Peter Higgs, the Boson Man, takes out after Richard Dawkins for the usual reasons

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Peter Higgs, the Man who Predicted the Boson, may be a crack physicist, but he’s a rank amateur when it comes to the issue of science and faith.


According to yesterday’s Guardian, Higgs is using his new burst of fame to diss—who else?—fellow scientist Richard Dawkins.

Higgs has chosen to cap his remarkable 2012 with another bang by criticising the “fundamentalist” approach taken by Dawkins in dealing with religious believers.

“What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” Higgs said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”

And exactly what kind of “fundamentalism” is that? Can you really equate blind adherence to ancient, man-made texts with doubt that those texts prove anything about a divine being? Why is it “fundamentalist” to ask for evidence, and decry those who adhere to dogma in the face of evidence?  Why is it “fundamentalist” to have a scientific, evidence-based attitude toward the claims of religion, but not to the claims of ancient goatherds?

Written By: Jerry Coyne
continue to source article at whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com

31 COMMENTS

  1. “What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” That statement right there. He focuses on the fundamentalists. And less on the everyday believers. It’s not Dawkins’ fault that that those ideas and beliefs held by fundamentalists are also held (allegedly) by more “casual” believers. That line is very very blurry. This is an area where you contradict yourself, Professor Higgs. You can dislike it all you want, but in my book dawkins method has gotten great and real results.

  2. Before Higgs is hauled over the coals here, remember this is a newspaper article for a Spanish paper, then translated and sent to a British paper for publication. From what I’ve read it seems clear that Higgs, a non-believer, is not the type of person to rock the boat. I’m sure he has some very nice Christian colleagues and friends, where religion never rears its ugly head. They, – of course, will not like Richard’s uncompromising attitude towards mysticism and superstition.

    Having said that, of course Higgs is well out of order ! Richard, whatever his faults, is seeking for the truth about nature, as is Higgs. If stupid ideas result in people flying planes into buildings and science being attacked in public education, and people dying of preventable AIDs, because condoms are condemned on religious grounds, and many other reasons, then Richard is fully justified in being “strident” about stupid religious ideas.

    If Richard’s stance is seen as upsetting Higgs’ apple-cart, then so much the better ! The fairly benign form of Christianity that Higgs is exposed to, gives cover to the YECs and the other fundagelicals. And that is why Richard is dead right to attack all religious beliefs as being unfounded in reality !

  3. It sounds like he’s confusing “vociferous” with “fundamental”. There’s nothing “fundamentalist” about Dawkins. He could have at least given us a good ol’ “strident”. Hadn’t heard that in a while.

  4. There are some comments on this, over on this discussion:- http://richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/12/27/odd-couple-why-science-and-religion-shouldn-t-cohabit-youtube#

    Peter Higgs seems to be tying himself in knots playing nicey-nicey for Xtian friends.

    He clearly has a good scientific brain.
    It’s a pity he did not use it to research the topic of apologetics, before making public statements with his foot in his mouth.

    Even with a little street-wise imagination, it should not be too difficult to work out, that apologists love to associate celebrity scientific authority figures with their woo!

    After all! – His name is on the god-damned-particle, which every tabliod “educated” reader calls the “god particle”!

    stackexchange -
    Higgs is an atheist, and is displeased that the Higgs particle is nicknamed the “God particle”, because the term “might offend people who are religious”.
    Usually this inappropriate nickname for the Higgs boson is attributed to Leon Lederman, the author of the book The God Particle:
    If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?,
    but the name is the result of the insistence of Lederman’s publisher:
    ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
    Lederman had originally intended to refer to it as the “goddamn particle”.

  5. Higgs in this area has no knowledge, insight or understanding. His opinions are best quietly ignored. There is no fight to be picked of any worth. I suspect meddlesome journalist provocation behind it all.

  6. In reply to #4 by Sci_Guy_Bri:

    It sounds like he’s confusing “vociferous” with “fundamental”. There’s nothing “fundamentalist” about Dawkins. He could have at least given us a good ol’ “strident”. Hadn’t heard that in a while.

    Yeah, I think Higgs used the wrong word. He may have choosen it because most people are familiar with it. If he had said “vociferous” instead then I would have agreed with him. Dawkins attacks on religion sometimes crosses over into becoming abrasive and unnecessary.

