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Can one know the mind of God?,
This review is from: The Mind of God: Science and the Search for Ultimate Meaning (Penguin Press Science) (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.
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Initial post: 28 Oct 2013 12:36:52 GMT
This is not a review so much as a not-so-hidden agenda. Believers may believe what they choose. Who's stopping them - and who cares?
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