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Sunday, June 9, 2013
Religion ... Science ... Society ...

Yesterday I talked about the axion, a prime candidate for the particle that finally explains and solves the “dark matter problem” in modern cosmology. I’d like to add one more good thing about axions: no one would dare call them a “God particle”, as with the Higgs. Nonetheless, they will explain a bigger component of God’s creation than the Higgs does (i.e., all of dark matter, versus mass in a small portion of both regular and dark matter).

The whole “God particle” debacle goes back to a book published in 1993 by two atheists, physicist Leon Lederman and his ghost-writer Dick Teresi (The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question). In this book, Lederman says that he called the yet-undiscovered Higgs the “God Particle” because it would be crucial to understanding the structure of matter, and because it somehow reminded him of the Book of Genesis. The latter reasoning sounds very poetic, but a recent discussion between NPR reporters and Mr. Teresi seems to indicate that the motivation was more a matter of capturing the imagination of a publisher regarding all the money they could make on this book, given the snappy, attention-getting title.

So, the “God” that these intellectual atheists appeared to have had in mind was the God of Money. Why am I not surprised?

Another reason not to take the “God Particle” moniker for the Higgs very seriously regards Dr. Lederman’s previous experience with naming new elementary particles. In 1977, Lederman and his team at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory believed they were on the verge of discovering an unknown particle based on the data streaming out from their atom-smasher experiments. The data was still a bit tricky (it wouldn’t have passed the standards used for the Higgs particle), but Lederman immodestly decided to jump the gun and name it the Upsilon Particle, after the Greek Letter Upsilon (Υ). Not long thereafter, further data showed Lederman to be wrong. So, the non-existent particle is still remembered today as the “Oops-Leon”.

You’d have thought that the guy would have learned a lesson in humility, but in the years between the “Oops-Leon” and the God Particle book, Lederman received a Nobel Prize. I’m sure that Dr. Lederman deserved the Nobel for his work on understanding neutrinos and his discovery of the bottom quark; but he likewise deserves another “Oops-Leon” for the whole “Higgs as God Particle” fiasco! It reflects modern scientistic hubris at its best (or worst, actually). Beware of atheists claiming to know the power of God.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:07 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I have to say I’m sorry that much of what you have in this “Axion, the next big . . . thing” is beyond my ability to understand it, and thus I have little, if anything, actually nothing at all, to comment on it. You could very well be correct that the Axion may be the “next big thing” in physics; I have no clue.

    But something did catch my eye and my thoughts. Speaking of axions, the dark matter particle, and comparing these two to the Higgs you use the words “they were thought up”. It was specifically the words “thought up” that caught my attention.

    I was reminded of the long and painfully worked out discussions in Christianity on the Trinity. (And here one might even include all the ideas of the Christian religion; I mention this religion specifically because it’s the one I’m most knowledgeable about, but I’m sure the same would apply to any other religion, Buddhism, for instance.)

    Most of the discussion of the Trinity was “thought up” by theologians; most of Buddhism was “thought up” by Buddha (am I correct?); most of any religion (insert any name here) was “thought up” by its practitioners, often not its founders. And yet it becomes for the practitioners what may get one into heaven or hell, even though the things that get one into heaven or hell were “thought up” by those who were supposed to be the “experts” in the field.

    How strange that physics should be so similar to religion. Might that be why the practitioners of physics are only too willing to make pronouncements about God? Just asking. But it intrigues me.

    The more I read and hear about physics and the various theories and concepts (is that the correct word?) physics is searching for, the more I find myself considering that they are “making it up as they go along”.

    And then I find myself thinking: Are they then the creators? Will in the end humans come to conclude they themselves are the creators of what exists in their universe? No wonder the physicists seem to “full of themselves”! I guess I would be too I such a situation.

    Are we the makers of our own universe? The more I consider it, the more I find myself wondering if we can’t most certainly be such.

    I know I’m completely off track of what you are talking about, but this is where this discussion leads me. MCS

    Comment by Mary — June 9, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

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