Perhaps I should note that the letters to the editor regarding this op-ed by Paul Davies were universally negative. As many have pointed out here, the piece was far worse than my earlier post suggested. Indeed, we’re dealing with an almost D’Souzian (as in the Dartmouth-educated Dinesh) level of badness. One more comment on it, as people seem interested in it. Commenter Matt K writes:
>I believe that this debate continues to arise (and even influences scientists pretending to be bad philosophers) because no one really knows what “faith” is. There isn’t even a broad agreement about what faith is among theologians. Heck, science could be based on faith if all anyone means is something like “not fully supported presuppositions.” I doubt this is what most theologians have in mind when they speak of faith. I have argued elsewhere that the most common notions of faith conceive of it as being a type of justification for belief (or a sub-set of beliefs), and under this conception faith still fails to provide justification for religious belief (much less any other form of belief). I’m still not sure what faith is or what role it is really supposed to be playing in regards to our beliefs. So when I read an argument like Davies I am always left wondering what it is we are really talking about.
That really gets at a lot of the problem, I think. “Faith” plays a lot of different roles in discussions of this sort; despite this, few seem aware of the implications of their view. Davies, for instance, writes:
>Over the years I have often asked my physicist colleagues why the laws of physics are what they are. The answers vary from “that’s not a scientific question” to “nobody knows.” The favorite reply is, “There is no reason they are what they are — they just are.” The idea that the laws exist reasonlessly is deeply anti-rational. After all, the very essence of a scientific explanation of some phenomenon is that the world is ordered logically and that there are reasons things are as they are. If one traces these reasons all the way down to the bedrock of reality — the laws of physics — only to find that reason then deserts us, it makes a mockery of science.
He’s really asking the wrong people. He probably ought to talk to philosophers of science. But the real crazy thing about this argument seems to be the notion that faith covers anything short of a complete explanation. While that’s certainly one way to understand the term “faith,” that’s not what most people mean by it. And that’s not really what Davies means by it anyway. For him, faith has a much more substantive character–he means specific claims that lack justification. That’s hardly the correlate of the scientific view. The correlate of the scientific view, on Davies’ argument, is “reasonless absurdity,” not Christian doctrine. The failure therefore of the scientific view to account for itself (something which no one could ever seriously claim), does not produce the specific, if unjustified doctrines of Christianity (whatever the hell that would mean in this case–Catholicism?)