Thursday, May 18, 2017

Physicist Paul Davies on the Laws of Physics

"The orthodox view of the nature of the laws of physics contains a long list of tacitly assumed properties. The laws are regarded, for example, as immutable, eternal, infinitely precise mathematical relationships that transcend the physical universe, and were imprinted on it at the moment of its birth from 'outside,' like a maker’s mark, and have remained unchanging ever since… In addition, it is assumed that the physical world is affected by the laws, but the laws are completely impervious to what happens in the universe… It is not hard to discover where this picture of physical laws comes from: it is inherited directly from monotheism, which asserts that a rational being designed the universe according to a set of perfect laws. And the asymmetry between immutable laws and contingent states mirrors the asymmetry between God and nature: the universe depends utterly on God for its existence, whereas God’s existence does not depend on the universe…

Clearly, then, the orthodox concept of laws of physics derives directly from theology. It is remarkable that this view has remained largely unchallenged after 300 years of secular science. Indeed, the 'theological model' of the laws of physics is so ingrained in scientific thinking that it is taken for granted. The hidden assumptions behind the concept of physical laws, and their theological provenance, are simply ignored by almost all except historians of science and theologians. From the scientific standpoint, however, this uncritical acceptance of the theological model of laws leaves a lot to be desired…"1

Courage and Godspeed,

1. As quoted by Ed Feser here.

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