Understanding how things in the universe work has nothing to do with the question of ultimate origin. I am continually amazed at the number of otherwise intelligent scientists who seem to be confused about this.
*This is not one of my sermons, but I felt a strong need to write about this.*
I read an irritating little article in Newsweek this week: The Godless Particle (by Lawrence M. Krauss, July 16, 2012). Some of you may have heard that recently, physicists have discovered a new subatomic particle. This particle is being called the Higgs particle, because it appears to be the elementary building block of the previously theoretical “Higgs field,” – a force that affects all of matter.
This was interesting to me, because I like to read up on astrophysics and cosmology and speculate about how God put together this thing we call the universe. The Higgs field plays a role in how the universe expanded very early in its existence, and possibly in how all matter behaves.
However, I was surprised by the Newsweek article, because rather than simply talking about the scientific aspects of the discovery, Krauss went out of his way to argue that this discovery proved the non-existence of God.
His argument was so ridiculous I simply had to respond to it somewhere. He says, basically, that the existence of Higgs field – if this particle indeed confirms that – shows how the universe expanded quickly and uniformly. He says: “[first] many features of our universe, including our existence, may be accidental consequences of conditions associated with the universe’s birth; and second, creating ‘stuff’ from ‘no stuff’ seems to be no problem at all – everything we see could have emerged as a purposeless quantum burp of space itself.”
There are so many logical fallacies in this one sentence it is flabbergasting. I guess this is why I so rarely read Newsweek. The fact that the consequences of the birth of the universe are “accidental” has not been established, and the discovery of the Higgs particle does nothing to establish it. The Higgs field, if it exists, does not preclude an intelligent designer who made it.
Krauss says that the Higgs field proves that “Stuff from no stuff” is no problem. Wait a minute. Isn’t the Higgs field “stuff?” Where did the “Higgs stuff” come from? In fact, if it exists, the Higgs field actually demonstrates that indeed, matter in the universe did not come from nothing. The question of where the Higgs Field came from faces exactly the same problem as the issue of ultimate origins always face.
After saying that everything we see could be the result of a “quantum burp,” Krauss concludes, saying “Humans…may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge.”
Hmm, I don’t remember “quantum burp theory” from college. Anybody? Does the universe have indigestion? What causes a quantum burp? Once again, in trying to dismiss God as the ultimate origin, Krauss completely avoids the actual question of ultimate origin.
Whenever I read this sort of silliness from otherwise intelligent scientists I picture something like this: Imagine that fully functioning automobile was dropped into the ancient past where Aristotle and some of his ancient scientist buddies discover it. They examine it, they poke at it and prod it, they turn it on, drive it and turn it off. They spend years trying to figure out what makes it work. One day, poking around under the hood, they discover the fuel injection system, and how it operates. Then they say this:
“For years we have had a theory that there must be some kind of automated fuel delivery system. It was a problem, because we couldn’t find it, and we couldn’t completely explain it. Now we have solved the mystery of how the engine receives fuel, and thereby, we have proved that the car was not created by any intelligent being, but appears to be automatic and self- sustaining; self-creating. That would be a ridiculous conclusion of course. The ancient scientists have made an important discovery about how things work in the car. But understanding how things work has nothing to do with the question of ultimate origin. I am continually shocked at the number of otherwise intelligent scientists seem to be confused about this.
Finally there is this. Krauss is arguing that we have just discovered there is no meaning in the universe, therefore humans have made a deeply meaningful stride forward in our understanding. Wait a minute. If all of the universe – and of course, all of human civilization – is random and meaningless, than why does Krauss believe there is any meaning to this discovery of a Higgs particle? The whole discovery – like the whole universe – is just the faint bad smell left over after a burp. It serves no purpose. Both the cause and the result of the burp are random. That means the discovery of the Higgs particle is random and meaningless. That means Krauss is delusional in thinking that it means anything or proves anything. It is like asking “what is six time five?” and then rolling a random number of dice, and saying that the result (whatever it is) must be the true the answer. The only way for the Higgs particle to have any meaning is if the universe itself is not random.
Like so many scientists, Krauss is confusing science with metaphysics and intelligence with the ability to really think. Maybe it does make sense to attribute his strange conclusions to a random bit of cosmological indigestion.