This week we continue our exploration of John Templeton’s twenty-one steps detailed in The Templeton Plan with more on Step 18: Giving as a Way of Life. In our next two posts, Dr. Michael Guillen will evaluate John Templeton’s commitment to investigating the scientific benefits of philanthropy.
More eloquently than anyone else during his lifetime, Sir John Marks Templeton championed—and himself reaped the rewards of—a life informed by the wisdom of both faith and reason, humankind’s two great and oftentimes contentious defining traits. Today, as a result of his remarkable life and legacy, scores of peer-reviewed scientific studies in all disciplines are pioneering an unprecedented rapport between the human mind and spirit—and nowhere with more welcome results than in philanthropy.
Traditionally, science has had a hard time explaining philanthropy. Someone helping a perfect stranger does not compute, especially in light of Darwin’s hypothesis, that we are wired to look out first and foremost for number one, and secondly for number one’s blood relatives; that to do otherwise is self-destructive. Richard Dawkins put this dog-eat-dog worldview into modern biological terms in his best-selling book, The Selfish Gene.
In striking contrast to science, the world’s monotheistic religions view humans not as fundamentally selfish animals, but as soulful creatures fashioned by and after the image of a loving God. Philanthropy lives easily within that hopeful, redemptive, religious view of humankind because, at its heart, philanthropy is an expression of love. Phil + Anthropos means “for the love of humankind.”
For the love of humankind, the Bible tells us, God gave this fallen world his only begotten Son. For the love of humankind, Mother Teresa thumbed her nose at the selfish gene and risked her personal health and well-being by lavishing hands-on philanthropy on India’s contagious, disease-ridden Untouchables. For the love of humankind, a 7-year-old child named Zach Bonner hauled his little red wagon from neighborhood to neighborhood for four long months, collecting water and provisions for people—total strangers—victimized by a devastating hurricane that slammed into Tampa, FL.
As Sir John explains so well in The Templeton Plan (see chapter 18), his own lifelong urge to be generous was deeply rooted in his religious upbringing. He refers to the many passages in the Bible that exhort us to love God by loving one another—and which promise us that, in giving, we will receive blessings in like measure, and then some. (See Luke 6:38.)
The rest of Michael Guillen’s essay will appear in the next post of What Would John Templeton Say?
Michael Guillen, PhD, is president of Spectacular Science Productions Inc. and Filmanthropy Media Inc. and host of Where Did It Come From?, a popular, weekly, one-hour primetime series for The History Channel that debuted in fall 2006. He holds a PhD from Cornell University in physics, mathematics and astronomy.