A harried team of TV executives, desperate to hold on to their market share, will consider almost anything. Pilot for a new series: Hero is a particle physicist turned Anglican priest. Fish out of water, you see—and remember, religion is hot. Science is sexy, too: Think Stephen Hawking without the wheelchair and squawk box. Rosy cheeks, a fringe of white hair, benevolent, quintessentially British.
Alas, we'll probably never see that series. But the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne is real enough. In fact, he's recently been awarded the 2002 Templeton Prize. Through his voluminous writings, lectures, and public debates with leading scientists, Polkinghorne has become an effective champion of constructive dialogue between orthodox Christianity and contemporary science.
The Genius of an 'Honest Toiler'
Polkinghorne spent the bulk of a distinguished scientific career at Cambridge University as a professor of mathematical physics. He generated scores of scientific essays in leading journals and mentored hundreds of graduate students while exploring the detailed structure of matter. Polkinghorne's own estimate of his career is very modest. He believes that scientific revolutions occur primarily through the extraordinary insights of a single genius who repackages the world in a brand new way, and he describes himself as merely an "honest toiler"—one who works out the details of scientific revolutions inaugurated by others.
This honest toiler in physics was, nevertheless, at the cutting edge of a scientific revolution, one that peeled back the final layer of the onion of matter, revealing a world of exotic elementary particles with names like quark and gluon and properties like charm and strangeness. His scientific achievements—making mathematical ...1