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On March 15, mathematician John D. Barrow joined the likes of Mother Teresa and Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he was named the winner of this year's Templeton Prize. The prize is awarded for "progress towards research or discoveries about spiritual realities." What constitutes "progress" is as varied as the recipients themselves. I received the award in 1993, so it includes prison ministers and nuns ministering to the poor in Calcutta and noted scientists. Barrow, who teaches at Cambridge University, is the latest in a recent series of scientists to win the prize. He is best known for his work on what is called the "Anthropic Principle." Simply stated, the Anthropic Principle is an account of the "seemingly incredible coincidences that allow for our presence" in the Universe. The existence of carbon-based life, which is what humans are, is dependent on a series of independent variables, what Astronomer Royal Martin Rees calls "just six numbers." These include "the particular energy state of the electron to the exact level of the weak nuclear force," to name but two. If any of these values were off by even an infinitesimal amount, carbon-based life like us would be impossible -- so would science, which is the act of observing nature. Barrows argues that the universe that "emerged out of the big bang . . . was already governed by laws that were fine-tuned to encourage the rise of carbon-based life forms." This is what prompted Freeman Dyson, "the best physicist never to win a Nobel Prize," to say that "it appears that the universe knew we were coming." Not surprisingly, this kind of talk makes today's evolutionary establishment -- orthodox materialists, after all -- nervous because it suggests that perhaps blind chance and purposelessness don't govern the cosmos. This prompted evolutionists to look for an alternative to the Anthropic Principle, one that would keep intelligence and purpose out of the picture. Since the incredible fine-tuning of this universe can't be scientifically denied, the alternatives they looked to were Star Trek stuff. They posited the existence of multiple universes, and given an infinite number of universes, so they say, at least one of them will be fine-tuned in a way that makes carbon-based life possible. The key word there is given, which, by definition, means we can't prove their existence. The "alternatives" are nothing but mathematical models that can neither be proven nor disproved. So, as philosopher Karl Popper wrote, this makes them metaphysics, not physics -- in a word, speculation. Ironically, this is the very charge directed by many of these same people at the intelligent design movement -- that we are introducing religion or metaphysics. Yet, while the intelligent design movement is ruled out-of-bounds, this kind of speculation, whose true goal is to avoid thinking about the possibility of God, is regarded as the scientific cutting edge. This unwillingness of many scientists to consider the implications of the Anthropic Principle made Barrow's work risky, courageous, and significant. Our congratulations to the Templeton committee for honoring such an eminent scientist, whose scientific work affirms that the idea of a Creator is the "best explanation" for the universe.


Chuck Colson


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