Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Stephen Barr Reviews Gingerich

In this fine review of Owen Gingerich's new book, God's Planet, Stephen Barr ends with a rather tantalizing summary of the state of science. Contrary to the science-knows-no-limits crowd that populates the neurosciences in particular, Barr ends with this interesting aside:

we seem to be entering a new era. Many of the most interesting and fundamental questions that science has stimulated are ­unlikely to be decidable by new data: Was there something before the Big Bang? Did the universe have a beginning? Do we live in a multiverse? Is the universe infinitely large? Are the laws of nature fine-tuned for life? Are there other intelligent species in the universe? How did the “transition to the spiritual” occur? Increasingly, one finds science lapping over its seawalls. Indeed, in some areas, the boundary between science and speculation has been entirely washed away. Science began with philosophical speculation twenty-five centuries ago, and it seems likely that it will end in the same place.
I see good reason to support this general assessment of science and its limits. In biology, my hope is that very soon, the speculative efforts of Jeremy English and Simon Conway Morris will begin to poke through the exceedingly tiresome and now boring evolution vs. God debates. Their speculations will, I think, confirm Darwinism as well as the other physical laws that contain and contextualize Darwinian mechanisms that (as we already know) favour species' survival and reproduction. However, I'd be willing to bet that when it comes to the specifics of genomic science (for instance), we will see amazing discoveries that provide us with evidence that further empirical discoveries will continue to be made and are important as such. More discipline-specific discoveries in science. More interdisciplinary insights into the limits of science. Both and...

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