"Religion," [Charles Townes] told the journal Physics World, "is aimed at understanding the purpose and meaning of our universe, including our own lives. If the universe has a purpose and meaning, this must be reflected in its structure and functioning, and hence in science." In 1966, in the wake of his Nobel Prize, Townes was even bolder. In an article published in MIT's Technology Review, he wrote that differences between science and religion "are largely superficial ... the two become almost indistinguishable if we look at the real nature of each."
As Isaac Newton's great predecessor, Johannes Kepler, wrote: "For a long time, I wanted to become a theologian.... Now, however, behold how through my effort God is being celebrated in astronomy." Newton himself saw his scientific work as one long argument for a beneficent Creator. The elision of God and physics today follows directly from this tradition, but there is a critical difference between the scientific theologizing of Kepler and Newton and that of physicists like [Stephen Hawking] and Townes.
Of the five physicists who have won the Templeton Prize, four are practicing Christians. (Townes, for example, is a member of the First Congregational Church in Berkeley.) While the claim they make for the discoveries of science supporting their faith in God the Creator is certainly, legitimate, that is surely only half the task. "Progress" in religion must be judged not by our knowledge of particles and forces but by action toward a more just, equitable and humane society.