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The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World Paperback – 5 Mar 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK; 1st Simon & Schuster Pbk. Ed edition (5 Mar. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671797182
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671797188
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 726,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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HUMAN BEINGS HAVE all sorts of beliefs. Read the first page
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 1 Mar. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Paul Davies book, `The Mind of God', is a follow-up to is book, `God and the New Physics.'
Davies explores in more depth and detail the philosophical implications of modern physics and how the theories and ideas of modern physics can help in the understanding (and occasionally, deepen the confusion) of ideas that have been in the traditional purview of philosophy and theology. In this respect, science has a basic question that comes to the root of all systems of thought -- why?
`Scientists themselves normally take it for granted that we live in a rational, ordered cosmos subject to precise laws that can be uncovered by human reasoning. Yet why this should be so remains a tantalising mystery. Why should human beings have the ability to discover and understand the principles on which the universe runs?'
Davies discusses certain conceptual principles that are essential to the discussion. The division between rational and irrational, particularly in light of 'common sense' -- not too long ago science held itself to be rational because it more conformed to 'common sense' than did 'irrational' religion; as science edges toward the irrational (defined in common sense terms) it loses the ability to use that argument against religion.
`It is a fact of life that people hold beliefs, especially in the field of religion, which might be regarded as irrational. That they are held irrationally doesn't mean they are wrong.'
Davies admits his bias toward rationalism, but leaves room open for discussion. He discusses metaphysics in terms of Kant, Hume, and Descartes, drawing into question the very idea of rationality and the terms of existence in which the scientific universe operates.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 6 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback
Paul Davies book, 'The Mind of God', is a follow-up to is book, 'God and the New Physics.'
Davies explores in more depth and detail the philosophical implications of modern physics and how the theories and ideas of modern physics can help in the understanding (and occasionally, deepen the confusion) of ideas that have been in the traditional purview of philosophy and theology. In this respect, science has a basic question that comes to the root of all systems of thought -- why?
'Scientists themselves normally take it for granted that we live in a rational, ordered cosmos subject to precise laws that can be uncovered by human reasoning. Yet why this should be so remains a tantalising mystery. Why should human beings have the ability to discover and understand the principles on which the universe runs?'
Davies discusses certain conceptual principles that are essential to the discussion. The division between rational and irrational, particularly in light of 'common sense' -- not too long ago science held itself to be rational because it more conformed to 'common sense' than did 'irrational' religion; as science edges toward the irrational (defined in common sense terms) it loses the ability to use that argument against religion.
'It is a fact of life that people hold beliefs, especially in the field of religion, which might be regarded as irrational. That they are held irrationally doesn't mean they are wrong.'
Davies admits his bias toward rationalism, but leaves room open for discussion. He discusses metaphysics in terms of Kant, Hume, and Descartes, drawing into question the very idea of rationality and the terms of existence in which the scientific universe operates.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 74 reviews
77 of 77 people found the following review helpful
Can one know the mind of God? 22 May 2003
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Paul Davies book, `The Mind of God', is a follow-up to is book, `God and the New Physics.'
Davies explores in more depth and detail the philosophical implications of modern physics and how the theories and ideas of modern physics can help in the understanding (and occasionally, deepen the confusion) of ideas that have been in the traditional purview of philosophy and theology. In this respect, science has a basic question that comes to the root of all systems of thought -- why?
`Scientists themselves normally take it for granted that we live in a rational, ordered cosmos subject to precise laws that can be uncovered by human reasoning. Yet why this should be so remains a tantalising mystery. Why should human beings have the ability to discover and understand the principles on which the universe runs?'
Davies discusses certain conceptual principles that are essential to the discussion. The division between rational and irrational, particularly in light of 'common sense' -- not too long ago science held itself to be rational because it more conformed to 'common sense' than did 'irrational' religion; as science edges toward the irrational (defined in common sense terms) it loses the ability to use that argument against religion.
`It is a fact of life that people hold beliefs, especially in the field of religion, which might be regarded as irrational. That they are held irrationally doesn't mean they are wrong.'
Davies admits his bias toward rationalism, but leaves room open for discussion. He discusses metaphysics in terms of Kant, Hume, and Descartes, drawing into question the very idea of rationality and the terms of existence in which the scientific universe operates.
`No attempt to explain the world, either scientifically or theologically, can be considered successful until it accounts for the paradoxical conjunction of the temporal and the atemporal.'
From this opening discussion, Davies proceeds to examine the creation of the universe, asking the interesting question in terms of quantum realities -- does the universe have to have had a creator? And, even if scientifically the universe can 'spontaneously' come into being (as some mathematical models and theories seem to allow), how do we account for the construct of laws of nature that permit such a spontaneous generation? Once again, the question 'where is God?' can still have meaning.
Davies spends a great deal of time looking at the nature and use of mathematics in understanding the 'real' world and 'virtual' worlds. Does mathematics exist independently of the universe, or independently of the human conscious construct of mathematics? At what points does mathematical meaning break down (for instance, in the very early universe, when the volume falls below the so-called Planck time, where the universe is theoretically too small for mathematics to be operative).
In the final chapter, Davies returns to the ideas of mysticism and the limits of science.
`Mysticism is no substitute for scientific inquiry and logical reasoning so long as this approach can be consistently applied. It is only in dealing with ultimate questions that science and logic fail us. I am not saying that science and logic are likely to provide the wrong answers, but they may be incapable of addressing the sort of 'why' (as opposed to 'how') questions we want to ask.'
While many scientists have mistrust of religion and mysticism, there are nonetheless notable exceptions, scientists who themselves are deeply religious or have a mystical turn of mind, such as Einstein, Pauli, Schrödinger and Heisenberg.
This is another fascinating trip through the realm of modern science with a particular emphasis on how we know what we know and what there really is to know, and what is in fact knowable.
81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Top Quark discovery adds weight to his arguments 5 July 2000
By Karl Matsumoto - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
When Paul Davies' book was published 1993, scientists had yet to discover the top quark, but Davies predicted that it would be found one day, and therefore add further evidence to his view of an ordered, symmetrical universe which seems to be designed on purpose. The "drama" for the search for the top quark, as the author called it, had not yet been completed. Well, he was absolutely right. The top quark was discovered in March1995 at Fermi Lab. It is this kind of accuracy that sets it apart from the less rigorous Creation Science-styled books. This book cannot be dismissed since the author's knowledge of mathematics, philosophy and physics seems so wide-ranging. Moreover, he is well aware of the skepticism to the designer Universe arguments, and they are presented in this volume at every turn. Davies' powers of prophetic vision and synthesis of information are amazing. The heart of the book are the chapters on his "deep feeling" that the inherently mathematical nature of the Universe, which he admits is hard to convey to the lay reader, must lead to the inescapable conclusion that the world as we know it could not have happened by sheer chance. Ironically, Davies says, by doing their work, scientists end up thinking about God more than theologians.
96 of 106 people found the following review helpful
a hard book to review 10 July 2005
By Wyote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read about 20 science books each year, not only in physics or astronomy but biology and so on. I enjoy most of them, but I didn't enjoy this one very much. If you're considering buying this book or reading it, let me suggest that you check out The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report before you make your decision.

