Bradford posted about Paul Davies' op-ed in the New York Times on the thread Science and Faith. Which quickly went downhill as our live-in critics decended like vultures to put a quick stop to any real discussion.
The SciBlog community wasn't hampered by such tactics, so came out hot and heavy in defense of their ideology against Davies' observations. Anti-theist PZ Myers insisted that Faith is not a prerequisite for science, but only managed to demonstrate laughable ignorance of the relevant science. My favorite excerpts…
When someone says that life would not exist if the laws of physics were just a little bit different, I have to wonder"¦ how do they know? Just as there are many different combinations of amino acids that can make any particular enzyme, why can't there be many different combinations of physical laws that can yield life?
Note the "why can't there be" whine on PZ's part, a clear rejection of what physics has so far discovered about the laws that govern matter/energy in this universe. Surely he must have known that people with a passing familiarity with physics might read his blog and laugh at his tantrum…
…we should be wondering how we ended up in such a hostile dump of a universe, one that favors endless expanses of frigid nothingness with scattered hydrogen molecules over one that has trillions of square light years of temperate lakefront property with good fishing, soft breezes, and free wireless networking.
LOL! Do biologists ALL suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome, or just the self-deluded narcissists who believe they're on a mission against god(s)?
Mike Dunford of The Questionable Authority blog posted his take in Science, "Faith", and the New York Times. He makes a strange argument that asserts absolute knowledge of the future based on experience of the past, which doesn't hold water…
Of course, we do know that the sun will come up tomorrow. If we didn't, most of us wouldn't bother setting our alarm clocks. We also know (at least in the absence of certain pharmaceuticals) that we're not going to learn how to fly in the period between jumping off the cliff and hitting the ground. We know that if there is a full moon today, there won't be one next week. We know that it's not going to snow when it's 85 degrees out. We know that George W. Bush is not going to wake up tomorrow and bring all the troops home.
We just can't prove any of it.
The same thing can be claimed by every phony in the Psychic Friends Network! This isn't knowing, it's faith that things will be tomorrow as they were yesterday and today. Dunford does admit his assertion of knowledge is faith-based induction, then simply re-asserts that his faith is somehow more than faith.
So I checked physicist Chad Orzel's Uncertain Principles blog for his take, Turtles and Strings: Where Does Science Stop? Instead of taking issue with Davies' op-ed, he deconstructs Sean Carroll's argument against it over at Cosmic Variance. Carroll's argument is…
"That's just how things are."
Orzel notes with some irony that this is a special pleading for Carroll, since he's argued a very much opposing position in regard to string theory for years. The quest for "a complete understanding of the microscopic laws of physics." Orzel doesn't take a personal stand on the issue, but does betray some humor at Carroll's presumption to be the "final arbiter" of what science can and can't talk about…
If we're going to say that there are certain questions about which science can't say anything meaningful, and thus head off Paul Davies's arguments about emergent natural laws and consciousness, we need some more useful way to make a determination of what science can and can't talk about. I wish I had one to offer, but I'm not even willing to offer myself in Sean's place as the Ultimate Arbiter – I have a book to write.
Nice cop-out. Edge.org has collected responses to the op-ed over on its site. Jerry Coyne echoes Dunford's insistence that induction doesn't involve faith that things past will continue tomorrow. He says…
In contrast, the tenets of religion are truly based on faith, since there is no empirical data to support them.
Yet immediately preceding that statement he didn't mention "empirical data" to support induction, he cited experience. Obviously religious people have experience of the value of their beliefs, and this has been true for thousands of years. It doesn't change just because Coyne wants it to be different.
Nathan Myhrvold simply insists that faith in natural law is 'different' somehow from faith in God. He doesn't make a very good case despite lots of words strung together. Lawrence Krauss tries for the same point with fewer words, falls just as short. Scott Atran also wants the two "Faiths" to be entirely different, but can't establish that as anything but his own subjective (and self-serving) way of defining the word "faith" for his own convenience.
It is humorous to watch all the hemming and hawing, denial and name-calling, kicking and screaming. None of them can stop Davies from talking about these things in public, any more than anyone can stop PZ or Hitchens from spewing their special brand of non-scientific hate-speech in public.
They should start getting used to it, because I seriously doubt physicists are as easily cowed by self-important bio-blowhards as junior biologists tend to be. "Darwinian Orthodoxy" is only orthodox in the field of evolutionary biology. It doesn't rule physics and cannot circumscribe its areas of expertise.
Time to call the waaaambulance. The culture warriors have stubbed their toes.