Thursday, July 12, 2012

Does the discovery of the Higgs boson mean anything?

An excellent reflection, from Dennis Prager.

Excerpt:
The ‘God Particle’ and God
Without God, major scientific discoveries have no meaning.

By Dennis Prager

...  Both the time and money invested [in this research] were necessary because satiating our curiosity about the natural world is one of the noblest ambitions of the human race.

But scientific discovery and meaning are not necessarily related. As one of the leading physicists of our time, Steven Weinberg, has written, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also it also seems pointless.”

And pointlessness is the point. The discovery of the Higgs boson brings us no closer to understanding why there is a universe, not to mention whether life has meaning. In fact, no scientific discovery ever made will ever explain why there is existence. Nor will it render good and evil anything more than subjective opinion, or explain why human beings have consciousness or anything else that truly matters.

The only thing that can explain existence and answer these other questions is God or some other similar metaphysical belief. This angers those scientists and others who are emotionally as well as intellectually committed to atheism. But many honest atheists recognize that a godless world means a meaningless one, and they admit that science can explain only what, not why.

In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, Woody Allen, an honest atheist, made this point in his inimitable way. Allen told the interviewer that, being a big sports fan, and especially a New York Knicks fan, he is often asked whether it’s important if the Knicks beat the Celtics. His answer is, “Well, it’s just as important as human existence.” If there is no God, Mr. Allen is right.

One must have a great deal of respect for the atheist who recognizes the consequences of atheism: no meaning, no purpose, no good and evil beyond subjective opinion, and no recognition of the limits of what science can explain.

But the atheist — scientist, philosophy professor, or your brother-in-law who sells insurance — who denies the consequences of atheism is as worthy of the same intellectual respect atheists have for those who believe in a 6,000-year-old universe.

Not only is science incapable of discovering why there is existence; scientists also confront the equally frustrating fact that the more they discover about the universe, the more they realize they do not know.

I happen to think that this was God’s built-in way of limiting man’s hubris and compelling humans to acknowledge His existence. Admittedly, this doesn’t always have these effects on scientists and especially on those who believe that science will explain everything.

So, sincere congratulations to the physicists and other scientists who discovered the Higgs boson. We now think we have uncovered the force or the matter that gives us the 4 percent of the universe that we can observe (96 percent of the universe consists of “dark matter,” about which scientists know almost nothing).

However, ironic as it may seem to many of these physicists, only if there is a God does their discovery matter. Otherwise, it is no more important than whether the Knicks beat the Celtics.

Prager nails it. Atheism is untimately nihilistic. It is inherently nihilistic-- atheism is the belief that there is no ultimate meaning to existence. If there is no God, there is no meaning to anything. The Higgs is found and the Celtics won and my nose itches and kids get cancer. So what?

And the boilerplate atheist retort-- 'we give life its meaning'--is bullshit. If we are not endowed with meaning, we cannot create meaning. We are a part of the universe. If it has no meaning, we have no meaning. We meat robots may be able to fake it, to coax a few of our neurons to deceive other neurons into believing (or whatever soulless neurons do) that meaning is real. But in the end meaning is a lie.

If there is no Source of meaning that transcends us, then our sense of meaning is a cruel illusion. But it's not even cruel. It means nothing. It just is. 

Such is honest atheism. If you celebrate the Higgs discovery, you are really celebrating an accomplishment that means something. Whether you admit it or not, you are acknowledging God. Kind of an implicit Tebow.

Meaning isn't a lie. Things do matter. Even the hairs on your head are numbered. The discovery of the Higgs boson is magnificent science. Kudos to the scientists for their amazing work.

Soli deo gloria.

55 comments:

  1. Soli deo gloria.

    Deus phantasia infantium est.

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  2. Michael,

    Well, if you want to believe that an imaginary god gives meaning to your life, then so be it.

    I think that you Universe is indifferent to individual humans, individual species in general and the Earth.

    But humans are intelligent social animals, who care what happens to other humans, even those we don't know. Humans make meaning for themselves.

    I prefer to believe in real meaning, rather than in one that's based on delusion.

