July 17, 2012

Syria: Global Reaction A Crime Against Syrian People, Humankind, And Earth

How Syria Divided The World by Michael Ignatieff, The New York Review of Books, July 11, 2012

This NYRB essay highlights the points made in my previous post - "Nationalism: One Of Two Major Threats To The Survival Of Humankind And Earth" - regarding the dangers of strategic nationalism as currently practiced by the most powerful nations on Earth.  The actions of the respective leaderships of the U.S., Russia, and China regarding Syria starkly exemplify how these leading nations willfully choose to ignore the broader dangers posed by their robust nation-state competitive gamesmanship to Humankind and the planet.  The machinations of all three are impeding efforts to establish a binding global ethic and pluralistic world governing body that put the well-being of Humankind and the health and sustainability of the planet above the interests of nation-states.

While U.S. leadership sometimes supports a global morality and governing body, too often when push comes to shove it too will do, sometimes very forcibly, all that is necessary to serve its national interests first and foremost.  As for Russian and Chinese leadership, they are never ambivalent about their respective positions regarding nationalism versus globalism.  Both consistently opt for a winner take all strategy among competing nation-states in their pursuit of resources, markets, and global influence - political, historical, ideological.  The needs of Humankind and the planet - much less that of the Middle East, the most volatile place on earth - are seldom, if at all, the concern of Russian and Chinese leadership.

I'm reminded of the Parker Brothers-Hasbro board game "Risk" of the late 1950s, early 1960s where each player's goal is world domination.  Fun for the parlor or family room but a heinous strategy when exercised throughout the increasingly fragile biosphere and accompanied by an inconsistent, negligible, or non-existent regard for human suffering.

If the Occupy Movement is looking to firm up its cause and message I recommend condemning the demotion of the needs of Humankind and Earth to the selfish, destructive desires of the most powerful nation-states.  Put Russia and China at the top of the target list, followed closely by the U.S.

July 11, 2012

Nationalism - One Of Two Major Threats To The Survival Of Humankind And Earth

UPDATE
How Syria Divided The World by Rober Ignatieff, The New York Review of Books, July 11, 2012

This NYRB essay highlights the points made below regarding the dangers of strategic nationalism, as currently practiced by the most powerful nations on Earth.  The actions of the U.S., Russia, and China regarding Syria starkly exemplify nation-state competitive gamesmanship.  The machinations of all three are impeding efforts to establish a global ethic and a pluralistic world governing body that puts the well-being of Humankind and the sustainability of the planet above the interests of nation-states.

While U.S. leadership sometimes behaves as if it supports a global morality and governing body, too often when push comes to shove it will do, sometimes quite forcibly, all that is necessary to serve its national interests first and foremost.  As for Russian and Chinese leadership, they are never ambivalent about their respective positions.  Both consistently opt for a winner take all strategy among competing nation-states in their pursuit of resources, markets, and global influence (political, historical, ideological).  The needs of Humankind and the planet much less that of the Middle East the most volatile regions on earth, are seldom, if at all, the concern of Russian and Chinese leadership.

I'm reminded of the Parker Brothers-Hasbro "Risk" board game of the late 1950s, early 1960s.  Fun for the parlor or family room but a heinous strategy when exercised throughout the increasingly fragile biosphere and accompanied by an inconsistent, neglible, or non-existent regard for human suffering.

If the Occupy Movement is looking to firm up its cause and message I recommend condemning the demotion of Humankind's and Earth's needs to the selfish, destruction desires of the powerful nation-states.  Put Russia and China at the top of the target list followed by the U.S.

ORIGINAL POST
AU Summit Highlights Pan-African Weaknesses, African Progress Panel, Volume 5, Issue 13, July 6, 2012

The above link presents a snapshot of Humankind's difficulty in growing the slowly emerging global morality as described by Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, and others.  It describes a struggle between international justice, African regionalism (Pan-Africanism), African nationalism, and the conscience of a national leader, Malawi's president.

Lack of support for the International Criminal Court by China, India, and the US make these powerful nations part of the problem not the solution for growing a unifying, pluralistic, global morality.

The fact that this and other struggles between nationalism and global needs is seldom commented on by major thinkers or world leaders much less acted upon indicates that Humankind has a long way to go in terms of putting the needs of all Humankind and our planet's health ahead of national agendas.

The other major threat to a pluralistic, global morality and responsible Earth stewardship is fundamentalistic religion.

