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How to become a millionaire by talking about God. Paul Davies, award Templeton 1995

Author: Mariano Artigas
Published in: Aceprensa, 90/95
date of on-line publication: 28 June 1995

On 5 May, Paul Davies received the award which the Templeton Foundation awards each year to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of religion. Davies has published some 15 books, several of which deal with the relationship between science and religion.

There are many ways to get rich. One of them, believe it or not, is to do something for religion. Each year, the Templeton Foundation awards a million-dollar award to a person who has made significant contributions to the advancement of religion. Despite the fluctuations of the dollar, a million dollars is a lot of money, and exceeds, in particular, the endowment of the award Nobel Prize.

The Templeton Prizes and the Templeton Foundation were established by Sir John Templeton, who is very interested in religious issues, and particularly wishes to promote the partnership between science and religion. Past recipients of the award Templeton Prize include people as diverse as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Reverend Billy Graham, professor and writer Stanley Jaki, and the recently deceased former US President Richard Nixon.

When the award is awarded to someone for his publications, it is understood that he has published quite a few books and in them he says interesting things about religion. This is the case with the aforementioned Stanley Jaki and also with Paul Davies. There is, however, an important difference between these two characters: Jaki is a Catholic and Davies, on the other hand, has not practised any religion since he was 15 years old (according to press reports) and does not seem to admit the existence of a God staff creator as claimed by Christians (according to his publications). Under these conditions, why was Davies awarded the award ?

A multi-faceted personality

Paul Davies was born in England in 1946. At the age of 24 he obtained a PhD in physics in London. He worked at high school in astronomy in Cambridge and taught applied mathematics in London until 1980. He then became professor of theoretical physics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and in 1990 he moved to Australia as professor of mathematical physics at the University of Adelaide. In the field of physics, his interests lie especially in quantum gravity, black holes, and complexity physics.

Davies' organisational skills and speech are reflected in his numerous jobs as head of department at the University, supervisor of schools and university committees, editor and advisor of newspapers and magazines in different countries, director He is the author of numerous books, both specialised and informative. He is one of the main authors of the current scientific knowledge dissemination .

Davies has an undoubted talent as a writer, and a scientific skill that is beyond question. But most importantly B is that, writing in a way that is accessible to the general public, he delves into the most difficult problems linking science, Philosophy and religion.

An evolving trajectory

With respect to religion, Davies' ideas have changed over the years. He has always held that science provides an important way of approaching God, but it is his ideas about God that have evolved from a kind of pantheism to a position close to process theology.

Of course, neither pantheism nor process theology are orthodox religious ideas. Pantheism identifies God with nature. And process theology affirms a God who, being different from nature, somehow shares its destiny and is therefore in process and changing. In the Europe of several centuries ago, both Catholic and Protestant, Davies could have been burned at the stake for defending such ideas. Now, however, he receives a substantial award. Clearly, circumstances have changed, and in our secularised world it is significant that a well-known scientist, whose books are successful, claims that there are bridges between science and religion, even if he does not arrive at very clear ideas about God.

Three dates

Davies' development can be summarised in three dates: 1983, 1989 and 1992.

In 1983, Davies published his book God and the New Physics* (1). There he argued that science now provides a surer way to God than traditional religions. Of course, the God he was arriving at had little in common with the creator God staff of Christianity; it was rather an idea that had overlaps with pantheism. Davies alluded to pantheism as if it were a widespread idea among scientists; it would be "the vague belief of many scientists that God is nature or God is the universe". He suggested that, if the universe were the result of necessary laws, we could dispense with the idea of a creator God, but not with the idea of "a universal mind existing as part of that one physical universe: a natural God, at civil service examination to the supernatural".

In 1989, Davies edited a collective work dealing with the main cutting-edge issues in physics today. In the Introduction to the book, he stressed that one of the major achievements of physics in our time concerns the phenomena of self-organisation, in which many particles cooperate in the training of new patterns. In his own words: "Complex systems cease to be merely complicated when they display coherent behaviour involving the collective organisation of a large issue of Degrees of freedom. It is one of the universal miracles of nature that huge gatherings of particles, which are subject only to the blind forces of nature, are nevertheless able to organise themselves into patterns of cooperative activity" * (2). The reference letter to which they are made by virtue of sample Davies' amazement at nature as it is made known to us by current science.

