The voice of a renowned professor of philosophy in Poland, who is also a Roman Catholic priest, is introduced to the United States in this collection of his provocative essays on the interplay of science and religion. Michael Heller progressively outlines systematic steps that might lead to a peaceful coexistence of these traditionally separate fields of study. Some essays have their roots in the author's work in physics and cosmology, while others present his theories on the language of God, creation, and transcendence, inspired by his work in the applications of so-called noncommutative geometry, an emerging field of study.
The book is organized into four sections, each preceded by a brief introduction explaining the order of the essays and their internal logic.
Part one deals with methodology, evaluates the theological interpretation of scientific theories, and proposes a program for a "theology of science."
Part two looks at the interaction of science and religion from a historical perspective. Topics include the evolution of ideas connected with the place of man in the Universe and the evolution of matter, among others.
Part three concentrates on the "creation and science" quandary, including the big bang theory and the role of probability and chance in science, well as their impact on theological questions.
Part four looks for vestiges of transcendence in contemporary science.
Creative Tension joins the Templeton library of resources contributing to the growing global dialogue on science and religion.
Table of Contents
Foreword / vii
Preface / xi
PART ONE. FROM THE METHODOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE / 1
1. THE ABUSE OF COSMOLOGY / 3
2. ON THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS OF PHYSICAL CREATION THEORIES / 10
3. THE SCIENTIFIC IMAGE OF THE WORLD / 22
4. A PROGRAM FOR THEOLOGY OF SCIENCE / 29
PART TWO. FROM THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE / 33
5. FROM THE PRIVILEGED MARGIN TO AN AVERAGE CENTER / 35
6. SCIENTIFIC RATIONALITY AND CHRISTIAN LOGOS / 47
7. TEILHARD’S VISION OF THE WORLD AND MODERN COSMOLOGY / 58
8. LEMAÎTRE—PRIEST AND SCIENTIST / 70
PART THREE. THE WORK OF CREATION / 75
9. COSMOLOGICAL SINGULARITY AND THE CREATION OF
THE UNIVERSE / 79
10. GENERALIZATIONS: FROM QUANTUM MECHANICS TO GOD / 100
11. CHAOS, PROBABILITY, AND THE COMPREHENSIBILITY
OF THE WORLD / 127
PART FOUR. TRANSCENDING SCIENCE / 145
12. “ILLICIT JUMPS”—THE LOGIC OF CREATION / 147
13. SCIENCE AND FAITH IN INTERACTION / 153
14. SCIENCE AND TRANSCENDENCE / 162
Acknowledgments / 173
APPENDIX: Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and Its Work for Science and Religion / 175
The great cosmological physicists give us the sense that they have peered through a glass darkly and for brief moment into what Hawking calls “the mind of God.” Michael Heller, distinguished physicist and a member of Pope John Paul II’s own theological team, is in Creative Tension trying to give a sketch of what he saw through that smoked glass.
The author of this book is well versed both in physics and religion. He demonstrates in his book that one can be truly religious and faithfully scientific. Methodologically scientific cognition and religious cognition are radically different; they cannot be "synthesized" too hastily. What the author offers in this book is a well-prepared synthesis constantly accompanied by logically organized reflection. The book is divided into four parts. In the first part, the author proposes a program for a "theology of science." The second offers historical perspective of the science-religion interactions. The third section is dedicated to the problem of creation and science. In the last section, the issue of vestiges of transcendence is addressed.
The author has succeeded in replacing a God-of-the-Gods theology with a legitimate theological interpretation of cosmological theories. Such legitimacy demands the acceptance of a doctrine of creation. The world is a realization of the rational plan of the Creator, and as such it is impregnated with meaning.
This is a lucid and liberating book that faces the challenge of science to religion. It is full of insights that will stimulate and inform all those who are seriously interested in the interrelationship of science and religion.
Michael Heller is one of the finest minds in ’religion and science’. Thus, it is wonderful to have this collection of some of his essays available in such an accessible format. Of the fourteen essays collected here, three have been presented in the context of the European Conferences; he was also one of the founding members of ESSSAT.
Heller is a rare scholar, in that he combines remarkable competence in four different areas. He is an excellent philosopher, as witnessed here by his contributions on methodology. . . . This book is a wonderful place to listen to this voice, pick up ideas, and integrate them into one’s own research.
Michael Heller brings to his reflections on science and religion a depth of knowledge, thought, and experience that is highly unusual. The three essays that deal with Heller’s work on "non-commutative geometry" and the Big Bang, while stimulating, are somewhat repetitive, and they contain some material too technical for the intended audience.
