A grad school professor of mine once said: beware of scientists in a metaphysical mood. And lo. Yesterday’s New York Times op-ed section contains this, from Paul Davies, physicist:
>Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.
>This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.
>And just as Christians claim that the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case, so physicists declare a similar asymmetry: the universe is governed by eternal laws (or meta-laws), but the laws are completely impervious to what happens in the universe.
By religion, Davies means his version of the Christian religion, and others that will fit those particular metaphysical presuppositions (this won’t include Mormonism, by the way). And while Physicists don’t have all of the answers about the nature of the objects of their study (which discipline does?), that’s hardly grounds to claim that it’s a lot like religion. The evidence for the basic elements of religious faith (not to mention the truth of various intricate Christian doctrines, among others) is completely like evidence for the physical laws that characterize matter. Just because physics doesn’t tell the whole story (why should it and who claims it does?) does not mean the whole thing is accepted without evidence. Others, I’m certain, can say more.
But the Times ought to be beyond these tales of faith found among microscopes: it’s so washingtonposty.