Further Reading:

Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Postnationalism, Wikipedia
Nationalism: Its Nature and Consequences by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, June 1994
Globalism, Wikipedia
Globalism Versus Globalization by Joseph Nye, The Globalist, April 15, 2002

July 8, 2012

"God Particle" - A Metaphor Causing Increased Science And Religion Collisions

A graphic showing traces of collision of particles at CERN in Geneva,
where scientists believe they have found the Higgs boson.

My previous post, “'God Particle' Discovered – Really?,” cautioned that the journalistic over-use of the term “God particle” could be problematic for science, religious believers, and the global public at large.  It is already proving to be so.  The following is a small sample of articles about believers’ reactions to news of the possible discovery of the “Higgs boson.” The responses range from a reaffirmation that the particle is the creation of the Abrahamic deity as described in the Bible, to indifference, to a condemnation of godless scientists for not possessing a reason for awe, wonder and worship:

“God and the God Particle”
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/06/faqs-god-and-the-god-particle/  "The Higgs boson may be responsible for holding the universe together, but Jesus holds the "God particle" in its place."

"All Things Visible and Invisible - Celebrating the 'God Particle'"
http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2012/all-things-visible-and-invisible-celerating-the-god-particle.html "God is not a particle, of course. God is absolute being, which is something else entirely. We now have more insight into the physical reality of God’s creation. “Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man’s dominion over creation,” the Catechism tells us. This week’s result is as basic as research can get. … The Church – and belief in the supernatural in general – are often said to be in conflict with science. Not true. But the Church is in conflict with a materialist scientism that believes all reality is empirically observable and testable, and that no other questions are worth asking. This scientism is deadly. Walker Percy writes:

[T]he consciousness of Western man, the layman in particular, has been transformed by a curious misapprehension of the scientific method. One is tempted to use the theological term “idolatry.” This misapprehension, which is not the fault of science, but rather the inevitable consequence of the victory of the scientific worldview. . .takes the form of a radical and paradoxical loss of sovereignty by the layman and of a radical impoverishment of human relations.

"So it was wonderful to hear the excitement of the scientists, to see them celebrate with the ordinary ritual of champagne, to hear of Higgs’ own amazement at the discovery within his lifetime. They were marking a success in where wonder can take us using our reason to seek truth."

"Pakistan Shuns Physicist Linked to 'God Particle'"
http://www.omaha.com/article/20120708/AP15/307089958 "Despite his achievements (researching the Higgs boson), Abdus Salam's (Pakistan's first Nobel laureate) name appears in few textbooks and is rarely mentioned by Pakistani leaders or the media. (Salam belonged to the Ahmadi sect, considered to be heretical by Pakistan's Muslims.) By contrast, fellow Pakistani physicist A.Q. Khan, who played a key role in developing the country's nuclear bomb and later confessed to spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, is considered a national hero. Khan is a Muslim."

“Scientists Discover ‘The God Particle’, As Clerics Insist It Represents God”
http://www.tribune.com.ng/sun/church-features/7805-scientists-discover-the-god-particle-as-clerics-insist-it-represents-god  "It (the discovery) shows that it is establishing the fact that there was a force behind creation in such a way that God was behind it. Those particles did not just happen. It was the spoken word of God that caused the collision that resulted in creation."

“Vatican Astronomer Says 'God Particle' Misnamed, But Exciting” http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-astronomer-says-god-particle-is-misnamed-but-exciting/  "...if there was a particle that could exist that could explain all the little things we wanted to explain, it would be a gift from God."

"Evidence of the God Particle Found"
http://www.speakingtree.in/spiritual-blogs/seekers/science-of-spirituality/evidence-of-god-particle-found
"The discovery of The God Particle represents a step forward in appreciation of God’s awe-inspiring universe however claiming to find the elusive piece of the cosmic puzzle is too na├»ve an attempt. Having said that, scientists may discover it, but we can’t deny HE (the eternal force God) invented it! To deny is to accept it too. ... Faith is the opposite of proof. I have faith in HIM and need no proof. God exists outside and inside of it all. He's not something which can be explained away by science, nor proven by religious fervor or argument. The God Particle is, in you and in me and in every particle around us. We only need to seek earnestly."

“‘God particle’ Discovered by Scientists - What It Means For Your Faith”
http://odysseynetworks.org/news/2012/07/03/scientist-christian-theologian-and-the-god-particle  “People of faith have nothing to fear by these new scientific discoveries.  The God of Christian theology is not a god of the gaps, an intelligent designer who can be proved in the places of our scientific ignorance. God is the One who holds the whole scientific story in existence by maintaining the laws of physics. … Behind the myriad of particles and the laws, the universe has a coherent story because it is creation.”

