Adventures in Ethics and Science

This New York Times op-ed, to be precise. My questions for Paul Davies can be boiled down to these two:

  1. What kinds of explanations, precisely, are you asking science to deliver to you?
  2. Just why do you think it is the job of science to provide such explanations?


Let’s back up a little and look at some of what Davies writes in his op-ed:

… science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

The most refined expression of the rational intelligibility of the cosmos is found in the laws of physics, the fundamental rules on which nature runs. The laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, the laws that regulate the world within the atom, the laws of motion — all are expressed as tidy mathematical relationships. But where do these laws come from? And why do they have the form that they do?

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.

Here, Davies makes it sound like being a scientist requires a metaphysical commitment to a certain sort of order and intelligibility within the universe. While many scientists may in fact have such a commitment, I think making it a requirement is too strong. Rather, science seems to depend on a bundle of methodological commitments (about the utility of trying to find stable patterns of behavior, tidy mathematical relations, and so forth). As I wrote in an ancient post on the ancestor of this blog

Of course scientific theories bring some philosophy with them. You think the data we collect today can help us make good predictions about what will happen tomorrow? That reflects a metaphysical commitment you have about what kind of universe you’re living in. And there’s nothing wrong with having that commitment. Indeed, it’s what helps some of us get out of bed in the morning. You want to show me the analysis that shows your results are statistically significant? Fine, but don’t forget that the claim of statistical significance rests on metaphysical commitments about the normal distribution of data in the bit of the world you’re studying. If you didn’t start with some metaphysical hunches, there would be no way to do any science.

Please note that I take hunches — even metaphysical hunches — to be much less binding than commitments.

But, … there is an important distinction between what one takes up as a methodological strategy and what one takes on as a metaphysical commitment

The deal with science — the thing that makes it different from some “philosophical theories” you might worry about — it that there’s a serious attempt to do the job of describing, explaining, and manipulating the universe with a relatively lean set of metaphysical commitments, and to keep many of the commitments methodological. If you’re in the business of using information from the observables, there are many junctures where the evidence is not going to tell you for certain whether P is true or not-P is true. There has to be a sensible way to deal with, or to bracket, the question of P so that science doesn’t grind to a halt while you wait around for more evidence. Encounter a phenomenon that you’re not sure is explainable in terms of any of the theories or data you have at the ready? You can respond by throwing your hands up and hypothesizing, “A wizard did it!” , or you can dig in and see whether further investigation of the phenomenon will yield an explanation. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. In cases where it does not, science is still driven by a commitment to build an explanation in terms of stuff in the natural world, despite the fact that we may have to reframe our understanding of that natural world in fairly significant ways.

The title of his op-ed notwithstanding (“Taking Science on Faith”), I don’t think Davies’ main concern here is that scientists are blind to the fact that they make certain foundational assumptions in order to get to the business of examining and explaining their phenomena. In part, I don’t think this is what Davies is on about because scientists know that they are making these foundational assumptions. How tightly they hold them, whether they are methodological or metaphysical commitments, seems a side issue to the issue Davies is pressing. He writes:

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.

Can Davies be right that “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”? This seems rather stronger than, say, pointing out the natural causes for the natural phenomena being explained. At least, Davies seems to be asking for something stronger if he demands reasons why all the laws are as they are, and why all the stuff of the universe turned out as it did, that explain everything — the “bedrock” as well.

Asking for explanations of the level which we currently hold as the bedrock — the “fundamental” level as far as our understanding is concerned — isn’t a problem. Expecting that every level must yield further explanations in terms of another level underneath, else our science has failed and dissolved into absurdity, strikes me as unwarranted. (This over-strong demand, in fact, strikes me as a mockery of science.)

Davies then writes a bunch of stuff about multiverse theory that makes it sound as if physicists are all dyed-in-the-wool Platonists as far as laws of physics are concerned. He writes, for example, that “physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships”. Maybe some of them do, but is this a commitment that is built into the edifice of Physics, or is it rather the leaning of individual physicists who work to contribute to that edifice?

