Martin Rees Wins Templeton Prize

By Chris Mooney | April 6, 2011 11:18 am

While in Cambridge last summer, I had the pleasure of meeting the astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees and touring the master’s rooms and gardens in Trinity College–which is something like heaven on Earth. So I knew the Templeton program was a big fan of Rees–but I didn’t know he’d be the next winner of the Templeton Prize.

Until recently the head of the Royal Society, Rees is credited with asking the “big questions” in his explorations of astrophysics and the nature of the universe–or multiverse–but also with being a leader in the scientific community in drawing attention to the problem of climate change.

There’s a very notable fact here: Rees is not religious, though he calls Anglican traditions the “customs of my tribe.”

Let’s end with some words from Rees in acceptance of the prize:

Some people might surmise that intellectual immersion in vast expanses of space and time would render cosmologists serene and uncaring about what happens next year, next week, or tomorrow. But, for me, the opposite is the case. My concerns are deepened by the realisation that, even in a perspective extending billions of years into the future, as well as into the past, this century may be a defining moment. Our planet has existed for 45 million centuries, but this is the first in its history where one species – ours – has Earth’s future in its hands, and could jeopardise not only itself, but life’s immense potential.

I applaud the Templeton Foundation for choosing such a distinguished scientific leader to receive its biggest award. For more on the Templeton Prize, see here.


Comments (7)

  1. That should lay to rest Dawkins’s old assertion that the Templeton is given to scientists who constantly “say something nice about religion”.

  2. Mr Sitta

    ‘The earths furture in our hands’ homo egotistical nonsense. The earth doesn’t care a jot whether we take ourselves and 90% of the rest of the macrofauna with us. Its happened before – in a few million years time it will be back to business as usual.

  3. You’re right curious, it can also go to people who say that religion and science are aprt of non-overlapping magisteria. And everyone knows the first two rules of that stance.

    1.) Science cannot say anything about the claims of religion or the supernatural realm.

    And of course, to be fair:

    2.) Science cannot say anything about the claims of religion or the supernatural realm.

    *rolls eyes*

    Congrats to Rees who joins such distinguished templeton prize-winners as Mother Theresa (we all know how much she advocated for science and human dignity!) and the Reverend Billy Graham (best spokesman for science I think I’ve ever seen!)

  4. I’m not sure why some hold such a paranoid view of the Templeton Prize (attributing all manner of sinister ulterior motives to it), except that they’ve bought into a simplistic characterization of it, rather than what it actually is.

    re: non-overlapping magisteria: Religionists put their faith in non-empirical qualities; scientists put their faith, YES faith, in that which they perceive as evidence (though they can never prove the evidence, nor the truth of their perceptions). In the end, both operate out of belief, because there are NO ways of knowing, only ways of believing, of which science is one (and there are many kinds of science, as well). Some scientists inherently understand that nothing is certain, while others actually (and simplistically) think they ‘know’ things. But these arguments will go on and on and on…

  5. A few bad apples don’t spoil the barrel

  6. Chris Mooney

    I have so much to say about this…and yet I wonder what is the point. Clearly, people’s views are beyond firm on this matter.

  7. saulsky

    I’m putting my early vote in for next year’s Templeton Prize. AC Grayling, author of an unusual new book:

    Two new Atheist Bibles have just been released. They deliver the messages of peace, equality in all things, justice, intellectualism, humanitarian behaviour in general; they are both an advanced humanist approach to the world. You will not find a strident word in either of them. One of them was written by AC Grayling and the other does not have an author. The Good Book and 21st Century Testament.

    Next year’s Templeton winner, AC Grayling.
    According to the Criteria of Merit on the Templeton website he certainly qualifies.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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