Recent speculation on the discovery of the Higgs Boson, which the media has named, not entirely helpfully, “the God particle” and sometimes more poetically “the breath of God”, has re-ignited the debate about science, and in this particular case, physics and belief in God.
Professor Higgs himself is an atheist and dislikes all this talk of “God particles”, but the media often faces a problem with how to make highly scientific questions and debates accessible and interesting for non-scientists.
Here is one explaination of what the Higgs is all about
CTS author Professor Stephen M. Barr, recently looked at some of the wider questions raised by this latest discovery in an essay. Answering the question, “Does quantum physics make it easier to believe in God?” He begins:
‘Not in any direct way. That is, it doesn’t provide an argument for the existence of God. But it does so indirectly, by providing an argument against the philosophy called materialism (or “physicalism”), which is the main intellectual opponent of belief in God in today’s world.
Materialism is an atheistic philosophy that says that all of reality is reducible to matter and its interactions. It has gained ground because many people think that it’s supported by science. They think that physics has shown the material world to be a closed system of cause and effect, sealed off from the influence of any non-physical realities — if any there be. Since our minds and thoughts obviously do affect the physical world, it would follow that they are themselves merely physical phenomena. No room for a spiritual soul or free will: for materialists we are just “machines made of meat.”
Quantum mechanics, however, throws a monkey wrench into this simple mechanical view of things. No less a figure than Eugene Wigner, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, claimed that materialism — at least with regard to the human mind — is not “logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.” And on the basis of quantum mechanics, Sir Rudolf Peierls, another great 20th-century physicist, said, “the premise that you can describe in terms of physics the whole function of a human being … including [his] knowledge, and [his] consciousness, is untenable. There is still something missing.”’
You can read the rest of his piece here.
Science and Religion: the Myth of Conflict by Professor Stephen M. Barr, is available from CTS priced £2.50
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