Polish priest-cosmologist wins prestigious Templeton Prize

| 26 Comments

And speaks on the issue of theological flaws of Intelligent Design

Father Heller said intelligent design advocates contend “there is an opposition between God, who is the creator of everything, and the theory of evolution, which explains that random events, chance events, play an important role in the evolutionary process. They claim that we must assume (it is) intelligent design, and not chance, that shapes the outcome.”

“My point of view is that it is a grave, serious theological error – I underline that grave, serious theological error. It revives old Manichean heresies that claim that there are two major, great principles – the principle of God which is good, and the principle of evil – and they are fighting with each other,” he said, that “God is one side, and chance is regarded as a rival of God.”

But “God is also the God of chance events,” he said. “From what our point of view is, chance – from God’s point of view, is … his structuring of the universe.”

As an example, Father Heller said, “birth is a chance event, but people ascribe that to God. People have much better theology than adherents of intelligent design. The chance event is just a part of God’s plan.”

In The ethics of mixing science and religion Amanda Gefter, Opinion editor of New Scientist expresses her concerns

I have to admit, when I picked up the phone to call Michael Heller, the Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest who was today awarded the $1.6 million Templeton Prize, I was a little uneasy. I am strongly committed to the idea that science and religion don’t mix, while the prize is awarded by the Templeton Foundation for “progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities”.

She concludes that:

When I talked with Heller, my concerns were eased. Heller comes across as a contemplative, kind and brilliant man with an impressive intellectual range, flitting easily between talk of complex philosophical ideas and sophisticated mathematical physics. (I was intrigued that his current work is focused on ridding physics of the big bang singularity - despite the fact that many Catholics have latched on to the idea of the singularity as the space left for God and his creative power.)

He is the kind of physicist who is so awestruck by the mathematical order of the universe that he sees God lurking in equations. For him, science and religion are difficult to separate. And after talking with him I could understand why - Heller grew up in a family environment in which intellectualism and religion were deeply intertwined and in a political environment in which both were persecuted by the Communist regime in Poland. The point is, the Templeton Foundation’s efforts to buy scientists might be dangerous. But Michael Heller certainly isn’t.

Here’s something to ponder: Would you take $1.6 million from an organisation whose motives you didn’t agree with?

26 Comments

Not only that, but ID commits the heresy of dispensationalism, by denying God’s continual working in the universe. It denies everything the Bible teaches about the nature of the miraculous being as a sign. It and Literal Creationism treats the scriptural texts with low regard to the author’s intent. One may or may not agree with Christianity, but ID is poor Christian theology.

Jedidiah:

Not only that, but ID commits the heresy of dispensationalism, by denying God’s continual working in the universe..… etc .

So they are saying G is dead and therefore claim to speak for …who?

There are so many heresies to choose from these days one wonders what if any are not.

Interview on NPR with Michael Heller for those who would like it. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/[…]yId=88188845

My point of view is that it is a grave, serious theological error – I underline that grave, serious theological error.

That’s the convenient thing about theology as opposed to science. You can claim that someone is in “error” just because they disagree with you, as opposed to actually having to supply evidence that their view does not correspond to reality, and your own view does. Heller can now join the pantheon of Templeton prize winners, including Creationist Charles W. Colson.

Well, there’s nothing that anybody can do about Templeton choosing to give its money to Heller, but certainly some interesting questions can be asked concerning Heller’s mistaken position.

But first, let’s check out something else. Jedidiah wrote,

Not only that, but ID commits the heresy of dispensationalism, by denying God’s continual working in the universe.

Two questions:

(1) What ID are you referring to? Are you referring to the cosmological ID hypothesis in Gonzalez and Richard’s book The Privileged Planet? Are you referring to the ID hypothesis of Dembski, (based on specified complexity), or of Behe, (based on irreducible complexity).

(2) Specifically, how does (whichever ID you specify from question #1), “deny God’s continual working in the universe”?

FL

Kudos to Father Heller and to the Templeton Foundation! Heller reminds me of Father George Coyne, Catholic priest and astronomer, who also saw Intelligent Design for the noxious sham that it is. Evolution is supported only by atheists? I think not.

The Templeton foundation gave up on Intelligent Design and are now calling it “unsound” and the DI a “political movement.”

