My Lords and Ladies, Dear Friends: On behalf of the Trustees of the John Templeton Foundation, we are pleased to welcome you today to the 2001 ceremony of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. We meet to honour the recipient of this year’s Prize, The Reverend Canon Dr. Arthur Peacocke.
From its beginning, the Prize for Progress in Religion has had, at its core, the vision that progress in spirituality and in new spiritual information is more important than any other human endeavour. Progress in science and technology has produced an enormous contribution to our material well-being. From these material advances, people are eating better due to greater productivity in agriculture; people are healthier and are living longer due to advances in preventive medicine and curative medicine; thousands and thousands of new productive enterprises are being started every day resulting in millions of new jobs in all corners of our planet and the universe at-large in ways that could only be dreamed of in the past.
But none of these material advances touch us at the core of who we are and why we are here. Religious faith and practice are at the core of how we live and how we relate to one another and to our Creator God. Distancing ourselves from the core leads to problems in communication, lack of tolerance, and a failure to emphasize what we share together as children of God. Surely this spiritual alienation plays a large role in the generation of many of the physical and material problems that continue to plague our world.
The purpose of the Templeton Prize is three-fold. The first is to recognise a living person who has done some- thing unique and original to increase humankind’s love and/or understanding of God. Over the long history of the Prize, Templeton laureates provide inspirational examples of the variety of ways in which God’s unlimited love and mysterious purposes are revealed through different people and faith traditions. In this way, the Prize program underscores the possibilities for improvements in human efforts to understand the ultimate reality that is the source of all our being and becoming. Second, the Prize is intended to inspire others to learn about the work of each recipient and to undertake similar or new spiritually-related endeavours. Third, the Prize is designed to encourage a mindset in which the world as a whole looks in expectation to progress in religion. As we pursue this programme in identifying unique contributors to better understanding of God, His love and purpose for us, we seek to embrace humility, open- mindedness and a celebration of diversity.
Since the origin of the Prize, there has been a remarkable diversity in the work of the various recipients which has resulted in their recognition. In the 29 years of the Prize, including this year, there have been 31 recipients representing a variety of vocations such as evangelists, spiritual servants, and those who have made their contributions in the area of peace and freedom.
Finally, there is a category of recipients who have been recognized for their contributions to breaching the barriers between science and religion. It is this category which we celebrate today as we honour the 2001 winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, The Reverend Canon Dr. Arthur Peacocke.
Born in Watford, England, he subsequently won an open scholarship in natural science to Exeter College, Oxford. His Oxford degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry with first class honours and a Bachelor of Science research degree followed by a D. Phil. for research into the kinetics of bacterial growth in 1948. Then in 1962, he received the highest Oxford degree of Doctor of Science.
He later served in several positions at the University of Birmingham advancing to senior lecturer in biophysical chemistry. During this period, he and his colleagues at the university made significant molecular biology advances, discovering, among other things, that the double helix of DNA exists in solution and that its chains are not branched.
Also during his education and scientific career, Dr. Peacocke heard a sermon by William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, which allowed him, for the first time, to believe that Christianity could be intellectually defensible. As a result, while he was at the University of Birmingham, he studied theology and the philosophy of religion and science. He received a diploma in theology there in 1960. Other universities and colleges where he has served in the various capacities include: Oxford; Clare College, Cambridge (as Dean); the Weizman Institute; the Chicago Center of Religion and Science; the University of Hong Kong; and the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at Berkeley.
During this remarkable career, he began serving in 1961 as a Lay Reader in the Church of England. Eventually, in 1971 he became ordained as a priest in the Church of England. Since then he has described himself as a priest-scientist. In 1982, he received a Doctor of Divinity from Oxford. He is the only person in the last 100 years to hold both an Oxford DD and SSc and one of the few academics in England to teach — as he did in Clare College, Cambridge — in two completely different departments, divinity and biochemistry.
The Templeton Prize judges recognized Dr. Peacocke’s extraordinary lifetime work in the two fields of science and religion. Dr. Peacocke has authored 126 scientific papers, and three scientific books. In addition, he has authored nine books, co-edited five multi-author volumes, and written 75 papers in the field of theology and general publications. Dr. Peacocke’s latest book is Paths from Science Toward God: The End of All Our Exploring, which has just been published by Oneworld.
During his increasingly busy career, Dr. Peacocke delivered numerous lectures including the Bampton Lectures at Oxford and the Gifford Lectures at St. Andrews University, Scotland. The establishment of his international reputation as an authority in science and theology began with the publication of Science and the Christian Experiment in 1971. It won the Lecomte Du Noüy Prize in 1973. His influential magnum opus Theology of a Scientific Age was published in 1990.
Because of his leadership in science and theology, he was able to establish or help to establish the UK Science and Religion Forum and the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology. Perhaps his most important effort in this regard was to establish the Society of Ordained Scientists, an ecumenical dispersed order patterned after the Dominicans. He is now the order’s Warden Emeritus.
Finally, Dr. Peacocke was also the founder of the Ian Ramsey Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religious Beliefs in Relation to the Sciences, including medicine, at Oxford. This centre is now part of the Faculty of Theology at Oxford.
In his nomination of Dr. Peacocke to the Templeton Prize judges, Dr. David Hay of the Centre for the Study of Human Relations at Nottingham University of England wrote that Dr. Peacocke had created a new understanding of the relationship between science and theology which has brought about an increase in our understanding of God in the contemporary world, generating a new theology for a scientific age.
Yesterday on 9 May, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, awarded the Templeton Prize in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace. In addition to our gratitude to Prince Philip for his help and support for the Prize programme since its origin, we would like to express our sincere thanks to the many people who have contributed so significantly to our celebration today.
Our Honorary Chairman, Lady Brentford.
The musicians of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, who are appearing by kind permission of the Principal, under the direction of James Alexander and vocal conductor Nigel Cassidy.
The Remembrances Office of Guildhall, under the aegis of the Corporation of London, particularly Adrian Barnes and his assistant, Micheala Whitbread.
And, the staff of the Templeton Prize under the directorship of Dr. Susan Billington Harper.