Archive for December, 2015

What Makes Anyone Think Physics is Not a Religion?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

[I am sure this is not original, on so many levels, but my fingers are compelled to try to capture these thoughts. Forgive me.]

At a fundamental level physicists appear to be deeply religious. Their Articles of Faith are something like this:

  • There is order,
  • This order can be understood by us,
  • It is predictive, has temporal properties, and likely practical implications,
  • (Might be isotropic).

Snide remarks aside, there is a deep faith here: What I do in my little life doesn’t seem to have a great and deep order to it, why should the far larger universe constrain itself to being so precisely ordered that we can make exact equations about it? Why couldn’t the universe be capricious and random and arbitrary and I’ll-do-this-here and I’ll-do-that-there? I don’t know.

But physicists have this deep faith that they will understand if they only keep looking, that there is a fundamental order to the universe, that there is a simplicity under all these chaotic details we see when we look about.

As the world I see certainly has a lot of confusion in it, isn’t this a religious perspective by physicists? More creeping Secular Humanism? Isn’t it just another religion?


The difference between the faith of a physicist and that of a religious person is that the physicist wants data what will displace his/er faith. The physicist wants observations that will explain the mechanisms of why we see what we see–even if they are mind-bending and paradoxical–the physicist wants to expose his/er faith and dispel mystery.

The religious person wants faith, wants to hold on to mystery.

If I might get all meta: The physicist has faith that there will always be plenty mystery; that there is no risk in explaining things.


©2015 Kent Borg