There is in fact a kind of chicken-and-egg problem with the universe and its laws. Which "came" first - the laws or the universe?
The laws of nature are descriptions of what happens. They don't force anything to happen anymore than a picture of you leaving a room forces you to leave the room. You can't violate a law of nature because whatever you do is described by the laws of nature.
Some people have it backwards. The truth of laws comes from whatever happens in nature. Nature doesn't bend itself to some preset laws.
The idea of universal governing laws being dictated by some magical universe cop is an obvious throwback to religion.
Read this Laws of Nature [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy] and realize that there is no evidence for any kind of forceful governing "laws".
The universe came first.
That was an entertaining article, thanks.
I think Davies has a point and judging by the amount of vehement reaction he received, he hit a nerve. Like when the one guy said that people are numbers- that shows a rather extreme quasi-religious way of thinking.
That doesn't mean scientists should stop trying to figure out everything. It's a useful endeavor.
Laws of science are very reliable, but that doesn't mean that they are answers unto themselves. There could be more to gravity, for instance, than mass and distance. But it's reliable.
The problem with the regularity veiw is that it is not good in explaining anything.
Nice article thanks.
What I have observed is that every law that has been ever published has ultimately been overturned by another law. So, it seems that laws evolve as the universe evolves and as the means for humans to perceive the universe evolves (I have no idea what the laws are for chimpanzees, since I cannot communicate with them).
Someone comes up with a way of describing parts of the universe at one moment, and we agree by consensus that this is going to be the law until something better comes up and is more complete (there is always incompleteness in every law that has been established). It is no different than any other law.
We have not even begun to broach laws for emotions, existence, consciousness etc. What we have done is simply exclude them from current laws. Nice trick.
Maybe their just habits, not laws?
---------- Post added 08-13-2009 at 08:10 AM ----------
there is a maverick scientist (whom all regular scientists detest) called Rupert Sheldrake who talks about 'the habits of nature'.
Sheldrake's is not a scientific theory. Sheldrake is putting forward magic instead of science, and that can be condemned, in exactly the language that the Pope used to condemn Galileo, and for the same reasons: it is heresy
Not at all.
Actually what is interesting is WHY Sheldrake gets such a reaction. I think if we was just a crank then he would be ignored. Maybe it is because everything he says is an afront to the principles of empiricism, or that is the way it is read. Underneath all the scientific arrgumentation and so on, there is a strong emotional commitment to a certain notion of the way things are. Anything that seriously threatens it creates fear and loathing.
---------- Post added 08-13-2009 at 11:04 AM ----------
John Maddox, Editor Science Magazine.
I have met Sheldrake. He seemed quite reasonable to me. I need to do a bit more reading on it. At this point in history, science is built an a very strong belief in naive realism. It all grew out of the (understandable) reaction against the religious autocracy - virtually dictatorship - of medieval Europe. This is has created a huge shadow in the western mind. Anything which is perceived as a threat to the idea that we live in a material world that is shaped by causes that we can determine empirically is regarded as a throwback to that earlier time. That is what is really going on in my view.
The unfortunate fact for materialism, however, is that the very notion of 'matter' is no longer intelligible. What we regard as 'matter' accounts for less than 4% of the measurable universe. So where's the rest of it, eh? And if scientific cosmology has moved into the realms of the occult, what is so strange about the idea of 'morphic resonance'?
Intelligence is not an outcome of chance or the result of a bunch of dumb stuff becoming smart through time. Dumb stuff doesn't become smart. The latent intelligence pulls material into the kinds of configurations it can use.