    I remember in particular when he was invited on the Scandinavian talk-show Skavlan. I had been looking forward to seeing him all night and to hear him talk about his theories and beliefs and what-not. Skavlan brought on guest after guest, saving Dawkins for last, and when Dawkins Finally arrived, after a couple of questions he attacked fellow guest Brandon Flowers mormonism in a very rude way, by saying that the book was an obvious fake and that Joseph Smith was a charlatan, rather than pointing out logical inconsistencies and holes, and letting people reach that conclusion themselves. Basically telling them WHY it’s a fraud, rather than saying it’s OBVIOUSLY a fraud.

    I wish he had approached the topic in a different way, because it left a very bad first impression. I think the ideas and philosophy behind the entire new atheist movement are amazing, and I want more people to be exposed to it, but I fear his approach might have alienated a lot of people and made them skeptical of our movement. And this is especially sad considering that this was in Scandinavia. It’s not like we have a lot of Mormons anyway, who could have their beliefs shaken by this, but we sure have a lot of Atheist who hadn’t yet been exposed to Dawkins, but who may have been turned-off by his rudeness. The comments I’ve seen from Norwegian atheists following this incident seem to support this assumption as well. I just really wished that he had picked his battle more carefully.

  7. “Peter Higgs, the Man who Predicted the Boson, may be a crack physicist, but he’s a rank amateur when it comes to the issue of science and faith.”

    Dawkins is no pro either. It’s not his field of expertise. That’s Hitchens territory, and he was a master. Sometimes I cringe watching Dawkins debate, but he also produces a lot of great content and quotes when he has the space to just express himself (TV specials, books, etc). Higgs sounds like he is unfamiliar with the bulk of Dawkins work. The Lennox debate was great, but the series where he met with Ted Haggard and Deepak Chopra… not so much. Sometimes the only thing to come of Dawkins’ debates is revealing the stupidity of others, which is important but it also dominates his reputation.

    Dawkins has such as large body of work, how he is perceived depends on how one is introduced to it.

  8. It’s Strawkins** all the way down, I’m afraid

    ** the (usually) deliberate invocation or misrepresentation of Richard Dawkins’ view in an article. Strawkins not only work to distort RD’s ideas; they also generate a lot of exaggerated debate, a sort of Dawkins mania, simply because his name is tangentially attached to the article.

  9. In reply to #8 by The Unicorn Delusion:

    I think the ideas and philosophy behind the entire new atheist movement are amazing, and I want more people to be exposed to it, but I fear his approach might have alienated a lot of people and made them skeptical of our movement.

    To me the difference between the new atheism and the old atheism is exactly this point you don’t like. New atheism doesn’t accept that religious belief gets an automatic right of respect because otherwise people’s feelings might be hurt. It believes atheists should be entitled to say in public what they way in private and that people bringing their religious beliefs into the public sphere, like a TV should, should expect to have to justify them. It’s no different to popping up on a TV show claiming to believe in alien abduction. You should expect to be challenged, ridiculed and asked for evidence.

    Michael

  10. “I’m calling out Higgs as an intellectually dishonest man. He is a great physicist, and yes, deserves his Nobel Prize, but he doesn’t know squat about accommodationism. He is going along to get along, knowing that it’s always safer in the eyes of a religious world to coddle the godly.”

    I know it hurts and the paper probably butchered his comments but on an occasion like this its time to call a spade a spade. Just because he made a great contribution to science doesn’t make him an untouchable collection of god particles. ( I know I shouldn’t have)

  11. “What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists,” Higgs said

    Surely that quote reveals that Higgs didn’t even begin to think through what he was saying!

    What on earth does he mean by claiming that Dawkins concentrates TOO OFTEN on attacking FUNDAMENTALISTS?

    If he were claiming that Dawkins was concentrating too often on attacking NON FUNDAMENTALISTS, it might not be accurate, but it would be a logical argument at least to question why he was attacking non fundamentalists when there are fundamentalists out there who were more deserving of being attacked. But he’s arguing the opposite!!!???

  12. In reply to #8 by The Unicorn Delusion:

    when Dawkins Finally arrived, after a couple of questions he attacked fellow guest Brandon Flowers mormonism in a very rude way, by saying that the book was an obvious fake and that Joseph Smith was a charlatan, rather than pointing out logical inconsistencies and holes, and letting people reach that conclusion themselves. Basically telling them WHY it’s a fraud, rather than saying it’s OBVIOUSLY a fraud.

