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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old but relevant all the same
The book is old for the average work of non-fiction and positively ancient for a work of science, but it is nothing if not durable. God and the New Physics, written in 1983, still holds up well despite the passage of time and the amazing new findings in cosmology. When I realize that Paul Davies was in him mid-thirties when he was penning this major work of philosophy...
Published on September 29, 2004 by Atheen

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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Davies' weakest book?
This is one of Davies two or three most noted books but certainly not one of his best. You'll get a better discussion of quantum theory in his volumes 'Superforce', 'The Matter Myth' or 'About Time' and a better treatment of philosophical and theological considerations in his award-winning 'The Mind of God'.
Davies is one of this reader's favorite science writers,...
Published on February 23, 2005 by Wesley L. Janssen


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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old but relevant all the same, September 29, 2004
By 
Atheen "Atheen" (Mpls, MN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
The book is old for the average work of non-fiction and positively ancient for a work of science, but it is nothing if not durable. God and the New Physics, written in 1983, still holds up well despite the passage of time and the amazing new findings in cosmology. When I realize that Paul Davies was in him mid-thirties when he was penning this major work of philosophy and physics, it makes me wonder at how little I did with my life!

Anyone hoping for a scientific justification for a specific religion or for God in general will be disappointed. Although the author puts up a variety of possible cosmological points that might do so, he generally comes to the conclusion that they do not. The work is a superb examination of a variety of philosophical issues that plague even the average thinking person: How did the universe begin, did God create the universe, why does it exist at all, what is life, what is the mind, what is the soul, what is the self, does free will exist? He also discusses scientific issues that have baring on religion: what is time, what is matter, did the universe arise by accident or design, what is chaos, how will the universe end?

Any student of theology or philosophy would do well to be acquainted with this book. Certainly every point is covered with regard to the existence of God and the meaning/purpose of life. The key scientific facts are lucidly put forth in a way that even the least math minded can understand them. For the blindly faithful, the book will do little to effect your point of view. It certainly won't bring about any change in your religious affiliation since no specific religion is endorsed. For those who are undecided or complete unbelievers, the book will not make you feel closer to a personal God if you don't already, but it may give you a sense of awe, a feeling of gratitude for the amazing universe of which you find yourself a part.

Although the author does not say so specifically, science cannot prove the nonexistence of a deity any more than the religious person can prove his existence. God is essentially a non-testable, non-falsifyable, non-repeatable entity, a matter of faith and belief and therefore of choice. For the faithful, he needs no explanation or justification. For most scientists, God is a non-issue. Science is a method, one of examining nature, of finding out how it works, of putting together a description of its principles. As technology and understanding advance, that description changes. In essence, science is a self-correcting picture of reality. The author reveals this admirably.

