Phi Beta Cons

The Biggest Prize

We’ve fussed over Sean Wilentz winning the Bancroft Prize, whose $10,000 cash award is a pittance compared to the $1.4 million purse that comes with the annual Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research of Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. This year’s Templeton winner, announced this week, is a math professor: John D. Barrow of the University of Cambridge. The payout is the richest in the world–from the standpoint of money if not prestige, a Templeton Prize is worth more than a Nobel. (The news briefly made me wish I’d paid more attention to my high-school trig teacher.) The purpose of the prize is described here:

How might humankind’s spiritual information and advancement increase by more than a hundredfold? This is the challenge presented by the Templeton Prize. Just as knowledge in science, medicine, cosmology and other disciplines has grown exponentially during the past century, the Templeton Prize honors and encourages the many entrepreneurs trying various ways for discoveries and breakthroughs to expand human perceptions of divinity and to help in the acceleration of divine creativity.

And here’s a short description of Barrow’s achievement:

Barrow, 53, who serves as Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge, 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 if they are to fully realize what they may or may not understand about how time, space, and matter began, the behavior of the universe (or, perhaps,

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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