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Dalai Lama Wins £1.1million Templeton Prize

Spiritual leader honoured for encouraging scientific research and harmony among religions
LONDON, MARCH 29 – The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader whose long-standing engagement with multiple dimensions of science and with people far beyond his own religious traditions has made him an incomparable global voice for universal ethics, nonviolence, and harmony among world religions, has won the 2012 Templeton Prize.
Valued at £1.1 million (about $1.7 million or €1.3 million), the prize is the world's largest annual monetary award given to an individual and honours a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.
The Prize will be presented to the Dalai Lama at a ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on the afternoon of Monday, May 14.  A news conference with the 2012 Prize Laureate will precede the ceremony. Both events are invitation-only and will be webcast live at www.templetonprize.org and to global media on a pool basis. Photography from the events will also be pooled.
It will be the first time that the Dalai Lama has visited St Paul’s.
The announcement was made this morning online at www.templetonprize.org, via email to journalists, and on Twitter via @TempletonPrize
For decades, Tenzin Gyatso, 76, the 14th Dalai Lama – a lineage believed by followers to be the reincarnation of an ancient Buddhist leader who epitomised compassion – has vigorously focused on the connections between the investigative traditions of science and Buddhism as a way to better understand and advance what both disciplines might offer the world.
Specifically, he encourages serious scientific investigative reviews of the power of compassion and its broad potential to address the world’s fundamental problems – a theme at the core of his teachings and a cornerstone of his immense popularity.
Within that search, the “big questions” he raises – such as “Can compassion be trained or taught?” – reflect the deep interest of the founder of the Templeton Prize, the late Sir John Templeton, in seeking to bring scientific methods to the study of spiritual claims and thus foster the spiritual progress that the Prize has recognized for the past 40 years.
The announcement praised the Dalai Lama for his life’s work in building bridges of trust in accord with the yearnings of countless millions of people around the globe who have been drawn by the charismatic icon’s appeal to compassion and understanding for all.
Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation and son of the late Prize founder, said: “With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world’s problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer. The Dalai Lama offers a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centres on every single human being.”
He also noted that the Dalai Lama’s remarkable record of intellectual, moral and spiritual innovations is clearly recognised by the nine Prize judges, who represent a wide range of disciplines, cultures and religious traditions.  The Prize judges evaluate – independently of each other – typically 15 to 20 nominated candidates each year and then individually submit separate ballots – from which a tally then determines the selection of each year’s Laureate.
The Dalai Lama responded to the prize in the humble style that has become his signature. “When I heard today your decision to give me this quite famous award, I really felt this is another sign of recognition about my little service to humanity, mainly nonviolence and unity around different religious traditions,” he said in a video available at www.templetonprize.org.
In other brief videos on the Prize website, the Dalai Lama elaborates on key issues including his call for humanity to embrace compassion as a path to peace, both personally and on a global scale.  “You can develop genuine sense of concern of well-being of others, including your enemy,” he states in one video.  “That kind of compassion – unbiased, unlimited – needs training, awareness.”
The Right Reverend Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor at St Paul’s Cathedral, welcomed this event: “A non-violent voice of peace and reason in a calamitous world, the Dalai Lama represents core values cherished by many different faiths.  The award of the Templeton Prize to the Dalai Lama under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral will be a reminder that working towards peace and harmony is a practical and spiritual challenge to all faith communities.”
In his recommendation to the Prize committee, Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote, “More than any other living human being, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has served humanity to catalyse the advancement of ‘spiritual progress’ and to help us all to cultivate a better understanding of the spiritual dimensions of human experience.”
- ENDS -
Notes to Editors
Follow the Templeton Prize on Twitter using @TempletonPrize and the hashtags #templetonprize and #tempprize
Further information is available at www.templetonprize.org
Videos including the Laureate’s acceptance comments are available at www.templetonprize.org and www.youtube.com/user/TempletonPrize/.
Photos are available at www.flickr.com/photos/templetonprize.