Anyone with an interest in cosmology will be find the book a little dated if they have already done any reading on the topic. Black holes have become an accepted phenomenon, the Hubble Telescope has allowed more detailed visualization of space, the universe is now believed to be speeding up rather than slowing down its expansion, etc. Still the basics are there and presented in a very readable, understandable form. Although those with more interest in physics than in theology might find other more recent books on the topic more to the point, there is no doubt that Davies has produced an amazing presentation.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Davies' weakest book?, February 23, 2005
By 
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
This is one of Davies two or three most noted books but certainly not one of his best. You'll get a better discussion of quantum theory in his volumes 'Superforce', 'The Matter Myth' or 'About Time' and a better treatment of philosophical and theological considerations in his award-winning 'The Mind of God'.
Davies is one of this reader's favorite science writers, but I'll not recommend this volume. Your time will be better spent reading any of the four books that I mentioned above. Developments of the past twenty years have countered some of the cosmology presented here, but this is nothing to hold against the author, it is what happens in science. Rather worse is Davies' understanding of theology, it is strangely uninformed for someone with his apparent interest in the discipline. On several points he is dealing with mere straw men.
One of several problems is Davies treatment of theology's famous 'cosmological argument' which has been variously employed by such thinkers as Aristotle, Leibniz, and Swinburne. In this discussion (third chapter) he appears to accept that Bertrand Russell had succeeded in defeating the general argument through the introduction of his famous "sets of sets" paradox. The argument is this: if the cause-effect relationships within the temporal universe are taken as sets of relationships, then the universe as a whole is the set of these sets. Russell then demonstrated, using the 'library books / catalogs of library books' paradox, that the universe itself need not be subject to the rules of causal relationships that apply within the universe. The reason, Russell argued, that causal relationships should not be applied to the universe (as a set of sets) is that causal relationships within the universe (space/time) must have an aspect of temporal sequence, and that since there can be no temporal quality such as "before" "before" time itself, the universe need not be caused.
That there is no sequence outside of time is hardly arguable. But when Davies goes on to say that we must think in terms of "beyond, not before" the universe, he demonstrates that the supposed problem is simply one of reckless semantics. After all, just as 'before' is a temporal concept, 'beyond' is a spatial concept; perhaps there cannot be a "beyond" the universe either? Davies would (rightly) respond that "beyond" does not necessarily involve a spatial quality, for example we might speak of a concept or understanding being "beyond me." And as Davies later explains, in his consideration of 'mind', ideas (say, the calculus or a Beethoven symphony) do not, in essence, exist spatially (or temporally, the piece of music does not cease to exist when the orchestra finishes), yet certainly do exist "beyond" the concert hall or the notations on paper. Similarly, of the "super-existent Being," the theologian says, "Cause of all existence, and therefore itself transcending existence" (to cite ancient language), causes space-time from "beyond" [or conceptually "above"] space-time, not from temporally "before" it. As Davies concedes, theologians (notably Augustine) discerned this many centuries before Russell attempted to colonize causal language. There are several definitions that logicians have assigned to the concept of causality; Aristotle's most straightforward definition is simply "explanatory factor." Russell's argument based on a temporal baseline presents no clear paradox for a supra-cosmic Mind; most philosophers have rightly rejected his demand that we restrict explanation to his preferred language, and it is unclear why Davies was so uncritical on this point.
Concluding this discussion, Davies says that we can imagine an uncaused universe -- or even a steady-state universe (although the idea fares poorly against observation) -- but eventually concedes that we cannot finally explain such things in any scientific or otherwise rational way: ". . . Swinburne writes: It would be an error to suppose that if the universe is infinitely old, and each state of the universe at each instant of time has a complete explanation in terms of a previous state . . . (and so God is not invoked), that the existence of the universe throughout infinite time has a complete explanation, or even a full explanation. It has not. It has neither. It is totally inexplicable."
Davies later revisits causality from the perspective of quantum uncertainty and the superposition problem. He treats this material better elsewhere. In many ways, Polkinghorne's 'The Quantum World' (written at about the same time) treats this subject better than any I have seen. The ideas in Davies' chapter on Time are treated more extensively in his later volume 'About Time.'
On points Davies strays completely from physics while failing to penetrate philosophy very deeply. A straw characterization of theology's understanding of 'omnipotence' is presented in the consideration of free will versus determinism (chapter 10). Davies cites Hume's argument that God either wills evil (and is therefore not omnibenevolent) or is incapable of eliminating evil (and therefore not omnipotent). Again, the author uncritically accepts Hume's argument, apparently ignorant of the theological response (Hume's argument was not new and some counter arguments had been given two millennia earlier). Davies says, "the power of an omnipotent God is without limit, and such a being is free to have whatever he chooses." Actually the statement cannot be true, omnipotence is logically self-limiting in a way that omnipresence or omniscience, is not. For example, an omnipotent Being cannot be free to terminate his omnipotent self, for if he is "free to have whatever he chooses," in choosing cessation he could neither "have" nor "choose." Logical limits seem inherent to omnipotence, limits imposed by mutual exclusion. Again, consider the question: "is God powerful enough to make a rock so heavy that he is not powerful enough to lift it?" The question is supposed to demand a glitch in God's omnipotence. Ignoring that since Newtonian relativistic physics (let alone its advance via Einsteinian fields), the picture being painted is physically nonsensical, it is also logical nonsense. Further, an omnipotent being is not free to simultaneously provide and deny freedom any more that he could create a three dimensional spherical (1 surface) cube (6 surfaces), because of logical mutual exclusion. Strangely, after arguing otherwise earlier, Davies reaches such a conclusion in chapter 17. For a technical theological consideration of omnipotence and the existence of evil, one should seriously engage so-called 'possible worlds' theory; for a less technical approach, one must consider the substantive, rather that superficial, essence of often misunderstood words like "love" and "freedom" (both are "good", neither is necessarily "nice"). And, like quantum entanglement, freedom is so complex as to be fundamentally mysterious to any human observer who would pretend to be its judge, as certain theologians have variously stated for more than 2500 years.
Much argument is distilled into little in the book's three closing paragraphs (so what was the point?). This is Davies at his worst. He improved with age, read his 'The Mind of God' instead.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance & Emotions, May 24, 2001
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
This book is fabulous for insight into scientific thought and dispositions on the most profound questions that exist for humanity. The book is compendious and wrought with intensive outpouring of scientific theory, phenomenon and information. So, to do yourself justice be prepared to read it at least twice. The time invested is certainly worth it. Paul Davies is a voluble and eloquent writer and I feel very respectful of his wide array of scientific knowledge, inferential discussions and deductions. But the work does have some severe short comings. PD attacks religion, and it seems evident that he very well may be upset about the sordid history of confrontation between the Church and Scientists, perhaps rightfully so. Sadly, PD's reflections on religion are strictly limited to Christianity. There are religions, like Islam, that exhibit a lot of harmony whith science and have a history of scientific discoveries too. PD is unable to draw a profound distinction between religious thought and religious institutions. A lot of people don't recognize institutional authority in religion, like myself. On the subject of God, there seems to be a lot of contradiction. PD, smartly, does not directly confute the existance of God. But then he totally discredits the life-force notion that drives the physical forces around us due to lack of a viable explanation. He says that science provides a surer path to God than religion does. But he does not give in to God as if it threatens his livelihood. Unlike Stephen Hawkings who openly says that human existance in the saga of the cosmos can only be explained as an act of a God who intended to create beings like us. Anyway, its a great read, very enjoyable and one of the most intellectually stimulating books I have ever read. Already looking forward to my 3rd read.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great discussion of how physics may lead to God, March 26, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
I found this book fascinating. Although Davies states that 'Science may offer a surer path to God that Religion' he states this only because science with its rational approach to the subject may more readily be accepted by some than by faith. Davies does, however, finally state that although the universe may have been created in the 'Big Bang' by itself without any so-called 'Prime Mover'; that is, if quantum gravity acts in the manner that quantum physics works at the atomic level. Given this, he then makes the statement that the mathematics that describe the universe must have been in place for this to occur. Davies is of the same mind as Einstein here in that God would be necessary to create the mathematics that created the universe.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking for God (and not through a telescope...), May 21, 2003
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
Paul Davies, a professor of theoretical physics, has written extensively both for the scientific and the popular audiences on topics of current interest in physics and cosmology. In particular, he concentrates on issues to do with quantum theories, relativity and beginning/end of the universe issues.