    I prefer to give faith in science, which will, given enough time, will find increasingly close approximations to the truth, rather than faith in revelation, which only reveals claimed 'truth', impossible to verify.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "But humans are intelligent social animals, who care what happens to other humans, even those we don't know. Humans make meaning for themselves."

      I think you need to spend some time in Mogadishu.

      Delete
  3. Does the discovery of the Higgs boson mean anything?

    Without God, major scientific discoveries have no meaning.

    If you celebrate the Higgs discovery, you are really celebrating an accomplishment that means something.


    Of course there is meaning in the Higgs discovery, even to an atheist. It means that the Standard Model of particle physics is confirmed yet again. The Higgs field plays a major role in our understanding of matter. It sets apart the W and Z bosons from the photon giving them mass. It is responsible for giving mass to electrons and quarks.

    For a long time (since 1964), the Higgs field was a hypothesis that explained lots of things in particle physics. But we had no independent confirmation of its existence. It's as if physicists claimed that there is a lake but we couldn't see the water as it is so clear. What happened at the LHC is physicists threw stones into the lake and observed ripples on the water's surface—that would be waves in the Higgs field, the Higgs bosons.

    If you do not appreciate particle physics, well, then you need additional motivation to celebrate the discovery of the Higgs boson. Whatever rocks your boat.

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  4. Egnor is a virtual fountain of inane cliches and bigoted stereotypes.

    That's why I stick around: the spectacle of such stupidity issuing daily out of the maw of a brain surgeon in public where his colleagues and patients can find it so easily. It's awesome!
    -- NA

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  5. What is the “meaning”? I would think the distinction between having a transcendent meaning and not having meaning kind of depends on what that meaning is. You say that meaning is a God given thing, so what is it? What has revelation told you about meaning?

    I’ve heard many Christians say that religion gives their life meaning, but beyond their compulsion to satisfy a vainglorious God’s desire to be worshiped, I have no clue what their talking about. Is that it? Is it really about becoming little worshipers hoping to avoid punishment and get a big prize?

    -KW

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  6. If two people look at the discovery of the Higgs Boson and take away entirely different meanings, how in the world does that imply a transcendent, and not a relative meaning?

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  7. Throughout this entire weeping, miserable, apologist guff all I could think was "All glory to the hypnotoad."

    I genuinely feel sorry for you, Dr Egnor, if the only reason you can find joy, a purpose to do anything, any pleasure and sense of accomplishment in your life is if you think God is there. If this is so you will be rewarded later on, then I get it but please just admit it.

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  8. If we are not endowed with meaning, we cannot create meaning.

    I assume you believe that God endows us with meaning. What endows God with meaning? After all, if one isn't endowed with meaning, one cannot create meaning.

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    Replies
    1. "I assume you believe that God endows us with meaning. What endows God with meaning? After all, if one isn't endowed with meaning, one cannot create meaning."

      Answer: Don't question God. God transcends everything physical because He is metaphysical. God has unlocked the God mode cheat on every logical inquiry, circular reasoning and observable evidence test.


      -Other Anonymous user who doesn't have a blogspot account.

      Delete
  9. There sure is a lot of meaningless noise in the comments today!

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    1. There are quite a few things that you don't understand, Pépé. And you know what? That's OK.

      Keep up the good work!

      Delete
    2. Peepster: Any comment section you contribute to is afflicted with meaningless noise, by definition. That's the only thing you ever contribute.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous: Any comment section you contribute to is afflicted with meaningless noise, by definition. That's the only thing you ever contribute.

      Delete
    4. What's next, Pépé? I 'm rubber, you're glue? LOL

      Delete
    5. Peepster: We already know that you have never had an original idea in your life and all you can do is parrot what others have said, so you don't need to confirm it so obviously.

      Delete
    6. @Anonymouse,

      As I said before, ya! a lot of meaningless noises! Why don't you go bug PZ Myers for a change?

      Delete
    7. Peepster: Although it is probably beyond your capabilities, some people are capable of posting comments on more than one blog. I suspect that you realize that your "arguments" would be shredded into oblivion over there, so you hide here.

