On behalf of all of us involved in the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, I would like to thank all of you for coming this evening to share in the celebration honouring Dr. Freeman Dyson as the year 2000 winner of the Templeton Prize.
The Templeton Prize is awarded annually to a living person of any religious tradition or movement. The Templeton Prize does not encourage syncretism, but rather an understanding of the benefits of diversity. It seeks to focus attention on the wide variety of highlights in present day religious thought and work. It does not seek a unity of denominations or a unity of world religions; but rather, it seeks to encourage understanding of the benefits of religious and spiritual progress.
From its beginning, the Templeton Prize was made larger than the Nobel Prizes. This was a way of saying that progress in religion is more important than progress in any other area. While the winner each year will benefit from the prize, the vastly greater benefit is for the millions of readers whose spiritual growth is enhanced by studying the life and work of each awardee. Millions of readers may learn that religion is progressive and dynamic. Nothing is more important than the need to learn more about our infinite, omnipotent and all loving Creator; and also, to learn more about how we can be helpers in divine creativity.
The Templeton awards are open to every child of God. There is no limitation in regard to race, creed, sex or geographical background. Each year the selection is made by a panel of distinguished judges from at least four major religions. The judges ask first, what has this person done that was entirely original? Secondly, was it primarily spiritual rather than humanitarian? Lastly, did this original contribution by the nominee result in a great increase of either humankind’s love of God or under- standing of God? To clarify this important difference: for example, if a church should found a hospital, that is humanitarian, but if a hospital were to create a new kind of church, that would be originality in religion. Many other awards honour wonderful humanitarian works, but this award is reserved for originality of research in religion or spirituality.
This award is intended to encourage the concept that resources and manpower are needed for progress in spiritual knowledge. We hope that by learning about the lives of the awardees, millions of people will be uplifted and inspired to be enthusiastic about the further study and worship of God. The prize is intended to help people see the infinity of the universal spirit, which is still creating the galaxies and all living things. The prize is also designed to highlight the variety of ways in which the Creator is revealing himself to different people. It is our hope that all religions may become more dynamic and inspirational.
Another purpose of these awards is to encourage progress in religion by calling attention to the wonderful new research, new insights and new organizations arising from within and outside each of the world’s religions. Progress is a part of God’s ongoing creative process. Each religious organization can assist by establishing a department devoted to research for spiritual or religious progress. Presently, increasing multitudes of blessings now flow from over $200 billion devoted each year to research in science and technology. Likewise, similar manpower and resources devoted to spiritual subjects could lead to greater blessings for mankind. Each of us should be deeply grateful that God allowed us to be born in this generation when the quantity of knowledge is increasing and accelerating. Nevertheless, great humility is needed because we have so much to learn about God and his nature and purpose. While he is infinite, we are very tiny and limited. No person may even know one percent of the infinite creative spirit. To learn anything, we must first become humble and rid ourselves of the egotistical idea that we already know everything about God.
Humility causes an open mind, which in turn makes it possible for us to learn from each other. An open mind contributes to progress. One of the other purposes of the prize program, therefore, is to contribute to a spirit of humility by helping people of all nations learn about the rich variety of ways that other men and women love and understand the supreme spirit. Also, competition causes progress. It may be good for the great visions and revelations about God and his purpose to compete with each other in a loving, neighbourly way. When scientists study the history of the million of types of life on earth, many may conclude that the Creator has ordained competition for the purpose of progress.
As we enter into a new century full of the promise of continuing progress, it may be useful for us to consider a variety of questions, which may contribute to extraordinary new breakthroughs in progress in religion. Consider if you will, some of these questions and ideas. If some scientists tried to study total reality, then does science offer us methods for discovering more about God and his purpose? Can the word “God” be defined as “basic reality?” Is all science research further information about the nature and vastness of God? Can science, therefore, contribute to theology in a way which will be welcomed by every person seeking God? If each branch of science is showing that creation is vastly wider and more complex than comprehended even just one century ago, does this reveal a vastly more worshipful Creator? Should we not, therefore, be enthusiastic and diligent to study more about God?
If total information continues to double each three years, maybe in 30 years 1,000 times as much information will be available and in 60 years a million times as much? In that process, can science increase over 100 fold humankind’s information about the timeless and limitless reality, which we call God? Even so, after humans gain 100 times more spiritual information, we may still only know one percent of reality?
Do multiplying discoveries indicate that reality is more basic, complex and vast than some things tangible or visible? Can all the wonderfully beneficial ancient scriptures be supplemented over 100 fold partly by science research for spiritual information and verification? Can all religions learn to be so humble as to be enthusiastic (rather than resistant) to new spiritual information?
Likewise, can new information from science research on basic spiritual truths and realities reduce conflict between religions? Can religious conflict vanish if people come to recognize from science research spiritual information that is universal to all people? In this way, all religions can embrace the motto, “How little we yet know, how eager to search and learn?”
These are some of the questions which will challenge us more and more as we pursue opportunities for progress in religion in the 21st century. In this regard, I would like to offer a sincere invitation to everyone here today, to send us nominations for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. We are very eager to learn about the work of men and women who are contributing significantly to the expansion of human spiritual wealth.
In that same vein, we are especially grateful that the judges this year have selected Dr. Freeman Dyson as the 2000 winner of the Templeton Prize.
Until recently, there has been a vast gulf between proponents of reductionist science, which proclaims that all that exists in the universe is totally there by chance, and proponents in the religious dimension, who claim that revelation is the only way to understand the universe and its Creator. Somewhere between these two perspectives lies a larger middle ground where a person may embrace religious and scientific perspectives simultaneously, honestly and with integrity. Attempts to explore this middle ground will be taken seriously only if the explorer commands the respect of the scientifically literate and the religiously sensitive. The judges have recognised Dr. Dyson as a divinely talented explorer.
For Dr. Dyson, science and religion are two great human enterprises sharing may common features. The most salient features are discipline and diversity, for without discipline, there can be no freedom. Greatness for the enterprise, freedom for the individual: these are the two things which contrast with each other in some ways but are not incompatible. It is this dynamic interplay that makes up the history of science and the history of religion.
From Dr. Dyson’s perspective, what is needed is a little more human clarity, a little more willingness to listen rather than to lay down the law, and a little more humility. When Dr. Dyson speaks, he speaks with the voice of science, but he does not claim that the voice of science speaks with unique authority. For him, religion has at least an equal claim to authority in defining human destiny.
Before concluding, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest and sincerest gratitude to His Royal Highness Prince Philip, who awards the prize yearly in Buckingham Palace and to the Reverend Dr. Wilbert Forker who has guided, supported and advanced the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion since its inception 29 years ago. He has worked tirelessly to create a worldwide network of nine outstanding judges who have caught the vision of the meaning of progress in religion and who have been very discerning in the selection of each year’s winner.
Great honour is deserved also by retired Bishop Sir Michael Mann and to Mrs. Mena Griffiths and to Nancy Pearse and to Mr. Donald Lehr, and also to Winifred and Frank Crothers, Mr. Henry Fett and Mrs. Estelle Siebens, who have attended almost every prize ceremony over the past 28 years.
Finally, on behalf of the Trustees of the Templeton Prize, I would like to express a sincere thank you to the Bishop, Dean and Chapter of this magnificent cathedral for inviting us to hold this year’s ceremony here. Also, we are grateful to the organist and choir; the Honourable James Billington for moderating the ceremony; and to the Reverend Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie for leading the prayers. And lastly, a warm thank you to you, the audience, for finding the time to attend the ceremony where we are honouring the recipient, Dr. Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study.
Thank you very much.