Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A good sign

Royal Astronomer and President of the Royal Society Martin Rees has been awarded the 2011 Templeton Prize. Story here.

Naturally, the usual suspects are complaining:

The award has drawn criticism from some scientists, including the Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who claim that the Templeton Foundation – which funds the prize – blurs the boundary between science and religion and makes a virtue of belief without evidence.
In fact, Dawkins has gone so far as to call Rees, arguably the most accomplished scientist in Britain, a "compliant Quisling" for his efforts to converse with religious thinkers. This, of course, dovetails with Dawkins' other statements about the evil of religion and the peril it provides to civilized society.

Personally I feel that's a load of hot air, but precisely why is something for another post. Needless to say that Dawkins' constant antagonizing of the faithful has not attracted much respectable attention from within his own scientific peers, if Rees is any indication. Sadly, I assume that his shrill pontifications on the badness of religious belief (a subject about which he knows quite little) will continue to attract the same sort of boors that presently infect the "skeptical" community and will continue to prevent religious people from walking away from Creationism (yes, I believe that he's partly to blame for that).

But I digress. Rees attitude towards religious thought, and the continued engagement between the scientific and religious communities which that represents, is a positive sign for a growth in amity between two very distinct groups who nevertheless share a common concern: what is the place of mankind in the universe?

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