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 2005 Templeton Prize.
Please let me take the opportunity to thank each and everyone of you for attending this morning. I would also like to express a very special welcome to the 2005 Templeton Prize Laureate, Professor Charles Townes of the University of California at Berkeley. It is a great honor for us to have Dr. Townes with us this morning to share some comments with us and 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 and when he spoke with us here two years ago. Because my Father is now 92 years old, he finds that the rigors of international travel, including long waiting lines at the airports, are overly taxing on him. 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 selecting Professor Charles Townes as the 2005 Templeton Prize Laureate.
After a few comments about the vision of the Prize program, I shall present some of the accomplishments of Dr. Townes, which clearly guided the judges in their selection of him as the winner of this year’s award. After this introduction, Dr. Townes will share with us some of the perspectives of his life-long work in the growing field of Science and Religion. Then, after his remarks, we shall open the floor to questions.
The Templeton Prize continues to be the world’s largest annual prize given to an individual. This year’s award is in the amount of £795,000 Sterling, which as of yesterday’s market close equals more than $1.4 million.
You may recall that a few years ago the name of the Prize, which is now in its thirty-third 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 and greater attention to the idea that progress in spiritual information and spiritual discoveries is just as feasible as progress in medicine, science and cosmology. 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 in 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 about God’s nature and purpose. This spirit of inquiry may involve a lifetime of scholarly commitment to the growing field of Science and Religion as demonstrated by the life’s work of Dr. Charles Townes.
Two 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 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 it’s 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 two 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 everybody, 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.”
As I explained, 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 Charles Townes of the University of California at Berkeley. In my Father’s absence, I would like to briefly share with you some of the extraordinary background and lifetime work of Dr. Charlie Townes. 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. Let me take a few moments, however, to highlight some of his remarkable life’s work.
Charles Hard Townes was born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1915 in a strongly committed Baptist household that embraced an open-minded approach to biblical interpretation. Dr. Townes received a B.A. in both Modern Languages and a B.S. in Physics, summa cum laude, from Furman University when he was 19 years old. Two years later, he received an M.A. in Physics from Duke and in 1939, a Ph.D. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology with a thesis on Isotope Separation and Nuclear Spins.
His career in Science has proven to be a remarkable trajectory of innovation, discovery and a lifetime of cutting-edge research. First as a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories, he then went onto develop radar systems during World War II that effectively performed in the humid conditions of the Pacific Theater.
After the war he became Associate Professor of Physics at Columbia, where he began to collaborate in the new field of Microwave Spectroscopy, including designing masers and later lasers in the 1950s.
Dr. Townes often cites his discovery of the principles of the maser – an insight that suddenly occurred to him as he sat on a park bench in Washington, D.C. in 1951 – as a “revelation” – as real as any revelation described in the scriptures.
Subsequently, Dr. Townes served as Chairman of Columbia University’s Physics Department and wrote with Dr. Schawlow an important new book entitled Microwave Spectroscopy. Subsequently, their collaboration led to discoveries which we now know as the laser – a discovery for which Dr. Townes shared in the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964.
After serving as Provost and Professor at MIT, Dr. Townes was appointed as University Professor of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. Through a long and productive career in Astrophysics Research, including the use of radio and infrared techniques for studying atoms and molecules, Dr. Townes continued to make a number of important discoveries in science continuing up until his present involvement in research on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Because of his extraordinary career in Science, Dr. Townes, who became an Officer of the French Legion of Honor in 1990, is also the recipient of the Niels Bohr International Gold Medal plus nearly 100 other honors and awards. He also holds honorary degrees from more than 25 universities and has served on several presidential commissions relating to Behavioral and Social Sciences and the prevention of Nuclear War.
Amidst his extraordinarily productive career in science, Professor Townes also began a parallel career of spiritual inquiry guided by his early Christian upbringing. This spiritual quest increasingly began to intersect with his calling as a scientist. Beginning in the 1950’s, Professor Townes insisted that religion and science were not antithetical. In 1964, at New York’s Riverside Church, he spoke on the convergence of these two realms. His speech was printed in IBM’s Think magazine and the MIT Technology Review. This speech was translated and published in Pravda and also translated into Chinese and Japanese. So rare was his viewpoint at the time that Dr. Townes admitted in the paper that his position would be considered by many in both camps to be “extreme.”
From this auspicious and even daring exploration followed a number of important and provocative papers, speeches and book projects including a paper entitled, How And Why Did It All Begin? Then followed publications entitled, Science, Values and Beyond and On Science, And What It May Suggest About You. More recently, his publications include, Convergences On Science and Religion, Testing Faith, Wrestling With Mystery, and Logic and Uncertainties in Science and Religion.
In nominating Dr. Townes for this year’s Templeton Prize, Dr. David Shi, President of Furman University, pointed out that Professor Townes, “has reached out to both the faith and scientific communities to explain the similarities and method, mission and purpose between the two ways of perceiving the world. …Science tries to understand the order and structure of the universe; religion seeks to determine the purpose or meaning of life. Science focuses on how; religion asks why. …While science may be more empirical than religion, Dr. Townes argues that some assumptions about faith, like the efficacy of prayer, can be subjected to meaningful tests. In addition, Dr. Townes points out that both scientists and theologians seek truth that transcends current human understanding. Because both are human perspectives trying to explain and define meaning in the universe, both are fraught with uncertainty.”
Dr. Shi also emphasized Professor Townes lifelong engagement with theological concepts derived from insights and images gleaned from physics. “Dr. Townes emphasis on similarities between Science and Religion has made the dialogue between people of faith and people of science less confrontational and more sensitive to their shared concern – that is, answering fundamental questions about ultimate reality. Dr. Townes has demonstrated conclusively that faith is as crucial for science as reason is for religion. In this lifelong quest for truth in two intersecting domains, Charles Townes serves as a model of rationality informed by faith. He invites others to share in his sophisticated commitment to the search for spiritual knowledge grounded in science.”
Dr. Shi concludes by commending Dr. Townes’ awe-inspiring energy. “He still directs post-doctoral students, still speaks and writes with verve, passion, and humility about religious faith and scientific research, and still inspires others with his goodness and Godliness. He has made a profound contribution to the progress of exploring, discovering and embracing the awe and wonder of God’s creation.”
It is from this framework of Dr. Townes’ lifelong commitment to the intersecting of a quest for truth, both in Science and Religion and in his serving as a model of rationality informed by faith, that I would like now to ask Dr. Charles Townes, the 2005 Templeton Prizewinner, to come forward and share some remarks with us.