The scientific world (and some of the pseudo-scientific world) was in an uproar last week following the announcement of the discovery of the long-awaited Higgs-boson, or as some have deemed it, ‘The God Particle.’ This tricky little sub-atomic particle is an essential puzzle piece that had been missing from the standard model of quantum physics for more than 40 years. The discovery and subsequent research of the particle will answer many questions that quantum mechanics has been struggling over for decades. But the question on most laymans’ minds is “What the hell is it and why is it called the God Particle?”
The term was coined by Leon Lederman, who claimed that he named it so because the particle is “so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive,” and added that he chose “the God particle” because “the publisher wouldn’t let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing.” The name unfortunately stuck, and has led to countless pseudo-scientific and antitheistic arguments that science is finally putting the lid on the whole ‘god delusion,’ thus adding more fuel to the eternally burning conflict between science and religion. A conflict that I and many others see as much a delusion as atheists claim God is.
I was raised in church, going to sunday school every week, and I know what you’re thinking, but no, I was not brainwashed. I was told stories, asked questions, and taught to think of others before myself. And I was never, ever, not once told anything about science, evolution, the big bang, none of it. I was very scientifically inclined as a young boy. I watched Bill Nye as religiously as I went to church. But the two never clashed in my mind. I don’t remember exactly when I first heard of the conflict between science and religion, but I remember always being baffled by it. To me, the two were entirely separate ways of thinking that didn’t interfere with each other at all. I remember an instance where I asked my mother something along the lines of “If the earth is 4 billion years old, why does it say God made it seven days?” My mom responded with something along the lines of “Well, how long is a day to God?” Her response stuck with me for the rest of my life, and it always served as a reminder not to think of religion along logical terms. Still the war wages on, and some people have dedicated their lives to fighting for one side or the other, not realizing that neither side has got it right.
From astronomy to evolution, scientific discovery has been met with hostility from religious literalists who claim their discoveries to be heresy. So it’s easy for a rational person to view religion, as many atheists do, as a plague upon mankind, and an enemy to reason. Some atheists, who might more accurately be called antitheists, cite past religious wars, crusades, and terrorists attacks as proof that religion has done nothing but harm to the human race. They seem to forget the countless religious charities that exist to provide food, shelter, and medicine to poor and underprivileged people around the world. There is also a tendency among atheists to deify science and view it as an infallible benefit to humanity. They seem to forget, again, about things such as radiation poisoning, chemical warfare, and the atomic bomb. The fact is that neither science nor religion is inherently good or evil, but that, like most things, it is up to us to decide how we will use them.
Then there is the mindless back and forth arguing about the existence of God. Atheists claim that since there is no scientific evidence for him, that he cannot exist, while theists futilely try to come up with some logical way of proving it. The problem is that you cannot logically make an argument either way. Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose work inspired this blog’s namesake) said that not only can the question of God’s existence not be answered, it logically cannot be asked. Wittgenstein was a very logical person, who liked to classify things according to their nature. He saw that there are a set of things which exist and a set of things which do not exist. But God, by definition, does not fall into either category. He is above and beyond anything the human mind can conceive, including existence. He is that which created existence and non-existence, and so cannot be defined by them.
To me, the problem lies in the fact that people forget that there is a rational side and a spiritual side to every human being. We must be able to think rationally, because it helps us to survive in the external world, but there’s a part of every human that wants to transcend the physical world. As Plato tells us in his cave allegory, we only see shadows of what the real world actually is. This is where our spirituality comes in. The problem occurs when one substitutes his rationality for spirituality and vice versa. On the religious side, a person might see a scientific theory as contradictory to his spiritual upbringing, and so denies his rationality. On the other side, a rational person might see religion as contradictory to his rational thinking, and so denies his spirituality. Both people are missing out on the full spectrum of what it is to be human. We are a harmonious balance of intellect and insight constantly struggling against our primal fears and desires. Without both qualities in your arsenal, you will be unequipped to battle those primal emotions, and will lose out to your animalistic nature.
As you’ve probably noticed, I used the Higgs story as an excuse to give my thoughts about this topic, of which I have a lot. So I hope that you will forgive my somewhat unorganized ranting. But my hope is that a rational person might read this and be swayed against the popular anti-religious sentiment among atheists, and that a religious person might read this and decide to keep his spiritual and rational mind separate, but both growing and evolving throughout his life.