It is a distinct honor, and one which is particularly appropriate in these challenging times, to announce the winner of the 2020 Templeton Prize, Dr. Francis Collins—geneticist, physician, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and one of the most prominent and respected scientists in the world.
Throughout his long career, Dr. Collins has advocated for the integration of faith and reason, demonstrating how religious faith can inform and inspire a rigorous quest for knowledge of the natural world through the sciences.
Motivated by his own sincere Christian belief, Dr. Collins regards his scientific vocation as a geneticist not only as a means to decipher what he calls ‘the language of God,’ but also as an act of worship of the divine.
Collins’s gracious and winsome manner, along with his skills as a scientist and administrator, have earned him an outstanding reputation in the academy, in communities of faith, and in the political sector.
In his role as a scientist, government official, and public intellectual, he has used his platform to engage groups of diverse perspectives, and encouraged greater curiosity, open-mindedness, and humility among scientists and persons of all faiths and none, illuminating a pathway toward, as he has written, ‘a sober and intellectually honest integration’ of the scientific and spiritual perspectives.
These perspectives, he offers, do not merely coexist, but mutually support one another ‘in a fashion that enriches and enlightens the human experience.’
Describing his path from atheism to committed Christianity in his 2006 bestselling book, The Language of God, Collins eloquently recounts his discovery of a view that ‘belief in God can be an entirely rational choice, and that the principles of faith are, in fact, complementary with the principles of science.’
The past few months have been exceptionally demanding for Dr. Collins and his colleagues at the NIH, who, in addition to their essential work to eradicate diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, have made extreme efforts to accelerate research on treatments and a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
Moreover, Dr. Collins has also found opportunities to reach out and explain the pandemic to the American public and specifically to faith communities, urging his fellow Christians, especially, to trust the power of science and, at the same time, citing a favorite verse from Joshua 1:9, to remain ‘strong and courageous’ in their belief.
Francis Collins embodies the ideals and core convictions that inspired my grandfather, Sir John Templeton, to establish the Templeton Prize in 1972: that rigorous research, especially in the sciences, can help humanity confront the deepest and most challenging questions of existence.
The Templeton Prize is administered by the John Templeton Foundation and supported by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and the Templeton Religion Trust. On behalf of the three Templeton philanthropies, it is with deep gratitude that we celebrate and congratulate the 2020 Templeton Prize Laureate, Dr. Francis S .Collins.