Apparently using pseudoscience as a Wedge to destroy the USA wasn’t a good use of money in their opinion.

I’m always suprised when someone actually gets it. It is almost impossible to turn crackpots.

quote from a Wesly R. Elsberry entry at antievolution.org:

Pamela Thompson, Templeton Foundation spokesperson, says in her letter to the LA Times:

We do not believe that the science underpinning the intelligent-design movement is sound, we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and the foundation is a nonpolitical entity and does not engage in or support political movements

Let’s continue a little further. Heller says that ID is a grave theological error, and be sure to underline that term “grave”, he says.

So let’s look at some of his reasoning, and directly engage the major problems therein.

***

As an example, Father Heller said, “birth is a chance event, but people ascribe that to God. People have much better theology than adherents of intelligent design. The chance event is just a part of God’s plan.”

First, for Heller to say that “birth is a chance event” is itself a straight theological error, according to the Bible. In the Bible, NO birth (not even one’s own birth) is a matter of chance. Psalm 139 explains it:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (139:13)

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (139:15,16)

So, just on that one point, Heller commits a theological error. The Bible never ascribes anybody’s birth to chance, but always, always, to God’s teleology, purposefulness, and foreknowledge.

Second, check out this fact: Just like birth is not a chance even in the Bible, in the Bible, God’s creative activity is likewise NOT left to chance either in the Bible.

(Remember, Heller has already stated out loud that he believes God is the Creator, so it’s A-okay to bring up the Bible which discusses God the Creator in detail.)

All throughout the Bible, NOTHING regarding God’s creative activity–from Day One of Genesis on down–is EVER described as a chance event.

Always, always, 100 percent teleological and purposed, no matter what the creation event is, or what the created objects happens to be. (Including us humans.)

Now, this is really important. Remember that Heller has claimed that ID is a grave theological error. Yet the primary source of Christian theology, The Bible, clearly presents that God’s creative activity described in Genesis is 100 percent teleology and Zero percent chance, right up to the creation of the first humans (Gen. 2:7, Gen 2:21-22).

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Gen. 1:26

IOW, the Bible’s historical claims directly lines up with the ID view that intelligent design, not chance, is the responsible agent of origins. In the Bible, it’s 100 percent teleology, zero percent chance.

So how can ID be a grave theological error, as Heller claims, when the Bible’s theology supports Intelligent Design and not chance specifically WRT origins and creation?D

Heller has no answer.

***

Third, check this out: After mistakenly describing birth as a chance event, Heller goes on to claim, “The chance event is just a part of God’s plan.”

But Heller’s claim introduces a huge problem that nobody’s been able to resolve on any side of the fence:

Exactly how does God direct an undirected process? And exactly how can you even call the process “undirected” if you’re already claiming that God is clearly directing that process after all?

Lee Strobel, in a Beliefnet interview with Deborah Caldwell, has well summarized this problem:

So how can God direct an undirected process? How can there be a divine purpose behind a purposeless and random world? That didn’t make sense to me as I began to investigate this stuff.

So, what is Michael Heller’s great solution for this problem? We don’t know. He doesn’t offer one.

******

Okay, let’s stop there for now. Situation seems clear enough.

FL

Perhaps you should have read the portion of his statement about the god of chance events. He is clearly taking a much more encompassing and empowering view of god FL and you ensist on believing you can quote mine him.

Perhaps you should have read the portion of his statement about the god of chance events.

Already did. Asked a question or two about it.

***

Since Heller wants to publicly hang on to God as “the creator”, and since he wants to publicly claim that ID offers a “grave theological error”, he’s really taken on a rational obligation to deal directly with the fact that biblical theology clearly SUPPORTS intelligent design and OPPOSES chance when the Bible is specifically talking about the origin/creation of Earth’s life forms (including us humans). No slippin’, dippin’, slidin’ or duckin’.

Otherwise, Heller’s claim that ID is a “grave theological error” is shown to be baseless and wrong.

FL

And FL keeps making the mistake of quoting the Bible to prove his points, while the Bible itself remains unproven. No, the “grave theological error” seems to be taking the statements of the Bible as fact rather than the evidence in the universe God supposedly created. It stands to reason that the universe and everything in it from the largest galaxy to the smallest atom reveals God’s glory far more than some series of writings from thousands of years ago of highly questionable origin.

