Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Templeton Prize Winner Defends Christianity's Credibility in a Scientific Age. (World)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Templeton Prize Winner Defends Christianity's Credibility in a Scientific Age. (World)

Article excerpt

The Templeton Foundation announced March 14 in New York City that the 2002 Templeton Prize would go to the Rev. John C. Polkinghorne, a British mathematical physicist and Anglican priest, and a key spokesperson for belief in God in an age of science, defending that faith not against science but in concert with it.

The Templeton Prize is the world's largest annual monetary prize given to an individual. Its founder, John M. Templeton, set the amount of the prize so that it always exceeds the Nobel, believing that advances in the spiritual realm are more important than those in the sciences. It currently stands at 700,000 pounds sterling, just over $1 million.

Formerly given for "progress in religion," the prize was redefined this year as an award for "progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities including research in love, creativity, purpose, infinity, intelligence, thanksgiving and prayer."

Polkinghorne, 71, resigned his position as professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University in England in 1979 to pursue theology studies. He became a priest in 1982. Since then, his popular writings and lectures have consistently applied scientific habits to the tenets and beliefs of Christianity. He has become a leading figure in the ongoing dialogue between science and religion.

Knighted in 1997, he is the fourth consecutive scientist to win the Templeton. The award will be presented to him in a private ceremony by Prince Philip April 29 at Buckingham Palace.

Polkinghorne has written more than 20 books, helping other scientists to grasp the spiritual element in science, while pointing believers toward the shrewd honesty that is the scientific enterprise. Once in a debate, he noted how scientists are wary of religion because they think it involves accepting things on authority. "You don't have to commit intellectual suicide," he said, "to be a religious believer."

Polkinghorne has said he will use the money to fund postdoctoral students working in the field of science and religion.

Sir John Templeton, philanthropist and global investment pioneer, believed that the Nobel Prize had overlooked one of humanity's most important areas of exploration: religion. To remedy that, in 1972 he established the Prize for Progress in Religion. Funded in perpetuity by Templeton, the award each year honors a living individual who has shown originality in advancing understanding of God and/or spirituality. The first award was presented the following year to Mother Teresa, six years before she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Other Catholics who have won the award include Benedictine Fr. Stanley Jaki of Seton Hall University, a specialist in the history and philosophy of science, in 1987 and political philosopher Michael Novak in 1994.

Polkinghorne was nominated for the prize by Thomas F. Torrance, a Presbyterian theologian retired from the University of Edinburgh and the recipient of the 1978 prize for his own work relating science and theology.

Polkinghorne "has not only destroyed the idea that the worldviews of science and theology are opposed to one another, but he has opened up the road ahead for a new stage in conceptual integration which cannot but make for immense progress in religion all over the world," the nominating statement said. …

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