Physicist Paul Davies and Religion

Physicist Paul Davies seems to eliminate the role of Religion when in the preface of his book, God and New Physics, he declares that Science is a surer path to God than religion. This hypothesis that science is a path to God has been also claimed by Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler and other fathers of modern Science much before Paul Davies. Therefore, the question that asks, ‘Will Science replace Religion?´ becomes significant. Although those who proclaimed the doom of Religion are proved wrong in our days by the global resurgence of religion, there is no dearth of those who still hold that one day Science will eliminate Religion by the force of its technology and secular worldview.

1. Paul Davies and Totalization of Science

Paul Davies makes a bold claim when he says, “It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion, science offers a surer path to God than religion.” And then, perhaps more modestly: he declares: “Right or wrong, the fact that science has actually advanced to the point where what we formerly thought religious questions can be seriously tackled, itself indicates the far-reaching consequences of the new physics.” Science has certainly taken up the questions that were in the past left for Religions. Does that mean that Science will take the place of Religion? It was thought that the growth of Science and scientific reason will eliminate God and Religion from our society. Paradoxically, the claim made by Davies positions Science as friendly to God but an enemy of Religion. In this view, we can see how Science has emerged as a seat of authority and is ready to enable us to reach God. Such a position also positions Science as the only path to the truth and smacks of the faults of Logical Positivists of the twentieth century. Such a totalization of Science is obviously an exaggeration. Developments in Quantum Physics science has demonstrated that there are limits to science. Philosophers of Science like Karl Popper, Thomas Khun, Imre Lakatos and others have indicated that Science cannot make any claim for absolute truth. Although Davies appears to make exaggerated claims about Science and God, he has certainly succeeded in demonstrating that Science does not invalidate God. But the question is what is this new vision of God?

2. De-personalizing God

Science has embraced God by de-personalizing the notion of God. This project is not new. Albert Einstein has famously asserted that he believed in the God of Spinoza. Paul Davies is also not interested in the experience and love of God in the community as well as one’s personal life. Religions mainly deal with what and why questions while Science raises the how question. Paul Davies has introduced the how question of Science into Religion. He expects contemporary Science to answer these the what and why questions through the how questions of Science and thus take a lead us to the scientific search for God. This approach introduces the how of God’s action into the realm of Science. Here we may remind ourselves that the reductionist habit of modern Science thinks God reductively and denies a personal God. God is both personal and impersonal. Thus, to a large extent, the God of Davies is not new. It is in the new Physics that he tries to find pointers towards God. He indicates that the new Physics has a mystical ascent towards God. He seems to bracket religious dimensions of life and new Physics as the foundation for religious assertion. Such an approach to God remains only open to a kind cognitive appropriations of God and brackets God experience. Therefore it would be inadequate to posit Science alone as a surer path to God without remaining open to the Religious experience of God.

3. Casting Religious Questions into Science

Paul Davies casts religious questions into the field of Science. Science does have something to say about Religious matters. But it is not to take the place of Religion. It is only in dialogue with Religion that both Science and Religion can flourish. The developments in new Physics does have important insights for our understanding of God. It does not give us mastery over the mystery of God. The theory of Relativity and Quantum physics while illuming our macro and micro cosmos also brings light on our creator. But these developments do not abrogate the light from Religions. They do not dismiss Religions to the realm of darkness. In fact, they assist us to learn and unlearn our thinking, speaking and nonspeaking of God. The new Physics complements and does not replace what is given to us by Religions. Science has changed our ways of being in the world. It certainly influences our life profoundly. But we cannot accept these developments unreflectively or blindly. We have the challenge to engage the latest findings of Science and bring them to dialogue with the deepest insights of Religions. We have to remember that Science and Religion do not need each other. It is we humans who need them both. Therefore, the project of Paul Davies needs a course correction.

Conclusion

Science does have power over us. It offers deep insight into our life, world and our God. We have the challenge to bring into dialogue the God of Religions with the ‘God’ of Science. Let both Science and Religions bring light to our understanding and experience of God.

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GREETINGS

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao