The Church of Scotland’s Society Religion and Technology Project has won the Spring 1999 Templeton UK Institutional Award. Since it was set up in 1970, this unique Edinburgh-based Project has been a pioneer in examining the ethical and social implications of new and emerging technologies. Its citation honours this achievement : “for exploring the frontiers between faith and technology”.
From the start, its vision has been to interact directly with the world of technology, taking on a technologist as full time Director. Beginning with nuclear physicist Dr John Francis, the ground rules were laid for a unique style of engagement, which has been passed on through a series of directors. Each has brought their particular experience to bear - a chemical engineer working on intermediate technology for developing countries, an agriculturalist who made a world first in setting up the Scottish churches’ energy saving scheme, a sociologist with concerns about the future of work and defence technology, and an information technologist working on the human-computer interface - to the present Director, Dr Donald Bruce, a chemist whose background is in nuclear energy research, risk assessment and energy policy.
The hallmark of the Project has been to produce work of the highest quality, through multi-disciplinary expert working group studies, ranging from an acclaimed report on North Sea Oil and Gas in the 1970’s, through to its most recent 5 year study on the ethics of genetic engineering. Typical of SRT’s work, this blends the insights of top specialists in genetics, ethics, theology, sociology and risk, raising questions well ahead of their times. The resulting book “Engineering Genesis” is receiving wide commendation for its balanced views on this controversial issue. The study included cloning researcher Ian Wilmut from the Roslin Institute, so when this suddenly became a global issue, SRT was already there with specialist insights and has become a leading authority in the international debate. See SRT’s Cloning Pages
Naturally, SRT’s work feeds into the churches, both in Scotland and further afield, and has a strong ecumenical emphasis. Fittingly, the Templeton award will be made immediately after SRT presents a major Report on Genetically Modified Food to the Church of Scotland General Assembly on May 11, advising the Kirk to take a balanced view. See below for the Award Ceremony details. SRT has played a leading role in World Council of Churches work on technology and climate change, and in influential European church working groups on environment and bioethics, presenting challenging views on sustainable development and patenting genes to EC Commissioners, officials and MEPs.
SRT is located in the historic at the heart of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, home also to the Church of Scotland’s Netherbow Arts Centre. SRT’s outreach includes organising lectures and debates at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, especially in stimulating debate on cutting edge issues in the science and religion debate.
The award contributes to an unprecedented double. This Spring’s Templeton Award to an individual has also gone to Edinburgh, to honour the Reverend Professor Duncan Forrester for his work in relating religion to society.
The Templeton Award Ceremony takes place at the Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh, with presentations at 13:45.