FL, just grow up!

FL Wrote:

(2) Specifically, how does (whichever ID you specify from question #1), “deny God’s continual working in the universe”?

You have a point. ID as promoted by anti-evolution activists doesn’t rule out anything other than the activists carefully-crafted caricature of “Darwinism.” In fact, Dembski admitted that it accommodates all the “results” of “Darwinism,” whatever that means (don’t bother to figure it out - Dembski is a master of semantic bait-and-switch).

The problem with the ID strategy is that most audiences infer their particular brand of creationism from it, and the activists do nothing to stop that. Even the brief, meaningless disclaimers that “ID is not creationism” is mostly tuned out by ID’s hopelessly compartmentalized fans.

Whether you like it or not, most Christian theologians who know details of anti-evolution strategies have dismissed them as bad theology. As you know, Templeton gave ID more than ample opportunity to present itself as science, and ID failed miserably.

No science, bad theology, and a bait-and-switch scam that misleads vulnerable people. If Christians are right about the other “Judgment Day,” the activists will be in for the shock of an eternity.

In fact, Dembski admitted that it accommodates all the “results” of “Darwinism,” whatever that means (don’t bother to figure it out - Dembski is a master of semantic bait-and-switch).

I won’t guess as to what Dembski meant, but I see no way in which “somebody/something planned it” could contradict the conclusion that the process makes use of random events along the way.

At the least, establishing such a contradiction would require actually stating something about the entity(s) that did the designing and engineering (i.e., what are its/his/her/their methods, motives, limitations, preferences, priorities).

Without such information, I don’t see how a theist could assume that the designer’s plan would require any particular anatomy, biochemistry, or astronomical location for the resulting sentient species.

Henry

Heller dismisses ID, substitutes mystical superstition. The Templeton Prize is a joke. A lucrative joke, but a joke nonetheless.

Ah, yes. Muddled creationist again.….

FL:

[.…]

As an example, Father Heller said, “birth is a chance event, but people ascribe that to God. People have much better theology than adherents of intelligent design. The chance event is just a part of God’s plan.”

First, for Heller to say that “birth is a chance event” is itself a straight theological error, according to the Bible. In the Bible, NO birth (not even one’s own birth) is a matter of chance. Psalm 139 explains it:

[Biblical quote snipped]

So, just on that one point, Heller commits a theological error. The Bible never ascribes anybody’s birth to chance, but always, always, to God’s teleology, purposefulness, and foreknowledge.

This really requires clarification as to what Heller means by a “chance event,” but it is likely that he is using it within the context of Methodological Naturalism, which uses “chance” and “random” to refer to processes for which science cannot provide precise predictions, but merely statements of statistical likelihood. However, while humans (stuck in the “natural”) can only observe the “chance event,” an omniscient, supernatural God is not so constrained.

Intelligent Design, which is arguing against chance, is therefore arguing against an omniscient God. Therein lies the “grave, serious theological error” that Heller alludes to.

This really requires clarification as to what Heller means by a “chance event,” but it is likely that he is using it within the context of Methodological Naturalism, which uses “chance” and “random” to refer to processes for which science cannot provide precise predictions, but merely statements of statistical likelihood. However, while humans (stuck in the “natural”) can only observe the “chance event,” an omniscient, supernatural God is not so constrained.

Intelligent Design, which is arguing against chance, is therefore arguing against an omniscient God. Therein lies the “grave, serious theological error” that Heller alludes to.

There are at least three problems to address, Kevin B.

First, you are invoking a “supernatural God” within the (alleged) evolutionary process, and while you know that I have NO objection to invoking the actions of a supernatural God, it DOES bring up the question I asked earlier: How can evolutionists call the process “undirected” if you’re already claiming that God is clearly directing that process after all?

***

Secondly, to invoke “a supernatural God” at all here, goes directly against what evolutionary theory itself teaches:

“Evolutionary theory does not admit conscious anticipation of the future, i.e. conscious forethought.” –Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology 3rd ed.

“Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations. The theory of evolution by natural selection explains the adaptedness and diversity of the world solely materialistically.” –Mayr, “Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought, SciAm July ‘00

(Footnote: Futuyma also says that the ToE is “purely materialistic” in his textbook as well.)

