The 2008 Templeton Prize was announced today. It goes to Michael Heller, a Polish cosmologist, philosopher and Catholic priest, for “sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the universe.” The full name of the Templeton Prize is the “Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities” Its goal is to promote bringing science and religion together by awarding a prize of 820,000 pounds sterling, the single largest award given to an individual. Prince Philip somehow gets into the picture too, since he will be presenting the prize to Heller in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in early May.
In recent years Heller has been interested in non-commutative geometry as way to study quantum gravity and cosmology. According to Heller, the crucial question of cosmology is “Can the Universe Explain Itself?”, and associated with the awarding of this prize, the Templeton Foundation will be hosting a discussion of the associated question “Does the Universe Need to Have a Cause?”.
The Templeton press materials describe Heller as “initiating what can be justly termed the ‘theology of science.'” His nomination for the prize says that:
It is evident that for him the mathematical nature of the world and its comprehensibility by humans constitute the circumstantial evidence of the existence of God.
I’m rather dubious about the way Heller mixes theology, philosophy and cosmology, but, unlike much harder-nosed physicists these days, at least he seems to recognize the problems with the Multiverse.
Heller intends to use the prize money to create a Copernicus Center in Cracow to further research and education in science and theology.