Polish priest-cosmologist wins prestigious Templeton Prize

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?