Templeton Prize: A “regress” or progress in religion?

April 8, 2000

We previously reported that the 2000 winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was awarded to an agnostic! Freeman Dyson, who is not an atheist, however, is a mathematician who works at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study. Interestingly enough, the man who won this award for supposedly helping to bridge the gap between science and religion had the following to say in a 1978 interview with Monte Davis of Omni magazine—it appears that his views have not changed much over the past 22 years given some of his recent comments to the press, and he remains a staunch evolutionist:

  • “It’s always difficult to mix science and religion without making a fool of oneself—in fact, it’s probably impossible, and one is probably very unwise even to try … .”
  • Concerning the evolution of life: “It’s … hard for us to grasp the time scale involved, it’s unimaginably long. As a rule of thumb, it takes a million years to evolve a new species, ten million for a new genus, one hundred million for a class, a billion for a phylum … and that’s about as far as your imagination can go. In five billion years or less, we’ve evolved from some sort of primordial slime into human beings … what would happen in another ten billion years? It’s just utterly impossible to conceive of ourselves changing as drastically as that over and over again, but … I think all you can say is that the material form that life would take on that kind of time scale is completely open. To change from a human being to a black cloud may seem a big order, but it’s the kind of change you’d expect anyway over billions of years. There’s all the time in the world for evolution before the sun runs out of fuel.”
  • Concerning the evolution of humans, he adds a mystical element: “For apes to come out of the trees, and change in the direction of being able to write down Maxwell’s equations … I don’t think you can explain that by natural selection at all. It’s just a miracle.”

In February 1998, Dyson was interviewed for Wired magazine and stated the following:

  • “… I get invited to a number of meetings on what they call ‘Science and Religion’ or ‘Science and Theology,’ and I talk with theologians. I don’t find it very helpful. I take my religion without theology … .”
  • “Most religions in the world don’t have theology. Theology is something very peculiar to Christianity. It didn’t even come from Jesus. It was an accident. The Greek world was heavily philosophical at the time Christianity was developing, and so the Christians adopted all this jargon from Greek philosophy and incorporated it into their religion; that became theology. I’ve never found it essential to my religion or to other religions. Judaism has practically no theology, and Islam has very little—Buddhism, even less.”
  • Although an agnostic, he has an affinity for Christianity, qualifying it with: “… but of a very watered-down kind —essentially, what’s left over after you get rid of the theology. The Church of England is pretty close to it.”

These quotes come from a man who was awarded almost $1 million by the Templeton Foundation for “progress” in religion! If he would only discard his evolutionary belief system and get his answers from Genesis, he would have a strong foundation for a theology that would recognize that Christ is his Creator as well as Savior.

(Research by Stacia Byers.)

Published: 11 February 2006