Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Scientific faith

And you thought people didn't think anymore! Paul Davies wrote an op ed in The New York Times on the faith of science. Perhaps it may be hard to follow him completely but one of the most important points he makes is the fact that scientists have ceased to ask "why?" Therefore they must have strong faith since they refuse to look for a reason or source for the laws of physics or structure of universe.

His conclusion is still a secular argument but it still works because he outlines what science needs in order to be truly "science," and it's (admittedly) questionable whether they can fully accomplish that.

Excuse the long quote...you really should read the whole thing if you have time!
When I was a student, the laws of physics were regarded as completely off limits. The job of the scientist, we were told, is to discover the laws and apply them, not inquire into their provenance. The laws were treated as “given” — imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth — and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.

Can the mighty edifice of physical order we perceive in the world about us ultimately be rooted in reasonless absurdity? If so, then nature is a fiendishly clever bit of trickery: meaninglessness and absurdity somehow masquerading as ingenious order and rationality.
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Blogger iMurphy said...

Davies is a modernist. All the people he's railing against are post-modernists. To be more precise, they are modernists in their own little world, but their bigger picture for everything no immediately having to do with their discipline is post-modern. That the way I find most scientists.

6:10 AM, December 14, 2007  

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