An 11-year-old boy genius, who on Saturday graduated from St. Petersburg College in Florida just two years after finishing high school, said he wants to become an astrophysicist and prove that God exists.
"I want to prove that God does exist through science — so that the world can know," William Maillis, who received an associate in arts degree, told The Tampa Bay Times.
He argued that atheism and some parts of science rely on faith just as much as religion does. He suggested that it is more likely that a higher power created the universe than a random event.
"Science and religion are no different," William said. "Science is a tool for explaining the world. Science doesn't disprove God."
His father serves as the presiding priest at Saints Raphael, Nicholas & Irene Hellenic Orthodox Church in Palm Harbor.
William began speaking in complete sentences by seven months, learned addition and subtraction by age two, and was declared a genius at age five.
He told WTFS he believes his gifts are divinely inspired.
"Everybody has gifts from God. I was gifted with knowledge and science and history," William said.
Peter Maillis, the father, admitted that one issue the family has had is raising money for college, given that because of his son's age, he can't qualify for the federal student financial aid program.
"You would think, a kid like this, they would be throwing money at him," the priest said.
Tonjua Williams, president of St. Petersburg College, praised the boy in an interview with Bay News 9.
"I am totally fascinated by William and the work that he has done," Williams said.
"He's extremely brilliant, very open and collaborative."
William will be taking classes at the University of South Florida this fall. His goal is to get a Ph.D. by the time he's 18.
Joanne Ruthsatz, the former Ohio State University psychologist who studied William and declared him a genius, said that the family's history of autism could explain why he was born with so much ability.
"Prodigies have, like, this drive to do good," Ruthsatz said. "They're very much tuned in to the bigger picture of humanity."
The psychologist noted that children like William are about 1 in 10 million, and many of them have gone on to start foundations for the greater good.