Washington (AFP) – The annual Templeton Prize, which recognizes outstanding contributions to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” was awarded Tuesday to Brazilian Marcelo Gleiser — a theoretical physicist dedicated to demonstrating science and religion are not enemies.
A physics and astronomy professor whose specializations include cosmology, 60-year-old Gleiser was born in Rio de Janeiro, and has been in the United States since 1986.
“Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method,” Gleiser told AFP Monday from Dartmouth College, the New Hampshire university where he has taught since 1991.
“Atheism is a belief in non-belief. So you categorically deny something you have no evidence against.”
The prize is funded by the John Templeton Foundation — a philanthropic organization named after the American Presbyterian who made his fortune on Wall Street, and who set on “seeking proofs of divine agency in every branch of science”, as The Economist put it.
Gleiser joins Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and dissident Soviet author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as recipients of the prize, first awarded in 1973. At £1.1 million ($1.5 million), the prize money well surpasses that of the Nobels.
he accuses the “new atheists” of doing a disservice to science by making an enemy out of religion: notably British scientist Richard Dawkins — who called for the arrest of Pope Benedict XVI over pedophilia in the Catholic Church — and the late journalist Christopher Hitchens, who criticized Mother Theresa.
“It’s extremely arrogant from scientists to come down from the ivory towers and make these declarations without understanding the social importance of belief systems.”
“When you hear very famous scientists making pronouncements like … cosmology has explained the origin of the universe and the whole, and we don’t need God anymore. That’s complete nonsense,” he added.
“Because we have not explained the origin of the universe at all.”
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