Monday, September 10, 2012

Would you attend this talk about the Higgs boson?

Previously I posted about the first two seminars given at the new Centre for Science, Religion, and Society at Emmanuel College at UQ. They were given by Peter Harrison and John Cook.

I have been asked to give the next seminar. I thought I might give it on the Higgs boson since it has attracted so much interest. Otherwise I probably would have talked about emergence and reductionism.
Below is my draft title and abstract.

I welcome feedback, particularly about questions or issues people would like addressed.

The Higgs boson: the scientific reality versus the media hype

The recent announcement that physicists at CERN in Switzerland have observed evidence for the existence of an elementary particle known as the Higgs boson has caused unprecedented interest in both conventional and social media.
Sometimes the Higgs boson is even referred to as the "God particle".
How important is this discovery scientifically?
Does it have any implications for belief in God?
Has the media and CERN acted in a responsible manner in reporting the discovery?

I will attempt to give a balanced perspective on both the scientific and theological significance of this discovery.
I will discuss the scientific background in terms accessible to the layperson.
In particular, how do elementary particles such as electrons and quarks gain their mass?
The dubious origin of the term "God particle" will be described, along with several other misrepresentations of the science associated with the discovery.

Although I believe the significance of this discovery has been overblown it does provide a useful starting point for discussion of some important philosophical and theological issues. These include the relative importance of direct versus indirect evidence for justifiable beliefs, the role of faith in science, the limits of reductionism, and the unity of scientific knowledge. At least one cool video will be shown.

No comments:

Post a Comment