UK: Sally Gillespie: +44 (0) 20 7861 3974 / sgillespie@bell-pottinger.co.uk
UK: Andy Bloxham: +44 (0)20 7861 2507 / abloxham@bell-pottinger.co.uk 
US: Donald Lehr – The Nolan/Lehr Group +1.212.967.8200 / dlehr@templetonprize.org
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
The Dalai Lama is no stranger to honours and accolades, with scores to his name.  In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of nonviolence as the path to liberation for Tibet.  He becomes the second Templeton Prize Laureate to have also received the Nobel Peace Prize; Mother Teresa received the first Templeton Prize in 1973, six years before her Nobel.
In concert with his efforts to achieve peace for Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s extensive travels have promoted cross-cultural understanding with other religions and with disciplines as varied as astrophysics, quantum mechanics, neurobiology, and behavioural science.
He often notes that the rigorous commitment of Buddhists to meditative investment and reflection similarly follows the strict rules of investigation, proof and evidence required of science.
Among his most successful efforts is the Mind & Life Institute, co-founded in 1987 to create collaborative research between science and Buddhism.  The institute hosts conferences on subjects such as contemplative science, destructive and healing emotions, and consciousness and death.  While initially beginning as quiet academic affairs, they have evolved into enormously popular public events.
In 2005, after a series of dialogues at Stanford University among the Dalai Lama, scientists in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and medicine, and contemplative scholars, the university became the home of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. The interdisciplinary discourse recognised that engagement between cognitive sciences and Buddhist contemplative traditions could contribute to understanding of the human mind and emotion. The centre now supports and conducts rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior. 
Many of these conferences have led to popular best sellers written or co-written by the Dalai Lama, including The Art of Happiness (1998), The Universe in a Single Atom (2005), and The Dalai Lama at MIT (2006).  All told, he has authored or co-authored more than 70 books.
The Dalai Lama’s love of science is also evidenced in the Science for Monks program, created in 2001 to teach science in Buddhist monastic centres of higher learning in India. The program engages Indian and Western scientists to explore connections between Tibetan Buddhist traditions and science, and teach methods of scientific inquiry in physics, quantum mechanics, cosmology, biology, neuroscience, and mathematics.
This openness to new ideas and cutting-edge findings has set him in the rare pantheon of internationally respected religious leaders and also has given him a stature among secular audiences unlike any other religious leader.
Tenzin Gyatso was born on July 6, 1935 as Lhamo Dhondup in the Tibetan cultural region of Amdo, a farming village in the Qinghai Province of western China. When he was two years old, a search party set out to find the successor to the recently deceased 13th Dalai Lama. Guided by visions and omens, they came upon the home of the toddler, who was selected as the 14th Dalai Lama and taken to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.
At age six he began his monastic education within the walls of the Norbulingka Palace near Lhasa, studying logic, Tibetan art and culture, Buddhist philosophy, Sanskrit and medicine. A precocious child surrounded by the trappings of a king, he roamed the palace in search of diversions. Among those was a telescope that allowed him to peer into the night sky and the watch belonging to the 13th Dalai Lama that he repeatedly deconstructed and rebuilt for amusement.
In 1950, at age 15, he was officially installed as the political leader of Tibet.  The subsequent involvement of the Chinese government in Tibet soon prompted his departure from Tibet.  In 1951 he returned to Lhasa for negotiations with the Chinese government and, in 1954, traveled to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Chou En-Lai, and others.
In 1959, in response to increasing tensions from an uprising within the region at just 23 years old, he and a small entourage departed from Tibet to India, eventually settling in Dharamsala, which remains his home in exile.
In 1987, he offered a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet that includes making the region a non-armed enclave and an environmental sanctuary with China responsible for defence and foreign policy, a proposal as yet unrecognised by Beijing.
In 2011, he relinquished his political responsibility over Tibet in favor of a proposed constitutional government, albeit in exile, removing the Dalai Lama as head of state and replacing him with an elected leader. This ended the tradition begun by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1642 of the Dalai Lamas holding dual responsibility of spiritual and temporal powers.
The Templeton Prize
The Templeton Prize each year honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.
Established in 1972 by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the Prize is a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.
The monetary value of the prize is set always to exceed the Nobel Prizes to underscore Templeton's belief that benefits from discoveries that illuminate spiritual questions can be quantifiably more vast than those from other worthy human endeavours.

