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The winner of the 2009 Templeton Prize was announced today in Paris. Bernard d'Espagnat, the French physicist and philosopher "whose explorations of the philosophical implications of quantum physics have opened new vistas on the definition of reality and the potential limits of knowable science," will take home the prize:

D’Espagnat, a former senior physicist at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva and professor at French and United States universities, argues in his books that modern quantum physics shows that ultimate reality cannot be described.

Classical physics developed by Isaac Newton believes it can describe the world through laws of nature that it knows or will discover. But quantum physics shows that tiny particles defy this logic and can act in indeterminate ways.

D’Espagnat says this points toward a reality beyond the reach of empirical science. The human intuitions in art, music and spirituality can bring us closer to this ultimate reality, but it is so mysterious we cannot know or even imagine it.

“Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated,” he said. “On the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being.”

D’Espagnat was raised a Roman Catholic, but, according to an interview with Reuters, he currently does not practice any religion and considers himself "a spiritualist." D'Espagnat argues that the ultimate reality is "so mysterious we cannot know or even imagine it." One suspects that D'Espagnat would have an easier time imagining the ultimate reality had he remained a Christian.



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