March 10, 2001
SCIENTIST-THEOLOGIAN WINS TEMPLETON PRIZE
Peacocke, a physical biochemist and an Anglican priest who pioneered
early research into the physical chemistry of DNA a half century ago,
and has become a leading advocate of the compatibility of science and
theology - was awarded the 2001 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion
The first winner
of the Templeton Prize in 1973 was Mother Teresa. Others have been Billy
Graham, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Chuck Colson and Bill Bright.
For hundreds of
years scientists have mocked belief in God. Darwin said the origins of
life and even the human species could be explained by blind mechanisms.
By contrast, Dr. Peacocke has earned doctorates in both science and
theology and became so interested in what many see as the opposite of
science - religion - that he became a priest.
In an interview
with me, the day before his $1 million Templeton Prize was announced, he
said, ''The universe is not self-explanatory. Science can describe what
it is like, but it can not tell us why it is. I want to ask the question
conclusion: ''There must be a God. We can't prove God exists. But God
makes more sense than not believing. If any of the physical constants of
the world, such as gravitation were slightly different, carbon-based
life could never have evolved.''
in his short profound book, ''God: The Evidence,'' notes gravity is 1039
times weaker than electromagnetism. ''If gravity had been 1033 times
weaker than electromagnetism, stars would be a billion times less
massive and would burn a million times faster.
Not only does
Peacocke believe God created the universe, but ''Creation is going on
all the time. Time itself is created by God, and is an aspect of the
whole created order.''
The Rev. Canon
Dr. Arthur Peacocke was born in 1924, had a typical Church of England
upbringing by parents who left school at ages 14 and 11 respectively.
After winning scholarships as a young man, he became alienated from
''all things Christian.'' However, in attending a sermon by the then
Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, he began to think of
Christianity as intellectually defensible, but developed a career as a
biochemist who taught at Oxford.
In what had to
be courageous step, he began studying theology, receiving a Diploma in
Theology in 1960 and became a Lay Reader for the Church of England, but
found not being able to administer the sacraments ''like trying to walk
on one leg.'' After receiving his Doctor of Science degree from Oxford
for research in biochemistry, he was ordained in 1971 as a
''priest-scientist'' with no interest in being pastor of a local church.
''Science and the Christian Experiment'' outlined the parallel nature of
scientific and theological quests, an almost unheard of concept in 1971.
His 1976 book, ''Creation and The World of Science,'' was the first to
consider the ''anthropic principle,'' a rediscovery of the intricate
order and design of the universe, conditions that are exactly those
needed for human life to appear. He formed a creative synthesis
reinterpreting theology in the light of science.
principle (from the Greek word anthropos, ''man'') argues that all of
the myriad laws of physics and chemistry were fine-tuned by God from the
beginning of the universe for the emergence of human beings. Thus,
Peacocke stood up to scientists who for generations have described the
universe as mechanistic, impersonal and random.
for a Scientific Age,'' he even argued that God works ''to influence
events.'' He expounded both divine and human ''being and
becoming'' which led him to demonstrate that Christian beliefs are
consistent with science. However, he chides arguers of Creationism vs.
Evolution, an issue he feels has clearly been decided in favor of
In his press
conference this week, Peacocke said, ''The search for intelligibility
that characterizes science and the search for meaning that characterizes
religion are two necessary intertwined strands of the human enterprise
and are not opposed. They are essential to each other, complementary yet
distinct and strongly interacting indeed just like the two helical
strands of DNA itself!
I asked him what
he thought of Jesus. He replied, ''He is a full human being, but he is
so open to god, his person was saturated by the divine life. We see in
him the fundamental character of God, loving and self-offering...through
his death and resurrection.''
''Prayer is not about asking God to do things, but to be in a position
where God can work through you. Prayer is meditation, reflection,
quietly waiting upon God.''
Copyright 2001 Michael J.
2021: Column 2074: Reaching Age 80
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