Martin Rees Wins 1 million 2011 Templeton Prize

- Astronomer Royal awarded for widening understanding of the cosmos -
LONDON, APRIL 6 – Martin J. Rees, a theoretical astrophysicist whose profound insights on the cosmos have provoked vital questions that address mankind’s deepest hopes and fears, has won the £1 million Templeton Prize, the world's largest annual monetary award given to an individual.
Lord Rees, 68, is Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and a former president of the Royal Society. He has spent decades investigating the implications of the big bang, the nature of black holes, the so-called ‘dark age’ of the early universe, and the mysterious explosions from galaxy centres known as gamma ray bursters.
The ‘big questions’ Lord Rees raises – such as ‘How large is physical reality?’ – are reshaping the philosophical and theological considerations that strike at the core of life, fostering the spiritual progress that the Templeton Prize seeks to recognise.
In his work with colleagues, Lord Rees has widened the boundaries of understanding about the physical processes that define the cosmos, including speculations on the concept of ‘multiverses’, or infinite universes.
These investigations are balanced with his urging the international scientific community to raise public awareness of the impact of human activity on Earth in the 21st century, the first, Lord Rees says, when one species – humans – can determine the future of the entire planet.
His award of the Templeton Prize, which honours a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, was announced at a news conference at The Royal Institution of Great Britain.
In a statement delivered at today’s news conference, Lord Rees said: “Some people might surmise that intellectual immersion in vast expanses of space and time would render cosmologists serene and uncaring about what happens next year, next week, or tomorrow.  But, for me, the opposite is the case.  My concerns are deepened by the realisation that, even in a perspective extending billions of years into the future, as well as into the past, this century may be a defining moment.”
John M. Templeton, Jr., M.D., president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation, noted that for all the discoveries attached to Lord Rees’s career, it is the questions he inspires that qualify him for the 2011 Templeton Prize. 
Dr Templeton said: “The questions Lord Rees raises have an impact far beyond the simple assertion of facts, opening wider vistas than any telescope ever could.
“By peering into the farthest reaches of the galaxies, Martin Rees has opened a window on our very humanity, inviting everyone to wrestle with the most fundamental questions of our nature and existence.”
In her nomination of Lord Rees for the Templeton Prize, Virginia Trimble, professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, stated: “Looking back over his career, one is impressed by how early he seized on the importance of fields that are now central to the astronomical enterprise, and by the durability and prescience of his insights.” 
In his recommendation of Lord Rees for the Templeton Prize, Robert Williams, president of the International Astronomical Union, noted: “I have found Martin’s books and lectures, of which I have read and heard numerous, extremely thought provoking. He is very unusual in that he constantly touches on spiritual themes without dealing explicitly with religion. I do not know whether he is a theist, for example.”
Lord 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 want to do all I can to preserve and strengthen them.” 
Lord Rees is one of the world’s most renowned astrophysicists, authoring and co-authoring more than 500 research papers and several books, with lectures and broadcast appearances worldwide.
The Templeton Prize has been made each year since 1973 by the John Templeton FoundationHRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, will award the Prize on Wednesday 1 June in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Notes to editors
Speaker and Templeton Foundation interviews are available on request.
Speak to either:
Martin Rees
Martin Rees was born in 1942, growing up in Shropshire. 
From Shrewsbury School he gained entry to Trinity College, Cambridge, which would become his lifelong academic home.  In 1963, he received his bachelors in mathematics.
He received a research invitation to the university’s department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics, where he was inspired by Dennis Sciama, a brilliant scientist whose other students included Templeton Prize laureates George Ellis and John Barrow, as well as Stephen Hawking, James Binney and Brandon Carter.
His post-graduate work in astrophysics in the mid-1960s coincided with an explosion of new discoveries, with breakthroughs ranging from confirmation of the big bang, the discovery of neutron stars and black holes, and a host of other revelations. Rees quickly established himself as one of the bright young luminaries in this field.
Rees obtained his Ph.D. in theoretical astronomy in 1967.  After short-term posts in the US and a period at Sussex University, he returned to Cambridge in 1973 on appointment as Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1979. As the society’s president from 2005 to 2010 he provided wide advice on policy questions to the UK government and interaction with scientific academies worldwide. 
