The Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships have been a source of fierce controversy among science writers, particularly since John Horgan’s ambivalent 2006 debrief essay suggested that the program is keyed toward promoting a religious agenda. The announcement of this year’s fellows has already aroused controversy, particularly surrounding science writer Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science. Biologist Jerry Coyne went on the offensive:
The John Templeton Foundation may be misguided, but it’s not stupid. The Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowships in Science and Religion pay senior and mid-career journalists $15,000 (plus all the perks above) to come to Cambridge University for two months, listen to other people talk about science and religion, study a religion/science topic of their own devising, and then write a nifty paper that they can publish, so getting even more money. What a perk! Imagine sitting in a medieval library, pondering the Great Questions. And you get to be called a fellow! And write a term paper! Isn’t that better than cranking out hack pieces for people who’d rather be watching American Idol? Sure, you have to apply, and write an application essay stating how you intend to relate science and religion, but, hey, it’s only 1500 words, and once you’re in, you’re golden. You may even get to be on the advisory board, and have a chance to come back to the trough.
Over at ScienceBlogs, Abel Pharmboy defends Mooney:
I applaud Chris for devoting time to exploring science and religion with leading experts in the field. A journalist with another 40 or 50 years of writing ahead of him is wise to avail himself to all opportunities for inquiry and learning, especially on such a topic that is ubercontroversial to some and of obvious resonance to others.
There’s lots more discussion about it all around the web.