In a post on May 5, 2013, several days after the launch of the new science magazine Nautilus, I reviewed the magazine's website and its first issues. I wrote that I thought it was a flashy and promising debut.
The magazine was established with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, which funds a variety of projects on science and religion. John Steele, the publisher, would not tell me the amount of the grant, except to say it could keep Nautilus running for two years. My repeated requests to the foundation were met with promises that someone would be in touch, but the foundation never did tell me the size of the grant.
I wrote this about the Templeton funding:
I worry a bit about Templeton's agenda. Among its recent grants are $2.6 million for "Towards Medicine as a Spiritual Practice," and $1.9 million for "Celebrating the Harmony between Mainstream Science and the Christian Faith."
I'm happy to read about Buddhism and astronomy on the same page of a magazine, but I wouldn't be happy if I thought that Nautilus's science stories were written or edited to reflect religion, or even to avoid antagonizing religion.
Nautilus will have the opportunity in each issue, each "chapter," to persuade us that that is not the case. And I hope it does.
The latest issue of Nautilus features a story entitled "The Hidden God–Theology: One man's path to knowing less about God." As promised, it is about a man's spiritual quest, and his decision to move "from Denver to the Israeli city of Safed in 1979 to live as a Haredi, or ultra Orthodox Jew."
Nothing about this story concerns science. It is as out of place in a science magazine as a celebration of evolution would be in a creationist newsletter.
It seems I was right to worry–Nautilus might be more than simply a science magazine. What is it trying to convey by running an article on theology?
And one further note: The physicist and writer Sean Carroll of the California Institute of Technology is listed as a member of Nautilus's board of advisers. In May, he wrote a principled piece in Slate explaining why he would not take money from the Templeton Foundation. It was entitled, "Science and Religion Can't Be Reconciled." Why, then, is Carroll involved with the Templeton-funded Nautilus?