Each year the Templeton Prize is awarded to a living person who has “made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.” This year’s winner is French physicist and philosopher of science, Bernard d’Espagnat:
From the mid-1960s through the early 1980s, d’Espagnat, 87, was a philosophical visionary in the physics research community. He played a key role during this revolutionary period of exploration and development in quantum mechanics, specifically on experiments testing the “Bell’s inequalities” theorem. Definitive results published in 1981 and 1982 verified that Bell’s inequalities were violated in the way quantum mechanics predicts, leading to a clear confirmation of the phenomenon of “non-local entanglement,” which in turn was an important step in the later development of “quantum information science,” a flourishing contemporary domain of research combining physics, information science, and mathematics.
D’Espagnat, Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics at the University of Paris-Sud, also explored the philosophical importance of these new physics-based insights into the nature of reality. Much of his early work on the subject centers on what he calls “veiled reality,” a hidden yet unifying domain beneath what we perceive as time, space, matter, and energy – concepts challenged by quantum physics as possibly mere appearances. Since then, his writings and lectures on fundamental questions such as “What deep insights does science reveal about the nature of reality?” have provoked debate among scientists and philosophers.
At The Global Spiral, you can also find D’Espagnat’s personal statement on winning this year’s Templeton Prize, as well as testimonials from some of his peers, including Alain Aspect and Brian Greene.
Established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton, the Prize’s monetary value is set to always to exceed the value of a Nobel Prize, due to Templeton’s belief that the Nobel Prizes ignored intellectual pursuit of the ‘spiritual’ side of life. Richard Dawkins has been scathing in his criticism of the Prize, describing it as “a very large sum of money given…usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion,” and that the money “corrupts science”.