March 8, 1995
NEW YORK (AP) -- An Australian physicist whose inquiries into the nature of the universe have breached the barriers dividing science and theology won the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion Wednesday.
Paul Davies, author of more than 20 books exploring the workings of the universe, was honored for numerous findings indicating there is purpose and design to human existence.
Davies, a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Adelaide, said the prize gives recognition to his belief that scientific research illuminates theological issues, and that no religion that ignores these advances can remain credible.
"By affirming that science and religion can engage in a constructive dialogue, the Templeton Prize serves to remove one of the abiding myths of our age -- that science is dehumanizing and that scientists peddle a message of despair. I for one will continue to teach my message of hope," he said.
The prize was established in 1972 by investment manager John M. Templeton to recognize individuals who advance the world's understanding of religion. It is the largest monetary prize for achievement in any field.
Previous winners include Mother Teresa, the Rev. Billy Graham and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Last year's winner was Michael Novak, a conservative Roman Catholic scholar.
Davies, 48, isn't interested in the ritual and practices of formal religion. In 1983, he wrote that
"science offers a surer path to God than religion."
Much of his work on subjects ranging from the origin of the universe to the ability of human beings to understand math and science reflects on the mystery of whether there is purpose and design to human existence.
For instance, he says that even minor changes in the way the universe was put together might have destroyed any chances for conscious life.
"Having spent half a lifetime working at the forefront of fundamental physics, I have found the use of words like 'design,' 'meaning' and 'purpose' irresistible," Davies said. "How can one accept a scheme of things so cleverly arranged, so subtle and felicitous, simply as a brute fact, as a package of properties that just happens to be?"
Davies' books include The Mind of God, published in 1992, which explores the relation between science and religion, and The Last Three Minutes, an account published in 1994 of various ways the universe might end.
The Templeton Prize will be awarded at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on May 5.