He is a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) and the American Philosophical Society.  He has received numerous academic awards, and has served as a visiting professor or adviser at institutions around the world.
In 2005, Rees was appointed to the House of Lords as a non-party-political peer, sitting on the Cross Benches as Lord Rees of Ludlow.  He was knighted in 1992 and was appointed to the Order of Merit in 2007. In 1995 he became Astronomer Royal.
He lives in Cambridge with his wife, Caroline Humphrey, a professor of social anthropology and founder of the Mongolia and Inner Asian Studies at Cambridge.
The Templeton Prize
The Templeton Prize was created by global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton and was established in 1972.
The Templeton Prize is a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation's international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life's biggest questions, ranging from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity.
The Templeton Prize aims to identify "entrepreneurs of the spirit", outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding notions or understanding about ultimate purpose and reality.
The Templeton Prize is awarded annually on the decision of a panel of independent judges. Past judges have included the Dalai Lama, Professor Sir Brian Heap and Professor Paul Davies.
For more information on the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Prize, visit http://www.templeton.org/ and http://www.templetonprize.org/
Photos of the Laureate will be available at:  www.flickr.com/photos/templetonprize
Videos of the Laureate will be available at:  www.youtube.com/templetonprize

Templeton Prize 2010 winner is Francisco Ayala, a leading geneticist

Francisco J. Ayala awarded for public role in defending science practice and religious faith
The Templeton Prize 2010 has been awarded to Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary geneticist and molecular biologist who has vigorously defended scientific theory from the influence of religious belief while also calling for mutual respect between the two.
Ayala, 76, a naturalised American and Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, is an international authority on molecular evolution and genetics. Alongside his scientific work, he has devoted more than 30 years to explaining the difference between science and faith and asserting how both are undermined when mistakenly confused.
The Templeton Prize the world’s largest annual award of £1million, honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension and is in its 38th year. The announcement was made at the US National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC.
In a pre-prepared statement, Ayala forcefully denied that science contradicts religion. “If they are properly understood,” he said, “they cannot be in contradiction because science and religion concern different matters, and each are essential to human understanding.” Referring to Picasso’s Guernica, he noted that while science can assess the painting’s massive dimensions and pigments, only a spiritual view imparts a full appreciation of the horror depicted. Together, he explained, these two separate analyses reveal the totality of the masterpiece.
John M. Templeton, Jr., M.D., president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation, praised Ayala’s research, scholarship, development of new schools of thought, and innovative assessments of some of the most fundamental questions of life. He recognised that his remarkable breadth and depth of analysis, focusing on genuine discovery, exemplified the design and purpose of the Prize programme founded by his late father, Sir John Templeton. Dr. Templeton said: “Ayala’s clear voice in matters of science and faith echoes the Foundation’s belief that evolution of the mind and truly open-minded inquiry can lead to real spiritual progress in the world.”
In nominating Ayala for the Prize, Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, recounted the broad influence of Ayala’s scientific teaching and writings, including more than 1,000 papers and 35 books, adding, “A pervasive message of several of these publications is that science is a way of knowing, but it is not the only way. The significance and purpose of the world and human life, as well as matters concerning moral or religious values, transcend science.”
Ayala, whose groundbreaking research into single-celled disease-causing organisms may lead to cures for malaria and other serious illnesses, has equated efforts to block religious intrusions into science with “the survival of rationality.” A scientific advisor to Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Ayala served as an expert witness in a pivotal U.S. federal court challenge in 1981 that led to the overturning of an Arkansas law mandating the teaching of creationism alongside evolution. In 2001, George W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Science.
Even as he has warned against religion’s intrusion into science, Ayala, a former Dominican priest, has also championed faith as a unique and important window to understanding matters of purpose, values and the meaning of life.
This respect for the rightful, if separate, roles of science and faith has allowed Ayala, a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to consider questions such as “Does scientific knowledge contradict religious belief?” and “Is morality derived from biological evolution?” that draw upon each discipline and may bring new insights that advance human endeavour.
