Faith in science

One of the largest cathedrals in the world.

When I woke up this morning, it was to the CNN story about the sudden but expected discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle by scientists at CERN in Switzerland. The Higgs-Boson, often called the “God Particle” because of the claims by physicists that without it the universe could not exist, is the long-sought particle that confirms the current model of the universe that physicists have created and lost Stephen Hawking $100 in a bet.

This finding is super exciting, insofar as I doubt most people understand what exactly was found and why it’s important beyond the fact that scientists are saying it’s important. We are expected to take on faith that this particle answers many of the questions scientists have asked in the past. We are even asked to believe that this particle, undetectable to human senses, is the key component in all creation. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN was built with the purpose of discovering this particle. Some scientists suggested it was possible that the Higgs particle, when found, sent shockwaves back through time which disrupted earlier attempts to find it. We even faced the slight chance of the total destruction of earth to find the Higgs. The work around the Higgs has been surreal to say the least, and the religiously devoted scientists working to find it are dealing in the fantastic and unbelievable.

Finding and believing in the Higgs demonstrates how much science is just religion, complete with its own religious faith. If someone is going to buy into the scientific understanding of the universe, they have to place a huge amount of faith in a select few physicists to experiment with things they cannot see, then interpret the findings of those experiments in a way that builds a model of how the universe works. Then they need to have faith that those scientists come up with a correct interpretation of the universe.

I can already hear physicists screaming that their scientific method provides proof of what they claim. But what makes the experiments proof of anything? Religious people have proof of their beliefs as well, and a whole set of professionals (clergy) to confirm their beliefs through prayer, ritual, and miracle-working. Anything not covered in the textbook can be directly attributed to God. It’s a pretty simple, straightforward model of the universe. Again, it’s which “experts” you want to believe.

Yes, scientists have created some remarkable things and their research has brought us almost magical creations like television and the internet. And I am certainly not disputing that science is incredibly important to understanding and caring for the world. But science, in its religious search for answers, has entered into a realm where I can’t see, touch, feel or frankly understand what things they are finding. For all I know, they could be totally making the Higgs Boson up. Add into this mixture the deification of past scientists like Einstein or Darwin, and science starts to resemble religion even more.

Congratulations, science, on the discovery of your God particle. This is an incredibly important day for science and the understanding of the universe. I’ll take your word for it.


  1. Mason 5 July, 2012 at 07:11

    Religious people don't have "proof" of their beliefs, though; that's kind of the point of faith. Most religions stress faith in the absence of evidence—they wouldn't prove stuff about the world even if they could. So there's no sense in equating religion and science there. Religion can co-exist with science, but in no way is religion as effective as science when it comes to scientific research.
    Science is unlike religion in that it demands actual observable evidence for its theories. In fact/even better, it starts with the evidence and builds its theories from that. It's true that seven billion people can't all fit into CERN and press their foreheads against the glass and peer in at their research, but that doesn't mean what scientist discover isn't a documented and made a matter of public record. Science doesn't take anyone's word for anything, and that's why it matters.
    (Also, anyone who says, "anything science can't explain, that's God's work" is no "expert" at all. Not even a religious expert.)
    Here's an easy-to-understand summary of what the Higgs Boson is, and why you should care, and why it'll still matter even if you don't understand it or care:

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