Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Deep Rational Beauty of the Universe

Flowers on our back porch
I finished Hawking's The Grand Design over the weekend.

Bill Craig suggests I read his chapter on Hawking in Reasonable Faith. So I kindled this one and read it last evening.

I just read physicist John Polkinghorne's beautiful essay "God and Physics" in God is Great, God is Good. Here's a few Polkinghorne quotes.
  • "In Western thinking bout the nature of reality there have been two particularly influential traditions: materialism and theism." (65) Yup. These are the two worldviews I am interested in. My interest in something like pantheism is socio-cultural only. I don't study pantheism or Deepak Chopra in my quest for a coherent worldview.
  • "The universe that science explores has proved to be profoundly rationally transparent to our inquiry and endowed with a deep rational beauty." (Ib.) I love that sentence, and the idea behind it! My many theistic scientist friends would love it, too.
  • Polkinghorne asks: "Why is it the case that some of the most beautiful patterns that the mathematicians can dream up in their minds are found actually to occur in the structure of the physical world around us?" Note that this is Polkinghorne the particle physicist of Cambridge University who "worked on theories about elementary particles, played a role in the discovery of the quark,[1] and researched the analytic and high-energy properties of Feynman integrals and the foundations of S-Matrix theory.[5] While employed by Cambridge, he also spent time at Princeton, Berkeley, Stanford, and at CERN in Geneva."
  • "The feeling of wonder at the marvelous order of the world is a fundamental experience in physics and a fitting reward for all the labor involved in research. In a word, one could say that physics explores a universe that is shot through with signs of mind. Thus the laws of physics seem to point beyond themselves, calling for an explanation of why they have this rational character. It is intellectually unsatisfying simply to treat them as brute fact." (67)
  • (One more P-thought for now) "The deep intelligibility of the cosmos can itself be made intelligible if behind its marvelous order is indeed the mind of its Creator. The theist can say that science is possible precisely because the universe is a creation and scientists are creatures made in the image of their Creator, the God whose role is not simply to initiate the big bang but continuously to hold in being a world endowed with rational structure. Materialism just does not explain enough." (Ib.)