BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  Sci/Tech
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 16:46 GMT
British physicist wins religious prize
Polkinghorne, AP
Polkinghorne: Winner of lucrative prize
John Polkinghorne, an Anglican priest and former professor at Cambridge University, UK, has won the 2002 Templeton Prize for progress in religion.

[Science and religion both] believe that there is a truth to be sought and to be found

John Polkinghorne
A fellow of the British academy of science, the Royal Society, John Polkinghorne specialised in work on sub-atomic particles before entering the priesthood.

He said he wanted to take science and religion with great and equal seriousness, seeing them as complementary to each other and not as rivals.

The prize is the world's most lucrative annual prize for an individual, earning the winner £700,000 ($1m).

Sub-atomic particles

Author of many books, Dr Polkinghorne has made his name applying the same rigorous scientific disciplines that he mastered as a mathematical physicist to the study of theology.

Many of these attempt to marry theology with science.

For instance, he argues that evolution is not opposed to believing in God, but is a perfect fit with the concept of a God-given gift of creation that continues to be and to make itself.

He resigned as professor of Mathematical Physics in 1979, after creating mathematical models that predict the movement of sub-atomic particles. These calculations helped reveal the structure of matter.

He then entered the priesthood, becoming a parish priest before returning to Cambridge where he was president of Queens' College for three years.

No conflict

Dr Polkinghorne said at a news conference in New York, US, that science and religion both "believe that there is a truth to be sought and to be found, a truth whose attainment comes through the pursuit of well-motivated belief".

Science studies "the processes of the world, while religion is concerned with the deeper issue of whether there is a divine meaning and purpose behind what is going on", he said.

Both pursuits are valid, Dr Polkinghorne said, adding he never found a "head-on collision" between science and religion.

The former Cambridge academic will receive the award from Prince Philip on 29 April at Buckingham Palace in London.

Many honours

In 1997, Dr Polkinghorne was knighted for distinguished service to science, religion, learning and medical ethics.

The Templeton Prize is given each year for outstanding originality in advancing the world's understanding of God or spirituality. It is always set at an amount that exceeds the value of the Nobels.

The first winner was Mother Teresa in 1973. Others include the Rev Dr Billy Graham (1982), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1983), physicist Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker (1989), and Benedictine monk and professor of astrophysics Stanley Jaki (1987).

Last year's recipient was the Rev Canon Dr Arthur Peacocke, an ordained Anglican priest, Oxford University faculty member and a biochemist who pioneered early research into DNA.

Two more of Dr Polkinghorne's books are due for publication later this year: The God of Hope and the End of the World, and Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction.

The BBC's Mark Duff
"Dr Polkinghorne steadfastly defends the role of science"
See also:

09 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Scientist wins $1m religion prize
10 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
The mysteries of creation
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories