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12th Jun 2022

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Jane Goodall wins Templeton Prize for work at intersection of science and spirituality

  • Famed scientist and environmental advocate Jane Goodall, DBE, won the 2021 Templeton Prize, a $1.5 million award that recognizes achievements of people “harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.”
  • Goodall, who joins a list of illustrious winners including Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, was awarded for her “scientific and spiritual curiosity”. She represents an unusual choice for the prize because she isn’t a religious figure.
  • Goodall’s honor comes as more religious leaders are speaking out about the need to protect nature as part of their faith.

Primatologist, conservationist, and world-famous environmentalist Jane Goodall, DBE, won the 2021 Templeton Prize, a $1.5 million award that recognizes achievements of people “harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.”

Goodall, who joins a list of illustrious winners including Desmond Tutu (2013) and the Dalai Lama (2012), was awarded for her “scientific and spiritual curiosity” that yielded new insights on animal intelligence and how humanity connects with the species and ecosystems that surround us.

“We are delighted and honored to award Dr. Jane Goodall this year, as her achievements go beyond the traditional parameters of scientific research to define our perception of what it means to be human,” said Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation. “Her discoveries have profoundly altered the world’s view of animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of humanity in a way that is both humbling and exalting. Ultimately, her work exemplifies the kind of humility, spiritual curiosity, and discovery that my grandfather, John Templeton, wrote and spoke about during his life.”

Jane Goodall. Photo credit: Jane Goodall Institute.
Jane Goodall. Photo credit: Jane Goodall Institute.

John Templeton was an investor and philanthropist who started the Templeton Growth Fund, a diversified mutual fund, in 1954. During his lifetime, he donated more than $1 billion to charitable causes and established the John Templeton Foundation, which gives out the Templeton Prize on the annual basis.

Goodall represents an unusual choice for the prize because she isn’t a religious figure. Goodall, who was raised in Christian family, identifies as spiritual rather than religious, a view that emerged from her experiences studying chimpanzees in the forests of Tanzania, she said.

“In the rainforest I learned about the interconnection of all species, each with a role to play,” she said in her acceptance of the prize. “I felt a strong spiritual connection with the natural world.”

Goodall’s honor comes as more religious leaders are speaking out about the need to protect nature as part of their faith. For example, Pope Francis has become an outspoken advocate for combating climate change and recognizing the role Indigenous peoples play in stewarding the planet’s resources, while the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative has been bringing together leaders across religions to support forest conservation efforts. Goodall has been involved in these efforts.

Jane writing up her field notes in her tent at Gombe. Photo credit: the Jane Goodall Institute / Hugo van Lawick.

Goodall says that her lifetime raising awareness, creating connections, and working with a wide range of people has taught her a great deal about human nature and potential.

“I have learned more about the two sides of human nature, and I am convinced that there are more good than bad people,” she said via her acceptance remarks. “There are so many tackling seemingly impossible tasks and succeeding. Only when head and heart work in harmony can we attain our true human potential.”

Goodall with an orphaned chimpanzee at the Sweetwaters Sanctuary in Kenya. Photo credit: Michael Neugebauer

Disclosure: Jane Goodall is a member of Mongabay’s advisory panel.

Syndicated content from Mongabay


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