The scientific breakthrough of the year has its own explaining to do


CERN Collider

Science magazine has named the discovery of the Higgs boson the breakthrough discovery of 2012. It was announced on July 4. It generated incredible hype all around the world, even by entertainers like will.i.am who tweated “[H]appy ‘god particle’ day” to his 4 million Twitter followers. However, an article in the December 2012 issue of Science magazine perhaps unintentionally exposes worldview difficulties facing modern science.

The Higgs boson was first proposed because what physicists deem the “standard model” was missing a key piece of information. The model describes the particles that make up ordinary matter, such as electrons and the quarks that make up the particles of the atomic nucleus, protons and neutrons.

Mathematically, however, none of those particles contain any mass. So, as the article describes it:

At first blush, the standard model appears to be a theory of massless particles. That’s because simply assigning masses to the particles makes the theory go haywire mathematically.

A MASSIVE PROBLEM, PREDICTED BY A BROKEN EQUATION

Now, we know that, in reality, these particles are “massive” because we can measure their mass. But the mathematical model that was developed to describe them blows up if we try to add particle mass into the equation.

To get around this problem and make the math work, physicists assumed that “empty space is filled with a ‘Higgs field,’ which is a bit like an electric field. Particles interact with the Higgs field to acquire energy and, hence, mass, thanks to Albert Einstein’s famous equivalence of the two, encapsulated in the equation E=mc2. Just as an electric field consists of particles called photons, the Higgs field consists of bosons woven into the vacuum.”

The article in Science goes on to describe the history of the detection of the particles first predicted by the mathematical models of physics.

USING THE TOOLS WITHOUT READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

A fourth type of quark was detected in 1974 after having been predicted 4 years earlier. The W and Z bosons were detected experimentally in 1983 after having been predicted in 1967. The author explains that particle theorists try to explain their excellent powers of prediction in various ways, but that:

The standard model ultimately owes its predictive power to the fact that the theory is based on the notion of mathematical symmetry, some theorists say…The Higgs mechanism itself was invented to preserve such symmetry while giving mass to force-carrying particles like the W and the Z. Simply put, symmetry arguments are powerful predictive tools.

“No matter the reason for particle physicists’ predictive prowess,” the author writes, “with the Higgs boson apparently in the bag, they have no similar prediction to test next.” He muses that the standard model could be all that nature’s willing to yield about the deep workings of the universe.

Perhaps the most interesting element in all of this is that modern science is wielding tools that it doesn’t understand. The theorists can present no reason why mathematical symmetry yields such fruitful results.

EINSTEIN’S REALITY EXPOSES INCONSISTENCIES

Even Einstein puzzled over this perplexity when he wrote “How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought independent of experience, is so admirably adapted to the objects of reality?”

Take a second to ponder his question: mathematics, which is a completely abstract field of study that consists of men writing down symbols on pieces of paper and constructing “logical” rules for them to follow when manipulating these symbols can somehow predict all manner of cause-and-effect in the universe.

This implies some sort of relationship between the way man’s mind works and the way the universe works.

In an article by Marcus Chown titled “Random Reality,” he describes the work of two physicists and their theory that reality is based on randomness:

“This is where physics comes in,” says Cahill. “The Universe is rich enough to be self-referencing–for instance, I’m aware of myself.” This suggests that most of the everyday truths of physical reality, like most mathematical truths, have no explanation. According to Cahill and Klinger, that must be because reality is based on randomness. They believe randomness is more fundamental than physical objects.

Of course, the “reality” is that such a concept is hard to swallow. As noted in the Science magazine article:

Particle collisions are inherently reproducible and free of contingency, theorists say. Whereas no two galaxies are exactly the same, all protons are identical. So when smashing them, physicists need not worry about the peculiarities of this proton or that proton because there are none.

ORDER SPRINGS FORTH FROM RANDOM CHAOS?

“Free of contingency” means “not random at all.” The scientists are making some basic assumptions: that there is uniformity in nature. They observe a handful of protons, note that they have similar enough characteristics to be identical even though they are different particles, and then draw the conclusion that all protons in the universe, therefore, are identical.

But how can a universe built upon randomness produce anything like the uniformity that we assume to such great results? How does a concept like “symmetry” even make sense in a world where everything is random and unpredictable?

It’s the goal of Cahill and Klinger to produce a model that shows how such a reality can exist. As the “Random Reality” article concluded:

Perhaps what is most impressive, though, is that Cahill and Klinger are the first to create a picture of reality that takes into account the fundamental limitations of logic discovered by Gödel and Chaitin. In the words of Cahill: “It is the logic of the limitations of logic that is ultimately responsible for generating this new physics, which appears to be predicting something very much like our reality.”

What underlying presuppositions about the way the universe works and how we acquire knowledge drive these men in their pursuits? By perusing Dr. Chris Klinger’s website, we find that he sheds some light on his philosophy concerning these things:

Chris notes that the most recent of learning theorists’ paradigms, ‘connectivism’, is based on essentially the same concepts of complexity, criticality, networks, and self-organization that he expounded as defining principles in his PhD work. Some may find this an extraordinary coincidence; for Chris, though, it is an indication that the human brain, which many regard as second in complexity only to the Universe itself, operates under essentially the same emergent guiding principles. [Emphasis added]

His theory of the random connectiveness of reality stems from his belief that the universe behaves the same way the human brain does. He recognizes that there’s a relationship here.

THE BIBLE’S SOLUTION TO THESE METAPHYSICAL PROBLEMS

As Christians, we know the answers to these tough questions that have baffled scientists and philosophers for 6000 years. The Bible gives us the answer in its very first chapter:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

God created the universe, and he set apart the pinnacle of his creation, men and women, by crowning them with a special kind of glory: he made us in his image and gave us a mind that allows us to think God’s thoughts after him and predict reality so that we can understand and take dominion over nature and subdue it to his glory.

Furthermore, as creator and personal sustainer of all things, he regulates all of creation so that we are not thwarted by random unpredictability in our task of dominion:

Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.” (Jeremiah 33:25-26 ESV)

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22 ESV)

Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
By your appointment they stand this day,
for all things are your servants.
(Psalm 119:90-91 ESV)

Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
(Psalm 148:5-6 ESV)

CONCLUSION

While modern atheistic science rummages around in the dark, groping for elusive truths, Christians can rest in the knowledge of Christ their Lord, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3 ESV)

As Paul wrote, we “must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:17-18 ESV)

Modern atheistic scientists use tools that they pretend not to understand, though they are deceiving themselves by suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.

They search in vain for reasons why mathematics can predict reality, or why a universe presumed to be built upon randomness somehow “mimics” the human mind. They suppress the truth, which is that the universe was created and sustained by God who gave men minds which are capable of logical thinking and reasoning because we are made in his image.

Faith is implanted by the power of the Holy Spirit. Without that, men remain darkened in their understanding and dull to the witness of God that screams from every corner of creation. They reject the Gospel, which is nonsense to them otherwise:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21 ESV)

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