Big Science, Hurrah!

  • Article (blog post)
  • 1200 words
  • Level: all audiences

In this post on The Catholic Astronomer blog, Vatican Observatory astronomer Br. Guy Consolmagno, S. J., comments on the reactions people have to discoveries like the Higgs Boson, especially when those discoveries have sensational language attached to them, as was the case with the Higgs (i.e. the “God Particle”). Br. Consolmagno writes:

Scientists do, indeed, speak in metaphors. We have to. Even the word “particle” is a misnomer. A boson or fermion is nothing at all like a tiny speck of stuff that you could see in a microscope. It is an entity that can only be described in terms of the mathematics that it appears to follow; and even the maths are a metaphor for the reality they are trying to describe. People who look for “literal” truth in the Bible would be well advised to remember that materialistic science itself is not meant to be taken “literally.” You can’t do justice to any deep truth, be it love or beauty or subatomic particles or God, with mere human language. You can only invoke a meaning through images that, if well chosen, might shadow the shape of reality in your mind.

Why this lesson is so hard to grasp? Why is it that journalists and non-scientists latch on to the a nickname like the “God particle”? Why do so many people desperately seek to find a religious vindication in the latest incomprehensible advances in science, from the Higgs Boson to Dark Energy to The Big Bang?

Click here to read the full article on The Catholic Astronomer – the blog of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.