Taking Science on Faith

Paul Davies has a half-interesting, half-irritating op-ed in the New York Times about the faith element of science. He argues that scientists take the immutable physical laws of the Universe on faith in the same way that Christians take God on faith.

The laws were treated as “given” — imprinted on the universe like a maker’s mark at the moment of cosmic birth — and fixed forevermore. Therefore, to be a scientist, you had to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute, universal, mathematical laws of an unspecified origin. You’ve got to believe that these laws won’t fail, that we won’t wake up tomorrow to find heat flowing from cold to hot, or the speed of light changing by the hour.

Wow, that’s crazy wrong. You don’t have to “believe” that these laws won’t fail. You can rest assured that these laws won’t fail because scientists have conducted countless experiments that have validated the laws again and again. Is it possible that the two-jillion-and-first experiment will show gravity suddenly repelling two objects? Sure, it’s possible. Anything and everything is possible. I mean, in the philosophical sense, that is.

He actually makes a pretty good argument that scientists should be asking why our immutable laws are what they are. Which doesn’t seem very controversial to me — scientists should always be asking why. But it’s just stupid that he has to couch the idea in a lame discussion of faith vs. reason. Granted, more people will read it this way.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 29, 2007 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    As you say, or suggest, scientists are always questioning, even the “laws.”

    Nothing is taken on faith.

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