This years $1.6 million dollar Templeton Prize has been awarded to astronomer and cosmologist Sir Martin Rees. The Templeton Foundation has traditionally been largely devoted to promoting the intersection of science and religion, so one surprising aspect of this choice is that, while Rees is a very accomplished scientist, he doesn’t believe in God (although he likes the music and architecture in churches):
In fact, Rees has no religious beliefs, but considers himself a product of Christian culture and ethics, explaining, “I grew up in the traditions of the Anglican Church and those are ‘the customs of my tribe.’ I’m privileged to be embedded in its wonderful aesthetic and musical traditions and I want to do all I can to preserve and strengthen them.”
Rees does seem to believe in something that the Templeton people are willing to take as a replacement for belief in God: belief in the Multiverse. He has been one of the leading figures promoting the Multiverse and anthropic explanations, even before the recent string theory landscape pseudo-science made this so popular. For more about his views, see a 2003 interview In the Matrix, which leads off with:
All these multiverse ideas lead to a remarkable synthesis between cosmology and physics…But they also lead to the extraordinary consequence that we may not be the deepest reality, we may be a simulation. The possibility that we are creations of some supreme, or super-being, blurs the boundary between physics and idealist philosophy, between the natural and the supernatural, and between the relation of mind and multiverse and the possibility that we’re in the matrix rather than the physics itself.
Something for future Templeton candidates to keep in mind: no need now to believe in a Christian God, belief in “The Matrix” is good enough.