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Karl W. Giberson


God and Time Machines

A conversation with Templeton Prize-winning physicist Paul Davies

Born in England in 1946 and educated at the University of Cambridge and University College London, Paul Davies has enjoyed a distinguished career as a theoretical physicist, but most readers know him as a superbly gifted expositor of science for the layperson: lucid, witty, and provocative. He is the author of more than 20 books, including The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World; About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution; and The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life. His latest book, just published by Viking, is How to Build a Time Machine. In 1995 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

Because Davies has argued that intelligent, purposeful order is at the very heart of things, his work has been cited favorably by many religious believers. But what Davies means by God is quite different from what orthodox Christians mean, as is clear in this conversation with Karl Giberson. Fittingly, the interview took place in Harvard University's Memorial Church, the site of a Templeton Foundation-sponsored conference, Science and the Spiritual Quest II, in October 2001.

When you finished your undergraduate studies in physics and were looking for an area of specialization, what drew you into the particular area you chose?

Early on I had identified astrophysics and cosmology as what I wanted to do. In fact I can even remember at the age of 16 asking the chemistry master about how I could become an astronomer. He said he really didn't know; it wasn't at all clear how you would actually embark on a career as an astronomer. I figured that was the way to go, so by the time I was thinking about my ph.d. thesis work I had already requested a project in cosmology. I worked on something that Fred Hoyle had started; I won't go into the technical details, but it was a project in theoretical cosmology, which was a branch of physics. I completed my ph.d. on that work and Hoyle was the external examiner. He offered me a job at Cambridge ...

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