If the physicists could weigh in on this, I’d be much obliged. It seems like a suspect claim to me — and I’m coming at it from the point of view of a former physical chemist who then studied metaphysics. “Laws of nature” (or of physics, if you prefer) strike me as something more like a set of generalizations about what the stuff of reality does (or might do with certain probability) in particular conditions.

Anyway, whatever sort of things the laws of nature might be, what kind of answer does Davies want to the question of why the laws are what they are? If somehow physicists worked out that the properties of the most fundamental stuff, plus the initial conditions of that stuff, were such that this is how that stuff had to evolve and interact, would that be explanation enough? Or would Davies press on and ask, “But why does this stuff have these properties? Why do we live in a universe with this kind of stuff rather than some other kind of stuff? Why weren’t the initial conditions different, sending our world on a different trajectory?”

Is this what he’s after?

Would descriptions of how the universe might have been under such different circumstances be scientific explanation enough for Davies? Because I’m not at all certain that science can — or should — promise more than that.

Comments

  1. #1 Christopher Gwyn
    November 24, 2007

    Mr. Davies appears – at least to me – to want ‘scientists’ to ‘admit’ that ‘everyone has to have faith’. Notice he starts with an unsubstantiated assertion that scientists have faith (“science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way“), then he immediately asserts that “you couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed” with no evidence that ‘scientists’ actually think like that. I speculate that he is a theist who feels uncomfortable with the increasing visibility of truly atheistic people. As an atheist I do not care about the provenance of the laws of physics unless I have a way to test the hunches, assumptions, beliefs, hypothesis or theories I or others might have about ‘why’ the laws of physics are as they are. Without a way to test his speculations Mr. Davies is being no more useful than an astrologer, minister, or priest.

  2. #2 Alan Kellogg
    November 24, 2007

    A little note for Davies; if the universe were not understandable, and understandable in the way that it is, we wouldn’t have science or technology in the way we have them. It would be a radically different universe.

  3. #3 Bob
    November 24, 2007

    Much of his argument turns on the ambiguity of “faith” – on the one hand it means simply trust, while on the other hand it means belief beyond evidence. It seems to me that we should try to keep those two senses separate, perhaps with a “faith” / “Faith” distinction.

  4. #4 cyber fizzle
    November 24, 2007

    I disagree with Davies. I don’t see how he can compare the two.

  5. #5 R. Vangala
    November 24, 2007

    I’m not too comfortable with your ‘methodological’ baggage/’metaphysical’ baggage distinction. It is true that scientists adopt stances on metaphysical issues in order to motivate certain research programs, and it is often appropriate to understand these stances as being in some sense methodological. Still, the support that empirical success confers upon the hypotheses entertained within a particular research program is not exclusive – as Quine remarked, “our statements about the external world face the tribunal of experience not individually but only as a corporate body.” That is, empirical evidence redounds to the credit not only of the individual hypothesis apparently being tested, but also to all of the many assumptions that the experiment in question presupposes, including the present research program’s metaphysical commitments. I think, therefore, that a realistic interpretation of science involves commitments to the metaphysical presuppositions of contemporary science, not least of which is the proposition that “nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way.” Once these commitments are appreciated, the issue of science being based on “faith” dissolves completely.

  6. #6 Anon
    November 25, 2007

    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.

    Davies conflates two types of laws; our cultures’ proscriptive laws, and the natural world’s descriptive laws. If you violate the first, you can be punished; if you violate the second, we have to change the law. The “reason” the latter exist is simply that they are observed. But this “reason” is an effect of our observations, not a cause of them. Davies is doing the circularity dance, and poorly. If we observe attraction, and call it a “law of gravity”, we cannot then say that this attraction is because of this law of gravity. Attraction simply is gravity.

