The 2004 Templeton Prize Laureate, Dr. George F. R. Ellis, is a theoretical cosmologist and Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Dr. Holmes Rolston, III, the 2003 prizewinner known as the "father of environmental ethics," is Professor of Philosophy at Colorado State University and a Presbyterian minister. The Rev. Dr. John C. Polkinghorne, a mathematical physicist and Anglican priest from Cambridge, England, received the 2002 Templeton Prize.
Moderating the event will be Dr. Owen Gingerich, Research Professor of Astronomy and History of Science at Harvard University, and author of The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus, recently published by Walker and Co.
The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities is the world's best-known religion prize, given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance spiritual matters. Valued at 795,000 pounds sterling, more than $1 million, it is the world's largest annual monetary prize given to an individual.
George Ellis, 64, is known for his bold and innovative contributions to the dialogue between science and religion, and for his social writings that brought condemnation from government ministers in the former apartheid regime of his native South Africa. A specialist in general relativity theory, an area first broadly investigated by Einstein, Ellis is considered to be among a handful of the world's leading relativistic cosmologists. His most recent investigations question whether or not there was ever a start to the universe and, indeed, if there is only one universe or many.
Ellis advocates balancing the rationality of evidence-based science with faith and hope, a view shaped in part by his firsthand experiences in South Africa as it peacefully transformed from apartheid to multi-racial democracy without succumbing to racial civil war. He describes that history as a "confounding of the calculus of reality" that can only be explained as the causal effect of forces beyond the explanation of hard science, including issues such as aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and meaning.
Holmes Rolston, 72, is one of the world's leading advocates for protecting the Earth's biodiversity and ecology in recognition of the intrinsic value of creation. His 30 years of research, books published in 18 languages, and lectures delivered around the world on the religious imperative to respect nature have helped to establish the field of environmental ethics. Rolston is at the forefront of those who join biology and religion for the understanding of Earth's evolutionary ecosystems, an effort made all the more critical by escalating environmental concerns worldwide.
John Polkinghorne, 73, is a mathematical physicist and Anglican priest whose treatment of theology as a natural science has made him a leading figure in this emerging field. He resigned a prestigious position as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge in 1979 to pursue theological studies, becoming a priest in 1982. His extensive writings and lectures have consistently applied scientific habits to Christianity, resulting in modern and compelling explorations of the faith. His approach to the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy - including the Trinity, Christ's resurrection after death, and God's creation of the universe - has brought him international recognition as a unique voice for understanding the Bible as well as evolving doctrine.
Sir John Templeton, the financier who pioneered global investment strategies, founded the Templeton Prize in 1972, stipulating that its monetary value always exceed the Nobel Prizes to underscore his belief that advances in spiritual discoveries can be quantifiably more significant than those honored by the Nobels. The Prize is awarded by the John Templeton Foundation, a not-for-profit organization based in Radnor, Pennsylvania. The foundation pursues new insights at the boundary between theology and science through rigorous, open-minded and empirically focused methodologies, drawing together talented representatives from a wide spectrum of fields of expertise. It currently helps to finance more than 300 projects, studies, award programs and publications worldwide.