Friday, March 21, 2008

Recipient of the Templeton Prize Rejects Intelligent Design Theory

Recently, the John Templeton Foundation announced that the 2008 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities will be awarded to Michael Heller, a Catholic priest and cosmologist at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, Poland. The prize brings an award of $1.6 million dollars. This is part of the Templeton Foundation's extensive sponsorship of work in science and religion.

Heller's statement on receiving the prize can be found here. As part of this statement, he explains why he rejects "intelligent design theory" as a putative alternative to Darwinian science:

"Adherents of the so-called intelligent design ideology commit a grave theological error. They claim that scientific theories that ascribe a great role to chance and random events in the evolutionary processes should be replaced, or supplemented, by theories acknowledging the thread of intelligent design in the universe. Such views are theologically erroneous. They implicitly revive the old manicheistic error postulating the existence of two forces acting against each other: God and an inert matter; in this case, chance and intelligent design. 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."

I made a somewhat similar point in my chapter on "intelligent design" in Darwinian Conservatism. "Intelligent design theory" denies Christian theology by assuming a Gnostic antagonism between natural order and divine intelligence. It assumes a dichotomy such that either living beings evolved or they were intelligently designed. William Dembski's "explanatory filter" posits that if we can explain something as a product of natural regularities, then we cannot attribute this to design. But Christian theology would say that everything is intelligently designed by God--either through His design of natural laws (including evolution) or through His designing things outside His natural laws. For that reason, many Christian scientists believe that if all living things could be explained as products of Darwinian natural evolution, this would be a wondrous manifestation of God's power for intelligently designing natural laws to execute His purposes. Whether God works through the ordinary laws of nature or through extraordinary miracles, it's all an expression of His intelligent design. From the point of view of Christian theology, Darwinian evolution is intelligent design.

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