Paul Davies, noted physicist, on naturalism, theism, belief in God, and a third way (assorted quotations):

Paul Davies

Quotations from Paul Davies on God the universe and everything:

I am not comfortable answering the question “Why do you believe in God?” because you havenʼt defined “God”. In any case, as a scientist, I prefer not to deal in “belief” but rather in the usefulness of concepts. I am sure I donʼt believe in any sort of god with which most readers of your article would identify.

I do, however, assume (along with all scientists) that there is a rational and intelligible scheme of things that we uncover through scientific investigation. I am uncomfortable even being linked with “a god” because of the vast baggage that this term implies (a being with a mind, able to act on matter within time, making decisions, etc).

I want to stay away from a pre-existing cosmic magician who is there within time, for all eternity, and then brings the universe into being as part of a preconceived plan. I think thatʼs just a naive, silly idea that doesnʼt fit the leanings of most theologians these days and doesnʼt fit the scientific facts. I donʼt want that. Thatʼs a horrible idea. But I see no reason why there canʼt be a teleological component in the evolution of the universe, which includes things like meaning and purpose. So instead of appealing to something outside the universe — a completely unexplained being — Iʼm talking about something that emerges within the universe. Itʼs a more natural view. Weʼre trying to construct a picture of the universe which is based thoroughly on science but where there is still room for something like meaning and purpose. So people can see their own individual lives as part of a grand cosmic scheme that has some meaning to it. Weʼre not just, as Steven Weinberg would say, pointless accidents in a universe that has no meaning or purpose. I think we can do better than that.

We can — if we try hard enough — come up with a complete explanation of existence from within the universe, without appealing to something mystical or magical lying beyond it. I think the scientists who are anti-God but appeal to unexplained sets of laws or an unexplained multiverse are just as much at fault as a naive theist who says thereʼs a mysterious, unexplained God.

Perhaps we have reached a fundamental impasse dictated by the limits of the human intellect.

If future scientists are human beings, they may be stuck with the same problems that we have. The way we think, the way we like to analyze problems, the categories that we define — like cause and effect, space-time and matter, meaning and purpose — are really human categories that cannot be separated from our evolutionary heritage. We have to face up to the fact that there may be fundamental limitations just from the way our brains have been put together. So we could have reached our own human limits. But that doesnʼt mean there arenʼt intelligent systems somewhere in the universe, maybe some time in the future, that could ultimately come to understand. Ultimately, it may not be living intelligence or embodied intelligence but some sort of intelligent information-processing system that could become omniscient and fill the entire universe. Thatʼs a grand vision that I rather like. Whether itʼs true or not is another matter entirely.

Both religion and science appeal to some agency outside the universe to explain its lawlike order. Dumping the problem in the lap of a pre-existing designer is no explanation at all, as it merely begs the question of who designed the designer. But appealing to a host of unseen universes and a set of unexplained meta-laws is scarcely any better… I propose instead that the laws are more like computer software: programs being run on the great cosmic computer. They emerge with the universe at the big bang and are inherent in it, not stamped on it from without like a makerʼs mark. Man-made computers are limited in their performance by finite processing speed and memory. So, too, the cosmic computer is limited in power by its age and the finite speed of light. Seth Lloyd, an engineer at MIT, has calculated how many bits of information the observable universe has processed since the big bang. The answer is one followed by 122 zeros. Crucially, however, the limit was smaller in the past because the universe was younger. Just after the big bang, when the basic properties of the universe were being forged, its information capacity was so restricted that the consequences would have been profound. Hereʼs why. If a law is a truly exact mathematical relationship, it requires infinite information to specify it. In my opinion, however, no law can apply to a level of precision finer than all the information in the universe can express. Infinitely precise laws are an extreme idealization with no shred of real world justification. In the first split second of cosmic existence, the laws must therefore have been seriously fuzzy. Then, as the information content of the universe climbed, the laws focused and homed in on the life-encouraging form we observe today. But the flaws in the laws left enough wiggle room for the universe to engineer its own bio-friendliness. Thus, three centuries after Newton, symmetry is restored: the laws explain the universe even as the universe explains the laws. If there is an ultimate meaning to existence, as I believe is the case, the answer is to be found within nature, not beyond it. The universe might indeed be a fix, but if so, it has fixed itself.

Yes, the universe looks like a fix. But that doesnʼt mean that a god fixed it.

We will never explain the cosmos by taking on faith either divinity or physical laws. True meaning is to be found within nature.

In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.

Cancer cells come pre-programmed to execute a well-defined cascade of changes, seemingly designed to facilitate both their enhanced survival and their dissemination through the bloodstream. There is even an air of conspiracy in the way that tumours use chemical signals to create cancer-friendly niches in remote organs… It will be in the convergence of evolutionary biology, developmental biology and cancer biology that the answer to cancer will lie. Nor will this confluence be a one-way street.

Comment using Google

Comment using Disqus

Comment using Facebook

Help Ed score 100% on YSlow. Server Fees & 🍪-free *CDN.
This page was designed and tested by Night Owl using GTMetrix on 2/11/2017.

*Content Delivery Network
PageSpeed Score
YSlow Score
Onload Time