Actually, I enjoyed Davies' discussions of Godel and incompleteness, and Turing and computability, and models of the universe as a computer. I haven't read much about these issues, and since I really love math I enjoyed his explanation of these things.

Also, I agree with his ultimate conclusion: that mysticism provides a way of knowing the universe, a kind of knowledge that can't be turned into thoughts or words. I agree that there will always be a mystery, a boundary to our knowledge, no matter how much our knowledge grows; and that the ultimate knowledge will be past that boundary. So I'm in broad agreement with his worldview, although for cultural reasons I'm a little more hesitant to give the name of "God" to whatever is beyond the boundary. And I agree with that it is astounding that the universe is so mathematical. Shocking even. I'm not sure how else it could be, but it seems to me to be the second biggest mystery of existence, only after why there is something rather than nothing.

And I too wonder what mathematics is, and how it manages to be written into the universe.

I hoped for a really good discussion of that last issue in particular, and the main reason I didn't enjoy the book is because his discussion of that issue was a disorganized, rambling mess. There is some great food for thought. But unfortunately he seems to be at the same point that I am: just wondering, with no insight in particular.

I'm cool with math and metaphysics, and I sympathize that writing a pop metaphysics book is a tough job. But it has been done better, and more recently, especially by Timothy Ferris in "The Whole Shebang." And that's why I recommend it over this book by Davies.

