Science most definitely is not based on Faith (i.e. belief in something without evidence). But that’s just what Paul Davies is suggesting. I have just two words for that patently absurd suggestion: epistemology and empiricism. Alex gives a succinct reaction to Davies along those lines.
How on Earth does Davies get off calling himself a scientist?!? What an annoying little essay that was of his. And why did the NY Times publish such rubbish?
The only item that Davies brings up that’s worth discussing is the section on where the concept of natural law came from. Davies of course is arguing that science was originally a Christian idea. Since it’s always interesting to examine where profound ideas came from, and especially where science came from, I thought that worth discussing a bit more… Davies says:
This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships.
John Wilkins corrects Davies, pointing out that no, in fact, it was the Ancient Greeks who conceived of the idea of natural order:
But the really important innovation, the one that all science since has been based upon, is the ideas of the Milesians, beginning with Thales in the sixth century BCE. He proposed that there was a material principle that explained all things. Hitherto, throughout the ancient near east and Mediterranean, things were what they were at the whim of a god or gods, and had a sympathetic relationship between each other based on resemblances and words. You cannot study what things will do if they can, at any time, become a swan or a tree or a spirit.
Put another way, scientific research is only possible in the secular/non-theistic setting, where god(s) have been forgotten.
And, moving away from the realm of science, democratic politics and human rights can only work in the secular/non-theistic setting. How did these concepts arise however? From theological thinking, as some like Davies might suggest? More probably, by trying to move beyond a world at the whim of god(s), into a world that is more explainable and more just.
We’re simply more able to make sense out of the world after we’ve let go of god(s).