Townes, 99, had been in failing health and passed away en route to the hospital.
“The passing away of Professor Charles Townes today marks the end of an era,” said astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel, a colleague and professor of physics at UC Berkeley. “He was one of the most important experimental physicists of the last century.”
Townes (1915–2015) was interviewed in 2005 in a UC Bekeley article, dripping with hostility:
Should intelligent design be taught alongside Darwinian evolution in schools as religious legislators have decided in Pennsylvania and Kansas?
I think it’s very unfortunate that this kind of discussion has come up. People are misusing the term intelligent design to think that everything is frozen by that one act of creation and that there’s no evolution, no changes. It’s totally illogical in my view. Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.
Some scientists argue that “well, there’s an enormous number of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right.” Well, that’s a postulate, and it’s a pretty fantastic postulate – it assumes there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that ours was planned, and that’s why it has come out so specially. Now, that design could include evolution perfectly well. It’s very clear that there is evolution, and it’s important. Evolution is here, and intelligent design is here, and they’re both consistent.
May he rest in the light of eternal peace (*requiescat in lucem pacis aeternitatis). Don’t know how many more we’ll see, in a world of clashing fundamentalisms (new atheism vs. Islam) where, as a number of people have pointed out.
Science is living on the capital of earlier inventions. That is, we haven’t been to the moon in over 40 years, but people get well paid to speculate about a multiverse.
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