    If Davies is so concerned about the “anti-rational”, he should take more care in crafting his writing. It is far more illogical than reasonless laws.

  7. #7 PhysioProf
    November 25, 2007

    What a vacuous dipshit. There is a big difference between religious faith and methodological heuristic. Scientists take the stance that the universe exibits discernable regularities amenable to human understanding because that stance *works*. Religious faith is all about believing particular things to be the case regardless of whether those beliefs work.

    Why does the NY Times continually print this kind of fancy-sounding moronic garbage?

  8. #8 Thomas Robey
    November 25, 2007

    I appreciate your distinction between metaphysical commitments and methodological strategies. When discussing the perspectives of scientists in action (Latour reference intended), it is important to consider what the practitioners recognize as the foundation of their activity. In the trenches, you will find many more scientists willing to accept the utility of empiricism than a theory of universal existence. Don’t get me wrong: many scientists DO culture their own metaphysical understanding of the universe, but my guess is that the color of those beliefs vary widely between individual. When it comes down to it, scientists do experiments and leave questions of metaphysics to the philosophers and theologians.

    I think that my resistance to Davies’ article is founded on the comparative comfort that cosmologists have in talking about origins, faith and world-views relative to other scientists – especially biologists. Maybe I am jealous that cosmologists can write in the New York Times about science and faith, while biologists must pick a side: science or faith. Some readers are not willing even to grant cosmologists the right to seek common ground between science and religion.

    I applaud Davies’ efforts to point out an important element of science – origins – but agree with this blog that he was clumsy in his attempt.

  9. #9 Bad
    November 25, 2007

    You were nicer than I was. I didn’t have questions, I had boku criticisms and accusations of Op-Ed high crimes and misdemeanors

    His picture of what scientists do and how they see what they are doing is remarkably unlike what most scientists I know are actually like and how they see themselves. But then, maybe I don’t know enough physicists. :)

    His picture of science is more in line with how the Discovery Institute paints science.

  10. #10 Sean Carroll
    November 25, 2007

    I weighed in a bit, saying basically “I have no idea what kind of `explanation’ you could be talking about.” Some physicists are Platonists, but scientists believe all sorts of wooly-headed things about philosophy. It’s certainly not a metaphysical prerequisite.

  11. #11 Sharon Crasnow
    November 25, 2007

    You’ve been much more thorough than I was but I’ve posted similar concerns at
    Knowledge and Experience.

  12. #12 such.ire
    November 25, 2007

    Maybe some scientists, particularly those of a more religious bent, subscribe to Davies’ views on the foundations of science, but I rather agree with you. After all, any scientific law is held to criticisms, even the existence of immutable physical constants and the mathematical basis of the physical laws, so I don’t see that “law” is anything more for science than a “really good heuristic.” Statistical mechanics is very logical with few fundamental assumptions; it might be the closest thing to a purely mathematical formulation of the world, and yet its tenets are still tested in every way.

    I might accept a more mundane fundamental assumption for science, which is that scientists have an epistemological faith in a universe that exists outside of their own heads. That is, the scientist as anti-solipsist. But that’s not a very interesting question.

  13. #13 capella
    November 26, 2007

    Davies seems to have learned just enough about science that he feels comfortable expressing an opinion about it, but not enough to understand what it’s actually about. Yes, rationality and some sort of continuity of cause and effect is an important pillar of scientific exploration – but it’s also an important pillar of our ability to function in the world. As for his philosophical questions – But why does this stuff have these properties? Why do we live in a universe with this kind of stuff rather than some other kind of stuff? Why weren’t the initial conditions different, sending our world on a different trajectory? – the field of cosmology is devoted in large part to studying those. Just because not every solid-state physicist thinks about why atoms exist doesn’t mean that nobody is thinking about it. That’s not a problem of science; it’s a division of labor. We can’t each seriously think or know about everything, as Davies has demonstrated by being apparently a respected thinker without knowing anything about science.

