Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Idiot Rants Against Large Hadron Collider

Stupid people on the Internet have been railing against the Large Hadron Collider for years, but this guy takes it to a whole new level. Apparently, he sees a particle accelerator developed by many nations working together as the new incarnation of the Biblical Tower of Babel, which somehow means that God is going to destroy us all for using it.

With this in mind, an excitable and overly sincere Zach Drew draws attention to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel in the book of Genesis where God scattered arrogant knowledge seekers across the land, speaking in different languages.

“What if I told you, again, today, the ancient story of the Tower of Babel is being repeated,” Drew ominously intoned. “Isn’t it interesting that people from all around the world have once again come together to build the largest machine that man has ever constructed? They say it is for the purpose of discovering the God particle. This mystery particle that essentially holds the entire universe together and, if found, would explain our very existence.”

“This insane machine? It’s called CERN,” he continued. “The Large Hadron Collider. The Tower of Babel. The whole world came together to work on it… The people at the Tower of Babel’s goal was also to reach a portal, or a gateway, into the sky, or into another dimension where God dwells.”

Here's the thing - "god particle" is basically tongue-in-cheek quantum physics terminology, like calling quarks "charm" and "strange." The term was coined for the Higgs Boson because it was the last particle needed to complete the standard model of quantum physics. That's it. Nobody - and I mean nobody - thinks that the Higgs Boson is an actual deity that physicists should worship or something. The only way it "explains our existence" is that detecting it proves the standard model. It has nothing to do with "detecting God" because religion is not science.

Now it doesn't help matters that Dan Brown passed along that same misinterpretation to some of his characters in Angels & Demons, which became a super-best-seller after people discovered The Da Vinci Code. Thanks to the former book, many ignorant people leaped to the conclusion that "detecting God" was what the physicists were on about. But it also seems to be stock in trade for evangelicals to interpret everything in pop culture as literally as possible. It seems that the concept of metaphor is totally lost on them.

At the same time, though, that's what makes this argument so confusing. In the Bible story, God destroys the tower, not humanity, and makes everyone speak different languages. So if the Large Hadron Collider is literally the Tower of Babel, that means God should destroy the collider and make everyone speak different languages - except, of course, that many of the scientists who work at CERN are from different countries and already do.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the core of the Tower of Babel story was true. When you build a really tall tower in the middle of the desert, what happens? It's the highest point, so of course it gets struck by lightning over and over again. Very massive stone structures like the Great Pyramid can absorb lightning strikes, but any sort of tower with a more spindly and less robust design will be destroyed in short order. So as far as ancient people would have seen it, they built a really tall tower and God zapped it in an impressive manner.

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