His unique position as a creatively working scientist and reflective man of religion has brought to science a sense of transcendent mystery andto religion a view of the universe through the broadly open eyes of science. He has introduced a significant notion of theology of science. He has succeeded in showing that religion isolating itself from scientific insights is lame, and science failing to acknowledge other ways of understanding is blind.
So said Professor Karol Musiol, Rector of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, of his friend Professor Michael Heller (left) – a philosopher, theologian and mathematician – who has won the Templeton Prize (worth £820,000!). See the whole article in The Times (HT – Nancy Heeb). This is how Heller describes the relationship between his theism and his science:
If we ask about the cause of the universe we should ask about the cause of mathematical laws. By doing so we are back in the great blueprint of God’s thinking about the universe, the question on ultimate causality: why is there something rather than nothing? When asking this question, we are not asking about a cause like all other causes. We are asking about the root of all possible causes. Science is but a collective effort of the human mind to read the mind of God from question marks out of which we and the world around us seem to be made.
Of course, sceptics will simply point out that this prize is biased: it’s for people who already accept God. Dawkins described it as ‘a very large sum of money given […] usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion.’ Well so what?! After all, the culture wars of modern science appear to make scientific advancement very difficult for those who do accept God. But the fascinating thing about all this is simply that it gives exposure to top-level scientists who are theistic, much to the incomprehension and frustrations of the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens. They seem to be everywhere these days. In fact, if you visit the average British university Christian Union these days, you are much more likely to meet students from the ‘hard’ sciences like Physics and Chemistry or Medicine, than you are from the wishy-washy arts subjects like (Languages, Literature, History – and I speak as someone from one of those who started out in the wishy-washy world of Classics). There is a widespread acceptance (despite media gossip-mongers and New Atheist ranters) that there is no intrinsic or necessary contradiction between science and religion.
I’m no scientist or mathmo, so i don’t fully understand it all – but that is not what interests me. It is simply the fact of philosophical compatibility that gets me. This is how The Times article breaks Heller’s ideas down:
- They revolve around the search for a fundamental theory of creation. His research ranges beyond Einstein and into quantum mechanics, cosmology, physics and pure mathematics, including his own version of the Heisenberg equation, below. Although his theories do not prove the existence of God, they may provide circumstantial evidence that He exists.
- So long as the Universe had a beginning, we can suppose it had a creator, he says. But if the Universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?
- Professor Heller argues against the Newtonian concept of creation, that is, against the idea of an absolute space and an absolute time and of God creating energy and matter at certain times.
- He suggests modern theologians should go back to the traditional doctrine that the creation of the Universe was an act that occurred outside space and time.
For the amateurish novice like me, there are some great books out there that provide accessible avenues into all this. Here are one or two of my favourites: