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The Laws of Nature (and Nature’s God?)

Our physics is not yet rational because we don’t have a completely satisfying account of how the immutable laws of nature allow for the emergence of life or lives such as ours. We can’t explain how those impersonal laws permit of the emergence of particular persons who both are able to know and can’t account for themselves (at least completely) in terms of those laws. Is it reasonable to expect a physics that can account completely for physicists, for strange and wonderful beings who are more than minds or bodies or some combination of the two? Or do we live in a multiuniverse and not a cosmos at all? Does physics depend upon a faith in the intelligibiity or universality of natural order that may or may not fit the data? Do physicists think rationally when they refuse to ask "why" about what they can see with their own scientific eyes?

Discussions - 4 Comments

Good questions, and only Aristotelian Thomism has fully satisfactory rational answers to them.

Staying focused solely on material causes within the universe (Davies' proposed solution) is insufficient.

Refer to Benedict Ashley, The Way toward Wisdom (University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).

See also my review of Anthony Rizzi, The Science Before Science found here.

That article is a better, more complete, expression of what I was trying to say here. For blogging it can be useful to explain an idea as concisely as possible, but I am so grateful that others do not limit themselves so. What a dry and tiresome world this would be if if everyone wrote tersely on such topics. Thank you C.S. Morrissey for direction to more words on the topic.

If it were true that in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue. then there wouldn't have been so much written on reconciling faith to the material world. We see no evidence that "Doubting Thomas" was cast into Hell. Either faith in science or faith in God requires acceptance of deep mysteries and a humble resignation to our human intellectual inadequacy.

I was just discussing this with an atheistic student the other day. He thinks he can refute Creation with proof for evolution in a persuasive essay for my class that has a five page minimum and without writing much more than that. Yes, I did explain the practical problems, but he is sure he can do it and takes my caveat as doubt of his ability and intellect or evidence of my Christian bias. Maybe his research will make him humble and bring on some doubts.

John Keck has blogged on Davies' NYT piece as follows:

Even scientists' "knowledge" requires faith in a web of others' results that no one could reproduce in a single lifetime. Philosophy on the other hand—natural philosophy especially—is (properly) based on experiences common to all healthy adults. We can go through the reasoning process ourselves based on our own experiences; there is no faith involved. Philosophy is the "missing link" that should bridge the gap between science and religion.

Philosophy should provide the common language in the "science-religion" dialog, of which Davies is a noted participant. Until there is a common language, the only possible results are, on the one hand, shouting matches, such as Richard Dawkins inspires, and, on the other hand, religion servilely submitting to science's demonstrable domination of the sensible world. The latter is the form that this so-called dialog typically takes these days.

Were Davies philosophically educated, he would realize the nonsense of expecting physical laws to have an explanation within the universe. Nothing in the universe explains its own existence—this is a matter not of faith, but of philosophy; it requires no faith.

Furthermore he would realize that since the object of modern physics is the quantifiable aspect of natural, moving things, physics itself can never rise to the level of answering "why does anything exist?". This and like questions are metaphysical; metaphysics properly rests on natural philosophy but transcends it to speak of immaterial things, things that do not change.

We can all eagerly hope that Davies takes some time to learn a little philosophy. But until he does, we can at least applaud Davies's assault on the "faithless" pretensions of scientists.

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