Accessibility links

Breaking News

British Cosmologist Wins World's Biggest Prize for Studies on Religion And Science

A British cosmologist who writes about the relationship between life and universe is the winner of the 2006 Templeton Prize, the world's biggest monetary award to an individual.

John Barrow, a professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge in Britain, has won the $1.4 million award.

The annual prize is given by a foundation started by the mutual fund pioneer John Templeton to encourage research that bridges science and religion. In naming Barrow the 2006 winner, the foundation said "the scientist has used insights from mathematics, physics and astronomy to set out wide-ranging views that challenge scientists and theologians to cross the boundaries of their disciplines."

Barrow is the author of 17 books that have been translated into 27 languages.

In his writings, Barrow often explores the limits of certainty in both religion and science. For example, Barrow says that even though Isaac Newton's 300-year-old theory of gravity has been superceded, it fundamentally remains true.

"You see, Newton's theory will always end up* being the limiting situation of slow motion and weak gravitational fields of whatever the ultimate theory turns out to be," he said. "The old turns out to be part of the deeper truth that the new uncovers. So in our religious conceptions of the universe we necessarily also use approximations and analogies and simple pictures to try and envision things which are beyond our complete grasp. Those pictures are not the whole truth, but that does not stop them being apart of the whole truth."

Previous winners of the prize, in addition to scientists, have been Mother Teresa, and Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

* - correction posted 20 March 2006