We're comprehenders too: it's near miraculous

The Templeton Prize Lecture for 2011, given by winner Martin Rees, was this evening. Rees delivered a condensed version of his Reith Lectures, repeating favourite themes such as how science should not be hubristic as the great ethical questions of our day require contributions from ‘beyond science’ too, not least to keep some doors closed that science might otherwise open. (That might seem blindingly obvious, but then listening to a muddled Moral Maze on the bus on the way home, clearly some do think that science naturally leads to morality.)

Rees also called for a seizing of the Templeton Foundation agenda because of what it does so well, which is to keep asking questions. That way it helps set the scientific agenda of tomorrow.

Paul Davies also offered some brief comments, not least that science needs to take account of the fact that we are not just observers of the universe, but comprehenders too. There’s a deep link between us and the cosmos, that is ‘near miraculous’.

George Ellis was prepared to get more theological too, arguing that the fact that mental intentionality is clearly causally effective – you wouldn’t be reading this if that was not the case – means that we should resist the scientistic tendency to reduce our humanity, as if some freedom of will doesn’t exist. Science can’t provide the motivation for action, he insisted.