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The limits of science: Paul Davies

Theoretical physicist

My feeling is that scientific method has the power to account for and interlink all phenomena in the universe, including its origin, using the laws of nature. But that still leaves the laws unexplained. Scientists normally accept the laws as “given”; explaining the laws of nature is above their pay grade. Cosmologists have attempted to account for the day-to-day laws you find in textbooks in terms of fundamental “superlaws”, but the superlaws themselves must still be accepted as brute facts. So maybe the ultimate laws of nature will always be off-limits to science. I hope not, but it’s hard to know what form a scientific explanation of laws would take. A final caution: the ultimate laws to which scientists refer may turn out not to be the eternal, immutable, universal, precise, pre-existing mathematical relationships that scientists assume. Maybe the laws and the universe came into existence together. Then we’d have to find another explanation for physical existence.

Is there anything science should not try to explain? Science is knowledge and knowledge is power – power to do good or evil. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. It is possible that a scientific discovery will be made that humans will later regret because it has awful consequences. The problem is, we probably would not know in advance and, once the discovery is made, it cannot be undiscovered.

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This article first appeared in the 07 May 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The Science Issue

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SRSLY #13: Take Two

On the pop culture podcast this week, we discuss Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth, the recent BBC adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie, and reminisce about teen movie Shakespeare retelling She’s the Man.

This is SRSLY, the pop culture podcast from the New Statesman. Here, you can find links to all the things we talk about in the show as well as a bit more detail about who we are and where else you can find us online.

Listen to our new episode now:

...or subscribe in iTunes. We’re also on Audioboom, Stitcher, RSS and  SoundCloud – but if you use a podcast app that we’re not appearing in, let us know.

SRSLY is hosted by Caroline Crampton and Anna Leszkiewicz, the NS’s web editor and editorial assistant. We’re on Twitter as @c_crampton and @annaleszkie, where between us we post a heady mixture of Serious Journalism, excellent gifs and regularly ask questions J K Rowling needs to answer.

The podcast is also on Twitter @srslypod if you’d like to @ us with your appreciation. More info and previous episodes on

If you’d like to talk to us about the podcast or make a suggestion for something we should read or cover, you can email srslypod[at]

You can also find us on Twitter @srslypod, or send us your thoughts on tumblr here. If you like the podcast, we'd love you to leave a review on iTunes - this helps other people come across it.

The Links

On Macbeth

Ryan Gilbey’s review of Macbeth.

The trailer for the film.

The details about the 2005 Macbeth from the BBC’s Shakespeare Retold series.


On Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Cider with Rosie

Rachel Cooke’s review of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Sarah Hughes on Cider with Rosie, and the BBC’s attempt to create “heritage television for the Downton Abbey age”.


On She’s the Man (and other teen movie Shakespeare retellings)

The trailer for She’s the Man.

The 27 best moments from the film.

Bim Adewunmi’s great piece remembering 10 Things I Hate About You.


Next week:

Anna is reading Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.


Your questions:

We loved talking about your recommendations and feedback this week. If you have thoughts you want to share on anything we've discussed, or questions you want to ask us, please email us on srslypod[at], or @ us on Twitter @srslypod, or get in touch via tumblr here. We also have Facebook now.



The music featured this week, in order of appearance, is:


Our theme music is “Guatemala - Panama March” (by Heftone Banjo Orchestra), licensed under Creative Commons. 



See you next week!

PS If you missed #12, check it out here.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Anna Leszkiewicz is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.