Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Hold on to the Truth: Afterthoughts

Reading feedback from the previous post it was heartening not to feel alone in being concerned about the future of science. In particular I was pleased to learn that an atheist theoretical physicist, Paul Davies (agnostic author of the Goldilocks Enigma, which I can recommend) said:

‘...even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as lawlike order in nature that is at least part comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological world view.’
Templeton Prize address (1995)

Long may the atheist keep the faith. Some recently have not; but only by doing so can science be saved from resorting to the absurd simply in order to dispense with the need for a Creator. (Those believing in a rational monotheistic God already have this faith.) 

I mentioned the two-slit experiment, where the behaviour of quantum particles appears to be linked in some incomprehensible way with  awareness or knowledge. One variation of this is the delayed choice version which concludes:

'Therefore our delayed choice of how to measure the particle determines  how the particle actually behaved at an earlier time'

 What has this to do with peace on earth? Quite a lot, because for science (and hence technology, ultimately) to avoid stagnation and decline scientists must not lose their nerve and resort to  irrational or arbitrary  models to explain such strange seeming events of the quantum world, as some have been doing. Prosperity depends on science and peace depends partly on universal prosperity. (The only long term peace is  holy (whole) peace but that is another question.)

Finally. some readers may suspect I have misinterpreted Hawking and his postmodern concept of  'model dependent realism'. I would not blame them - I have to keep returning to convince myself he is serious.
So here is another extract from The Grand Design. After first referring to the model of creation which follows from a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 (as opposed to perceiving it as a divine  metaphor showing  the relation between man and God) he briefly describes the standard big bang model of creation. He then says

' this model - big bang theory - is more useful than the first. Still, neither model can be said to be more real than the other.'

(26% through on iPhone Kindle app)

So if lots of historians publishing accounts of the Battle of Waterloo in peer reviewed scholarly journals agree that it took place near Waterloo on Sunday 18 June 1815 and some amateur historian says it took place on Olympus Mons on Mars in 1955 because it is more useful for him, each model is real. To which I say, get real!

Consider this statement:

'no statement is more true than any other '.

 This is self contradictory because the  statement  itself claims to be more true than the statement

 'some statements are more true than others'.

In conclusion, for science to continue to prosper all it needs is for atheistic and agnostic scientists to avoid believing that nature and the universe are meaningless and chaotic. See also the five-fold threat to science.

Author, 2077 AD