Science and Religion Dialogue: Why It Matters

THU, AUG 19, 2004

Three world-renowned recipients of the Templeton Prize - a cosmologist, a philosopher, and a mathematical physicist and Anglican priest - engage in a dialogue on the common borders of science and theology. "The Science and Religion Dialogue: Why It Matters" is scheduled during the annual meeting of the International Society of Science and Religion. The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities is the world's best-known religion prize, given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance spiritual matters. Valued at 795,000 pounds sterling, more than $1 million, it is the world's largest annual monetary prize given to an individual.

The 2004 Templeton Prize laureate, George F. R. Ellis, is a theoretical cosmologist, and professor of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Holmes Rolston, III, the 2003 prizewinner known as the "father of environmental ethics," is professor of philosophy at Colorado State University and a Presbyterian minister. John C. Polkinghorne, a mathematical physicist and Anglican priest from Cambridge, England, received the 2002 Templeton Prize.Moderating the event will be Owen Gingerich, Research Professor of Astronomy and History of Science at Harvard University, and author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus, recently published by Walker and Co.

George Ellis, 64, is known for his bold and innovative contributions to the dialogue between science and religion, and for his social writings that brought condemnation from government ministers in the former apartheid regime of his native South Africa. A specialist in general relativity theory, an area first broadly investigated by Einstein, Ellis is considered to be among a handful of the world's leading relativistic cosmologists. His most recent investigations question whether or not there was ever a start to the universe and, indeed, if there is only one universe or many.

Ellis advocates balancing the rationality of evidence-based science with faith and hope, a view shaped in part by his firsthand experiences in South Africa as it peacefully transformed from apartheid to multi-racial democracy without succumbing to racial civil war. He describes that history as a "confounding of the calculus of reality "that can only be explained as the causal effect of forces beyond the explanation of hard science, including issues such as aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and meaning.

Holmes Rolston, 72, is one of the world's leading advocates for protecting the Earth'sbiodiversity and ecology in recognition of the intrinsic value of creation. His 30 years of research, books published in 18 languages, and lectures delivered around the world on the religious imperative to respect nature have helped to establish the field of environmental ethics. Rolston is at the forefront of those who join biology and religion for the understanding of Earth's evolutionary ecosystems, an effort made all the more critical by escalating environmental concerns worldwide.

John Polkinghorne, 73, is a mathematical physicist and Anglican priest whose treatment of theology as a natural science has made him a leading figure in this emerging field. He resigned a prestigious position as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge in 1979 to pursue theological studies, becoming a priest in 1982. His extensive writings and lectures have consistently applied scientific habits to Christianity, resulting in modern and compelling explorations of the faith. His approach to the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy including the Trinity, Christ's resurrection after death, and God's creation of the universe - has brought him international recognition as a unique voice for understanding the Bible as well as evolving doctrine.

Sir John Templeton, the financier who pioneered global investment strategies, founded the Templeton Prize in 1972, stipulating that its monetary value always exceed the Nobel Prizes to underscore his belief that advances in spiritual discoveries can be quantifiably more significant than those honored by the Nobels. The Prize is awarded by the John Templeton Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in Radnor, Pennsylvania. The foundation pursues new insights at the boundary between theology and science through rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodologies, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. It currently helps to finance more than 300 projects, studies, award programs and publications worldwide.

For more information please visit either the John Templeton Foundation or Templeton Prize websites.

+ BIO: George F. R. Ellis

George F. R. Ellis, FRS, (born August 11, 1939) is the Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He co-authored The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with University of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, published in 1973, and is considered one of the world's leading theorists in cosmology. He is an active Quaker and in 2004 he won the Templeton Prize. From 1989 to 1992 he served as President of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation. Currently he is President of the International Society for Science and Religion. Ellis was a vocal opponent of apartheid during the National Party reign in the 1970s and 1980s, and it is during this period that Ellis' research has focused on the more philosophical aspects of cosmology, for which he won the Templeton Prize. He was also awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa by Nelson Mandela, in 1999. On May 18, 2007, he was elected a Fellow of the British Royal Society. In 2005 Ellis appeared as a guest speaker at the Nobel Conference in St. Peter, Minnesota.

+ BIO: Holmes Rolston III

Holmes Rolston is University Distinguished Professor of philosophy at Colorado State University. He has written six books, acclaimed in critical notice in both professional journals and the national press. The more recent are: Genes, Genesis and God (1999), Science and Religion: A Critical Survey, Philosophy Gone Wild, Environmental Ethics, and Conserving Natural Value. He has edited Biology, Ethics, and the Origins of Life. He has also written chapters in eighty other books and over one hundred articles.

Scholars have cited and discussed in print Rolston's work over two thousand times. His articles have been reprinted and anthologized one hundred times. His books have been used as texts in a hundred and fifty colleges and universities. His work is published in Australian, Canadian, British, German, Scandinavian, Slovenian, South African, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian presses and journals, translated, reviewed, or cited in journals and books in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Finnish, Danish, Czechoslovakian, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Slovenian, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese. Environmental Ethics, Philosophy Gone Wild, and Genes, Genesis and God are in Chinese translation.

Rolston was awarded the Templeton Prize in Religion in 2003, awarded by H.R.H. Prince Philip in Buckingham Palace. He was awarded the Mendel Medal by Villanova University in 2005. Rolston has spoken as distinguished lecturer on all seven continents. He gave the opening conference address to the Royal Institute of Philosophy annual conference, Cardiff, Wales, 1993. He was Distinguished Lecturer in Beijing, China, at the invitation of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Institute of Philosophy. He participated by invitation in pre-conferences and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, 1992, where he was an official observer. He spoke at the World Congress of Philosophy, Moscow, 1993, and again in Boston, 1998. He was distinguished Visiting Professor of Bioethics, Yale University, 2005-2006.

Rolston's work has received critical notice in The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, and other national papers. He has published in The Denver Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and New York Newsday.

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