Three years after the Arkansas court challenge, Ayala was asked by the National Academy of Sciences to serve as principal author of Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a categorical and definitive refutation of creationism and so-called intelligent design. Follow-up editions were published in 1999 and 2008.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Ayala to the U.S. President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. While president of the AAAS from 1993 to 1996, he developed its “Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion.” He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a foreign member of the scientific academies of, among others, Spain, Russia, Italy, Mexico and Serbia.
The Templeton Prize each year honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. It will be officially awarded to Ayala by HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday 5th May.
Notes to editors:
Speaker and Templeton Foundation interviews are available by contacting +44 (0)20 7861 3833.
Speak to either:
Pictures, including images of previous prize winners, can be found at: www.flickr.com/photos/templetonprize
Videos of the laureate can be found at: www.youtube.com/templetonprize
Background on the laureate:
  1. Born in Madrid in 1934, shortly before the Spanish Civil War started, Ayala grew up within the restrictions of the Franco era. Though his family was largely involved with business and finance, Ayala showed an early interest in science that was cultivated by the priests who taught him
  2. In 1960 he, too, became a priest, but soon decided to leave the priesthood – and the intellectual repression of Franco’s Spain – to attend Columbia University in New York in 1961
  3. At Columbia, he studied under Theodosius Dobzhansky, considered among the 20th century’s most distinguished geneticists and evolutionary biologists, who saw Ayala as a student with potential to lead the field’s next generation.
  4. Under Dobzhansky’s tutelage, he received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1964 with a thesis that established that rates of evolution depend on the genetic variation of a species.
  5. It was the first of many discoveries that placed Ayala among the pioneers of genetic research in the second half of the 20th century, including his proof that the parasites responsible for Chagas, an often fatal disease afflicting millions of people living in the tropics, reproduced not sexually but by cloning.
  6. This led to similar discoveries about the parasites that cause malaria and other tropical diseases, opening up new approaches to potential vaccines.
  7. Ayala also developed highly-accurate ways to read genetic clocks to determine the timing of precise steps in the evolution of a species over millions or even billions of years.
  8. Recently, he and colleagues determined that malaria was likely first transmitted from chimpanzees to humans a mere five or six thousand years ago, possibly through a single mosquito.
  9. In January 2010 he co-authored a paper establishing that gorillas and chimps may now serve as reservoirs for the parasites that cause human malaria, so that even if a vaccine is developed, humans will always be vulnerable to re-infection.
  10. Ayala holds professorships in biology, philosophy, logic, and philosophy of biology (a field he helped establish), at the University of California, Irvine. In addition, he is also University Professor, the highest rank within the California university system and the only person with that title at Irvine.
  11. Ayala has two children, Francisco José and Carlos Alberto, from his first marriage. He married his second wife, Dr. Hana Lostakova, an ecologist, in 1985.
  12. 12. After moving to California in the 1970s, Ayala purchased a weekend property with a vineyard. Following several expansions, he now supplies major wineries with grapes from more than 2,400 acres of fields in San Joaquin and Sacramento counties.
Background on the Prize
  1. The Templeton Prize was created by global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton and was established in 1972
  2. The Templeton Prize is a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation's international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life's biggest questions, ranging from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity
  3. The Templeton Prize aims to identify "entrepreneurs of the spirit", outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding notions or understanding about ultimate purpose and reality
  4. The Templeton Prize is awarded annually on the decision of a panel of independent judges. Past judges have included the Dalai Lama, Professor Sir Brian Heap and Professor Paul Davies
  5. For more information on the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Prize, visit http://www.templeton.org/ and http://www.templetonprize.org/.

French Physicist And Philosopher Wins 2009 Templeton Prize

core facts
  • The winner of the 2009 Templeton Prize has been announced.
  • The £1million Prize, which is the world’s largest annual award to an individual, has been awarded to French physicist and philosopher of science Bernard d’Espagnat.
  • The Prize recognizes d’Espagnat’s explorations of the philosophical implications of quantum physics for the definition of reality and the potential limits of knowable science.
  • The announcement took place at a news conference held by the John Templeton Foundation at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris.
  • From the mid-1960s through the early 1980s, d’Espagnat, 87, was a philosophical visionary in the physics research community.
