Paul Davies, 1946, UK, Australia, USA, a modern pioneer in the debate between science and faith

Hi Max,

I am not sure what I think about this guy. He is a scientist in the public eye who seems to talk like a theist, but then denounces himself. I like his writing though – original, elegant, clear, unafraid. He opens the questions, provides some pieces of the missing language, so I want to keep him in the series. See what you think. Cheers

Paul Davies 1946, UK, Australia, USA

is an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He is affiliated with the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California. He has held previous academic appointments at the University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University. His research interests are in the fields of cosmology, quantum field theory, and astrobiology. He has proposed that a one-way trip to Mars could be a viable option.

In 1970, he completed his PhD under the supervision of Michael J. Seaton and Sigurd Zienau at University College London.[1][2] He then carried out postdoctoral research under Fred Hoyle at the University of Cambridge.

Davies’ inquiries have included theoretical physics, cosmology, and astrobiology; his research has been mainly in the area of quantum field theory in curved spacetime. His notable contributions are the so-called Fulling–Davies–Unruh effect, according to which an observer accelerating through empty space will perceive a bath of thermal radiation, and the Bunch–Davies vacuum state, often used as the basis for explaining the fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation left over from the big bang. A paper co-authored with Stephen Fulling and William Unruh was the first to suggest that black holes evaporating via the Hawking effect lose mass as a result of a flux of negative energy streaming into the hole from the surrounding space. Davies has had a longstanding association with the problem of time’s arrow, and was also an early proponent of the theory that life on Earth may have come from Mars cocooned in rocks ejected by asteroid and comet impacts. During his time in Australia he helped establish the Australian Centre for Astrobiology.

Davies was a co-author of Felisa Wolfe-Simon on the Science article "A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus.".[3] Reports refuting the most significant aspects of the original results were published in the same journal in 2012, including by researchers from the University of British Columbia and Princeton University.[4]

Davies is Principal Investigator at Arizona State University‘s Center for Convergence of Physical Science and Cancer Biology. This is part of a program set up by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to involve physicists in cancer research which has set up a network of 12 Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers.[5][6][7]

In 2005, he took up the chair of the SETI: Post-Detection Science and Technology Taskgroup of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is also an adviser to the Microbes Mind Forum.

Davies’ talent as a communicator of science has been recognized in Australia by an Advance Australia Award and two Eureka Prizes, and in the UK by the 2001 Kelvin Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics, and the 2002 Faraday Prize by The Royal Society. Davies received the Templeton Prize in 1995.Davies was made a member of the Order of Australia in the 2007 Queen’s birthday honours list.

The asteroid 6870 Pauldavies is named after him.

Davies writes and comments on scientific and philosophical issues. He made a documentary series for BBC Radio 3, and two Australian television series, The Big Questions and More Big Questions. His BBC documentary The Cradle of Life featured the subject of his Faraday Prize lecture. He writes regularly for newspapers and magazines worldwide. He has been guest on numerous radio and television programmes including the children podcast programme Ask A Biologist.

An opinion piece published in the New York Times,[8] generated controversy over its exploration of the role of faith in scientific inquiry. Davies argued that the faith scientists have in the immutability of physical laws has origins in Christian theology, and that the claim that science is "free of faith" is "manifestly bogus."[8] The Edge Foundation presented a criticism of Davies’ article written by Jerry Coyne, Nathan Myhrvold, Lawrence Krauss, Scott Atran, Sean Carroll, Jeremy Bernstein, PZ Myers, Lee Smolin, John Horgan, Alan Sokal and a response by Davies beginning I was dismayed at how many of my detractors completely misunderstood what I had written. Indeed, their responses bore the hallmarks of a superficial knee-jerk reaction to the sight of the words "science" and "faith" juxtaposed.[9] While atheists Richard Dawkins[10] and Victor J. Stenger[11] have criticised Davies’ public stance on science and religion, others including the John Templeton Foundation, have praised his work.

My feeling is that scientific method has the power to account for and interlink all phenomena in the universe, including its origin, using the laws of nature. But that still leaves the laws unexplained.

Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth – the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves.

Science, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term ‘doubting Thomas’ well illustrates the difference.

Traditionally, scientists have treated the laws of physics as simply ‘given,’ elegant mathematical relationships that were somehow imprinted on the universe at its birth, and fixed thereafter. Inquiry into the origin and nature of the laws was not regarded as a proper part of science.

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