In his book 'God and the New Physics', Davies continues a new tradition in which physicists particularly and scientists more generally write about their fields in philosophical, nearly theological terms discussing first causes, ultimate meanings, and the place of God and humanity in the overall scheme of the universe. Our understanding of the universe has changed dramatically in the last century, having been a fairly stable image for the past several hundred years. This has understandably made the philosophic and anthropomorphic considerations of the universe change dramatically as well.

'Science and religion represent two great systems of human thought. For the majority of people on our planet, religion is the predominant influence over the conduct of their affairs. When science impinges on their lives, it does so not at the intellectual level, but practically, through technology.'

Davies explores first the idea of genesis of the universe, exploring the intricacies of the big bang theory. This is a theory that has difficulties philosophically, that a purely scientific approach does not have an answer to, not least of which because it isn't asking the same question. Essentially, according to the big bang theory, the universe began as a singularity, essentially an infinitely small point from which all space and time (and all that is in it) emerged in an explosion-like phenomenon. Davies explores problems associated with conventional thinking around this unconventional theory -- what is the first event? what is the first event after the big bang? what is the purpose? what is the cause?

It is a bizarre twist of quantum theories that causes and effects are not neatly, logically arranged along timelines which we have become accustomed to. Thus, can the universe be considered to be self-causing?

