Why Beliefs Matter

This book was published by Oxford University Press in July 2010. Further information may be found at the OUP web site.

The following is an extract from the preface.

"This book is about beliefs. It was born from my dissatisfaction with the attempts of many physicists to sell a vision of the world whose `objective' character disregards most of what makes life interesting. The attempt to separate science from human values and judgements has been of immense value, but it has led in some strange directions. If the brain is no more than a collection of neurons functioning according to physical laws, then it is difficult to understand what everyday conversations could actually mean. If the notion of purpose has no function in a wholly material world, how is one to make sense of kidney transplants? It seems apparent that we cannot make any sense of our lives without reference to notions such as purpose, cause, meaning and ethics, even if fundamental physics makes no reference to them. Something surely needs to be explained. At the highest level beliefs become world-views, fundamental beliefs that we use to evaluate other beliefs about the world. They range from the belief that every aspect of reality can ultimately be explained scientifically to young Earth creationism. Needless to say these are not the only options! Some people believe that matter is composed of atoms which move according to definite laws but that this fact does not undermine the validity of religious ideas."

List of Contents

Supplement version 25, 5 February 2012

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