Davies, Paul C. W. The Intelligibility of Nature."
Paul Davies begins with the
claim that our ability to understand nature through the scientific method is a
fact which demands an explanation. He
proposes that our mind and the cosmos are linked, that consciousness is a
fundamental and integral part of the outworking of the laws of nature. In particular, the laws of nature which make
possible the emergence of life must be of a form such that at least some
species which arise according to them have the ability to discover them. Thus science can explain the rise of species
which can engage in science without appealing to a God who either intervenes in
or guides nature. Still the ultimate
explanation of the origin of the laws lies outside the scope of science and
should be pursued by metaphysics and theology.
Whether this leads to God is for others to decide.
Davies begins with the
sociological debate over the origin of science. Although science is clearly a product of Western European
culture, he sees no simple relationship between Christian theology and the
emergence of science. Whatever its
origins, though, the validity of science is transcultural and warrants a
What is most significant
about nature is that the universe is . . . poised, interestingly, between the
twin extremes of boring over-regimented uniformity and random chaos. Accordingly it achieves an evolution of
novel structures through self-organizing complexity. The laws are therefore doubly special. They encourage physical systems to self-organize to the point
where mind emerges from matter, and they are of a form which is apprehendable
by the very minds which these laws have enabled nature to produce. Does our ability to crack the cosmic code
lead to an argument for God? No; Davies
prefers an evolutionary interpretation of mind as emergent within the material
process of self-organization. The
emergence of mind with its ability to pursue science is not just a biological
accident. Instead it is inevitable
because of the laws of physics and the initial conditions. Hence life should emerge elsewhere in the
universe - a claim which Davies sees as testable.
If mind emerged because of
the laws of nature, is it surprising that mind is capable of discovering these
laws? Davies first stresses that
evolution is a blend of chance and necessity; it is neither teleological nor is
it a cosmic anarchy. The laws
facilitate the evolution of the universe in a purposelike fashion. Still the actual laws of the universe are
remarkable. They not only encourage the
evolution of life and consciousness but they support the evolution of organisms
with the ability for theoretical knowledge.
Here the ability to do mathematics is particularly surprising. Davies connects mathematics with the
physical structure of the world through computability and thus to physics,
since computing devices are physical.
In this way mathematics and nature are intertwined. Moreover, mathematics is capable of
describing the laws of physics which govern the devices which compute them. The
intimate relation of mind and cosmos need not lead to a theological explanation,
but Davies is equally critical of a many- universe explanation, opting instead
for a form of design argument. This,
however, takes us to the limits of science.
The question of the nature of the laws themselves lies outside the
scope of the scientific enterprise . . . (and) belongs to the subject of
metaphysics . . .
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