Good morning. As President of the John Templeton Foundation, it is my privilege and pleasure to welcome all of you to the annual news conference for the announcement of the 2006 Templeton Prize.
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you for attending this morning. I would also like to express a very special welcome to the 2006 Templeton Prize Laureate, Professor John D. Barrow of the University of Cambridge. It is a great honor for us to have Dr. Barrow with us this morning to share some comments and later to answer your questions. Our format this morning is as follows. First, I shall share with you some of the perspectives of my Father, Sir John Templeton, when he established the Templeton Prize Program some 35 years ago, and when he spoke with us here three years ago. Because my Father is now 93 years of age, he finds that the rigors of international travel, with the long waiting lines to get through security, are overly arduous. He sends his sincerest apologies, therefore, for his not being able to be with us this year, but he also wants to express his joy in the wisdom of the judges in recognizing the remarkable accomplishments of John Barrow as the 2006 Templeton Prize Laureate.
After a few comments about the vision of the Prize program, I shall present some of the accomplishments of Dr. Barrow, which clearly guided the judges in their selection. After this introduction, Dr. Barrow will share with us some of the perspectives of his work in Physics and Mathematics and Cosmology and also in the growing field of Science and Religion, which has had extraordinary growth just in the last 15 years. Then, after his remarks, we will open the floor to your questions.
The Templeton Prize continues to be the world’s largest annual prize given to an individual for individual accomplishment. This year’s award is in the amount of 795,000 British Pounds Sterling, which as of the close of the market yesterday was about $1.4 million.
You may recall that four years ago the name of the Prize, which is now in its thirty-fourth year, was changed to: The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities. In fact, for many years we have been looking for ways to draw greater attention to the idea that progress in spiritual information and spiritual discoveries is just as feasible as it is in well-established sciences such as physics, medicine, chemistry, and so on. In fact, spiritual progress may be more important than all of these other areas. Therefore, the name of the Prize was changed to inspire greater attention to research or discoveries of a spiritual nature. Spiritual realities refer to matters of the soul that are universal and apply to all cultures and all peoples. Examples would include subjects like love, purpose, infinity, prayer, and thanksgiving. These realities are non-material, transcendent or metaphysical areas about which many people have intuitive perceptions.
The Prize is given each year in honor of a living person who represents through his or her work a remarkable spirit of inquiry to understand not only the nature of these realities, but also the nature of the divinity which gives life to these spiritual realities. The inquiry can come in many forms, including scientific research or other methods of discovery by which knowledge might compliment ancient scriptures and traditions in opening our eyes more fully to our growing understanding of God’s nature and purpose. This spirit of inquiry may involve a scholarly commitment to the growing field of Science and Religion as demonstrated by the extraordinary career and productive work of Dr. Barrow.
Three years ago, my Father shared with us some of his perspectives that crystallize the meaning of this Prize program. He said, “Let me go back to some examples. Until three centuries ago, spiritual information and scientific information were regarded as one unit. But then a divergence took place. Science began to advance strongly into experimental science research, and as a result, we have witnessed the most glorious race ahead.
“Let’s take medicine: We know at least a hundred times as much about your body as we knew just one century ago. Unfortunately, this has not happened in regard to spiritual information or discoveries about spiritual realities.
“Or take anyone of the other sciences: There is no major science that has not just raced ahead. So we live in the most glorious, rapidly improving time in all of the world’s history – except in our knowledge of divinity.
“Why is such a vision of progress not true in spiritual matters? It’s because of an unintentional attitude. Nobody planned it; nobody even realizes that perhaps that attitude is there. But it is the idea that, when you are trying to do research of a spiritual nature, you must look back hundreds if not thousands of years ago, and not into current discoveries. So why can we not get all of the world’s people to be enthusiastic rather than resistant to new concepts in the field of spiritual information and discoveries about spiritual realities?”
In his comments here three years ago, my Father went on to say: “I think I can convince almost anybody that there has never been a human being who knew even one percent of what might be known about God. Almost everybody in the Western world believes there is a God but the amount of high quality scientific research done on the aspects of divinity is tiny.”
Therefore, what we are trying to do through this Prize program and many of our other programs for the John Templeton Foundation, is to change that attitude so that everyone, including theologians, becomes as enthusiastic for new discoveries just as people are in chemistry or medicine or physics or anything else.
If we can do that, the benefits are likely to be even greater. If we can get the world to spend even ten percent as much on spiritual research as the world does in scientific research, more will be discovered. With such an investment, it is possible that by the end of this century, humans will know perhaps one hundredfold more about the nature of divinity, and the nature of creativity, than anybody ever knew before. The benefits, therefore, are likely to be even greater than the benefits that have come from medicine or chemistry or physics.
Cosmology, for example, is a field that holds great promise in regard to this vision of discovery. It is useful to reflect on the fact that discoveries in all of the sciences, including cosmology, have contributed to our understanding of how large is God, thereby suggesting what we can learn about God. As noted, some fields like cosmology can especially contribute to helping humanity understand aspects of divinity. In highlighting this vision, my Father said: “All of this points toward tremendous blessings for humanity and that is what I am devoting my life to. My challenge to you is that if you want to be happy, if you want to be of benefit to humanity, you will not come up with anything more beneficial than new discoveries about spiritual realities including the nature of God and his purposes for us.”
That line of thinking explains why we are here today. Years ago my Father looked at the work of Alfred Nobel and discovered that by giving five Prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Medicine and so forth, he had persuaded the most brilliant people on earth to devote a huge amount of attention to discovery – discoveries in Physics, Medicine and so forth. Brilliant people who might not otherwise have made these discoveries were inspired by the fact that other people had discovered something important and were recognized by winning one of his distinguished Prizes.
