Vanity thought #324. Higgs aberration

Everybody was talking about Higgs boson yesterday and it generated a wave of chest pumping and poignant remarks in the direction of believers in God. Even BBC ran an article with a tile about “nail in the coffin of religion” and the web was quickly filling up with people gloating the victory of science over religion as if they were following some football tournament.

The thing is it’s all just an illusion. Not in the general sense that the whole universe is an illusion, it’s an illusion to think Higgs boson has anything to do with science vs religion debate. Some people with huge chips on their shoulders just used its discovery to rant on their pet topics without bothering to check the connection.

Some rants were probably triggered by “God particle” moniker. The fact is, however, that “god” in “god particle” is a short for “goddamn particle” as in “goddamn impossible to find”. When it was first proposed it couldn’t be printed in full so an editor shortened it and “god particle” was born.

Some people assumed that discovery of this particular boson destroys the last remaining argument in favor of existence of God. Higgs boson is supposed to give matter its mass, that’s all. I’ve never heard anyone arguing that mass is the only thing created by God and it couldn’t come from anywhere else. This isn’t even an argument yet so many overly excited people were so happy to defeat it.

Some people assumed that discovery of Higgs boson finalized the unified theory of everything and so we don’t need God to fill gaps in our knowledge anymore. This is just a blazing display of ignorance.

First of all we don’t even know for sure that the observed particle was indeed Higgs. It might very well turn out to be a new particle that would create a lot more new questions than answers to our current problems. Secondly, there aren’t enough Higgs bosons in universe to fill all the gaps in particle physics. It’s an important step, sure, but it’s still just a step.

Another thing is that there are plenty of variations of a “string” theory and its adherents are waiting for their chance to unseat “standard model”, now validated by Higgs boson, from its pedestal. In fact one of the original inventors of Higgs mechanism has turned to string theory by now. These guys are going to be disappointed but I’m sure soon enough they will come up with explanations going around Higgs boson discovery and press on with their version of how the world works.

Some standard model fans are already sharpening their knives for stringers blood, comparing them to religious fanatics who raise the bar of proof after each defeat. String theory, on the other hand, is too big to succumb to one particle discovery. They will probably challenge the weight of the alleged Higgs boson first, saying that it falls outside the bounds where string theory could be proven wrong.

Speaking of raising the bar every time science presents us with another evidence – we, followers of Gaudiya vaishnavism, put the bar indefinitely high from the start. God and his potencies and energies are infinite, trying to understand Him via small steps will appear like progress to us but we still need an infinite number of steps and the infinity will still be unreachable. No matter how many steps we take we are still indefinitely removed from reaching our goal.

“Raising the bar” logic works only for people who assume that God is a finite, measurable entity, like one of us but bigger, and if we have 111 countries gang up together and build the largest particle collider ever we can surely blow God out of His hiding. Strange and deeply flawed understanding of what Absolute Truth is.

Don’t forget to look at the human aspect of this discovery, too – Higgs proposed his boson fifty years ago, in his prime youth, in his early thirties. Now he is an old man and some of his original collaborators have already died. The boson has been found, Higgs is vindicated, and all he could say for it was “Let’s put some champaign on ice.” That puts some perspective on the significance of this discovery to the man who is supposed to be the most invested in it.

What about the future? People cheering Higgs boson now refuse to admit to themselves that it will take only a few years to propose the next giant step for mankind and probably another fifty years to make it. For them yesterday’s celebration is as good as it gets, they won’t live long enough to see the next triumph. Pretty pathetic, really, to drown this realization with shouts of joy and mindless bashing of religion. Pretty barbaric, too.

If any of us had thought of what Higgs boson discovery would do to our faith – it shouldn’t do anything, it’s largely irrelevant either as a scientific discovery or as a philosophical point. We are just being trolled and flamed for a response, that’s all.

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