Religion and science are obviously not identical. But the growing prominence of cosmology, that branch of science that attempts to explain the order of the universe as a whole, has brought the two of late into a dialogue interrupted for centuries. The announcement last Tuesday that Paul Davies, an Australian mathematician and physicist, has won the annual, $1-million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, may stand as a minor milestone in that reconciliation.
The estrangement of science and religion may be dated roughly to 1633 when Galileo was hauled before the Inquisition for his heretical views about astronomy. Galileo recanted, but the ensuing estrangement of religion and science hurt religion most. What disappeared by degrees in the West was the conviction that religion even as a code of conduct could ever be rooted in nature, reality, the way things are. As that conviction eroded, what replaced it was the now familiar view that morality cannot really be argued: You have your morality, I have mine, neither of us can persuade the other by reference to any natural fact.