Like a Laser Beam: Townes Wins Templeton Prize for Religion

Scientist Charles Townes, the Nobel laureate whose inventions include the maser and laser and who has spent decades as a leading advocate for the convergence of science and religion, has won the 2005 Templeton Prize.

Awarded by the Templeton Foundation, “the Prize is intended to help people see the infinity of the Universal Spirit still creating the galaxies and all living things and the variety of ways in which the Creator is revealing himself to in which the Creator is revealing himself to different people. We hope all religions may become more dynamic and inspirational.”
Sir John Templeton, for many years a Presbyterian is now, well, an Everythingian. But the award goes to some interesting people, including in past years Mother Teresa, Alexandr Solzenitsyn, Billy Graham, and Chuck Colson.

Religion News Service reports on this year’s award:

Townes, 89, secured his place in the pantheon of great 20th-century scientists through his investigations into the properties of microwaves which resulted first in the maser, a device which amplifies electromagnetic waves, and later his co-invention of the laser, which amplifies and directs light waves into parallel direct beams. His research, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964, opened the door for an astonishing array of inventions and discoveries now in common use throughout the world in medicine, telecommunications, electronics, computers, and other areas.

It was the 1966 publication of his seminal article, “The Convergence of Science and Religion” in the IBM journal THINK, however, that established Townes as a unique voice – especially among scientists – that sought commonality between the two disciplines. Long before the concept of a relationship between scientific and theological inquiry became an accepted arena of investigation, his nonconformist viewpoint jumpstarted a movement that until then few had considered and even fewer comprehended. So rare was such a viewpoint at the time that Townes admitted in the paper that his position would be considered by many in both camps to be “extreme.”

Nonetheless, he proposed, “their differences are largely superficial,and…the two become almost indistinguishable if we look at the real nature of each.”

The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries aboutSpiritual Realities was founded in 1972 by pioneering global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. Given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance knowledge in spiritual matters and valued at 795,000 pounds sterling, the Templeton Prize is the world’s best known religion prize and the largest annual monetary prize given to an individual. The prize’s monetary value is in keeping with Sir John’s stipulation that it always be worth more than the Nobel Prizes to underscore his belief that research and advances in spiritual discoveries can bequantifiably more significant than those recognized by the Nobels.

–James Jewell

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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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