- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

A Presbyterian minister from Virginia widely recognized as having helped found the field of environmental ethics was yesterday awarded the Templeton Prize, billed as the largest annual cash prize for achievement in the world.
The Rev. Holmes Rolston III, a professor of philosophy at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, became the first winner of the renamed Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities. For 29 years, it was called the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
The prize, created by financier John Templeton in 1973, is worth more than $1 million and will be presented May 7 in London's Buckingham Palace.
"I've been lucky that my own personal agenda, figuring nature out, has during my lifetime turned out to be the world agenda, figuring out the human place on the planet," said Mr. Rolston, 70, known as the "father of environmental ethics."
"My sense of wonder turned to horror when I encountered the oncoming environmental crisis," he said. "No sooner did I discover that nature is grace, than I found we were treating it disgracefully."
Environmental ethics, involving issues ranging from the treatment of animals to oil drilling and driving sport utility vehicles, have become a point of contention between conservative and liberal Christians.
Mr. Rolston, who was pastor of Walnut Grove Presbyterian Church, Bristol, Va., for nine years, challenged the idea in science that nature was free of value, and that all value was created by humans. He championed the idea in a 1975 article, "Is There an Ecological Ethic?" and opened the door for religious thinkers to join the debate over ecology and preservation of biodiversity.
To link evolutionary science to his faith, he developed the idea that nature's epochs of struggle are akin to the "redemptive suffering" told of in the Bible, especially Christ's death, and called this theology "cruciform naturalism."
Past Templeton winners, chosen by an international panel, have included Mother Teresa, the Rev. Billy Graham, Prison Fellowship Ministries founder Charles Colson, and religious leaders in the Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. For the past five years, the new emphasis of the prize has been on the science and religion dialogue.
"The prize highlights scientific research and discoveries that can help open these areas to new perspectives and, in turn, reveal new information about divinity and matters of the spirit," said the founder's son, Dr. John M. Templeton Jr., who is president of the Templeton Foundation.
Mr. Rolston said yesterday that when it comes to human solution to what many call an ecological crisis, "Science cannot take us there, religion perhaps can."
He talked about the first course he taught on science and religion, telling students these were the "two most important things in the world." One student protested that "sex and money" were most important, but was persuaded otherwise by semester's end.
"The biblical faith originated with a land ethic," he said. "That blessing can be received only if the land is inhabited justly and charitably."
A founder of the journal Environmental Ethics in 1979 and founding president of the International Society of Environmental Ethics in 1990, Mr. Rolston has traveled to Africa, China, Australia and Russia to advise on use of resources.
After earning a degrees in physics and mathematics at Davidson College in North Carolina, he completed a master's in divinity at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. He then earned a doctoral degree in theology at the University of Edinburgh under the Rev. Thomas F. Torrance, a leading churchman who also explored science and the Christian faith.
Mr. Rolston said he would use the prize money to endow a chair in religion and science at Davidson.

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