'The fact that modern cosmology has provided hard physical evidence for the creation is a matter of great satisfaction to religious thinkers. However, it is not enough that a creation simply occurred. The Bible tells us that God created the universe. Can science throw any light at all on what caused the big bang?'

Alas -- even with exotic causality strains and quantum mechanisms which may remove the need for a first cause (as Davies tends to argue, using modern science essentially to refute already largely-refuted cosmological arguments for the existence of God), it does not adequately explain why there is a universe at all, that would have as part of its nature not needing a first-cause.

In the course of his discussion of the ideas of theoretical physics and traditional religious views, Davies explores the mind/matter connexion, the nature and direction of time, the scientific and philosophic issues around free will and determinism, and the idea of what nature truly is (and isn't).

Near the end of the book, Davies recaps the argument thus far:

'In spite of the spectacular success of modern science, it would be foolish to suppose that the fundamental questions concerning the existence of God, the purpose of the universe, or the role of mankind in the natural and supernatural scheme has been answered by these advances. Indeed, scientists themselves have a wide range of religious beliefs.'

There are no easy answers here. This book is not intended to settle anything, but rather to help clarify the issues in the debate, particularly in an era where there is as much misconception over what modern science really means as there is over what religious interpretations really mean. This is not a book for the intellectually timid. There is a presumption of scientific literacy in all of Davies' work; one needn't be a rocket scientist (or theoretical physicist), but those intimidated at basic algebra will most likely not benefit from this volume.

'I am sometimes asked whether the insight which physicists have gained into the inner workings of nature through the study of fundamental processes throws any light on the nature of God's plan for the universe, or reveals the struggle between good and evil. It does not. There is nothing good or evil about the way quarks are united into protons and neutrons, or the absorption and emission of quanta, the bending of spacetime by matter, the abstract symmetries that unite the fundamental particles, and so on.'

That having been said, many of the philosophical and theological questions remain unanswered, but now have a new element to be considered. Davies' work helps to reframe questions.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative physics? Yes. Finding the Christian God? No, January 11, 2003
By 
Matthew (Houston, TX) - See all my reviews
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
As a freshman physics major at Rice University and a Christian, I picked up God and the New Physics over Christmas break with a gift certificate simply looking for an enjoyable, and possibly stimulating read. God and the New Physics provided much, much more, however. Paul Davies does an excellent job of presenting complex physics theories and concepts without using any math (so far as I can remember from the book). Do not let this deceive you. God and the New Physics is not an easy read. The concepts, though presented simply, were challenging to understand. Quantum mechanics, the theory of relativity, the very nature of time; all these made the book difficult to understand. When a concept "clicked," though, the sense of accomplishment was great. So, if you are looking for an informative, well written guide to many physical phenomena with a thought provoking side, pick up this book.
I felt that Davies' book had one major flaw. The book sets out in search of God, and in particular, the Christian God. Davies whole book is based on proving through physics, that God either 1) exists, or 2) does not exist. Davies reaches the conclusion (spoiler coming up) that the best we can hope for is a natural god. One who cannot be both omniscient and omnipresent. Davies god is more like the "universal mind" in the holistic sense. In concluding this, Davies ignores one key premise of Christianity. God is supernatural. Thus He will, and does, transcend the laws of physics. By trying to prove the existence of a supernatural God through natural, physical laws, Davies has prevented himself from reaching the very conclusion that he set out to make! Throughout the book, Davies speaks of circular arguments. With the way he approached this book, he has created one himself. If you start out with only physical laws trying to prove the existence of a deity, then you will only prove the existence of a natural deity. To find a supernatural God, the God of Christianity, you must look beyond the laws of physics, and beyond the laws of quantum mechanics, because the Christian God will not operate in accordance with physical laws.
Overall, this is a good book. Davies knows physics extremely well, and it shows throughout this book as he addresses a whole gamut of physics concepts...
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Credible Answers to the Big Questions, January 1, 2006
By 
cvc (houston texas) - See all my reviews
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
Wow!!

