Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Winning the Prize...thank God!

If you could win an award of noteworthy significance, what would it be? The Nobel prize? The Pulitzer? An Oscar? How about the Templeton Prize?

Never heard of it? Not many have. It is given annually by the Templeton Foundation for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. It was intentionally created and funded to provide a larger amount of money to the recipient than the Nobel prize. As of 2006, it is the largest financial award given to any individual of "intellectual" merit for "trying various ways for discoveries and breakthroughs to expand human perceptions of divinity and to help in the acceleration of divine creativity."

Wow! Richard Dawkins, as you might imagine, has summarily criticized the prize as "a very large sum of money given (...) usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion." Scientists? Sometimes. But other recipients include Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Charles Colson, and Bill Bright (Campus Crusade for Christ). But this year, the award went to Charles Taylor, a political and social philosopher whose teaching career was mainly at McGill University in Montreal.

Taylor failed in politics, trying on four separate occasions to win a seat for the New Democrats, most famously in 1965 to Pierre Trudeau. But today, by winning the Templeton prize, who needs politics?

But let's forget politics for a moment. Taylor is the first Canadian to win the prize. I don't really have a viewpoint on how deserving a recipient Taylor might be, but I am curious how his work will be represented in Canada now he has received this notoriety. I am also curious whether there will be any clarification in his subsequent work as to how the "religious option" can help to improve society. He evidently plans to study how human and biological sciences relate to one another. Evidently, he doesn't completely agree with Stephen Jay Gould that science and religion are "non-overlapping magisteria", but he is somewhat ambivalent nonetheless...perhaps that is one reason why he won the Templeton prize. But let's watch and see what this Canadian does with his 1.4 million dollars, shall we?

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