Sunday, 8 July 2012

Does the Higgs Boson Disprove God's Existence?

Hi Folks,

Some Atheists have recently been jumping up and down thinking that the discovery of the Higgs Boson disproves God's existence. This is quite sad as this is clear proof that many atheists 1) don't know anything about science, let along physics and 2) they don't really think their beliefs through. In other words, aside a few flashy slogans like "if God created everything, then who created God?" and "I don't believe in things I can't see", they're just a bunch of unreflective cult-minded secularists (here they are very similar to some irrational religious fanatics whom they ironically spew their vitriol against). Of course, not all atheists are like this, but I can say that a great deal are.

Anyways, what is the Higgs Boson? Not surprisingly, Wikipedia gives the best summary and definition:
The Higgs boson or Higgs particle is a proposed elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. The Higgs boson is named afterPeter Higgs who, along with others, proposed the mechanism that suggested such a particle in 1964. The existence of the Higgs boson and the associated Higgs field would be the simplest known method to explain why certain other elementary particles have mass. In this theory, an unseenfield permeates all of space; this field has a non-zero value everywhere, even in its lowest energy state, and various other elementary particles obtain mass when they interact with it. The Higgs boson—the smallest possible excitation of this field—is predicted to exist by the same theory, and as this would be detectable, it has been the target of a long search in particle physics. One of the primary goals of the Large Hadron Collider ("LHC") at CERNin GenevaSwitzerland—one of the most complicated scientific instruments ever built—was to test the existence of the Higgs boson and measure its properties which would allow physicists to confirm this cornerstone of modern theory.
In other words, the Higgs Boson is an element that is part of the Standard Model for Particle Physics. It explains why matter has mass. For example, a photon has no mass, and an electron has a little mass. The Higgs Boson is what gives matter mass.

Now think about it, how does a particle that gives mass to matter disprove God's existence? As an ex-atheist, I can't think of anything, let alone physicists who have made no such argument. If anything, it just shows the beauty of the universe and the intricacies of creation. With that said, even modern arguments that are used to prove God's existence (the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning of the universe) actually depend on the Standard Model. So a discovery like this merely reinforces a theory of the universe that has been adopted to argue for God's existence.

There is, however, another question. Why is the Higgs Boson sometimes called the God Particle? This name, as far as I know, as coined by Leon Lederman in his book The God Particle (1993). The reason why he called it such is because the Higgs Boson underlies every physical object in existence and just like God, it is very hard to detect. I think this is quite interesting given that it is testament to the fact that something may permeate all of existence yet be almost impossible to detect (which flies right in the face of anti-theistic rhetoric).

Saturday, 7 July 2012

God and The Limits of Reason?

Hi Folks,

One of the more common atheist arguments against the Cosmological Argument for God's existence has been that we cannot use reason in trying to prove the existence of God given that physics has constantly been 'proving' theorems that are counter-intuitive and go against the brain's rationalistic ways of conceptualizing the world. At most, reason can only be restricted to analyzing certain elements of the natural world, but we cannot use it in determining the nature of the universe's beginning or anything beyond our material universe.

Now most of this argument (which I only offered a brief summary of) is taken from Kant's arguments on the limits of reason when it comes to delivering us to important truths about reality. Anyways, this argument has been taken apart quite a number of times in sophisticated and academic treatments of the subject, however I feel that they have been quite complex for the layman to understand (although I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy, I still find myself scratching my head at times when reading this stuff).

Luckily, I came across one of Dr. William Lane Craig's posts on the subject where he refutes the Atheist/Kantian attack on reason's ability to attain truths about (metaphysical) reality in a simple, brief and easy-to-read fashion for lay readers.

For this fun and interesting read, please see The Limits of Reason

Enjoy the read!

Monday, 2 July 2012

How Can One NOT Believe in God After Seeing This?

Hi there,

Alexander Tsiaras is an associate Professor of Medicine and Chief of Scientific Visualization at Yale University in the Department of Medicine (this guy seems to have contributed to the invention of the MRI machine). He carried out a detailed algorithmic study of fetal development and its sheer mind-blowing complexity. According to this Professor, small parts of this magical world are slowly surfacing and just these bits of information about fetal development have made it extremely hard for him in NOT attributing it divinity (this is despite the fact that we still know so little about it). In other words, how can you say there is no God, no Designer when confronted with such concrete and mind-blowing design?

The following video is his talk at TED where he illustrates fetal development through breath-taking medical visualization:

Even though I am a mathematician, I look at 
[fetal development] with marvel: How do these
instruction sets not make mistakes as they build
what is us? — Alexander Tsiaras

Sunday, 1 July 2012

God's Foreknowledge vs. Free Will

Hi Folks,

A common line of attack on theism is that if God exists, then humans have no free will given that the traditional and mainstream understanding of God is that He is Omniscient (i.e. knows everything).

The argument goes like this:

If God knows everything, including all that will happen in the future and that no deviation can ever occur from  the course of that knowledge, then all of my future actions as an individual have been determined before they come about. In other words, God's foreknowledge of events necessarily leads to determinism and as a consequence of this, I can never have free will.

Although some religious people (among Christians, Muslims etc.) have adopted this view and are thus known as fatalists, I don't think this view is correct because if we were truly to accept that we have no free will and that all of our actions are predetermined, then why should people be punished in the Afterlife for actions/sins/crimes they ultimately did not? For example, a Jew who goes against the halakhic ruling against eating pork doesn't really break the law as the action is not done through his own choice.

Another example would be your typical Iranian diaspora youngster living in the West. Although he fornicates, takes drugs, drinks alcohol, talks like a girl, has no sense of fashion (although many of his religious compatriots don't fair any better in this regard either) and commits every single sin that has ever existed in Judaism, Christianity and Islam combined and basically offends and shames the Milky Way Galaxy solely by existing, he actually commits no wrong at all! Why? Because although he (along with his female like minded liberal compatriots who are worse than him) are the most wretched mishmash of atoms that have ever been assembled in the history of this 13 + billion year old universe (with perhaps the sole exception of Wahhabis), they are not responsible for any of the stench that is emitted from their figures because none of what they do is out of their own free will but out of God's own predestination of the universe. Alternatively, no merit should be warranted to a decent person's actions because he, like the sinner, did not will his good deeds either.

If this was the case, then God would indeed be cruel and unjust (both in terms of punishment and reward). This is something that atheists have picked up on and used against the "absurdity" of belief in God.

Luckily, there is an alternative and more logical way at looking at God's foreknowledge. In this alternative way, we can distinguish what we call logical priority over chronological priority in God's knowledge. God's foreknowledge of someone's actions may be chronologically prior to the action itself, however it is not logically prior to the action. Put differently, although God knows beforehand what you are going to do (chronologically prior), his foreknowledge does not cause whatever action you take in the logical context of cause and effect (i.e. it is not logically prior). In other words, God's foreknowledge, in the logical context, is positioned after the individual's action.

Think of it this way (this isn't strictly meant to be a logical analogy, just a loose example in order to help simplify things by putting them into perspective), if out of the corner you see someone's shadow approaching, you can conclude that someone going to come out of a corner. However, your foreknowledge of this does not mean that your knowledge caused the guy to come out of a corner. Similarly, although God knows what you will do in advance, his knowledge does not cause whatever action you may take in your life. Instead, is it your actions which determine God's knowledge of you even if that knowledge has existed eternally (that is, God's foreknowledge is determined by whatever actions you may take in the future).

Now it is true that in some religious traditions, there are certain elements of a person's life that are predetermined (like the timing of your death etc.), but I won't get into this for now as it goes beyond the point I'm trying to make in this post.