By 1992 something else had changed, as reflected in a article published in a popular science magazine* (3). Davies claimed that Christianity had a positive influence on the birth of modern science, because the pioneers of science were Christians and, as such, believed that nature is rational as the work of God and can therefore be investigated scientifically. He added that, according to the anthropic principle, the physical conditions that make our existence possible are so finely tuned that it is difficult to believe that our existence is simply a matter of chance or blind forces result .

Above all, Davies published in 1992 a new book graduate The Mind of God* (4), which deserves a separate commentary.

The mind of God

This book is not a model of religious orthodoxy. One might even think that, if it falls into the hands of someone who does not have a good scientific and religious background, it could rather complicate his or her life. But that makes it particularly significant. Indeed, sample shows how a modern scientist, who does not belong to any religion and who until a few years ago had a lot of difficulties with the idea of a God staff, is moving towards God thanks to his reflections on science.

Davies states that he does not belong to any institutional religion and that he has never had a mystical experience. But he also claims that science cannot answer the ultimate questions, and adds that subject answers can only come from mystical experiences that transcend the realm of scientific speculation. Furthermore, he argues for the existence of some higher plan capable of explaining human life: according to Davies, our existence cannot be coincidental or the simple result of blind forces.

All this may seem trivial, especially to a believer, but it is not when it is presented as the result of an extensive analysis carried out by a person who, like Davies, does not find it easy to affirm the existence of a creator God staff . Davies is a scientist who tries to push science to its limits, analysing in particular the many and varied answers currently proposed to the ultimate questions, and engaging in a real intellectual combat in which the arguments for and against the various solutions are discussed in detail.

As in previous books, Davies' reasoning can lead anyone without a solid mental structure to the psychiatrist, as it includes the most unusual interpretations. They are reflections aloud in which Davies expresses his perplexities, which are neither few nor small. Their interest lies precisely in the fact that they show that a scientist like Davies, uncommitted to conventional religious positions and willing to admit the part of truth to be found in any proposal however strange it may seem, now affirms with plenary session of the Executive Council conviction that it is not viable to attribute human existence to the simple accidental play of natural forces. Thus it is understandable that he has been awarded the award Templeton.

The limits of science

Significantly, Davies explicitly acknowledges that science is not in a position to provide answers to the fundamental problems of human existence.

It is significant because Davies wishes he could solve all problems with science in hand. Indeed, he writes: "I have always wanted to believe that science can explain everything, at least in principle" (p. 14).

However, he is then obliged to add: "but even if supernatural events are ruled out, it is not clear, however, that science can explain everything in the physical universe. The old problem remains about the end of the chain of explanations. However successful our scientific explanations may be, they always include some assumptions in their point of departure.... Thus, the 'ultimate' questions will always remain beyond the reach of empirical science" (p. 15).

In this vein, Davies goes so far as to point out that beyond science lies metaphysics, and that it is in this realm that questions about the very foundations of the sciences arise: "The task of the scientist is to discover patterns in nature and attempt to fit them into simple mathematical schemes. The question of why there are patterns, and why such mathematical schemes are possible, falls outside the scope of physics, and belongs to the realm called metaphysics" (p. 31).

The rationality of nature

One of the aspects that Davies underlines most aptly is the rationality of nature, which is indispensable for science to be possible and to progress.

From agreement with a genuinely philosophical stance, Davies is astonished at the success of science, to which we may be accustomed: "The success of the scientific method in uncovering the secrets of nature is so astonishing that it may prevent us from noticing the greatest miracle of all: that science works. Even scientists usually take for granted that we live in a rational and ordered cosmos, subject to precise laws that can be discovered by human reasoning. Why this is so, however, remains a staggering mystery" (p. 20).

Indeed, the fact that science works, and works so well, points to something profoundly significant about the organisation of the cosmos: (p. 24). "The success of the scientific business can often blind us to the astonishing fact that science works. Although most people take it for granted, it is both incredibly fortunate and mysterious that we are able to handle the workings of nature using the scientific method" (p. 148).