      Delete
    8. @anonymouse and other Internet low life,

      Dr. Egnor, contra Myers and Coyne, allows everyone to express himself, frequently at the cost of being wrongly insulted by the low life, like yourself, that pervades the Internet. Just try saying that PZ is an idiot, which he definitely is, on Pharyngula! You will have your sorry ass blown to... (you complete that statement)

      Delete
    9. Peepster: That's a good cover-up for your cowardice. But it isn't very convincing.

      Delete
    10. Pépé: Dr. Egnor, contra Myers and Coyne, allows everyone to express himself,...

      I don't think that is accurate. I have had a number of my comments mysteriously disappear. I have also noticed that recently some of Egnor's posts have dropped off the face of the earth. This is his perogative of course, but in my experience there is some selective editing going on.

      -L

      Delete
    11. L,

      I don't censor, with rare exceptions. I hate censorship. (I censored troy once, because he called me an anti-semite. I deleted his comment and told him off. That's the only time I can recall that I have censored a commentor.)

      I would censor for physical threats, egregious slander, or gibberish.

      Otherwise, this a a free territory.

      Regarding your comments that have disappeared, they may have gone into the spam filter. I don't have any control over what it filters. I don't check it often enough.I'll check, and if comments are in there, I'll free them.

      Delete
  10. Regarding the definition of "meaning"-- meaning is the ability of something (or someone)to refer to something else. It's "aboutness".

    Material things are not inherently "about" anything. Aboutness presupposes a mind, which means intentionality.

    Intentionality is one manifestation of teleology-- directedness.

    Teleology means God.

    You atheists really need to study your philosophy. And logic.

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    Replies
    1. Egnor: Teleology means God.

      Aristotle's teleology had no god in it, small-g or capital-G.

      And you tell us to go and study philosophy and logic? LOL

      Delete
    2. Oleg,
      The codification of teleology may well have begin with Aristotle. We have no older versions so far discovered, save a hint of the concept in Plato.
      Teleological thought did not end with Aristotle. To state that Aristotle did not include God or gods as a necessary inclusion in the principle speaks only to the strength of the philosophy.
      To assume that it does not LEAD to such logical conclusions, however, is erroneous.
      It would be akin to stating that physics were completed with Newton or Einstein and does not lead us to considering the quantum or 'spooky; stuff that has become the modern passion in that field. One is the foundation of the other, one leads to the other.
      Don't forget the T in Mike's T-A philosophy.

      Delete
    3. crus, Mike and you are making a simple logical error. A -> B does not mean B -> A.

      In this case A = God and B = teleology. God implies teleology, but teleology only implies some sort of intelligent agent (a human, pretty much).

      As to your example of physics and quantum physics, the former is a subset of the latter. If you do quantum physics then you do physics. The converse is not true.

      Delete
    4. Teleology means God.

      Once again, what endows God with meaning? You said it yourself: "If we are not endowed with meaning, we cannot create meaning." If you are correct then if something doesn't endow God with meaning, then God cannot create meaning.

      Delete
    5. Oleg,

      Okay. Allow me to comment on this limited concept of teleology that you posited.
      You suggest all that is needed to understand teleology is a guiding intelligence. You suggest human intelligence as an example.

      A prime example of what you suggest could be found in reverse engineering. We find a machine in the desert, we have no idea where it came from or who built it - but it clearly has some sort of function.
      No matter the function, or our success in reverse engineering it, or it's origin - the immediate assumption is that it was designed by an intelligent mind, and seeing as we found it on earth and in a desert we assume that mind to be a human one.

      The same, on a more simple scale, could be said of a rabbit warren or bear's den discovered by a hunter.
      The study of the patterns of the den or machinery will lead us to understand it's purpose and give us clues/understanding to the nature of the guiding intelligence that created it.
      We see the whole plan and know by the very nature of it that this is a designed and functional thing (machine/den) evidently made by an intelligence.
      In the case of the machine this may be of technological, historical, or even military importance. Even a single part or 'cog' of the machine may prove useful, but the desire is to understand the whole contraption - to learn it's secret.
      That secret will lay in the reason WHY the machine was made; it's intended overall function. The question of why is helped by studying the 'how' in this case.
      In the case of the den a naturalist or hunter may be able to come to better understand the nature of the beast that made it and WHY the creature made it. Is it a birthing den? A hunting den? A nightly spot to sleep? These questions are again understood more clearly and are more alluring when we closely examine HOW it was made. We may then apply the same concepts to other dens or machines we may find.
      Well and fine.
      But teleology is not limited to things made by men or beasts.
      These patterns we study also exist in nature itself. in potential and function.
      Without these recognized patterns (or designs) we would not be able to do proper science, or any sort of philosophy. Nothing would make any sense.