  14. #14 Thedore
    November 26, 2007

    I am a cell and molecular biologist, and I hope that qualifies as a science. The article definitely pigeon holes physics as representative of all science. Just tackling “you couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed” I disagree. In genetics we very often recognize random events. The odds of having a boy vs a girl are 50/50 while the odds of two parents carrying recessive genetic disorders having a child who has that condition is .25, and novel mutations are completely random and do result in a jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. Some elements are random others are not. Science tells us which is and isn’t and goes further to allow us to make accurate probability predictions.

  15. #15 island
    November 26, 2007

    His picture of science is more in line with how the Discovery Institute paints science.

    As an atheist who does support a strong interpretation of the anthropic physics, I know from painful experience with neodarwinians, “skeptics”, and anticentrists in general, that the similarities occur when the lines blur between scientific concepts that include purpose in nature, and the religious belief that creationists use to claim that evidence for purpose in nature is evidence for god.

    Neodarwinians like PZ Meyers and others like him that I’ve mentioned then enable creationists to get away with their little ruse by denying the plausibilty and evidence for purpose in nature, which kills a viable and observed avenue of science.

    Bill Dembski holds up a pair of dice to illustrate that random chance occurrence isn’t likely, and neodarwinians deny it, rather than to say… so what?… in other words.

    Other than theoretically driven rightousness that occurs in spite of the rapidly failing theories that people such as Sean Carroll are afflicted with… the ideological culture war is the main problem here, as people who are on otherwise on the side of science are completely closed viable scientific plausiblities in this case.

    Brandon Carter was right, in other words.

  16. #16 uberbeek
    November 26, 2007

    I think it is important to note that our (scientists’) metaphysical hunches don’t come from nowhere. They don’t arise from armchair contemplation in an empirical vacuum, which is what comes to mind for me when we talk about metaphysical commitments. Before we even have time to wonder whether reality follows orderly laws, we are inundated with cause-and-effect patterns. When we eat, it tempers our hunger. When we close our eyes, it becomes dark. When we cry, mommy comes to our aid. These patterns are all around, and they become more complex as we age. Science is just a formalized outgrowth of these observations. Davies claims that science wouldn’t be possible if the universe were “a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed.” I’ll go even further. If there were truly no order in the universe, we wouldn’t be able to live at all. There would be no point in eating (because it would not necessarily affect our hunger), etc. Our experience (empirical data, in a sense) tells us that there is at least some degree of order in the universe. Some things certainly seem to follow patterns. Exploring those patterns (describing, predicting, maybe even explaining them) is the essence of science. One need not have faith in an orderly universe, one need only observe it. After a few such observations (which occur shortly after birth), the hypothesis of an orderly universe is tentatively accepted pending conflicting evidence. Because of the ubiquity of orderliness, it would take a tremendous amount of conflicting evidence to make that hypothesis untenable. Accepting overwhelming evidence is not the same as faith.

  17. #17 Frederick Ross
    November 27, 2007

    I’ll weigh in as a physicist. His multiverse and anthropic principle nonsense is just that. It’s something that appeared in string theory. String theorists desperately wanted to get a unique theory that would be mathematically consistent. They found that the mathematical structures they were looking at allowed so many consistent theories that you couldn’t hope to enumerate them all before the heat death of the universe. Instead of saying, “Hmm, that didn’t work,” a generation of theorists who have no exposure to experimental science past introductory physics lab decided that since they wanted a unique theory, it must be ALL of the solutions at once. Then someone pointed out that not all of them would allow us to be sitting here, and this (old, well known) argument was hailed as an incisive restriction. It cuts out a few of the solutions, but I don’t think anyone knows how many other than it’s not nearly enough.

    Most physicists do believe that all science is just physics on different things, which is unfortunate. I wasn’t cured of it until I started working in a microbiology laboratory. On the other hand, the point of view Davies espouses is that of a minority of a fashionable but useless set of theorists.