Ferris' book is wider in scope than this book, and Davies is more eager to dabble in truly exotic ideas. (For some of those, I recommend Davies' The Last Three Minutes: Conjectures About The Ultimate Fate Of The Universe (Science Masters Series) If you're really bent on a book by Davies, check out that one.) Davies does raise a few more questions than Ferris, but he doesn't handle them well. On the other hand, Ferris deals with a lot more actual physics and astronomy than Davies touches in this book. But the main reason I recommend Ferris over Davies is that his discussion of the philosophical issues is more lucid and well-organized. In fact, until astronomers and physicists make some breakthroughs on dark matter and dark energy, Ferris' book will probably remain the best in the field.

If you want something specifically on math, such as the work of Godel and Turing, my first recommendation would be Hofstadter's classic Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid or Keith Devlin's The Language of Mathematics: Making the Invisible Visible. As for the philosophy of math, I don't have any recommendations better than Lakoff's Where Mathematics Comes From: How the Embodied Mind Brings Mathematics into Being or a book by Stuart Shapiro, although they will not be accessible to many curious readers. Sorry about that. I don't know where to go for that; I was really hoping this book would be the place, but sadly it isn't. There's a great book waiting to be written...
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
This is indispensable reading for truth seekers. 23 Oct. 1999
By Kenneth Matheny (kmatheny@webtv.net) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
With lucidity and wit, prolific writer Paul Davies, aprofessor of mathematical physics, surveys the history of science, philosophy and mathematics to try to answer the human race's deepest questions. While acknowlegingthe possibility that the universe might be a meaningless fluke, Davies convincingly argues that the existence of consciousness in the universe cannot be "a byproduct of mindless, purposeless forces." Though he is not religious in a conventional sense, Davies believes that the rationality of the universe, the fact thathumans can understand how the universe works, is evidence ofpurpose and meaning. Particularly fascinating is Davies' meditations on mathematics. Davies points out that the fact that the universe's deepest laws can beexpressed mathematically strongly suggests that thereis more to our world than meets the eye.Anyone who has ever looked at the night sky and wondered if our lives have a purpose should read this book. Thoughtrained as a scientist, Daviesis as familiar with Leibnitz, Kant, and Aquinas as he is with the latest developments in quantum physics. He also provides a fun and thought-provoking chapter on Virtual Worlds and Real Worlds. Truly a delight to read.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A good book on the Science-Religion issue 2 Oct. 2000
By Manuel Alfonseca - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Davies states that he doesn't believe in any "standard" religion, and his grounds for some kind of theism come from Achinas' non infinite regression argument. The second chapter is a good summary of current and past cosmologies of the twentieth century. However, there is something missing: he doesn't say that many of the latter cosmologies are not really scientific, but metaphysical. The big-bang may be considered a scientific theory, because it is testable and falsifiable. The main arguments on its behalf come from successful predictions, such as the relative abundance of the elements in the universe, or the 3.5 degrees cosmic background radiation. But many new theories (superstrings, multiple universes and the like) are not testable. They receive support because "the mathematics are beautiful" or "they don't require a creation, and thus a creator". Those are not scientific reasons. There is no way some of those theories may be refuted. They only look scientific because they use mathematical formulae, but they are really metaphysical and should be treated as such. John Horton calls these kind of theories "ironic science", implying that they really are not science. In any case, these theories never answer the big question (where does everything come from?), they only hide it under an appearance of science. One of these theories could be true, but that would not disprove God's existence, which is compatible with any theory. It cannot be falsified (it is not a scientific question). You can never prove or disprove it through science (experimentation). You have to take it (or its negation) as a postulate and see where it takes us. Davies says that God's attributes are now being attributed to the laws. Thus, they are called "omnipotent", because they apply to every body, and "omniscient", because they apply without receiving any information from the body. To me, this is just wordplay. To apply those attributes to the laws, you have to redefine the words. God's omnipotence and omniscience do not mean that. Chapter 5 introduces the idea of the universe as a computer. This is a typical comparison. Mediaeval man compared the universe to a cathedral. In the eighteenth century, it was compared to a watch. We now use the computer. We always use the most complicated mechanism we have. Tomorrow, the parallel will be different. I would take them all with a grain of salt, they will probably be considered ridiculous in the future. Chapter 6 makes a good point. Why are the universal laws so amenable to the rules of Mathematics? This must mean something. But the last two chapters are the best, Davies expounds well a modern form of the argument of design for God's existence. I've found him honest, doing efforts to consider every possible counter-argument by atheists. I disagree with his assertion that a believer scientist must either dissociate science from religion (by dedicating six days a week to the former, just Sundays to the latter) or have a non-standard religion, as himself. He also says a believer scientist has to be "liberal". One may agree with this or not. It depends on how you define liberal.
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