The Templeton Foundation has awarded its annual £1 million prize to Martin Rees, retired President of the Royal Society in London. I had the pleasure of meeting Lord Rees when he presented the Royal Society’s science book prize (for which the UK edition of my book, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, was shortlisted). Rees is an atheist with a fond cultural attachment to the Church of England. But although he isn’t religious himself, he sees no conflict between Christianity and science. His best-known book, Just Six Numbers, is a frank admission that the universe appears to be finely tuned for life, something theists see as evidence that it is God’s creation. New Atheists like PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne are furious that Rees accepted Templeton’s lucre. Richard Dawkins has called Rees a “quisling,” which is a reference to Nazi collaboration.

Meanwhile, the news that Francis Collins, evangelical Christian director of the National Institutes of Health, is treating the cancer of his friend Christopher Hitchens, one of the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism, has been treated as a case of delicious irony by some commentators. This rapprochement might cause us to forget that several of the Four Horsemen’s squires, including Coyne and Myers, objected to Collins being appointed to the NIH in the first place on account of his religious beliefs.

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