  • D’Espagnat played a key role in the exploration and development of quantum mechanics, specifically on experiments testing the ‘Bell’s inequalities’ theorem.
  • Definitive results published in 1981 and 1982 verified that Bell’s inequalities were violated in the way quantum mechanics predicts, leading to a clear confirmation of the radical phenomenon of ‘non-local entanglement’. This was an important step in the later development of ‘quantum information science’, a flourishing contemporary domain of research combining physics, information science, and mathematics.
  • D’Espagnat, Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics at the University of Paris-Sud, also explored the philosophical importance of these new physics-based insights into the nature of reality.
  • Much of his early work on the subject centred on what he calls ‘veiled reality’, a hidden yet unifying domain beneath what we perceive as time, space, matter and energy – concepts challenged by quantum physics as possible mere appearances.
  • Since then, his writings and lectures on fundamental questions such as “What deep insights does science reveal about the nature of reality?” have provoked debate among scientists and philosophers.
  • From early in his career, d'Espagnat developed an interest in foundational problems in physics, which brought him in contact with Louis de Broglie, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, John Bell and other luminaries of 20th century physics.
  • In the 1960s and 70s, along with other physicists, he focused on the existence of serious discrepancies between quantum mechanics and the common-sense way of thinking about the world.
  • His technical papers at the time inspired and encouraged the early emergence of vital experiments on physicist John Bell’s inequalities theorem (published in 1964), which showed that the concept of philosophical atomism – that nature is composed of a myriad of separate objects whose behaviour can be understood ‘locally’ (influenced directly only by their immediate surroundings) – is in conflict with the predictions of quantum mechanics.
  • D’Espagnat anticipated that Bell’s inequalities would be violated as predicted by quantum mechanics, even though at the time many physicists, following Einstein, believed that atomism and locality were right and quantum mechanics must be wrong.
  • Following preliminary measurements by John Clauser and others, experiments by the French physicist Alain Aspect and his collaborators in 1981 and 1982 proved d’Espagnat’s bold philosophical insight to have been correct: Bell’s inequalities were in fact violated and, with that, not only atomism but even ‘locality’ were no longer viable as descriptions of the physical universe.
  • D’Espagnat has written and lectured extensively on the philosophical significance of the universal truths of quantum mechanics
  • He notes, however, that quantum physics merely predicts, rather than describes observational results in the way conventional science does.  As far as describing reality, it suggests that our plain, everyday concepts of objects as well as our scientific concepts refer only to phenomena – that is, to mere appearances common to all.
  • D’Espagnat warns that experiments often falsify theories and so there must exist, beyond mere appearances, something that resists us and lies beyond the phenomena, a ‘veiled reality’ that science does not describe but only glimpses uncertainly.  In turn, contrary to those who claim that matter is the only reality, the possibility that other means, including spirituality, may also provide a window on ultimate reality cannot be ruled out, he insists, even by cogent scientific arguments. Although d’Espagnat concedes the theological implications of the term ‘veiled reality,’ he guards against using it as justification for specific religious doctrines, which can be easily falsified by reason and fact.
  • At the news conference in Paris, d’Espagnat said that science cannot tell us anything certain about the nature of being, clearly it cannot tell us with certainty what it is not. He added: “Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated. On the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being.”
  • On the subject of the mind’s ability to perceive deeper realities, d’Espagnat said “the possibility that the things we observe may be tentatively interpreted as signs providing us with some perhaps not entirely misleading glimpses of a higher reality and, therefore, that higher forms of spirituality are fully compatible with what seems to emerge from contemporary physics.”
  • D’Espagnat is the son of a leading post-impressionist painter, Georges d’Espagnat.
  • D’Espagnat stressed the role of science in grasping empirical reality, i.e., the reality of experience or observation. However, d’Espagnat notes that other methods of insight, including the arts, provide windows on understanding the true realities that lie behind things, what he described as “the ground of things.” He added: “Artistic emotions essentially imply the impression of a mysterious realm, which we may merely catch a glimpse of. Science and only science yields true knowledge. On the other hand, concerning the ground of things, science has no such privilege.”