This engaging book is a collection of previously published essays on a variety of topics that Michael Heller has put together here as a way to make a statement about the relationship of science and religion. Heller is a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, Poland and is co-founder (in the 1970s with Joseph Zycinski and with the support of the then Cardinal Wojtyla) of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at the Academy.
Science and religion touch at what Heller describes as a "horizon" of "mystery," that is, at the limits of scientific rationality. These limits are apparent in the "illicit jumps" science makes in connecting to the world, and they fall into three classes: ontological, or why there is something rather than nothing (the old Principle of Sufficient Reason); epistemological, or the Einsteinian wonder that the abstract mathematical structure of science should correspond to reality; and the moral/axiological, or the concern with the meaning and value of what exists evident in the commitment to scientific reason (science deals with facts, religion with values, it seems). Heller believes it possible to respect the methodological integrity of science while situating scientific reason in the broader rational context of Christian Logos.
Michael Heller, in his work Creative Tension: Essays on Science and Religion presents a collection of his previously published essays on topics ranging from physics, noncommutative geometry, and cosmology to his theories on the language of God, creation, and transcendence. Heller proffers a methodological evaluation of the theological interpretation of cosmological theories in order that he may move beyond a God-of-the-gaps theology to the development of a peaceful coexistence between science and theology. Heller succinctly explicates his argument for the importance of theology and cosmology to this peaceful coexistence:
Heller’s discussions of these issues are valuable and interesting. After a summary of Heller’s work, we discuss the success of Heller’s overall position.
In conclusion, Heller introduces the reader to novel conceptual approaches to cosmology and their possible applications to theology.
Scientific and Medical Network, The—Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
The author of this original book is a Catholic priest who is professor of philosophy (with a PhD in cosmology) at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, and whose discussions on the topic go back to the 1960s when Karol Wojtyla was Archbishop. The works falls into four parts: method, history, creation and science and transcendence. The theme throughout is science and its horizion, hence the place of science—and rationality—in a wider scheme of things. For Heller, religious faith is an extension of his faith in reason and he is fascinated by the intelligibility of the related to his understanding of the Logos. He finds kindred spirits in Teilhard de Chardin and Georges Lemaitre, both of whom have chapters devoted to their work.
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith—Vol. 60, No. 3
Michael Heller is the 2008 winner of the Templeton prize in science and religion and these essays demonstrate that the prize was well deserved. Creative Tension was published in 2003; however, because Heller is from Poland and has written largely in Polish, his work was virtually unknown to Western audiences until he received the Templeton prize. Heller is both a Roman Catholic priest and a cosmologist. He is actively engaged in research on noncommutative geometry and its application to relativity and quantum mechanics. Thus he brings the perspectives both of a practicing scientist and of a trained theologian to these essays. The result is a unique and stimulating integration.
Creative Tension is well written and stimulating reading. Anyone trained in physical science or mathematics should have sufficient background to understand all of the technical concepts; someone in the social or life sciences may need to skip some technical explanations; a person trained in the humanities can still find much here but will need to read selectively. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the science-religion conflict. —James Bradley
Michael Heller, a Catholic priest, is professor of philosophy at the Pontifical academy of Theology in Cracow, Poland, and an adjunct member of the Vatican Observatory staff. When Cardinal Karol Wojtyla left for Rome in 1978, Heller took over the interdisciplinary discussions on science and religion which the future pope had held in his Episcopal residence. His book is in four parts which treat 1) abuses in the methodology of science and theology, theological interpretation of scientific theories, and a proposed program for a theology of science, 2) historical perspectives, including the evolution of ideas concerning the place of man in the universe and the concept of the evolution of matter, 3) topics related to creation and science, including the "big bang," quantum cosmology, and the role of probability and chance in science, and 4) vestiges of transcendence in some key issues of contemporary science and the methods it employs.
In the inquiring vein of Teilhard de Chardin, Heller envisions a cosmos
where there is no dichotomy between science and religion. Indeed, one his
chapters is "Tielhard’s Vision of the World and Modern Cosmology." And like de
Chardin in whose footsteps he follows, Heller is a Catholic philosopher. He is an
ordained priest who is a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of
Theology in Cracow, Poland. The various approaches Heller takes in moving
about in this large, grand, endless field stem from his work with the concept of
"noncommutative geometry," a new field in which he is leading thinker.
Scientific methodology, the history of the attempt to synthesize science and
religion, creation, and metaphysics and metalanguage are among the areas of science,
theology, and philosophy Heller engages in to offer penetrating, luminous
considerations for the philosophically-minded.