Proponent of the multiverse and the universe as simulation wins this year’s Templeton Prize
The Prize has been awarded to Martin Rees. As Daniel Cressey tells it in Nature (6 April 2011),
Controversial ‘spirituality’ award goes to a scientist for fourth year in a row.
Martin Rees, an astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge, UK, and former head of the Royal Society in London, today received the 2011 prize, worth £1 million (US$1.62 million), which rewards “a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”.
The prize and the foundation have both attracted attacks from high-profile atheist scientists, who accuse them of attempting to insert religion needlessly into science. Rees says that he has no problem with accepting the prize, and he refuses to be drawn on the controversy, saying, “I have no comment on the views other people have.”
He also says he has no religious beliefs but sometimes attends Church of England services.
In 2004 Rees speculated controversially that we are living in a giant computer simulation:
Sir Martin Rees, Royal Society professor of astronomy at Cambridge University, said in a Channel 4 television documentary that on current trends that computers would be able to simulate worlds as complicated as the one we inhabit — or think we do.
“This raises the philosophical question: could we ourselves be in such a simulation and could what we think is the universe be some sort of vault of heaven rather than the real thing?” he asked.
At the Guardian, Mark Vernon thinks that Rees is an atheist, though a polite one:
Dawkins and Rees differ markedly on the tone with which the debate between science and religion should be conducted. Dawkins devotes his talents and resources to challenging, questioning and mocking faith. Rees, on the other hand, though an atheist, values the legacy sustained by the church and other faith traditions. He confesses a liking for choral evensong in the chapel of Trinity College. It seems a modest indulgence. The ethereal voices of rehearsing choristers can literally be heard from his front door. But for Dawkins this makes the man a “fervent believer in belief”. And that is a foul betrayal of science.
Rees dislikes that sort of thing, and when Hawking declared that philosophy is dead last year, he responded , “I know Stephen Hawking well enough to know that he has read very little philosophy and even less theology, so I don’t think we should attach any weight to his views on this topic,” he said.