David Larson, Jeffrey Levin, Herbert Benson and Michael McCullogh are scholars to whom Templeton have provided funds to "report the positive relations" between religion and medicine.[28]

Fenggang Yang—Center on Religion and Chinese SocietyEdit

The Center on Religion and Chinese Society of the Purdue University in Indiana is funded by the Templeton Foundation.[29] The current director of the center, the Chinese American Christian scholar Fenggang Yang, has been granted more that $9.5 million to support his projects,[30] The center has published research on religion in China, especially based on Yang's own theory of the so-called "religious market". Yang's statistics and projections about Christianity in China have been disputed by authorities in China;[31] Yang himself claimed that his speculations were based on a report of the Pew Research Center,[31] another publication backed by the Templeton Foundation.[32] Many scholars of Chinese religion have criticized Yang's sociological theories about religion in China.[33][34]

Pew Research CenterEdit

The Pew Research Center, an American fact tank or research organization, has been "jointly and generously funded" by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Templeton Foundation for its studies focusing on demographics of religions in the world, part of the series entitled Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures.[35][36]

Templeton PressEdit

The Templeton Foundation also runs its own publisher, Templeton Press,[37] and from 2004–2010, it published the periodical In Character: A Journal of Everyday Virtues.[38] From 2000 to 2003 it published Research news & opportunities in science and theology,[39] in which Bruce L. Gordon published a piece on the state of "design theory" in the aftermath of the Michael Polanyi Center affair.[21]:378[40]


The French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) has been critical of the Templeton Foundation for funding "initiatives to bring science and religion closer together."[41]

Science journalist Chris Mooney, an atheist and author of The Republican War on Science, received a 2010 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship, enabling him to join other journalists for a three-week lecture program on science and religion at Cambridge University. In a 2010 article on his Discover magazine blog, Mooney wrote, "I can honestly say that I have found the lectures and presentations that we've heard here to be serious and stimulating. The same goes for the discussions that have followed them".[42]

In 2006, John Horgan, a 2005 Templeton-Cambridge fellow then working as a freelance science journalist, wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education that he had enjoyed his fellowship, but felt guilty that by taking money from the Templeton Foundation, he had contributed to the mingling of science with religion.[43] Horgan in 2006 wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education of his "misgivings about the foundation's agenda of reconciling religion and science". He said that a conference he attended favored scientists who "offered a perspective clearly skewed in favor of religion and Christianity."[44] Horgan fears recipients of large grants from the Templeton Foundation sometimes write what the Foundation wants rather than what they believe.[44]

Donald Wiebe, scholar of religious studies at the University of Toronto, criticized the Templeton Foundation in a 2009 article entitled Religious Biases in Funding Religious Studies Research?. According to him, the Templeton Foundation supports Christian bias in the field of religious studies, by deliberately imposing constraints to steer the results of the research.[10]

In 2011, the science journal Nature took note of the ongoing controversy among scientists over working with Templeton.[2] Jerry Coyne, University of Chicago evolutionary biologist, sees a fundamental impossibility in attempting to reconcile faith with science.[45] Coyne told Nature writer Mitchell Waldrop that the Foundation's purpose is to eliminate the wall between religion and science, and to use science's prestige to validate religion. Other scientists, including Foundation grantees like University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo and Anthony Aguirre, a University of California—Santa Cruz astrophysicist, told Nature that they have never felt pressured by Templeton to spin their research toward religion-friendly conclusions.[2]

In 2010, journalist Nathan Schneider published a lengthy investigative article about the Templeton Foundation, entitled God, Science and Philanthropy, in The Nation. In the article, he aired complaints about the Foundation, but observed that many of its critics and grantees alike failed to appreciate "the breadth of the foundation's activities, much less the quixotic vision of its founder, John Templeton". Schneider observed: "At worst, Templeton could be called heterodox and naïve; at best, his was a mind more open than most, reflective of the most inventive and combinatorial strains of American religious thought, eager to radically reinterpret ancient wisdom and bring it up to speed with some version from the present."[46] Though the foundation, in Schneider's view, "has associated itself with political and religious forces that cause it to be perceived as threatening the integrity of science and protecting the religious status quo," these alliances meant the foundation "is also better positioned than most to foster a conservatism—and a culture generally—that holds the old habits of religions and business responsible to good evidence, while helping scientists better speak to people's deepest concerns".[46]

Professor Paul Davies, physicist and member of the Foundation's Board of Trustees, gave a defense of the Foundation's role in the scientific community in the Times Higher Education Supplement in March 2005.[47]

In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins (an evolutionary biologist) repeatedly criticized the Templeton Foundation, referring to the Templeton Prize as "a very large sum of money given ... usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion". Concerning the conference that he and John Horgan attended, and to John Horgan's resulting article, Dawkins comments, "If I understand Horgan's point, it is that Templeton's money corrupts science".[48]

Sunny Bains of University College London Faculty of Engineering Science claimed that there is "evidence of cronyism (especially in the awarding in those million-dollar-plus Templeton prizes), a misleading attempt to move away from using religious language (without changing the religious agenda), the funding of right-wing anti-science groups, and more.[49] Bains feels the Templeton Foundation "blur the line between science and religion". Bains' claims have been disputed by Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education.[50]