I read this book a few years ago, and recently read it again. It is an exhausting read, but sure worth the ride. You will get the most out of this book, if you have studied physics (through quantum mechanics) and mathematics (through advanced calculus). But even for those with no such background, there is something for you here...don't stop if you run into something you don't understand...keep on reading.

Davies, addresses, among others, each of the following :

- How did the universe come about?

- Could it have been created in another way?

- The purpose of the universe?

- Is God necessary?

- What is the eventual fate of the universe?

- What is mind and soul?

- Could humans have evolved, accidentally from simple laws of physics?

Davies does an amazing job at addressing each using credible reasoning and existing physical theory. Additionally, Davies speculation and posing of questions is stimulating.

To me, it is clear from the presentation that science is much more credible and useful in speculating about answers to such questions than religion -religion avoids the facts/discoveries that might contradict its assertions. Davies presentation of John Conway's discoveries that simple logical "rules" lead to complex phenomena is tremendous proof that maybe humans did evolve from the very simple laws of physics and matter.

You might also supplement with Weinberg's "The First Three Minutes," Feynman's "Lectures on Physics" and Davies additional work "The Mind of God" and "Cosmic Blueprint." Also, refer to Davies additional references in the back of the book. Searching for answers to such questions is a lifetime pursuit for many...including me.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More questions than answers, or do I need to read it again?, April 2, 2002
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
Paul Davies retains - as much as possible - his simplistic and comprehensible writing style, even in this book where philosophical, theological and physics concepts intertwine.
Finishing the last page of this book, I was left with a feeling that I now had more questions than answers (which is most surely the purpose of this book).
Davies takes the concepts of modern physics and cosmology, like how the Universe started, quantum fluctuations in vacuo, etc., and elaborates on them, to show how the concept of God - in whatever form he may take - can be introduced in a theory for the whole Cosmos.
Davies shows how the beginning, the ongoing life, and the end of the Universe can be explained with or without the existence of a God, and why a God is or is not necessary for all these processes to take place.
However, Davies does not provide any direct or straight-forward answers, and it is not likely that he would. After touching and elaborating each of the aforementioned topics, he left me with a distinct impression that now I have so much more knowledge, and I should do my own thinking (and maybe believing) on whether there is a God and how he would fit into the Cosmos, as we know it today.
It certainly gives a great topic to talk about with friends, and it's a must-read for all you out there who are looking for answers to the greatest of the world's mysteries.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant and Compelling, September 17, 2008
By 
Michael L. Gooch (Washington, Indiana) - See all my reviews
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
Why would someone write a book review of a work that was published in 1983. Well, here's why. Recently, I read Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality which made me think of the The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. This in turn reminded me of Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology and The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World. Then I remembered rereading God and the New Physics this spring ( I had purchased it in '83). As I read it again from front to back I was impressed at how bold the book was for its time and how relevant it still is even though science has been greatly added to. As this book is the one that set me on my continuing path of seeking the realm between God and science I thought others should be reminded of this incalculable addition to my library.

This book will not make the believer stronger in their faith nor will it make the scientific minded feel validated in their materialist claim, it will serve both as stimulation for thought.

My favorite chapters are the ones that dealt with Holism vs reductionism, the quantum factor and the chapter on free will. In all three of these chapters, the book presented material that was unknown to me at the time. Even in 2009, we still do not understand large areas of these arenas. The discussions within the book about the Mind, Soul and Self were also captivating and 26 years later, still unanswered. In fact, we may never approach even the outer edge of our quest but the fun is in the journey.

I certainly recommend this book and all others that Paul Davies has written.

Michael L. Gooch
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dont quit your day job, June 23, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: God and the New Physics (Paperback)
Absolutely wonderful explananation of modern physics. Davies does a fine job of introducing the many points of recent revolutions in that area. Now the philosophy/thoelogy, that is not so good. The man is a physicist and should stay one, for his arguments and analysis in general is lacking. It is not his conclusions that bother me, it is more like his thinking leading up to them. As an avid reader of physics, and a current philosophy student, I feel a much better job could have been done in bringing these two areas together. All in all, a good book, I enjoyed it. A subject that deserves further exploration and stronger, fuller analysis.
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God and the New Physics
God and the New Physics by Paul Davies (Paperback - October 16, 1984)
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