Higgs (Skeptic)

I’m not smart enough to be a Higgs skeptic. The skeptic here is Stephan Wolfram, who is disappointed that the big Higgs boson discovery only proves what the physicists already suspected, namely the “Standard Model” for the organization of sub-atomic particles. According to Wolfram, the Standard Model is neither elegant nor simple and therefore not satisfying. To be sure, I’m not able to follow the details here.

If it is indeed the case that the Higgs discovery solves no new fundamental riddles, than perhaps there is, after all, “a lock on the secrets of the universe.” That’s how Alexis Madrigal reads it, writing about Wolfram in the Atlantic. As for me, I’m not going to bet on any of this one way or the other. I think it’s pretty cool that they found the little bugger, but what it really means, I’m sure, is anyone’s guess.

As for my colleague Vincent Lloyd at SU, he reminds me that “the most important” part of the Higgs news is that Peter Higgs, whom the boson is named after, refused to accept the Wolf Prize in Israel because of his opposition to Israeli policy in the territories. Vincent’s remark reminds me that, yes indeed, the Israel-Palestine conflict is indeed part and parcel of the very basic fabric of the universe. 

My first guess will be that Vincent, Madrigal, and Wolfram are right. Higgs boson settles nothing, not one way or the other, about any of things that happen at our human scale of the universe, and the kind of religious questions that bear upon it.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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