Paul Davies


English Physicist, Author and Broadcaster, Professor at Arizona State University, Chair of SETI, Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science

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On the one hand you've got intelligent designers and on the other hand we've got Richard Dawkins (biologist, outspoken atheist and author of The God Delusion), which polarizes the debate and that undermines the fertile ground in between (science and religion). So among the community of the people who try to do this on a more serious academic level, I think there's a sort of tacit agreement that we just keep our heads down and get on with the job.

Of course science is a work in progress. And of course there are gaps (in our knowledge), particularly in evolutionary biology, because it's over about three and a half billion years. But the fact that there are gaps in our knowledge doesn't mean that we need a miracle to plug them. So that's my take on the intelligent design thing.

No attempt to explain the world, either scientifically or theologically can be considered successful until it accounts for the paradoxical conjunction of the temporal and the atemporal, of being and becoming. And no subject conforms this paradoxical conjunction more starkly than the origin of the universe.

Next, in importance to books are their titles.

Many investigators feel uneasy stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they admit they are baffled.

In an abstract sense I believe that human beings are part of a grand scheme of things. Not a central part. I don't think the world revolves around us or the universe is designed for us, but I think we have a place.

If you don't feel it, flee from it. Go where you are celebrated, not merely tolerated.

I think progress in religion is actually great idea and I think if ever there is a time we need progress, it is now. Religion isn't going to go away, whatever Richard Dawkins says. People aren't just going to be persuaded that religion is all nonsense so we'll just drop it. People, even atheists, have what (evolutionary theologian) John F. Haught calls 'a God-shaped hole in their hearts.' Everyone has some sort of spiritual yearning and we need to recognize that human dimension. It may not be the whole story but I think scientists should be sensitive to the fact that people have those genuine needs.

For comparison, there was a nation over there and all they had was a grappling hook and a line... When they found something they would have to drag it to see if it would blow up. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum, we had the remote control robot that could take pictures and has all kinds of weapons attached to keep the operator himself from having to touch it.

Example: neutrons are just a tad heavier than protons. If it were the other way around, atoms couldn't exist, because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang. No protons, then no atomic nucleuses and no atoms. No atoms, no chemistry, no life. Like Baby Bear's porridge in the story of Goldilocks, the universe seems to be just right for life.

Darwinism is a testable scientific theory. Intelligent design is a belief system.

Cosmologists are convinced that the big bang was the coming into being, not just of matter and energy, but of space and time as well. Time itself began with the big bang. If this sounds baffling, it is by no means new. Already in the fifth century, Augustine proclaimed that 'The world was made with time, not in time.'

As a scientist I haven't made up my mind (on religious beliefs). Scientists may have temporary beliefs or inclinations or opinions, but the essence of science is that we should always be prepared to change our minds. I think we're on a voyage of discovery and to pretend we know the deep answers to the universe seems to me extraordinarily arrogant.

A universe that came from nothing in the big bang will disappear into nothing at the big crunch. Its glorious few zillion years of existence not even a memory.

In spite of the fact that religion looks backward to revealed truth while science looks forward to new vistas and discoveries, both activities produce a sense of awe and a curious mixture of humility and arrogance in practitioners. All great scientists are inspired by the subtlety and beauty of the natural world that they are seeking to understand. Each new subatomic particle, every unexpected object, produces delight and wonderment. In constructing their theories, physicists are frequently guided by arcane concepts of elegance in the belief that the universe is intrinsically beautiful.

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English Physicist, Author and Broadcaster, Professor at Arizona State University, Chair of SETI, Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science