Can a scientist knock on heaven’s door?

August 2012 Keith Schofield The book Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, by Lisa Randall, was reviewed by Alain Blondel on page 54 of the March 2012 issue of Physics…

August 2012

Keith Schofield

The book Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, by Lisa Randall, was reviewed by Alain Blondel on page 54 of the March 2012 issue of Physics Today. The book title is intriguing but certainly not appropriate, coming as it does from a theoretical physicist. Particularly unsettling is that, in Blondel’s words, Randall “argues that scientists have not found any problem that demonstrably requires the intervention of a supernatural being animated with a purpose.”

I am disturbed at how we scientists can so readily extrapolate our meager knowledge, acquired over a mere few hundred years, into such a broad claim. For example, we have no theory, and most probably never will, on the biggest question: how life originated. To imagine that DNA and the genetic code came about by chance takes a lot of faith. Mathematicians tend to run out of zeroes when they calculate the probabilities. Moreover, other questions such as the chicken-and-egg problem remain extremely intriguing.

Life remains a mystery, as does this universe, but to think that science is getting any closer to resolving the biggest question of all is arrogance.

Physics Today