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Each year the John Templeton Foundation gives a monetary award in the amount of £1,000,000 sterling to an “ entrepreneur of the spirit “:

outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of human purpose and ultimate reality. The Prize celebrates no particular faith tradition or notion of God, but rather the quest for progress in humanity’s efforts to comprehend the many and diverse manifestations of the Divine.

This year they gave the award to theoretical astrophysicist Martin Rees, a man who doesn’t believe God exists, claims to have no religious beliefs, and is skeptical that science and religion can have a constructive dialogue. Here is an interview with Rees by The Guardian :

Ian Sample: The suggestion is that science deals with the “material world” and religion deals with something “extra-material”. Where does one end and the other start? There are aspects of religion that comment on the creation of Earth, the creation of the universe, the creation of humanity and the spread of HIV around Africa. Religion appears in those contexts, but are those not material issues?

Martin Rees: Yes. Obviously. But I think just as religion is separate from science, so is ethics separate from science. So is aesthetics separate from science. And so are many other things. There are lots of important things that are separate from science.

IS: If there is a clear and obvious boundary between science and religion, how does religion come to be used in these contexts?

MR: I try to avoid getting into these science and religion debates.

IS: Will you be able to stay out of them now you have the Templeton prize?

MR: It’s my choice.

Some of the previous award winners: Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Charles W. Colson, Michael Novak, John C. Polkinghorne, William R. “Bill” Bright, Michael Heller, Charles Taylor. I’d be curious to hear more about why Templeton considered Rees the best choice for the award.

[Note: After reconsidering some of my comments, I’ve made some changes to this post. I was overly judgmental—a common failing I have in Spring (and Summer, Fall, Winter, etc.).]

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