Nevertheless, My Father, Sir John, felt that Alfred Nobel had a blind spot when it came to spiritual discovery. He said: “I, therefore, established this Prize program to encourage an attitude of progress in the domain of religion and also a spirit, even an enthusiasm, for a quest for discovery regarding spiritual realities. I feel that this quest will have the most powerful and beneficial impact in the whole realm of research and discoveries – an impact that will advance the well being of each individual and the world as a whole.”
Again, my Father regrets very much that he is not able to be with us today to share in our recognition of this year’s winner, Professor John D. Barrow of the University of Cambridge. In my Father’s absence, I would like to briefly share with you some of the extraordinary background and lifetime work of Dr. Barrow. His is a career of remarkable accomplishments, which clearly guided the judges in their selection of him as this year’s winner.
Many of the details of his accomplishments are highlighted in the Press Package which you have received. But let me take a few moments to highlight some of his remarkable life’s work.
First, speaking on behalf of my Father and the Templeton Prize Program, we are very grateful that Professor Thomas Torrance – who himself was a winner of the Templeton Prize in 1978 – put in so much time and care in the nomination of Professor John Barrow for evaluation by the judges of the Templeton Prize Program. Unfortunately, Professor Torrance is not able to be with us, but he sends his warmest congratulations and best wishes.
In his nomination, Professor Torrance noted the extraordinary career of Professor Barrow in the field of mathematics, astrophysics, and astronomy. Professor Barrow’s distinguished career and his numerous accomplishments in mathematics and science, contributed to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 2003. At the same time for the past two decades Professor Barrow has also written and spoken extensively on the need to bridge the two major domains of knowing – namely Science and Religion. He has done this through dialogue, research, and communications of a worldwide nature.
After only nine years following his receipt of a Bachelor of Science with first class honors in mathematics at Durham University, Professor Barrow published his first book on cosmology entitled, The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe.
Only three years later, Professor Barrow co-authored a book entitled The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. This book has been enormously influential in discussions between religious and scientific perspectives on the universe. It has been cited very heavily across the spectrum of scholarly study from studies of natural theology, philosophy, physics, mathematics, and astronomy. Of particular interest to the theology-science interface is the detailed history of design arguments and natural theology, to which Dr. Barrow contributed with the modern cosmological forms of the anthropic principle.
Professor Barrow has continued to make extraordinary contributions in his main fields of mathematics, astrophysics, and astronomy with many fellowships and appointments as lecturer at the University of California, Oxford University, and the University of Sussex and his appointment in 1999 as Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge University. Nevertheless, in his quest to understand more of the critical issues in cosmology and Science and Religion he has written 17 books and approximately 400 articles – often dealing with the important distinction between the laws of Nature and the outcomes of these laws. The growing respect that his work attracted can be seen in the fact that in 1989, Professor Barrow was selected to deliver the Gifford Lectures at Glasgow University. This was an especially auspicious selection in that Professor Barrow was the youngest Gifford Lecturer ever and he gave his address in the centennial year of the Gifford Lectures program. These lectures attracted capacity audiences throughout their course.
The Gifford Lectures gave rise to another of Professor Barrow’s important books entitled, Theories of Everything. It was the first book to lay out the meaning of a Theory of Everything in the parlance of particle physics for a broader educated audience. This book carefully showed why such theories were necessary but never sufficient for understanding the world around us. Instead, Professor Barrow identified other ingredients necessary for a full understanding of the physical world.
This seminal work showed the limitations of the meaning of the word “everything” for particle physics. Its subject matter is at the heart of debates over reductionism and emergence and it shows clearly what the efforts of a search for a theory of everything would leave unexplained.
Then in his 1998 book, Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits, was published by Oxford University Press, Professor Barrow gave a wide-ranging discussion of the limits of human knowledge. He showed how a precise understanding of what we cannot know and cannot do about the universe turns out to be a profound ingredient in our understanding of it. We learn from his book that there are deep limits to human understanding of the universe, no matter how perfect our intellectual or experimental capabilities are.
In addition to these prolific and penetrating contributions, Professor Barrow has continued to make critical contributions in conjunction with his appointment in 1999, as Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project – an initiative to improve the understanding and appreciation of mathematics and its application among young people and the public as a whole. More recently, Professor Barrow wrote two complimentary books, The Book of Nothing and The Infinite Book, which provide the widest discussion of all aspects of nothingness, zero, and the timeless, boundless, and endless qualities of the infinite.
The subjects of these two books are ones that have been proven to be pivotal in the history of ideas. While there have been many new developments in the scientific approach to infinity in recent years, his book, The Infinite Book, was the first to divulge all these ideas to a wider audience of thinkers interested in the overlap between science and religion.
In his nomination, Professor Torrance summarized the extraordinary productivity and uniqueness of Professor Barrow’s many contributions – contributions that the judges clearly felt warranted the selection of Professor Barrow for the 2006 Templeton Prize. Quoting Professor Torrance:
“The hallmark of Barrow’s work is a deep engagement with those aspects of the structure of the universe and its laws that make life possible and which shape the views that we take of that universe when we examine it. The vast elaboration of that simple idea has lead to a huge expansion of the breadth and depth of the dialogue between science and religion.”
In summary, Professor Barrow’s contributions have drawn in expert physicists, mathematicians, cosmologists, and philosophers to re-engage in a discussion with theologians and religious thinkers that might have faded away. Furthermore, his contributions have opened the door to new dimensions of understanding purpose – both in the domain of mankind and the domain of divinity.
It is from this framework of Professor Barrow’s lifelong commitment to a quest for truth in the intersecting of both science and religion that I would like now to ask John Barrow, the 2006 Templeton Prize Laureate, to come forward and share some comments with us.