  1. ^ a b "John Templeton Foundation" (PDF). Foundation Center. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Waldrop, M. Mitchell (17 February 2011). "Religion: Faith in science". Nature. 470 (7334): 323–325. doi:10.1038/470323a. PMID 21331019.  
  3. ^ Williams, Tate (April 5, 2016). "Templeton Remains the Oddest—or Most Interesting—Big Foundation Around". Inside Philanthropy.
  4. ^ Libby A. Nelson. "Some philosophy scholars raise concerns about Templeton funding". Inside Higher ED: May 21, 2013
  5. ^ Josh Rosenau. How Bad is the Templeton Foundation?. Science Blogs.
  6. ^ John Horgan. The Templeton Foundation: A Skeptic's Take.
  7. ^ Sean Carroll. The Templeton Foundation Distorts the Fundamental Nature of Reality: Why I Won't Take Money from the Templeton Foundation.
  8. ^ Bains, Sunny (2011). "Questioning the Integrity of the John Templeton Foundation". Evolutionary Psychology. 9: 92–115. doi:10.1177/147470491100900111.
  9. ^ Coyne, Jerry (2011-04-06). "Martin Rees and the Templeton travesty | Jerry Coyne". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  10. ^ a b Wiebe, Donald (2009). "Religious Biases in Funding Religious Studies Research?" (PDF). Religio: Revue Pro Religionistiku. XVII (2): 125–140. ISSN 1210-3640. p. 126.
  11. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (9 July 2000). "Sir John M. Templeton, Philanthropist, Rockstar, Dies at 95". The New York Times.
  12. ^ a b "John M. Templeton Jr., Who Led Foundation, Dies at 75". Associated Press via the New York Times. May 19, 2015.
  13. ^ O'Reilly, David (October 28, 2008). "$1 million for their own two cents Bryn Mawr couple are largest individual donors in efforts to ban gay marriage in California". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013.
  14. ^ Olasky, Marvin (19 May 2015). "Jack Templeton dies at age 75". World Magazine.
  15. ^ "People in the News (8/02/15): Appointments and Promotions". Philanthropy News Digest. 2 August 2015.
  16. ^ "Obituary – John Templeton". The Economist. July 17, 2008. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
  17. ^ Plotz, David (1997-06-08). "God's Venture Capitalist". Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  18. ^ "John Templeton's Universe". The Nation. 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  19. ^ "The Right's Academic Universe". Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  20. ^ Dembski, William A. (2016). Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information. Routledge. ISBN 9781317175445.
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  23. ^ "Final In Series Of Science And Faith Lectures To Be Held April 22–23". Media Communications | Baylor University. 19 April 2004.
  24. ^ a b Goodstein, Laurie (December 4, 2005). "Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker". New York Times.
  25. ^ "Bloomberg Business". Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  26. ^ Iritani, Evelyn (21 January 2007). "Testing the role of trust and values in financial decisions". Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ "Vatican-backed Rome conference on evolution snubs intelligent-design and creationist groups". 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2015-03-08.
  28. ^ Sloan, Richard P. (2006). Blind faith : the unholy alliance of religion and medicine. Internet Archive. New York : St. Martin's Press. pp. 60–63.
  29. ^ "Center on Religion and Chinese Society Newsletter" (PDF). 1 (2). Purdue University. June 2008: 4.
  30. ^ Patterson Neubert, Amy (10 December 2015). "Did You Know: Center on Religion and Chinese Society". Purdue University.
  31. ^ a b Jiang, Jie (25 April 2014). "Christian estimate 'inflated'". Global Times.
  32. ^ Stern, Amy (19 December 2011). "Event Transcript: Global Christianity". Pew Research Center.
  33. ^ Liang, Yongjia (2016). "The Anthropological Study of Religion in China: Contexts, Collaborations, Debates and Trends" (PDF). Asia Research Institute Working Paper Series (250): 14–15.
  34. ^ Goossaert, Vincent (October–December 2012). "Fenggang Yang, Religion in China. Survival & Revival under Communist Rule" (review)". Bulletin Bibliographique, Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions (160): 304.
  35. ^ "The Global Religious Landscape: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Major Religious Groups as of 2010" (PDF). Pew Research Center. December 2012. p. 7. This effort is part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world. The project is jointly and generously funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John Templeton Foundation
  36. ^ "Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project". Pew Research Center.
  37. ^ "Going beyond books to explore our place in the universe". Templeton Press.
  38. ^ "In Character, A Journal of Everyday Virtues by the John Templeton Foundation".
  39. ^ Research news & opportunities in science and theology. WorldCat. 2000. OCLC 44423629.
  40. ^ Gordon, Bruce (January 2001). "Intelligent Design Movement Struggles with Identity Crisis". Research News & Opportunities in Science and Theology: 9.
  41. ^ Guillaume Lecointre. "La Fondation Templeton, les formes présentables du créationnisme philosophique : des initiatives " science et religions " pour dissoudre les limites entre le collectif et l'individuel, entre le public et le privé". French National Center for Scientific Research.
  42. ^ Mooney, Chris (7 June 2010). "Science and Religion on the Cam, Part I". Doscover.
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  44. ^ a b Horgan, John (4 May 2006). "The Templeton Foundation: A Skeptic's Take". Edge.
  45. ^ "Nature on Templeton". Why Evolution Is True. 6 February 2011.
  46. ^ a b "God, Science and Philanthropy". The Nation. 3 June 2010.
  47. ^ "Seeking inspiration in science". Times Higher Education. 11 March 2005.
  48. ^ Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. UK: Black Swan. p. 183. ISBN 9780552773317.
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  50. ^ Rosenau, Josh (5 March 2011). "How bad is the Templeton Foundation? – Thoughts from Kansas". Archived from the original on 2 May 2012.

External linksEdit