Davies, Paul C. W. “The Intelligibility of Nature."

Paul Davies begins with the claim that our ability to understand nature through the scientific method is a fact which demands an explanation. He proposes that our mind and the cosmos are linked, that consciousness “is a fundamental and integral part of the outworking of the laws of nature.” In particular, the laws of nature which make possible the emergence of life must be of a form such that at least some species which arise according to them have the ability to discover them. Thus science can explain the rise of species which can engage in science without appealing to a God who either intervenes in or guides nature. Still the ultimate explanation of the origin of the laws lies outside the scope of science and should be pursued by metaphysics and theology. Whether this leads to God “is for others to decide.”

Davies begins with the sociological debate over the origin of science. Although science is clearly a product of Western European culture, he sees no simple relationship between Christian theology and the emergence of science. Whatever its origins, though, the validity of science is transcultural and warrants a realist interpretation.

What is most significant about nature is that the universe is “. . . poised, interestingly, between the twin extremes of boring over-regimented uniformity and random chaos.” Accordingly it achieves an evolution of novel structures through self-organizing complexity. “The laws are therefore doubly special. They encourage physical systems to self-organize to the point where mind emerges from matter, and they are of a form which is apprehendable by the very minds which these laws have enabled nature to produce.” Does our ability to “crack the cosmic code” lead to an argument for God? No; Davies prefers an evolutionary interpretation of mind as emergent within the material process of self-organization. The emergence of mind with its ability to pursue science is not just a “biological accident.” Instead it is inevitable because of the laws of physics and the initial conditions. Hence life should emerge elsewhere in the universe - a claim which Davies sees as testable.

If mind emerged because of the laws of nature, is it surprising that mind is capable of discovering these laws? Davies first stresses that evolution is a blend of chance and necessity; it is neither teleological nor is it a “cosmic anarchy.” The laws “facilitate the evolution of the universe in a purposelike fashion.” Still the actual laws of the universe are remarkable. They not only encourage the evolution of life and consciousness but they support the evolution of organisms with the ability for theoretical knowledge. Here the ability to do mathematics is particularly surprising. Davies connects mathematics with the physical structure of the world through “computability” and thus to physics, since computing devices are physical. In this way mathematics and nature are intertwined. Moreover, mathematics is capable of describing the laws of physics which govern the devices which compute them. The intimate relation of mind and cosmos need not lead to a theological explanation, but Davies is equally critical of a many- universe explanation, opting instead for a form of design argument. This, however, takes us to the limits of science. “The question of the nature of the laws themselves lies outside the scope of the scientific enterprise . . . (and) belongs to the subject of metaphysics . . .”

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