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Can science contribute to the search for meaning in life?,
This review is from: The Mind of God: Science and the Search for Ultimate Meaning (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
The Mind of God: Science and the search for ultimate meaning, by Paul Davies, Simon and Schuster, 1992; Penguin, 1993, 304 ff.
Can science contribute to the search for meaning in life?
By Howard A. Jones
The book takes its title from the final paragraph of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Hawking says that if scientists could unravel a unified field theory, it would inform `the question of why it is that we and the universe exist . . . for then we would know the mind of God.' Davies revisits this issue a decade after his book God and the New Physics, but is no nearer finding a solution. Professor Davies is currently at the Arizona State University.
The opening chapter is as much philosophy as physics dealing as it does with the differences between Reason and Belief. Davies states the existentialist and materialist `leitmotif of science' that consciousness is merely an insignificant happy accident and that `there is no significance in human life beyond what humans themselves invest in it'. He then briefly surveys some of the religious and philosophical views of creation before describing some of the scientific views, including the Hartle-Hawking Theory. The ideas of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes and Leibniz are skilfully woven into a discussion of the Laws of Nature and the difference between Real and Virtual Worlds in constructing scientific models of the universe. There is an interesting discussion about whether mathematics is invented or discovered and the status of the laws of nature: Has the human mind invented mathematics and physical laws or are these eternal Ideas, `objective truths about the universe', as Plato suggested, and more recent mathematicians like Kurt Gödel and Roger Penrose and most physicists like Davies believe. Whitehead's Process Theology of a continually evolving deity is brought in as a theme in the discussion of time. Most of the cosmology here is found in the final two chapters on a Designer Universe and The Mystery at the End of the Universe, which is where mysticism comes in. There is also reference to Lawrence Henderson's 1913 version of the `anthropic principle', several decades before it was proposed as such by Brandon Carter.
There is a mass of information in this book - facts and theories - and the author skilfully weaves it all into a fabric that I found intriguing and thought-provoking. The material is well presented but it is a demanding book to read simply because it covers complex issues from a number of different disciplines. If you are looking to this book for answers to the Big Questions, these you will have to find for yourself, but there are many interesting facts and challenging ideas to ponder over here. There are Notes, a short Bibliography and an Index at the end.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.
Reason and Reality: Relationship Between Science and Theology
Process and Reality (Gifford lectures)