***

Third, even with your explanation of what Heller may “likely” mean by the phrase “chance event” (we don’t really know for sure, do we?), it’s already been specifically demonstrated here that Biblical theology argues against chance (and against naturalism too, for that matter!!) JUST AS MUCH AS ID DOES.

In fact, the Bible argues against chance (and naturalism) much more so and much more intensely than ID, specifically with reference to origins and creation of Earth’s life forms, because the Bible invokes not just God’s teleology and direct purposefulness, but also God’s direct supernatural power and actions (for example, in creating the first humans for example, which directly negates and contradicts all evolutionist claims of human origins.)

So, if you or Heller seek to claim that ID commits a “grave, serious theological error” on the basis of your quoted explanation, then you have no rational choice but to go ahead and claim out loud that the Bible, God’s Word, ALSO commits the same “grave serious theological error”, because the Bible itself is doing the exact same thing, in fact doing more of it than ID does. Are you willing to make that particular claim?

FL

The Bible only commits this grave, serious theological error if you take it as a literal history text. (A literal history text which, mind you, can’t produce a consistent genealogy of Jesus, or come to a consensus about how Judas died, or even keep a straight story about whether man was created before or after the plants!)

St. Augustine gave us an out, about the 5th century in his “On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis”. Is the Bible’s purpose to be a literal history of the world and nothing more? Rabbi Hillel gave us an out much earlier. “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is Torah. The rest is commentary.” The same Torah that contains both divergent creation stories! The Bible is not a literal history but a spiritual guidepost.

Crintelligent designtionism makes Job’s error. Y’know, Job, the chronologically first book of the Bible? It tries to find purpose _understandable to man_ in the works of God. Anything that seems complicated must - must! - have been designed for the purpose we see it as having. Such arrogance. Evolution, and the methodological naturalism it entails, doesn’t ascribe a purpose to anything, only a history.

This doesn’t mean it denies there is a supernaturally driven purpose. Evolution doesn’t have a place to stand to even talk about such a thing as a purpose. Crintelligent designtionism is trying to carve itself one, and that’s wrong. Gravely, pridefully wrong.

Is the Bible in “grave theological error” when it contradicts itself? As it so often does?

“Is the Bible in “grave theological error” when it contradicts itself? As it so often does?”

Can I answer this one?

How far the Bible uses metaphor and parable, the degree of certainty of the exact meaning of the text, the possible errors of authorship, origin, transcription and translation, and the uncertainty of the canon, are all taken into account by nearly all Christian theologians. Even those of the Calvinist tradition are aware that Scripture requires careful exegesis and interpretation, that it does give conflicting testimony, and that literal readings are inherently dangerous. It is true that literalism was generally accepted in early modern times, but this was simply a product of limited knowledge. Over time the general Christian church accepted the truths about the Universe that science uncovered, and sees no conflict between the belief in a creator God and the knowledge of His methods. Only a small minority of fundamentalist literalists have problems with this.

Those who insist on the literal inerrancy of (some version) of Scripture are typically poorly educated about the original texts and their provenance. More precisely, they are bibliolaters; that is, they ascribe to a book - which is manifestly an earthly and human production, whatever the sources of its inspiration might be - the authority of Almighty God Himself. Hence, they deify it.

(Some of them take this error to such extremes that they ascribe divine authority to a particular translation of the Bible, typically the King James version of 1614, and insist that this translation is literally inerrant, even when scholars point out translation errors between it and the original Greek or Hebrew texts, and the variability of the latter. Of course the KJV’s original translators themselves never made any such claim. They were far more humble men.)

It has many times been pointed out to literalists that a work of human hands that is perfect and without flaw would be a miracle. Even then, it would be a further miracle if it were understood perfectly. To demand of God that He create such miracles to order is indicative of feeble faith, not to mention that it is hubristic, indeed blasphemous. To insist that the Scriptures are by definition divinely inspired, and that this is the same as inerrancy, is clearly to deny human fallibility, and hence to confuse the Creator with the creation.

That’s why biblical inerrancy is poor theology, and it’s why the Bible is not to be read literally. So when it contradicts itself, it is not to be read literally, either. Simple as that.

