Templeton Winner Thinks Big

By Street, Nick | Science & Spirit, May-June 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Templeton Winner Thinks Big


Street, Nick, Science & Spirit


Michal Kazimierz Heller, recipient of this year's Templeton Prize "for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities," is an unlikely believer in the idea that human history, spiritual or otherwise, is a chronicle of progress.

In September 1939, with German forces greedily devouring great chunks of his native Poland, Heller's father, a mechanical engineer at a chemical factory, helped to sabotage what was about to become industrial war booty for the Third Reich. He then fled with his family--including three-year-old Michal--to the relative safety of Lvov, a culturally Polish city in what was then the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

A few months later, the Hellers, along with a million other Poles, were relocated under Stalin's orders to labor camps, first in Siberia and later in southern Russia.

Only after Poland became a Soviet satellite in 1946 were the Hellers able to resettle in Tarnow, their hometown, near the Czech border. By that time, Michal had spent seven of his ten years either as a fugitive from the Nazis or a prisoner of the Communists.

Having become so intimately acquainted at such a young age with the grimmest aspects of human character, Heller could easily be forgiven a Manichean perspective on the world. But as an ordained Catholic priest and cosmologist, he flatly rejects both the aridity of strict materialism ("matter is all that exists") and especially the "God in the gaps" variety of magical thinking that informs the "intelligent design" movement.

"Such views are theologically erroneous," Heller said in his response to receiving the Templeton Prize. "They implicitly revive the old manicheistic error postulating the existence of two forces acting against each other: God and inert matter ... There is no opposition here. Within the all-comprising mind of God, what we call chance and random events is well composed into the symphony of creation."

This belief in the ontological continuity between the Creator and his creation puts Heller squarely in the center of the Western philosophical lineage that begins with Aristotle and grows in influence under Aquinas, Aristotle's thirteenth-century Christian apologist. The central features of this movement are, first, a belief that human reason can discern the mind of God in nature and, second, that this process of discernment is the engine that moves human civilization steadily closer to the state of perfection willed by God.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Templeton Winner Thinks Big
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?