Templeton Prize Awarded to Rolston

Mar 22, 2003 02:51 PM EST

The 2003 Templeton Prize has been awarded to the renowned professor, philosopher, clergyman, and scientist, Homes Rolston III, 70. The prestigious prize is given annually to an individual who significantly advanced and encouraged spiritual understanding.

Rolston III is best known for his explorations in biology and faith, tying together religious interest and the state of our environment. He is credited with laying the foundations for a faith-based environmental ethic that had led to major development in Western religious traditions for over two decades. His work and research has been translated into 18 languages.

Rolston, the University of Colorado philosophy professor, ordained Presbyterian minister and student of physics and mathematics challenged religious and scientific principles, which he believed contributed to environmental degradation.

His main thesis centered on the argument that the crisis of the environment is essentially a crisis of the spirit.

"Our planetary crisis is one of spiritual information, not so much sustainable development, certainly not escalating consumption, but using the Earth with justice and charity," he said. "Science cannot take us there; religion perhaps can," said Rolston.

He specifically pointed to the verse in Genesis 1 where God commands Adam to ¡°rule and subdue the Earth,¡± asserting that humans are to dominate the Earth.

He also criticized the widespread religious belief that science is ¡°value free,¡± in his breakthrough essay in Ethics magazine, 1975.

"Science thought nature to be value-free. Monotheism thought nature fallen owing to human sin. They agreed that humans were the center of value on Earth. I had to fight both," Rolston said.

Rolston placed man within an anthropomorphic natural world system, and ascribed fundamental goodness to all of God¡¯s creation, including ecosystems. He asserted that humans should not foreclose themselves from the use of resources, but instead place themselves in an ethic of service to all nature.

"There is intrinsic value in nature," Rolston said. "Nature is what it is in itself, independent of goods to be obtained."

Since his breakthrough research, virtually every major denomination has sided in defense of the environment. However, Rolston says much more remains to be done.

"The promise sort of outreaches performance," he said. "I don't want to tell anybody in the religious community they can relax, that they've accomplished what they ought to be doing."

The Templeton prize, established in 1972 by Sir John Templeton is valued at over one million dollars. Past recipients include Nobel Peace Prize winner the late Mother Teresa and evangelist Billy Graham.

By Pauline J.