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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Michael Heller Wins Templeton Prize

Michael Heller, a Catholic priest, theologian, mathematical physicist, cosmologist, and philosophy professor at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, Poland, is the 2008 Templeton Prize winner. He is accepting the award this morning at a press conference (and live Web cast) at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York.
For more than 40 years, and often under communist repression, Heller has explored life's ultimate questions by studying the origin and cause of the universe, focusing on the beauty and comprehensibility of its mathematical structure. "Mathematical structures that are parts of the composition determining the functioning of the universe are called laws of physics," he said in prepared remarks. "It is a very subtle composition indeed. Like in any masterly symphony, elements of chance and necessity are interwoven with each other and together span the structure of the whole. Elements of necessity determine the pattern of possibilities and dynamical paths of becoming, but they leave enough room for chancy events to make this becoming rich and individual."
Heller's insights into math, physics, and religion began to develop at early age—family friends would gather in the Heller home to discuss these topics—and his father would often talk about the great need to combine science and religion. From the time he was 10, Heller had decided both were important and would be a part of his life, setting his path to the priesthood and academia. "Science gives us knowledge, and religion gives us meaning," he said. "Both are prerequisites of the decent existence. The paradox is that these two great values seem often to be in conflict. I am frequently asked how I could reconcile them with each other. When such a question is posed by a scientist or a philosopher, I invariably wonder how educated people could be so blind not to see that science does nothing else but exploits God’s creation."
The Templeton Prize, valued at more than 1.5 million dollars, the largest annual monetary award given to an individual, celebrates someone who has engaged life's big questions, whether it be the laws of nature and the universe, or the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, or creativity. It will be officially awarded to Heller by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London on May 7. —Heather Wax


Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to see a contemporary scientist with the courage to leave behind the prison-house of modern agnosticism, which claims- on scientific grounds!- that it is meaningless for human beings to pose the question of the Unknowable. Prof. Michael Heller is a true embodiment of the enlightened spirit of Greek antiquity, and figures such as Aristotle, who dared to bring together a questioning of the nature of the whole with a close observation of nature.