The Philosophy begins with wonder. When we become accustomed to something and it comes to seem the most natural thing in the world, we are unlikely to raise philosophical questions. In this case, Davies is right: when the success of science and its technological applications is interpreted as progress at the expense of metaphysical and religious explanations, it is a mistake, because scientific progress rather invites deeper questions about its conditions of possibility, and those conditions lie beyond the domain of science.

That is why davies writes that science rests on (p. 162). He adds: "I grant that it cannot be proved that the world is rational. It is certainly possible that, at its deepest level, it is absurd..... Nevertheless, the success of science is at least strong circumstantial evidence in favour of the rationality of nature" (p. 191).

The divine plan

It has been repeated time and again that today it is no longer possible to prove the existence of God on the basis of the order of nature, because that order can be explained by natural laws. Even in the world of the living, where there is an apparent undeniable finality, everything could be explained by the theories of evolution, without appeal to a divine plan.

Davies points out that, in this environment, it is significant that a good issue of scientists are now resurrecting the test order-based argument for the existence of God: "The theologians more or less completely abandoned the argument at design, because of the severe criticisms of Hume, Darwin and others. It is very curious, therefore, that it has recently been revived by a issue of scientists. In its new form the argument is directed not to the objects Materials of the universe as such, but to the underlying laws, where it is immune to Darwinian attacks" (p. 203).

Indeed, Davies concludes his discussion of this with these words: (p. 213).

Davies then goes into one of his typical disquisitions. According to Christianity, the rationality of nature is due to God's plan; but, Davies adds, this is accepted, the next question is: to what end has God produced this plan?..... This would mean that our very existence in the universe formed a central part of God's plan. He goes on: "In The Cosmic Blueprint, I wrote that the universe appears as if it developed from agreement with some plan or outline.... Those rules appear as if they were the product of an intelligent plan. I don't see how this can be denied. That we prefer to believe that they have really been so planned, and in that case why subject they should be, must remain a subject of taste staff... one could conceive of God merely as a mythical embodiment of those creative qualities, rather than as an independent agent. Of course, this would hardly satisfy anyone who feels that they have a staff relationship with God" (pp. 123-125).

It is clear that Davies is not arguing for the existence of a divine plan as affirmed by Christianity. In this case, as in so many others, his thinking even clashes with Christian orthodoxy. But, for this very reason, the evolution of his thought towards positions ever closer to theism is significant.


Can it still be said today that man occupies a privileged place in the divine plan?

Davies, with all the limitations I have already pointed out, is inclined to answer in the affirmative and, what is more, presents his ideas as the result of his reflection on science. These are the concluding words of his book: "I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere episode of fate, an accident of history, incidental to the great cosmic drama.... Through conscious beings, self-consciousness has appeared in the universe. This cannot be a trivial detail, a minor by-product of mindless forces or purpose. It is indeed intended that we should be here" (p. 232).

At the beginning of the book, Davies had written: "The revolution that began with Copernicus and ended with Darwin had the effect of marginalising and even trivialising human beings.... In the chapters that follow I will present a completely different view of science. Far from regarding human beings as incidental products of blind physical forces, science suggests that the existence of conscious organisms is a fundamental feature of the universe. We are inscribed in the laws of nature in a profound and, it seems to me, meaningful sense" (pp. 20-21).

At final, Davies' reflections have led him to a perspective that recognises a deeper level of explanation than science: "I belong to the group of scientists who subscribe to no conventional religion and yet deny that the universe is a meaningless accident. Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is coordinated with such astonishing simplicity that I cannot accept it merely as fact. It seems to me that there must be a deeper level explanation" (p. 16).


  1. Paul Davies. God and the New Physics. Dent, London 1983. I dealt with this book in: Mariano Artigas,Aceprensa, service 65/87 (6 May 1987).
  2. Paul Davies (publisher). The New Physics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1989, pp. 4-5.
  3. Paul Davies, in Very Interesting, no. 131, April 1992, pp. 6-14. I dealt with this article and the evolution it reflected in Davies' thinking in: Mariano Artigas, Aceprensa, service 109/92 (2 September 1992).
  4. Paul Davies. The Mind of God. Simon & Schuster, London 1992.