The winner of the 2008 Templeton Prize (for Progress toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities) is Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest Michael Heller. New Scientist have an excellent interview with Heller (do you call him Dr Heller or Father Heller?), who receives £820,000 towards his research from the Templeton Foundation. In it, he discusses how he resolves the seemingly fundamental disconnect between science and religion:
Everything depends on your concept of rationality. Science is a model of rationality. The question is whether the limits of rationality coincide with limits of the scientific method. If they do, then there is no place for religion or theology because everything outside of the scientific method is automatically irrational. On the other hand, if you agree that they do not coincide then there is a place for rational religious belief. If you look at the recent history of science and philosophy, you can see that the dominating philosophy in western countries was positivistic, it said that the scientific method is identical with rationality and that what’s beyond the scientific method is beyond rationality. Nowadays very few philosophers agree with this; we are more pluralistic.
While Heller’s words are sure to draw a rebuke from hardcore atheists and fundamentalists alike, his analysis is spot on in my opinion. The tying of rationalism to physicalist science is one of the real flaws in current atheist opinion (again in my opinion). And while I personally can’t see how I would resolve Catholicism within this spectrum of rationalism, I do think Heller offers some good insights in this interview.
The Templeton Prize website has much more on Michael Heller, including news stories from around the globe about his win.