The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton to honour the one person each year who, in the opinion of nine distinguished judges representing the major religions of the world, has stimulated man’s appreciation of God and whose activities have resulted in significant progress in religion.
Sir John Templeton established the Prize because he felt that the Nobel Prize system had overlooked a significant factor in man’s accomplishments. He realized that recognition of progress in spiritual understanding was sorely lacking. He therefore concentrated the Templeton Foundation’s efforts towards projects which emphasized a greater appreciation and understanding of God. Man’s understanding of God is as important, if not significantly of greater importance, than man’s other outstanding achievements. Because of this, Sir John set the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion at a greater monetary value than the Nobel Prize. That spiritual progress is continually occurring in all areas of life has been demonstrated by previous prize recipients. All 25 winners of the Templeton Prize have been totally different from each other yet, in their diversity, have contributed significantly to man’s understanding of God.
The list of former Prize winners starting with Mother Teresa in 1973 has included the global evangelist Reverend Billy Graham; Dame Cecily Saunders, originator of the modern hospice movement; Charles Colson, the originator of Prison Fellowship; Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn; and six renowned scientists, including Sir Alister Hardy, the British biologist who first applied scientific methods to the investigation of religious experience.
Professor Paul Davies has today become a member of this elite group. Psalm 19, verse 1 (NIV) says, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ Glimpses of the design and structure of the universe of which we are part stimulate, excite, and make us aware of God, the enormity of His creation, and instill a sincere desire to search for greater meaning in the universe, in our lives, and in our ultimate relationship with Him, the Creator. Professor Paul Davies once stated in an interview, and I quote, ‘In my books, I try to communicate to the lay person a sense of excitement and awe which I, myself, feel when confronted by the challenge of modern physics. Though I may entertain, startle, provoke, and perhaps baffle a reader, my primary aim is to share with them some glimpses of nature’s dazzling secrets revealed by the power of scientific analysis.’ Professor Davies looks to the significant importance of the fact that humans have a capability to comprehend science and mathematics that is unique in the biological world. Because he also sees overwhelming evidence for a grand design in our universe, Professor Davies’ studies of astrophysics and his further delineation of space have added to our understanding of the universe and our further appreciation of our Divine Creator. His studies have also increased our frustration by causing us to ask more questions, even as we comprehend and attempt to understand the Black Hole, the immenseness of space, and the galaxies.
In Wyoming, my home in the USA, it is still possible to get away form the hustle and bustle of life and city lights, and lose oneself in the wilderness. There, in the wilderness, one can see the vast expanse of the heavens in the blackness of night. In that blackness, the heavens truly declare, the Glory of God.
It is my privilege, as Sir John’s son-in-law, to welcome you to this ceremony here in historic Westminster Abbey and to thank you for your attendance today as we honour Professor Paul Davies. It is the hope and prayer of the Templeton Foundation that the activities of today will result in a more profound appreciation and a greater awareness of God, His divine creation of which we are a part, and an increased understanding of Him in our lives. It is also important that we review and contemplate the gift of God’s many wonderful blessings to each of us. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew chapter 10 and verse 8 in part states, ‘Freely you have received, freely give.’ His blessings to us are truly too numerous to mention. Let us humbly reflect on God’s handiwork in all areas of our lives; His direction, comfort and love. Such sincere introspection will reveal the myriad of blessings which we have received. And, as we return thanksgiving to God and share our blessings with others, our lives will be enhanced with hope and purpose.
Our world has changed dramatically in the past twenty-three years since the inception of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Region. Research such as Professor Paul Davies’ has helped us make sense out of these changes and reinforced the foundational truths upon which our Creator established our world in the vast universe around us. One only has to look at the wide diversity of previous Prize winners to appreciate the fact that through diversity of research and understanding can come a commonly acceptable understanding of God and truth. Thus, it is today that we honour the twenty-fifth Prize winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Professor Paul Charles William Davies.
And, finally on behalf of the Trustees of the Templeton Foundation I would like to say a sincere thank you to the Dean and Chapter of this Abbey for once again hosting this ceremony and to the Choir for their participation and to the Rt. Hon. Viscount Tonypandy for taking the Chair. Thank you.