The Goddamned Particle And a Rant About Confusion Over What Is and Is Not Science

By: Rachel Womek

I have a few more musings on the Higgs particle. So those of you who read the article I posted last time know that the Higgs us the particle that gives mass to everything in the universe, if you didn’t read that article here is a brief explanation.  This essential property which allows matter to exist as we know it, including you and me has caused the term God particle to describe the Higgs. Unfortunately this nickname has caused some to mistakenly assume that the Higgs may be evidence for a deity, while you Constant Readers no doubt know better, for the record let me me state that this is absolutely not the case. When Noble prize winning physicist Leon Lederman wrote his book The God Particle he joked that what he really wanted to call the book was The Goddamned Particle…because the particle was so goddamned hard to find…but for obvious reasons couldn’t. Peter Higgs, for whom the particle is named for, is also not a fan of the nickname. I’d wager the majority of physicists aren’t.

The reason for the frustration is that for the religious layperson with little to no interest in science the moniker is very confusing and misleading. The name can even be seen in more than one misleading way. On the one hand it can be seen as evidence for a God, which it isn’t, or on the other hand the name could be seen as an insult to religion. Either way the misconception simply detracts from the wonder of the actual discovery.

Let me make this clear: physicists are asking HOW not WHY. Why is not science and is not relevant to the discovery.

When science and fundamental religion mix people get hurt and confused. Confused as to what exactly science is and what it does. Science is the exploration and description of reality and we explore and describe using the scientific method. According to Webster’s science is:  “knowledge attained through study or practice,” or “knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method [and] concerned with the physical world. Furthermore science is always falsifiable. Which is why I died a little bit inside when I saw Darwin’s Black Box by Michael J Behe sitting next to Origin Of Species at a used book store this morning. A book full of non-falsifiable conjecture and ambiguity does not in any circumstances deserve to be given any sort of credence as established scientific theory. Especially when they seek to bypass accepted methods of legitimately seeking an answer and publishing their findings in scientific journals yet somehow managed to get their work included in a section with real science.

I handed the book over to the perplexed clerk and informed him it did not belong in the evolution section.

Don’t get me wrong I am not at all anti-religion, I am an agnostic and I follow a religious practice, but religion is not science and it should not claim to be.

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Categories: Bull, Life, Nerd | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Goddamned Particle And a Rant About Confusion Over What Is and Is Not Science

  1. Vickie

    Nice article. I like the part about ‘why’ not being asked by science. I have also learned that ‘why’ is not part of nonviolent communication. Asking someone ‘how do you feel about X?’ is much more productive than saying ‘why did you do that?’

  2. That’s a great point Vickie…I think I may want to do a blog on pacifism sometime in the future. Though I’m not sure when…I’ll just have to see when I’m feeling that topic.

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