For God and Math

14 March 08 | Posted in Arts and Letters, Global Catholic

Michael Heller, 72, a Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest, has won the 2008 Templeton Prize.  Reverend Professor Heller serves on the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow. michael-heller.jpg

In his acceptance statement he said, “Things thought through by God should be identified with mathematical structures interpreted as structures of the world.” In a word, Professor Heller sees mathematics as the language of God.

Much of Professor Heller’s career has been dedicated to reconciling the known scientific world with the unknowable dimensions of God.

In doing so, he has argued against a “God of the gaps” strategy for relating science and religion, a view that uses God to explain what science cannot.

Heller said he believed, for example, that the religious objection to teaching evolution “is one of the greatest misunderstandings” because it “introduces a contradiction of opposition between God and chance.”

In a telephone interview, Professor Heller explained his affinity for the two fields: “I always wanted to do the most important things, and what can be more important than science and religion? Science gives us knowledge, and religion gives us meaning. Both are prerequisites of the decent existence.”

Heller’s current work focuses on noncommutative geometry and groupoid theory in mathematics which attempts to remove the problem of an initial cosmological singularity at the origin of the universe. “If on the fundamental level of physics there is no space and no time, as many physicists think,” says Heller, “noncommutative geometry could be a suitable tool to deal with such a situation.”

His philosophical hero is 17th century German mathematician-philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. In the margin of his work Dialogus there is a short handwritten remarks in Latin that says, “When God calculates and thinks things through, the world is made.” “My philosophy is encapsulated in that,” said Heller.


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