Faith in the Higgs?

I have a new post up over at HuffPo. I discuss, and find wanting, the argument made by Daniel Sarewitz in this op-ed from Nature. Here’s a taste:

Sarewitz’ argument backfires in that it calls our attention to the key difference between science and religion. It is sometimes said that religion answers questions about meaning and purpose, but this is not accurate. The correct formulation is that religion makes assertions about meaning and purpose. Sorely lacking is any reliable method for establishing the correctness of those assertions. Science’s contribution to these conversations is a set of investigative methods that everyone regards as legitimate. When a physicist lectures about the Higgs, the audience understands that he is not just making things up. He is not asking anyone to believe anything solely on his authority.

Be sure to have a look at Jerry Coyne’s response to the same op-ed.


  1. #1 eric
    August 30, 2012

    There’s a typo in the second sentence. Maybe Huff can fix it? “No doubt he textbooks provide…” should probably be “No doubt the textbooks provide…”

  2. #2 eric
    August 30, 2012

    More substantively, nice post. And it is gratifying to see that 10 of 10 comments (so far) are positive.

  3. #3 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 30, 2012

    There are a couple of typos, actually. I wasn’t inclined to make an issue of it, though. I actually sent this in last week, and I was so happy that it finally appeared that I think I’m content just to move on to the next thing!

  4. #4 JimR.
    August 30, 2012

    If one scientist got up and said, “Wow look at this great discovery,” I might not have “faith” in his statement. But when a large number of people, who have looked at the data, get up and announce a major finding, I think faith is a stretch. I can listen to the confirmations of many people and accept the findings. This has wandered a bit, but I think confirmation by multiple sources goes beyond mere faith.

    Also why is an ASU employee based in DC?

  5. #5 James Sweet
    August 31, 2012

    Yep, it’s as simple as this: While it’s true that some scientists are of the “just shut up and trust me” variety, your general problem when you ask a scientist “How do you know that?” is that they won’t shut the hell up. Unless we’re talking about a Dawkins or a Pinker or a Hawkings or a Diamond or what have you, you are likely to become bored and confused in short order — because they’d love to tell you how they know that. Ask a priest “How do you know that?” and you’ll get “MISSTURRRRISSS WAYYZ!” or some other such bullshit.

  6. #6 Wow
    August 31, 2012

    On the whole “Oh, you believe in science too! Then you admit it’s just about faith too!” is that we believe that a table is a good place to put the dinner plate on whilst eating.

    We have faith in the construction of that table to perform this task. We believe it won’t fall apart.

    Does this mean that tables are a matter of faith?

    Oh table, without you our laps are uncomfortably warm, we pray to you that you bestow your beneficient flatness on our dinner time ritual that we may eat and be satiated in your glory!

  7. #7 sezer
    sesa bili┼čim
    September 1, 2012
  8. #8 Robero
    Brasilia, Brazil
    September 5, 2012

    Faith is about happiness using only a mind for that. Science is about nature observation and contemplation. This contraposition is useless.

  9. #9 Wow
    September 5, 2012

    “Faith is about happiness using only a mind for that.”

    Not for any definition of faith I’ve ever come across.

    Faith is about believing despite no evidence.

  10. #10 Kevin Dowd
    September 7, 2012

    there was a lot of woo at the HuffPo post. always is I guess… some dopey named Patel and the always noxious John Kwok were there and some other creationist.

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