      If we simply make the assumption that things (atoms, cells, tables, onions, people, galaxies etc) have function, inherit potential and an end purpose we generally get further.
      This is how we are able to categorize, study, and understand how the various natural wonders around us work, and in some cases reach into the philosophical realm and deduce WHY they work and to what ultimate end.
      When teleological thinking is used in the study of nature the result is what we call 'science'.
      When it is used in the study of philosophy the result is the recognition of meaning and purpose to all things.
      These combined insights, of course, imply intelligence behind ALL things.
      It implies that nature itself has a top down design; an over all plan that's outcome is desired by that supreme, guiding, intelligence.
      That nature of which I speak includes time, space, and all things. Most people call this intelligence 'God'.
      A∞Ω

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    6. If we simply make the assumption that things (atoms, cells, tables, onions, people, galaxies etc) have function

      That is a baseless assumption, and where you go wrong.

      Delete
  11. Mike,
    Insightful post. Thanks.
    Utterly predictable responses.

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  12. Yes, lil' cwusader, predictable in the same way that when an idiot asserts "2+2 = 5" over and over, you can predict that someone will correct him.

    Go back to your guns.

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    Replies
    1. crus:

      It's funny that not a single godless commentor has offered a thoughtful reply to the point of the post-- whence meaning if there is no God?

      Ever notice that the more convincingly atheism is refuted, the nastier atheists get.

      Delete
    2. What does this have to do with particle physics, Mike? Replace Higgs boson with booger and Prager's point does not become any less convincing. (Nor more.)

      Delete
    3. Mike,
      "Ever notice that the more convincingly atheism is refuted, the nastier atheists get."
      Unerringly. A hysterical response seems to be the usual response.

      The only comment I have read so far that makes any sort of logical argument is Oleg's. He may just be the only real/honest atheist in the mix.
      (Maybe I am missing something or someone?)

      I may disagree with Oleg's conclusions, but at least he is addressing the subject matter and not simply attacking the person making the comment.

      "Go back to your guns."
      Actually my work today is not concerning guns. Rather it has to do with intelligence analysis on a current terror threat, and deployment of missile defence technology.
      I do have a 'gun' here though (rifle/carbine actually, my side-arm is in my locker having just been cleaned).
      It's quite a nice one too.

      Oleg,
      I will get back on that last comment in the above thread.... but I MUST eat something. They have had me at it since 0400, and I've yet to get a bit. I shall ponder, chew, then respond.

      Delete
    4. The 'get back to your guns', was of course directed at Anonymouse.

      Delete
    5. It's funny that not a single godless commentor has offered a thoughtful reply to the point of the post-- whence meaning if there is no God?

      The real question you have yet to answer is "whence meaning if there is a God", since your arguments about where meaning comes from and what it is eliminate the possibility that God, if such a being exists, could give meaning to anything.

      Delete
    6. @crusadeREX,

      (Maybe I am missing something or someone?)

      The reason is that oleg, as any wise old Indian would tell you in western movies, is that white man speaks with forked tongue!

      Personnaly, I would not buy a used car from him!

      Delete
    7. You couldn't afford it.

      Delete
  13. If there is no Source of meaning that transcends us, then our sense of meaning is a cruel illusion.
    Wow. Think how nihilistic that must make God.

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  14. Egnor just can't stand the reality that his live and the lives of his loved ones will come to an end, that the world will come to an end without leaving any traces of their erstwhile existence. Just a temporary blip in the vast universe. What was the point of it all? No meaning!

    So they simply deny the brutal truth and invent a comforting story that they'll spend eternity with all their relatives and friends and with Jesus. That's meaningful! But they don't want to share all that fun with the people they don't like, so they invented a special eternally nasty place for their enemies.