The Catholics in particular are very firm on not taking the Bible literally. While I am not Catholic, it has been pointed out to me that the Catholic clergy actively DISCOURAGE their followers from reading the Bible themselves. The priest will interpret it for you and tell you what it means. It is NOT to be taken literally.

Take a close look at the books available in the pews in any Catholic church–I’d be very surprised if there was a Bible among them, based on reported observations from several Catholics/former Catholics.

Catholic clergy actively DISCOURAGE their followers from reading the Bible themselves.

The more it changes… Wasn’t translating the Bible from Latin to the vernacular considered a crime when it was first done? I imagine the Catholic hierarchy wasn’t too thrilled with Mr. Gutenberg’s invention, either.

Dave Luckett Wrote:

To demand of God that He create such miracles to order is indicative of feeble faith, not to mention that it is hubristic, indeed blasphemous.

Dave,

You’ve obviously given this much thought. I enjoyed reading your comment (and please don’t ascribe much significance to the part I chose to quote – all of it was pretty good). I wonder if I could get your thoughts on something I’ve always been trying to get across to c’ists. That is, by demanding that Genesis is to be taken literally, they limit the method of creation that God could have used to something that could be understood by people 3KYA. If God intended Genesis to be understood literally, and He used a method that nomadic shepherds could not understand, then the story of what he actually did would have had to wait for people to develop enough understanding to comprehend it. This would be rather like trying to truthfully answer a three-year-old’s question of “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where does the rainbow come from?” Answering truthfully and fully would only confuse the child, and “you’ll understand when you’re older” won’t really satisfy, either. So what do we (who are created in God’s image) do? We tell fairy tales to three-year-olds. Who are we to forbid God from doing the same with His children?

I’ve never gotten a good response from anyone on that.

Indeed, it seems a perfectly reasonable analogy. The writers of Genesis - which is a synthesis of at least two different traditions, as linguistic analysis of the original Hebrew shows - were aware that they were compiling creation stories, not handing down God’s truth from on high, as is shown by the fact that they simply transmitted the two creation stories they give, without attempting to resolve the differences between them. That is, they knew that they were not privy to the mind of God, and they were aware that these were stories, narratives; that they had meaning and truth to them without necessarily being the literal truth. Narrative does have that odd property, as anyone who hears it knows. Why else do we read fiction?

I suspect that like the KJV translators, the Genesis compilers were humbler and yet more sophisticated than modern young-earth creationists or IDers. They were content to deal with the material to hand with the wit God gave them, without making further demands on Him. We understand God’s universe with the mind He gave us, which is alone sufficient. To say otherwise is to reject His gifts as insufficient. This is the sin of pride at its most grandiose and florid, and it is wickedly false.

Then there’s the price of papyrus.

Moses wanted to write down the 4 1/2 billion year history of the Earth that had been downloaded into his brain.

But Aaron kept saying they couldn’t afford the amount of papyrus that would take.

“Well, how much can we afford?” says Moses.

“One week”.

Ah, Asimov.

Anyhoo, the “Catholic Study Bible” on my bookshelf would seem to be setting up some kinda contradiction thing, woodsong.

In Judaism there is the Talmud, which is to put it in modern terms a sort of “FAQ” or “sticky thread” on the topic of the Torah. The Torah goes in the center of the page, encircled by centuries of commentary.

Think about progressing in science. You start with your intro courses, and your books full of generalities, interesting incidents, and maybe a few overgeneralizations. As you progress you get into more advanced texts and start reading research papers, and then begin doing your own work “raw” as it were. Nobody gives a new student a bunch of tools and a gentle push and expects them to recreate the entire 2000-year history of science, even in an abridged form.

My “Catholic Study Bible” is a Talmud, in a way, full of commentary, analysis, and cross-references. It’s the graduate textbook to the missal’s intro text. Many parishes also have an adult Scripture study group that meets outside of normal Mass. But Mass instruction itself often winds up like a class where you have to keep teaching at the same level. (And before Vatican II threw open the windows of the Church you couldn’t even understand half the lecture!)

Google “Jesuits” sometime. Apologia, scholarship, and analysis are part of the Catholic tradition, though just as much as the Latin Mass.

I’m willing to suspend my disbelief to enjoy a good show

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on March 20, 2008 10:00 PM.

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