Tenzin Gyatso, who some call “Dalai Lama” and other funny names, has been awarded the 2012 Templeton Prize, as announced here, and if you look at the given justification, you could be excused for mistaking the Templeton Prize for a straight science award and Tenzin for a scientist. Tenzin has supposedly a

“long-standing engagement with multiple dimensions of science”


“Specifically, he encourages serious scientific investigative reviews of the power of compassion and its broad potential to address the world's fundamental problems”

The latter reminds of prayer healing and the flawed studies that support it. But it goes on about Tenzin the scientist who is apparently more science than “creation science” or “intelligent design theory”, so that it is all justified in the

“interest of the founder of the Templeton Prize, the late Sir John Templeton, in seeking to bring scientific methods to the study of spiritual claims”


Sure, there was an interest of the late John Templeton to bring some science to the study of spiritual claims, but is what Tenzin Gyatso thinks science to be anything more scientific than that

“He often notes that the rigorous commitment of Buddhists to meditative investment and reflection similarly follows the strict rules of investigation, proof and evidence required of science.”

While Templeton Prizes usually go to people with elevated levels of intellectual capacity, see for example last year’s winner, this time we have a recipient about which The New Yorker writes:

‘the Dalai Lama can appear a bit dull. Precepts such as “violence breeds violence” or “the quality of means determine ends” may be ethically sound, but they don’t seem to possess the intellectual complexity that would make them engaging as ideas. Since the Dalai Lama speaks English badly, and frequently collapses into prolonged fits of giggling, he can also give the impression that he is, as Iyer reports a journalist saying, “not the brightest bulb in the room.”’

Christopher Hitchens pointed out that Tenzin Gyatso claims to be a “hereditary king appointed by heaven itself” enforcing a one-man rule in Dharamsala, the Tibetans in exile town in the Indian Himalayas. Such sort of rule is what he wants to reintroduce to the long since developed and almost modern (by neighboring standards: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan) Chinese province of Xizang, whose inhabitants have understandably no desire for serfdom (slavery).

Templeton of course does not mention so, but it should be obvious: Tenzin Gyatso is a very controversial choice - politically that is, not just because of dim bulbs - and the responsible selection committee was well aware of the important related issues, yet they went ahead, one must assume not in spite of, but because of.

Apart from the late Sir long being dust, I would not be surprised if poor Sir John Templeton spun in his grave about his spoiled son ensuring that Templeton money goes ever more to support right wing politics, which is nicely consistent with the money junior privately hands to groups like "National Organization for Marriage", whose main purpose is to discriminate against homosexuals. One motivation for the choice of the Dull Lamo for the Templeton Prize of 1.7million dollars should be clear to all those not politically naive. Much like heaping Arts prizes on Ai Weiwei in order to stick it to the Chinese, helping old Tenzin Gyatso to stay in the lime light is always good if one hates what the Chinese are doing for science and secularism. There is a reason the Dalai Lama received a Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush.

Anti PRC sentiment was however probably just a side issue. Tenzin Gyatso just fits perfectly into the usual strategy followed by Templeton, as has been well described by a commenter on SB:

“… But not caring where your money comes from, just as not caring where it goes indicates a certain ethical poverty.

Templeton has a demonstrable history of awarding treats, prizes, fellowships etc. to whatever prominent scientist/journalist/cleric has taken a very public accommodationist stance in concert with pre-existing celebrity sufficient to promote Templeton's prestige.

Handing a billion dollars derived from a 1964 tax loophole to retired science celebrity millionaires and mediocre science journalists as a way of pumping air into "Non-overlapping magisteria" is ... well ... shitty.” Emphasis added

This sums up very well indeed what all such groups are fundamentally about: Their own standing, much like the large majority of "successful" science blogs are mainly about carving out a niche market, getting book deals, trying to link with worthy other blogs and sites that are already established, showing hip “criticism” up to where it may start to offend potential allies, then backing off three steps. If you are one of those who often complain that all kinds of efforts are not actually about the stated aims but all about politics, you know, left-right, brownish-red versus Na(i)vy-blue, think again. It isn’t even about that and humans can easily rationalize changing their colors like a chameleon if opportunity calls.