Barrow Wins Templeton Prize
From The New York Times:
Continuing a recent trend in which the world's richest religion prize has gone to scientists, John D. Barrow, a British cosmologist whose work has explored the relationship between life and the laws of physics, was named the winner yesterday of the 2006 Templeton Prize for progress or research in spiritual matters.
Dr. Barrow will receive the $1.4 million prize during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace on May 3. The prize was created in 1972 by the philanthropist Sir John Marks Templeton, who specified that its monetary value always exceed that of the Nobel Prize. Five of the last six winners have been scientists. Asked about this, Dr. Barrow said, “Maybe they ask the most interesting questions.”
Dr. Barrow, 53, a mathematical sciences professor at the University of Cambridge, is best known for his work on the anthropic principle, which has been the subject of debate in physics circles in recent years. Life as we know it would be impossible, he and others have pointed out, if certain constants of nature — numbers denoting the relative strengths of fundamental forces and masses of elementary particles — had values much different from the ones they have, leading to the appearance that the universe was “well tuned for life,” as Dr. Barrow put it.
Make the commonplace and trivial observation that the universe is congenial to our sort of life, assert this is evidence for God, ignore rival explanations that can claim at least some evidential support, win $1.4 million. Lovely.
The Times article closes with:
Noting that Charles Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey, Dr. Barrow said that in contrast with the so-called culture wars in America, science and religion had long coexisted peaceably in England. “The concept of a lawful universe with order that can be understood and relied upon emerged largely out of religious beliefs about the nature of God,” he said.
That last claim gets repeated a lot, but it sounds like nonsense to me. The concept of a lawful universe with order that can be understood and relied upon seems amply justified by our everyday experience. Adding God to the mix only creates a reason not to have confidence in the regularities of mature.