A French physicist and philosopher of science who has opened new vistas on the definition of reality and the potential limits of knowable science, has been awarded the 2009 Templeton Prize.

Bernard d’Espagnat – winner of the 2009 Templeton Prize

source – www.templetonprize.org

Bernard d’Espagnat, a French physicist and philosopher of science whose explorations of the philosophical implications of quantum physics have opened new vistas on the definition of reality and the potential limits of knowable science, has won the 2009 Templeton Prize.

In his nomination of d’Espagnat for the Templeton Prize, Nidhal Guessoum, Chair of Physics at American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, wrote, “He has constructed a coherent body of work which shows why it is credible that the human mind is capable of perceiving deeper realities.”

These perceptions offer, d’Espagnat has said, “the possibility that the things we observe may be tentatively interpreted as signs providing us with some perhaps not entirely misleading glimpses of a higher reality and, therefore, that higher forms of spirituality are fully compatible with what seems to emerge from contemporary physics.”

In a statement prepared for the news conference, d’Espagnat pointed out that since science cannot tell us anything certain about the nature of being, clearly it cannot tell us with certainty what it is not.

“Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated.
On the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being.”

D’Espagnat stressed the role of science in grasping empirical reality, that is, the reality of experience or observation. He went on, however, to note that other methods of insight, including the arts, provide windows on understanding the true realities that lie behind things, what he described as “the ground of things.” “Artistic emotions essentially imply the impression of a mysterious realm which we may merely catch a glimpse of,” he said. “Science and only science yields true knowledge. On the other hand, concerning the ground of things, science has no such privilege.”

The 2009 Templeton Prize will be officially awarded to d’Espagnat by HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, May 5th.

Templeton Prize

The Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Established in 1972 by the late Sir John Templeton, the Prize aims, in his words, to identify “entrepreneurs of the spirit”-outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding our vision of ultimate purpose and reality. The Prize celebrates no particular faith tradition or notion of God, but rather the quest for progress in humanity’s efforts to comprehend the many and diverse manifestations of the Divine.

Men and women of any creed, profession, or national origin may be nominated for the Templeton Prize. The distinguished roster of previous winners includes representatives of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The Prize has been awarded to physicists, philosophers, theologians, ministers, philanthropists, writers, and reformers, for work that has ranged from the creation of new religious orders and social movements to humanistic scholarship and research about the origins of the universe.

What these remarkable people have shared is a devotion to one or more of the Big Questions at the core of the John Templeton Foundation’s mandate. All have been seekers of wisdom, humbled by the complexity of the human condition but determined to chart a path forward with their ideas and deeds. Some Templeton Prize laureates have demonstrated the transformative power of virtues like love, forgiveness, gratitude, and creativity. Others have provided new insights on scientific questions relating to infinity, ultimate reality, and purpose in the cosmos. Still others have used the tools of the humanities to provide new perspectives on the spiritual dilemmas of modern life. The Prize seeks and encourages breadth of vision, recognizing that human beings take their spiritual bearings from a range of experiences.

Monetary award – 1,000,000

The Prize is a monetary award in the amount of 1,000,000 sterling. The monetary value of the prize is set always to exceed the Nobel Prizes to underscore Templeton’s belief that benefits from discoveries that illuminate spiritual questions can be quantifiably more vast than those from other worthy human endeavors.