Friday, March 26, 2010
He was Born into a middle-class family in the Bible-belt town of
Winchester, TN. His parents, devout Presbyterians, emphasized the virtues
of thrift and piety. Templeton learned both lessons so well that in 1968,
he renounced his US citizenship and moved to the Bahamas, becoming a
British citizen to avoid the US income tax. Having become one of the
richest men in the world, he was knighted by the Queen. While Templeton
may have genuinely believed the Christian myth, he also respected science.
Why shouldn't he? After all, the scientific revolution led to the
fantastic growth in the world economy that made him a billionaire.
Believing that science and theology are two windows onto the same
landscape, he set out to persuade scientists to delve into religion. He
went directly to the American Association for the Advancement of Science
with an offer of $1 million to create the AAAS Dialogue between Science and
Religion. Not everyone was happy about the AAAS selling part of its soul to
Templeton. Two years ago Templeton died, but the monster he created
carries on without him.
Francisco Ayala, an evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist at the
University of California, Berkeley was awarded the 2010 Templeton Prize in
a ceremony yesterday at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC.
A genuinely good person, Ayala authored "On Being a Scientist," a NAS
pamphlet on scientific ethics that should be part of the education of every
scientist. Ayala is a staunch opponent of Intelligent Design. The first
recipient of the Templeton Prize was Mother Theresa in 1973; in 1982 it was
Billy Graham, and in 1993 Charles Colson of Watergate fame, but his award
was delayed until he got out of prison. Most of the others who won the
prize are not household names. In 1999, however, Templeton had an
epiphany. Every recipient since has been a scientist or philosopher,
including one Nobel laureate, Charles Townes. News accounts put the cash
value of the Templeton prize at $1 million, but its now closer to $1.5
million, making it the largest cash prize for intellectual accomplishment
in the world. The endowment for the prize stipulates that the cash value
shall always be larger than the Nobel Prize. Its awarded annually
for "spiritual progress." How did the NAS get into this? Having once
sought to buy the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the
Templeton foundation must have set its sights on a bigger prize.
John Broder in today's New York Times says the concept of "cap and trade"
is in wide disrepute, with opponents branding it "cap and tax." So what do
we do? Of course we need to increase efficiency, reduce waste and protect
the environment, but these things will only slow the process we're already
in. What must be done is to reduce the fertility rate to below two, and
keep it below two until world population drops to about a third of what it
is now. It requires no draconian measures. We have only to educate women.