“The God Particle: What Does It Mean From a Spiritual and Metaphysical Perspective?”
http://metaphysicalbible.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/the-god-particle-what-does-it-mean-from-a-spiritual-and-metaphysical-perspective/  “I’m putting my quantum spirituality and metaphysician hats on when I say I believe the ‘God particle’ quantum physicists believe they’ve found is really the ‘Christ Particle.’ Why? I believe it is most appropriately called the  ‘Christ Particle’ because the Christ is God in physicality. And that’s the most famous duet of all: God expressing as the Christ. It is the ‘Christ Particle that gives “all matter in the universe size and shape.”

“Hunt For ‘God Particle’ Will Collide With Faith”
http://blog.crown.org/2011/12/16/hunt-for-god-particle-will-collide-with-faith/  “This infinitesimally small piece of physical matter will likely become a big matter indeed and could impact the lives of Christians globally. For many in the scientific community, the Higgs boson particle is the Holy Grail that will allow modern science to finally and forever trump ancient religious beliefs.” … “The paradox of it all is that the “God particle” will likely be used in an attempt to undermine the very existence of God—even though any discovery will fail to explain how the Higgs boson particle originated in the first place. … But we have nothing to fear. Our God created every particle in the universe, and I am confident His fingerprints will ultimately be found on each and every one. … The invisible God not only made the Higgs boson particle, He made all other matter!”

July 5, 2012

"God Particle" Discovered - Really?

Higgs event.  Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Much has been reported in the news the past few days about the discovery at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe of a new sub-atomic particle.  The media is often referring to this yet to be definitively identified particle as the "God particle," with some writers using the qualifier that it is not a description liked by most scientists.

Such media usage of the term "the God particle" might persuade you think/believe that this discovery has something to do with the Christian biblical claim that a deity created all the mass we observe in the universe.  The rationale for such a view is something like the following:  These subatomic particles spontaneously come together in space to form clumps of matter that have mass, that this process led to the formation of atoms, and that gravity gave rise to all the more complex matter that followed.  So far, so good.  This is what leading theoretical physicists believe happened in the formation of our universe and all that is in it, including us.  Here is where the science stops and journalist conjecture and license, much to the delight of many believers, begins - that such a process of matter formation as described by scientists can only be explained as a creation act of God.

I am reminded of the hoopla that arose a few years back over the so-called discovery of the "God gene."  See my post The God Gene? on what became of that hyperbolic claim.

Why is the purported Higgs boson or particle being called the "God particle?"  Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

From the Wikipedia article, "Higgs boson"
The Higgs boson is often referred to as the "God particle" by individuals outside the scientific community, after the title of Leon Lederman's popular science book on particle physics, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?. While use of this term may have contributed to increased media interest, many scientists dislike it, since it overstates the particle's importance, not least since its discovery would still leave unanswered questions about the unification of quantum chromodynamics, the electroweak interaction, and gravity, as well as the ultimate origin of the universe. Higgs, an atheist himself, is displeased that the Higgs particle is nicknamed the "God particle", because the term "might offend people who are religious".
Lederman said he gave it the nickname "the God particle" because the particle is "so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive," but jokingly added that a second reason was because "the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing."
A renaming competition conducted by the science correspondent for the British Guardian newspaper chose the name "the champagne bottle boson" as the best from among their submissions: "The bottom of a champagne bottle is in the shape of the Higgs potential and is often used as an illustration in physics lectures. So it's not an embarrassingly grandiose name, it is memorable, and [it] has some physics connection too."

Don't be lulled by this widespread usage of the term "God particle" into thinking that this important discovery of what psysicists believe may be the "Higgs boson" or "Higgs particle" pertains to science having finally proven that God exists.  It doesn't.  Here are two excellent references that explain what physicists, not journalists, believers, or theologians, mean by the term "Higgs particle" or "Higgs boson:"

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene.  This book was also the subject of a PBS-NOVA science miniseries:  Fabric of the Cosmos, viewable online, free.

A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss
How the Higgs Boson Posits a New Story of Our Creation by Lawrence M. Krauss, Newsweek, July 9, 2012
A Blip That Speaks of Our Place in the Universe by Lawrence M. Krauss, The New York Times, Science, July 9, 2012
Nothing Is Negligible: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing by Michael Shermer, eSkeptic, July 11, 2012

I found Greene's and Krauss' books difficult to read but nevertheless was greatly rewarded for my efforts to push through them by the knowledge I gained.

No points lost if you go for the PBS-NOVA miniseries which is an excellent visual, verbal explanation of this complex subject.

Wishing you smooth sailing on the "Higgs ocean!"  We live in an extraordinary time of scientific discovery.  Embrace it!