Einstein is famous for his rejection of quantum mechanics. He went so far as to once utter the expression “God doesn’t play dice.” This was no doubt in response to the debates surrounding quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which led to the even more famous thought experiment of Schrodinger. [Is the cat alive? or is it dead? We’ll never know!]
Through most of my life, Science and scientific discoveries have fascinated me. I enjoyed learning about it I will admit that when I was in high school, I did two horrible things.
- I failed chemistry, horribly… twice.
- I never took physics.
I must clarify something though, that would leave even world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking scratching his head, if he were able to do so. I imagine, that he’d just have his computer say “I am scratching my head over the perplexity of your most recent statement.” (Take that Big Bang Theory; I can make a better joke about Hawking than you can!) So what is so perplexing about the two points above? Well, the first is that I failed Grade 11 chemistry and then I failed OAC [grade 13] Chemistry. Not exactly shocking, many students fail one or the other, but what was shocking is that I was allowed to take OAC Chemistry, despite failing its prerequisite. As for physics, I never took it because, my abilities in math were extremely poor and I feared I would fair no better in Physics than I did in other math courses. A reality that would haunt me twice more once in my post-secondary education, when I had to take Calculus and Statistics.
Oddly enough, I am quite good at finite math, which really isn’t math. And with a bit of irony, it was me who tutored my best friend in college on how to do Finite Math. I also need to admit here that I took courses in university that dealt with Physics and Chemistry and I did quite well in them, so my performance in high school was a poor litmus test for my understanding in both realms.
What perplexes me is the name of the organization that built the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and subsequently, did not blow up the earth discovered the theorized Higgs Boson. CERN. The agency’s full name in English is the European Organization for Nuclear Research ou en française, Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire. Neither of those abbreviate to CERN. They abbreviate to EONR or OERN.
Now, where does CERN come from? It comes from the agency’s previous name – Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire [ou en anglaise: European Council for Nuclear Research]. The question is now asked… If the old name wasn’t that great, then why did they stick with the old abbreviation? WHY? BECAUSE THEIR SCIENTISTS, THAT’S WHY!
Now, the people over in Franzerland, where the LHC and CERN are located are happy. They proved Peter Higgs right. Higgs, a brilliant English physicist, works for the University of Edinburgh… not for CERN. I find that amusing. It’s not unlike the scenario of the characters in Big Bang Theory – where each character has a particular field, but they never work together directly. Sheldon theorizes, Leonard experiments, Raj works in astrophysics and Howard builds stuff… Higgs is Sheldon. The people at CERN are a bunch of Leonards, who use the machine built by a bunch of Howards and… Raj… I’m not sure where he fits in this analogy. I digress…
More amusing than my bizarre analogy is the following:
“I had a bet with Gordon Kane (of the University of Michigan) that the Higgs particle wouldn’t be found,” Hawking told BBC News on Wednesday. “It seems I have just lost $100.”
Gordon Kane has apparently gloated about this
“I was confident a Higgs boson would be found. The Higgs discovery feels fantastically wonderful. It completes the description built up over several centuries, and points the way to strengthen the foundations of the Standard Model. Winning the bet is a very nice frosting on the cake,” he said.
Having gone over that entire preamble, the real questions should start coming in. What does knowing the Higgs Boson’s existence mean for us? What sort of benefit will we gain from this research? A better understanding of the universe? God doesn’t play dice. Or maybe God does. Whether or not God does indeed play with dice, is immaterial. We now know how God made his dice… WITH HIGGS BOSON PARTICLES! We humans have much to learn. All these years we’ve been thrown around wood, metal and plastic dies. We are such losers!
Now, as an agnostic, who leans more towards atheism, I kind of find the epithet of “The God Particle” rather insulting to those who don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian omnipotent being. I find it insulting for a few reasons – one that it places upon a supposition that God (or Gods) exist and that only this particle, this one and only, infinitely small and irreprehensible particle is the sole building block responsible for all of creation. The mere idea is akin to saying that a plastic molecule is responsible for Lego scale replica of a US aircraft carrier. Reductio Ad Absurdum, at it’s finest! Or maybe not.
Another reason I find it insulting is the supposition that God exists at all. The existence of an omnipotent being relies on the burden of proof. The discovery of the higgs boson cannot conclusively prove the existence of god by its existence. That’s a stretch. I can accept scientists being religious individuals – I would much prefer them to be spiritual or at least claim to be Deists and not Theists. To lay claim to the Higgs Boson being the God Particle is absurd within the context of theistic religions, as far as my understanding of them goes. Science is after all, a pursuit of knowledge and reason, by way of observation.
The final point of insult I find here is the idea of scientists being religious at all and allowing such terminology to be inserted into the copy of their efforts, in order to explain to the layperson what they are doing and what they have found. Whether or not the Higgs Boson is the god particle at all, is immaterial. A bible-thumping moron is not going to change the ugly way they view the world with this information. Hate and prejudice are not going to disappear because of this discovery. Wars are not going to end. Literal interpretations of the book of Genesis will continue to happen and ignorance will go unabated.
And most important of all, a few months from now, scores of people will have forgotten about all of this.
This is not my usual thing in Cyberspace, but seeing as how I have a signed copy of it and met the author a few years ago, I highly recommend Robert J. Sawyer’s “Calculating God”, which in my agnostic point of view, puts a better spin on the idea of God’s relevance in terms of creation and the big bang theory, and of course, divine intervention. That particular story involves the collaboration of three species of intelligent beings coming together and finding proof for the existence of god through the calculation and coincidence of major planetary cataclysmic events. As I tend to discuss Public Relations in this blog, I suppose I should tie in how all this works in my mind. I’m Bullet pointing this.
- CERN’s Communicators chose “God Particle” well to explain to idiots what the research is doing
- CERN’s Communicators have created something for people to talk about
- CERN’s production of images showing the research and methods visually, is outstanding
- CERN has left the door open for further speculation – like “what’s next, what will we benefit from in this research?”
At the end, despite my reservations, I do commend the people at CERN for their efforts. The more we build our collective knowledge, the better we can build a better tomorrow. My final comment: Higgs Boson does not prove the existence of God. It can only, merely prove the existence of what God used to make creation happen. It does not prove the continued existence and omnipotence of a higher being – but it also does not disprove the possibility of an emergent deism either.