News  |  Events

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences

News Release

March 9, 2005
For immediate release

Bonnie F. Johnston
Director of Communications

Professor Charles Townes, CTNS Board Member, Wins the 2005 Templeton Prize

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) congratulates Professor Charles Townes on being awarded the 2005 Templeton Prize. The announcement, which came on Wednesday, March 9, cited both his outstanding research in physics, including the co-invention of the maser/laser for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1964, and his long-standing contributions to dialogue between religion and science.

Townes's autobiography, Making Waves (AIP Press, 1995), includes a chapter on “The Convergence of Science and Religion.” Here Townes argues that "faith is necessary for the scientist to even get started, and deep faith necessary for him to carry out his tougher tasks." As Townes develops this thesis, science requires faith in such assumptions as the order of the universe, and that this order can be known by the human mind. Scientific discoveries depend on intuition along with reason and evidence. In fact, the most important discoveries come about through a process which Townes views from his own experience on the maser/laser as "akin to revelation." Contrary to popular belief, scientific theories can be disproven but they can never be conclusively proven. Finally scientific knowledge is often paradoxical and always tentative. In discussing each of these points, Townes points out the similarities between religious experience and scientific knowledge.

Professor Townes has been an active member of the CTNS Board of Directors since 1987. His commitment to excellence in science and religion has helped shape CTNS into an internationally recognized leader in this interdisciplinary field. He has lectured widely through a number of CTNS programs including "Science and the Spiritual Quest," where he participated in international conferences in Bangalore, India and Paris , France.

CTNS Founder and Director Robert John Russell commented that Professor Townes has been a trusted friend to him for over two decades. "I've worshiped for years with Charlie and Frances at First Congregational Church, Berkeley, I had the honor of contributing to his festschrift, Amazing Light , a decade ago, I even used his benchmark text, Microwave Spectroscopy , in my doctoral research in physics back in the 1970s. Since my undergraduate days in physics he has been an inspiration for me for his extraordinary insights into science - particularly the intertwining of quantum mechanics and experimental physics, and for his uncompromising commitment to the daily discipline of scientific research. In recent years I have had the privilege of knowing him personally and I am constantly moved by his deep and thoughtful faith in God and his courage in sharing that faith gently yet clearly both in private conversations and in the setting of international conferences. As a long-standing member of the CTNS Board, his wisdom and prudence are invaluable. I can think of no one more deserving of the Templeton Prize."

The CTNS Board extends its deepest congratulations to "Charlie" on his receiving the 2005 Templeton Prize: a much-deserved acclamation of his unique courage and honesty in the constructive dialogue between science and religion.

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences is a nonprofit academic center and international membership organization. CTNS is an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union, an ecumenical and interfaith consortium of nine independent seminaries and eight affiliated centers based in Berkeley , California .

CTNS's mission is to promote the creative mutual interaction of theology and the natural sciences through research, teaching, and public service. Established in 1981, CTNS has conducted major programs such as the Science and Religion Course Program, the Science and the Spiritual Quest Program, and the CTNS /Vatican Observatory Research Collaboration. For more information, visit, email, or call 510-848-8152.


back to top

2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709-1212 •   Tel: 510-848-8152 Fax: 510-848-2535 • •   Site Map  •   Search