Peter Higgs, the theoretical physicist who predicted the “Higgs Boson” particle found at CERN this year, and an obvious candidate for the next Nobel Prize in Physics, has spoken up against “militant atheist” fundamentalism.
“I am not a believer, but science and religion can be compatible,” he said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper “el Mundo.”
Higgs does not share the militant atheism of some of his colleagues, like the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion” and promoter of an advertising campaign against religious faith on the buses of several European cities. On the contrary, the “father” of the Higgs Boson says that he knows “many colleagues who are both scientists and believers,” and thinks that science and religion “can be compatible, as long as one is not dogmatic.”
In fact, Dawkins’ attitude seems to him another form of fundamentalism: “I am not against believers, provided they don’t behave like extremist fanatics. Dawkins’ problem is that he focuses his attacks against fundamentalists, but evidently not all believers are [fundamentalists]. In this sense, I think at times it is Dawkins himself who ends up adopting a fundamentalist attitude, on the other extreme.”
I agree with Higgs, and I will add once again that I consider many “militant atheists” as fundamentalist, self-righteous bigots with mental problems and without a sense of humor, who take a perverse pleasure in telling children that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, or telling grieving persons that they will never see their loved ones again.
I wish to note, however, that besides media stunts of questionable value like the atheist bus campaign, Dawkins is surprisingly reasonable and open to the “cosmic religions” discussed in the last post.
“It’s highly plausible that in the universe there are God-like creatures,” he says in a New York Times interview.
In “The God Delusion,” Dawkins writes:
“Whether we ever get to know them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century.”
“Imagine his response to a laptop computer, a mobile telephone, a hydrogen bomb or a jumbo jet. As Arthur C Clarke put it, in his Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’ The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than the tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods…
“In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense, which goes to the heart of this book. The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way. Science-fiction authors… have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. But the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution…”
I totally agree with Dawkins and these are precisely the arguments that we use in support of a new cosmic spirituality or, if you like, religion.