I am less than ill-qualified to make any comment upon the Higgs-Boson Particle story that hascreated such a stir in the media over the past week.
The science behind the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) experiments is utterly baffling.
But, I do know a little about language. And some of the language used in popular media presentations of the Large Hadron Collider experiments is worth noticing.
Laurence M. Krauss is the director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University and the author of A Universe From Nothing (Free Press, 2012). In a recent piece at “The Daily Beast” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/08/how-the-higgs-boson-posits-a-new-story-of-our-creation.html), Krause breathes a sigh of relief at the prospect that the CERN experiments may have finally provided adequate evidence to enable human beings to mature to the point where we are finally willing to say goodbye to God.
Assuming the particle in question is indeed the Higgs, it validates an unprecedented revolution in our understanding of fundamental physics and brings science closer to dispensing with the need for any supernatural shenanigans all the way back to the beginning of the universe—and perhaps even before the beginning, if there was a before.
Krauss sees in the CERN experiments the possibility we many now understand that
creating “stuff” from “no stuff” seems to be no problem at all—everything we see could have emerged as a purposeless quantum burp in space or perhaps a quantum burp of space itself. Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge. The Higgs particle is now arguably more relevant than God.
The Krauss article is 493 words.
Some of the words and phrases Mr. Krauss uses in this short piece may give us pause to wonder about his “empirically verifiable knowledge”. Here is a list of words and phrases in the article that sound a little less than “empirically verifiable”:
appears to be
seems to (x4)
I do not know if this is the normal language used by those who are dealing in the realm of “empirically verifiable knowledge”, but it seems a tiny bit insecure for the kind of bold announcement Mr. Krauss seems to want his readers to embrace.
Mr. Krauss sums up the findings of the CERN research with the poetic notion that it
predicts an invisible field (the Higgs field) that permeates all of space and suggests that the properties of matter, and the forces that govern our existence, derive from their interaction with what otherwise seems like empty space.
Again the language is worth noticing. “An invisible field” and the “properties of matter, and the forces that govern our existence” sound to me like worthwhile images for speaking about “God”. It is unclear what “empirically verifiable” evidence Mr. Krauss has found for his leap from “an invisible field” and the “properties of matter, and the forces that govern our existence” to his faith in “empty space”.
The “space” I inhabit is filled with beauty, mystery, transcendent truth, and love. I choose to identify this numinous quality of life using the term God. I choose to give my life to opening more deeply to this reality I cannot “empirically” demonstrate, but whose work in my life I experience as being rich and profound.
I do not need Mr. Krauss to agree with the choices I have made in my life. I only hope he might respect my understanding and acknowledge that we are both operating in the realm of faith when we attempt to penetrate the deepest mysteries of life.