    It's as simple as that. But their beliefs are very shallow because they will still fight looming death with all that's in their power. Egnor himself prevents people from entering the afterlife. Why?

    It's really as simple as that.

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    Replies
    1. @troy,

      You really really have tunnel vision, don't you! Unfortunately the only cure for this ailment is death...

      Delete
    2. Peepster: The only cure for your ailment would be education, but that's too much to ask for.

      Delete
    3. Peepee, as usual you don't even attempt to put forth some arguments. You are just too stupid for the internet. Be gone moron.

      Delete
    4. Peepster: I can see why it would bother you that you think you can't insult people at Pharyngula. After all, all you have are parroted claims you don't understand and insults.

      Delete
  15. @crusadeREX

    Utterly predictable responses.

    I agree 100%! How predictable those ba...rd are...

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  16. Michael, you used to be an atheist.

    You follow the rules of logic.

    When you were an atheist and followed the rules of logic, consequently, you must have concluded that life had no meaning.

    Why then did you not murder, steal, and lie to your heart's content as an atheist? Or committ suicide?

    If there is no meanining, there was no reason you shouldn't have. Right? I assume you didn't do those things though.

    Were you not being logical or following your own ideas to their logical conclusion? (In which case we have no reason to believe you are doing so now as a Catholic)

    Were you not really an atheist? (Based on your writings here, I think this is likely)

    Or did you have some reason (ie meaning) for behaving in a socially acceptable manner and not committing a nihilistically inspired suicide?

    -L

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    Replies
    1. L,

      Great questions. I'll post on them.

      Delete
    2. Thank you. I look forward to hearing the responses.

      These are genuine questions, not an attempt to be snide. Your answers should help us to understand how you believe atheists think about moraltiy, etc. Or at least how you thought about them at the time you were an atheist.

      -L

      Delete
  17. Egnor: "And the boilerplate atheist retort-- 'we give life its meaning'--is bullshit. If we are not endowed with meaning, we cannot create meaning."

    KW: "I’ve heard many Christians say that religion gives their life meaning, but beyond their compulsion to satisfy a vainglorious God’s desire to be worshiped, I have no clue what their talking about. Is that it? Is it really about becoming little worshipers hoping to avoid punishment and get a big prize?"

    How can that be bullshit? For the people who go through life complacent with not taking advantage of everything that life has to offer, and remaining ignorant miserable people, I'd say OK, maybe not much 'meaning' to their lives. I have asked this before in another thread: Do lower life forms have 'meaning', other than to complete the food chain?

    I would be very interested to hear responses to KW's statement above.

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    1. Mulder,

      What I describe as "bullshit" is not KW's assertion that many Christians try to suck up to God to avoid hell. There's truth in that, but there's a lot more to it, which I'll address (in a post) when I can. Briefly, a Christian's relationship to God is a relationship of love and gratitude, mixed with fear and trembling. It's complex. Like the relationship of a child to a mother. There's some sucking up, some love, some defiance,etc. We're human creatures, and we do good stuff and craven stuff.

      What I meant by "bullshit" is the assertion that man can create meaning in a universe without meaning. If we are purely material creatures, not created in God's image, and if the universe just exists and thus has no intrinsic meaning, we, as parts of the universe, cannot have intrinsic meaning. Nor can we without meaning "create" meaning in any real sense.

      We can fabricate meaning-- pretend to have and see meaning, but that would be an illusion.

      If the universe means nothing, we mean nothing.

      Delete
    2. Briefly, a Christian's relationship to God is a relationship of love and gratitude, mixed with fear and trembling.

      So, a Christian is like an abused woman and God is her boyfriend who alternately beats her and says how much he loves her.

      Delete
    3. A Christian love of God can somewhat be compared to a man who loves his wife and is always afraid of hurting her or making her cry. As Dr. Egnor said, it is a relationship of love and gratitude, mixed with fear and trembling. The fear has nothing to do with hell.

      Delete
    4. The fear has nothing to do with hell.

      Of course not. It has everything to do with the fear that God might get pissed off at you and send bears to tear you limb from limb.

      If you have to rule by fear, then you are simply the lead character in The Prince. How very admirable.

      Delete