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Friday, May 23, 2008

Paul Davies on Science and Religion

I just read Paul Davies' article, "Taking Science On Faith." The point of the article is that science is just as much a faith-based system as religion, though apparently Mr. Davies believes there is some hope that science may transcend its allegedly theological roots. All scientists need to do is develop a testable hypothesis that accounts for the fundamental laws of nature.

It is not absurd for him to suggest that scientists could, or even should, develop such a hypothesis. What is absurd is the claim that, until such an achievement is reached, all of science implies or relies on faith--more specifically, a faith that is equivalent to that of religion.

Paul Davies is an award-winning popularizer of science, but you wouldn't know it by reading this recent article. I have to agree with PZ Myers, who wrote a response to Mr. Davies for Edge.org and believes that Mr. Davies' article could not have been published on its merits.

I knew that Mr. Davies liked to tease the connections between religion and science (one of his books is entitled "The Mind of God,"), but I had no idea how far he was willing to stretch the limits of reason in that pursuit. This is the first I've read of what Mr. Davies has to say on the subject, though I have enjoyed some of his other work. (His book, "About Time," is a highly accessible and enjoyable, if at times superficial, treatment of some scientific and philosophical problems surrounding the notion of time.) Based on this recent article (and the rejoinder found at Edge.org, in which he misrepresents his own arguments), it is clear that Mr. Davies' credentials as an intellect have been strained beyond the breaking point. In short, he seems unable to maintain a coherent and consistent argument on the subject of religion and the philosophy of science.

Fortunately, along with PZ Myers, several scientists at Edge.org have cut through most of Mr. Davies' nonsense. (See this link for the rest of the responses.) I will not go through all of the points one-by-one. I will leave it to the reader to judge and comment accordingly.