The Templeton Prize is one of the major prizes in science – $1.4 million in prize money helps – but it’s a bit of an oddball because it emphasizes the non-quantifiable part of human knowledge. It was awarded today to Marcelo Gleiser, a cosmologist at Dartmouth.
The Prize’s writeup says this about him: “Gleiser is a prominent voice among scientists, past and present, who reject the notion that science alone can lead to ultimate truths about the nature of reality. Instead, in his parallel career as a public intellectual, he reveals the historical, philosophical, and cultural links between science, the humanities, and spirituality, and argues for a complementary approach to knowledge, especially on questions where science cannot provide a final answer.” In my hard-science youth I scoffed at that sort of approach but it resonates much more strongly with me these days.
There’s a story about him in the Valley News today (read it here) which adds two bits of local color: he “trains for ultramarathons on trails around Hanover” and he has an autographed picture of Albert Einstein.
For a more complex discussion, check the Scientific American interview, titled “Atheism is Inconsistent with the Scientific Method.” Gleiser says he’s agnostic; atheism is too certain without sufficient evidence, he says. I would agree, with the proviso that agnosticism is indistinguishable from atheism in terms of how you actually live.