  18. #18 foothillsfarm
    November 28, 2007

    In order to step on the floor as you get out of bed in the morning and not expect to fall through, you need “faith” that the laws you observed yesterday about the nature of matter are present today. The faith that Davies is imbuing upoon scientists is no more than that which is necessary for any of life’s occupations; in fact, scientists have a committment to use such “faith” as sparingly as possible. Would you compare house construction to religion because the builder must have faith in the observed stregnth of a particular beam size in order to not have his building collapse? If a person belevied there was no order in the universe, and that the universe is entirely “a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed”, they would not be basing their beliefs on evidence at all, and therefore would not be scientists. One need only ponder the amazing results which have come from using the scientific method (for example, automobiles, computers, vaccines, and radio) to realize that the statements made by Davies are illogical and not based on a true understanding of science.

  19. #19 Vladimir Levin
    November 28, 2007

    I think his piece by Davies is complete nonsense and I’ve put together a list of some of the reactions I agreed most strongly with from comments in this blog. I included some actual examples from the history of science that I thought might be interesting… I’m sorry if this is rather long to be a comment in its own right…

    Comment 1:

    Mr. Davies appears – at least to me – to want ‘scientists’ to ‘admit’ that ‘everyone has to have faith’. Notice he starts with an unsubstantiated assertion that scientists have faith (“science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way”), then he immediately asserts that “you couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed” with no evidence that ‘scientists’ actually think like that. I speculate that he is a theist who feels uncomfortable with the increasing visibility of truly atheistic people. As an atheist I do not care about the provenance of the laws of physics unless I have a way to test the hunches, assumptions, beliefs, hypothesis or theories I or others might have about ‘why’ the laws of physics are as they are. Without a way to test his speculations Mr. Davies is being no more useful than an astroloer, minister, or priest.

    Hear, hear. It’s pretty clear to me that the kind of rational picture of the world we have thanks to science is a consequence of the process of explaining things based on carefully observing the empirical evidence. It’s not something that needs to be presupposed or accepted on faith. If the world didn’t operate in any kind of consistent way, then the scientist’s job would be simply to acknowledge that fact. Here’s an example from history. As scientists laboured to extract pure elements from compounds throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there was no expectation ahead of time that the elements would be organized in any particular way. When Mendeleev and others were able to show that the elements could be in fact be organized into periodic groups where the properties of elements seemed to follow a repeating pattern, the reaction of the scientific community was surprise. As time went on scientists were able to express this phenomenon in increasingly fundamental terms – the way electrons fill up orbitals around the nucleus of the atom. Later, the behaviour of the electrons themselves was embedded in even simpler theories of quantum electrodynamics.

    Also

    Much of his argument turns on the ambiguity of “faith” – on the one hand it means simply trust, while on the other hand it means belief beyond evidence. It seems to me that we should try to keep those two senses separate, perhaps with a “faith” / “Faith” distinction.

    If an apple falls to the ground every time you let go of it, or if you find that you can withdraw money from the bank after depositing a cheque from your employer, you’re not exhibiting faith. You’re exhibiting an expectation, which is provisional based on what may happen later on. Scientists used to believe that the mass of an object never changed, regardless of whether it was moving or at rest. This expectation was confirmed by every experiment they could come up with. However, with the advent of the theory of relativity, it turned out that the mass of an object really does increase as it accelerates to speeds close to the speed of light – and it turns out these changes can be measured by experiment. It just required much more sophisticated instruments to be able to measure the mass of objects travelling at relativistic speeds. That’s the difference between faith and Faith: The former is provisional where the latter is absolute.

    Another good comment:

    Maybe some scientists, particularly those of a more religious bent, subscribe to Davies’ views on the foundations of science, but I rather agree with you. After all, any scientific law is held to criticisms, even the existence of immutable physical constants and the mathematical basis of the physical laws, so I don’t see that “law” is anything more for science than a “really good heuristic.” Statistical mechanics is very logical with few fundamental assumptions; it might be the closest thing to a purely mathematical formulation of the world, and yet its tenets are still tested in every way.

