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Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Templeton: making science and religion a prize

Wikipedia says that Sir John Templeton renounced his US citizenship because he didn't want to pay US taxes in his native country. Perhaps, he had an eye on the prize that dual Bahamian and British citizenship might give him - a knighthood that the USA never could provide. Perhaps he just loves the sun of the Carribean.
Now, Miss Eagle professes absolute ignorance of what it is to be absolutely rich. However, a lifelong saturation in the Christian tradition always brings to remembrance entry levels for the rich to the Kingdom of Heaven and comparison with mobility through the size and structure of a sewing implement.
Having said all this, Miss Eagle has to express her fascination with the Templeton Prize funded generously by Sir John. Sir John Templeton asked a big question...
"If even one-tenth of world research were focused on spiritual realities, could benefits be even more vast than the benefits in the latest two centuries from research in food, travel, medicine or electronics, and cosmology?
  • Research and innovation in food products just since 1800 caused over 100 fold more food production per American farmer.
  • Research and innovation in travel methods since 1950, enabled over 100 fold increase in travel by Americans.
  • Research and innovation in medicine just since 1900 caused over 100 fold increase in information about our bodies.
  • Research and innovation in electronics just since 1900 caused over 1000 fold increase in information available to us.

In 300 centuries, humans observed less than a million stars; but just in the last two centuries innovations in methods and research has revealed a cosmos of 100 billion times 100 billion stars."

The Templeton Prize is based on the premise that

progress is needed in spiritual discovery as in all other dimensions of human experience and endeavor. Progress in religion needs to be accelerated as rapidly as progress in other disciplines. A wider universe demands deeper awareness of the aspects of the Creator and of spiritual resources available for humankind, of the infinity of God, and of the divine knowledge and understanding still to be claimed.

The prize money for the Templeton Prize is serious stuff. It is deliberately kept in excess of the Nobel Prize.

Listed below are the prize winners including the just announced 2008 prize-winner Michael Heller.
1973 - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
1974 - Frère Roger, founder of the Taizé Community
1975 - Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, President of India
1976 - Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens
1977 - Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement
1978 - Prof. Thomas Torrance
1979 - Rev. Nikkyo Niwano
1980 - Ralph Wendell Burhoe, founder of Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
1981 - Cicely Saunders, hospice founder
1982 - Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, evangelist
1983 - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Soviet dissident novelist
1984 - Rev. Michael Bourdeaux, founder of the Keston Institute
1985 - Alister Hardy, founder of the Religious Experience Research Centre
1986 - Rev. James I. McCord of the Princeton Theological Seminary
1987 - Stanley Jaki
1988 - Dr. Inamullah Khan
1989 - Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, physicist and philosopher, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, founder of the Iona Community and Indarjit Singh
1990 - Baba Amte and L. Charles Birch
1991 - Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits
1992 - Kyung-Chik Han
1993 - Charles Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowship
1994 - Michael Novak, philosopher and diplomat
1995 - Paul Davies, theoretical physicist
1996 - Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ
1997 - Pandurang Shastri Athavale
1998 - Sigmund Sternberg, philanthropist
1999 - Ian Barbour, professor
2000 - Freeman Dyson, physicist
2001 - Rev. Arthur Peacocke
2002 - Rev. John Polkinghorne
2003 - Holmes Rolston III, philosopher
2004 - George F. R. Ellis, cosmologist and philosopher
2005 - Charles Townes, Nobel laureate and physicist
2006 - John D. Barrow, cosmologist and theoretical physicist
2007 - Charles Taylor, philosopher
2008 - Michael Heller, physicist and philosopher

Now I am not sure about the scientific credentials of some of the recipients but I do have some favourites with whose recognition I am well-pleased. These include Charles Hard Townes - who was introduced to Miss Eagle on Late Night Live, the lively radio program on ABC's Radio National hosted by the evergreen Phillip Adams - and the cosmologist, George Ellis.

Miss Eagle had the privilege of hearing George Ellis speak in Melbourne in January. Ellis is a Quaker and he delivered the 2008 Backhouse Lecture: Faith, Hope, and Doubt in Times of Uncertainty: combining the realms of scientific and spiritual inquiry (available for download here or in hard copy here; ISCAST review here) at the Australian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Miss Eagle has never heard of Michael Heller - but she looks forward to hearing more.