Magazine article The Christian Century

Physicist-Theologian Wins Templeton Prize

Magazine article The Christian Century

Physicist-Theologian Wins Templeton Prize

Article excerpt

Theologian and physicist Ian G. Barbour, who is credited with breaking age-old barriers between religion and science, was awarded the $1.2 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion March 10. Barbour, 75, an emeritus professor of religion and physics at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, was cited for pioneering a framework for discussing scientific issues with significant moral and ethical implications. Those issues include genetic engineering, cloning, the impact of technology on the environment and the development of artificial intelligence.

His landmark book Issues in Science and Religion is regarded as having launched a new interdisciplinary field, and its concepts have influenced a generation of scientists, religious scholars, church leaders and laypeople. The prize will be awarded at a private ceremony on May 11 at Buckingham Palace in London and in a public ceremony on 17 May at the Kremlin in Moscow, the first time the award has been presented in Russia.

"Ian Barbour is, quite literally, a founder of the emerging field of science and religion, contributing not only encyclopedic understanding and fair, insightful scholarship but also a firm conviction in the importance of religious belief within contemporary society," guest editor Ernest L. Simmons wrote in a special 1996 issue of Zygon, the journal of religion and science, that was devoted to Barbour's work.

Throughout his 50-year academic career, Barbour has written or edited a dozen books and 50 articles, including the two-volume Gifford Lectures, Religion in an Age of Science and Ethics in an Age of Technology, which received the 1993 book award of the American Academy of Religion.

Decades ago Barbour was a lone voice in academia, promoting the idea that the most profound questions about the origins of humankind and the creation of the universe could be explored by drawing on the wisdom of both the scientific and religious communities. "Forty years ago, few scientists had even a passing tolerance for religion and few theologians had any interest in science. More than anyone else, Barbour has changed all that," said Robert Russell, executive director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, which is affiliated with the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. …

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