Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Templeton Winner Coaxed Science and Religion to Talk

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Templeton Winner Coaxed Science and Religion to Talk

Article excerpt

Exploring the mysteries of nuclear physics did not prevent Ian Barbour from pondering the mysteries of God.

Though quarks and electrons captured his imagination early in his career, theology and ethics soon became just as important to him. And like many others, Dr. Barbour wondered how science and religion related, or if they could be reconciled at all. His determination to find an answer launched a new era in the interdisciplinary study of science and religion.

After 50 years as a distinguished physicist and theologian, Barbour received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion for his efforts to develop a dialogue between science and religion, and for his forceful advocating of ethics in technology. The $1.24 million prize was announced yesterday at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York. "If there were a hall of fame for intellectuals, Ian Barbour would already have his plaque on the wall," says Ted Peters of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, Calif. "He has established the field, and he continues to keep the field healthy and intellectually honest." When Barbour began his work in the 1950s, he realized there were not many scientists who knew much about theology, and there were even fewer theologians who knew much about science. But it seemed to him that both these disciplines could not ignore each other. "The applications of science raised questions which science itself couldn't answer," Barbour says. "Starting with the A-bomb, and then to other issues - environmental issues, genetic engineering, for example - raised more ethical and human concerns that a strict scientific method could not provide an answer to." At the same time, however, science was raising important challenges to religion, and theologians were not paying attention. "Evolution is the most important idea in all of science, and theologians were not seeing the implications of evolution on ideas of human nature, creation, or God's relation to the world." In drawing upon the wisdom of both scientific and religious communities, Barbour has explored the religious implications of theories of the "big bang" and ways in which traditional concepts of God and of human nature can be reformulated in light of evolutionary theory. …

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