    I might accept a more mundane fundamental assumption for science, which is that scientists have an epistemological faith in a universe that exists outside of their own heads. That is, the scientist as anti-solipsist. But that’s not a very interesting question.

    And

    In order to step on the floor as you get out of bed in the morning and not expect to fall through, you need “faith” that the laws you observed yesterday about the nature of matter are present today. The faith that Davies is imbuing upoon scientists is no more than that which is necessary for any of life’s occupations; in fact, scientists have a committment to use such “faith” as sparingly as possible. Would you compare house construction to religion because the builder must have faith in the observed stregnth of a particular beam size in order to not have his building collapse? If a person belevied there was no order in the universe, and that the universe is entirely “a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed”, they would not be basing their beliefs on evidence at all, and therefore would not be scientists. One need only ponder the amazing results which have come from using the scientific method (for example, automobiles, computers, vaccines, and radio) to realize that the statements made by Davies are illogical and not based on a true understanding of science.

    Of course scientists have to make some assumptions that themselves cannot really be broken down into smaller bits. We all do. We all generally believe that there is some kind of continuity between one moment and the next. We all believe that it makes sense to have “faith” in the fact that what we remember about our lives really did basically happen – albeit memory really can be tricky. The point of rigorous disciplines like math and science is that those assumptions are clearly stated and whittled down to the minimum that’s actually necessary. In some cases, it turns out that assumptions which seemed self-evident really aren’t. Take as an example Euclid’s fifth axiom about the idea that parallel lines never cross. Well, they don’t on a flat “euclidean” plane, but parallel lines sure do cross on a sphere – just look at the longitudinal lines on a spherical globe. By stating assumptions clearly, it makes it possible in some cases to determine that they’re wrong. If Davies argument is that we all have to rely on some agreed upon picture of reality – that we exist and other people exist and the universe exists and that it isn’t all a figment of our imagination – fine. But is that really a useful point? You can say all you want that the rock I’m holding is just an illusion. It’ll still hurt when I drop it on your foot.

    Some more good stuff I’ve found about this topic:
    http://www.edge.org/discourse/science_faith.html

    http://badidea.wordpress.com/2007/11/25/paul-davies-has-faith-that-science-has-faith-a-finely-tuned-trouncing-of-fine-tuning/

  20. #20 KeithB
    November 28, 2007

    As soon as Man could create a calendar he knew that the universe was predictable enough for Scientific Observations.

  21. #21 Arun
    November 29, 2007

    I think that if Superstring theory had worked as some had initially hoped, then some few plausible properties that all universes must have plus mathematical uniqueness would have yielded the Theory of Everything. This would almost have been the kind of theory that Paul Davies hopes for, I think, because the explanation lies entirely within the universe – another universe is not rationally conceivable; and it is a universe in which science works.

    And “why does science work?” may be a scientific question, perhaps only about human cognition rather than about the universe.

    Now it maybe that Paul Davies carries other baggage, which is what is bothering you. But standing on its own, the NYT article is not unreasonable.

  22. #22 Arun
    November 29, 2007

    Here is Paul Davies in Einstein’s words:

    “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.”

    There’s also the “Did God have a choice…?”

  23. #23 PhysioProf
    December 1, 2007

    “In order to step on the floor as you get out of bed in the morning and not expect to fall through, you need ‘faith’ that the laws you observed yesterday about the nature of matter are present today.”

    The problem with Davies is that he conflates this kind of “faith”–which is really nothing more than a useful heuristic–with religious faith. The two are completely unrelated. And based on the fact that Davies does not appear to be stupid, this implies that he is disingenuous.

  24. #24 seka
    November 26, 2009

    I dont understand?
    How we live in a universe poised remarkably between the twin extremes of chance and necessity?
    Please someone to explain.