    I wish he had approached the topic in a different way, because it left a very bad first impression. I think the ideas and philosophy behind the entire new atheist movement are amazing, and I want more people to be exposed to it, but I fear his approach might have alienated a lot of people and made them skeptical of our movement. And this is especially sad considering that this was in Scandinavia. It’s not like we have a lot of Mormons anyway, who could have their beliefs shaken by this, but we sure have a lot of Atheist who hadn’t yet been exposed to Dawkins, but who may have been turned-off by his rudeness.

    A charlatan is a charlatan, and a fake is a fake! – regardless of how their gullible apologists view them.

    I hope you are not suggesting that it is “rude” to challenge dishonesty in debates, because the dishonest participants may play the “offended card” as a side-tracking distraction!

    The book of Mormon is an obvious fake and Joseph Smith was a (convicted fraudster and ) charlatan,
    Is there a problem with stating facts in a debate?

  13. In reply to #12 by mmurray:

    To me the difference between the new atheism and the old atheism is exactly this point you don’t like.
    New atheism doesn’t accept that religious belief gets an automatic right of respect because otherwise people’s feelings might be hurt. It believes atheists should be entitled to say in public what they way in private and that people bringing their religious beliefs into the public sphere, like a TV should, should expect to have to justify them.
    It’s no different to popping up on a TV show claiming to believe in alien abduction. You should expect to be challenged, ridiculed and asked for evidence.

    This is indeed the issue! The religious fundamentalists would love the new atheists to be intimidated into silence by threats of discrimination in the community and in employment, as many atheists were in the past, and still are in some countries. Treating nonsense with undue respect, gives it undeserved credibility.

    Fundamentalists find well informed confident atheists who will not be walked on by assertive theists, to be a severe threat to their muddled delusional thinking, their public image, and their assertive airs of superiority and authority!

    Dishonest posers are invariably “offended” when debunked and shot down in public!

  14. In reply to #12 by mmurray:

    It’s no different to popping up on a TV show claiming to believe in alien abduction. You should expect to be challenged, ridiculed and asked for evidence.

    Absurd ideas can be explored with respect and sensitivity, while calling them absurd. The following is an example of a man claiming alien abduction. The other guests (a psychiatrist and a physicist) neither yield to his delusion nor ridicule him. In fact, they learn more because they don’t ridicule.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/mental_channel_number_one_-_th

  15. this seems to be a bug in the new system. the url gets redone by this website by not reading the underscores properly.

    If one googles Adam Curtis alien abduction, that’s the site.

  16. “The growth of our understanding of the world through science weakens some of the motivation which makes people believers. But that’s not the same thing as saying they’re incompatible.”

    I think he is after the Templeton Prize.

  17. In reply to #21 by This Is Not A Meme:

    hmm, last attempt at copying link went odd, i hope this works

    [Adam Curtis' blog] (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/mentalchannelnumberone-_th)
    I tried to tinyurl it, let’s hope it works: http://tinyurl.com/bgdzwbu

    In reply to #18 by Alan4discussion:

    A charlatan is a charlatan, and a fake is a fake! – regardless of how their gullible apologists view them.

    I hope you are not suggesting that it is “rude” to challenge dishonesty in debates, because the dishonest participants may play the “offended card” as a side-tracking distraction!

    The book of Mormon is an obvious fake and Joseph Smith was a (convicted fraudster and ) charlatan, Is there a problem with stating facts in a debate?

    Not at all. I’m all for calling out dishonesty and stating the facts, but it’s in how he states it. I’ll revise what I said earlier a little bit, I think it’s okay for Dawkins to state his conclusion that it’s fake, but I wish he would have done so after presenting evidence rather than before, and have a less accusatory tone of voice,

    for comparison:
    What dawkins said “I recently read the book of mormonism and what strikes me is that it is an obvious FAKE. It’s a 19th century book written in 16th century English. That’s not the way people talked in the 19 century. It’s a FAKE! It’s not beautiful, it was written by a charlatan!”

    versus

    “I recently read the book of mormonisn and what strikes me as odd is that it’s a 19th century book written in 16th century English [add additional suspect details as you like, including Joseph being convicted of fraud] which is pretty strong evidence for it being fake”

    The second example contains pretty much the same statements as the first, but gives credible reasons FIRST before he arrives at the conclusion, and has a calmer, more respectful tone. If Brandon is still offended, then so be it, but at least Dawkins remained professional.

  18. In reply to #25 by The Unicorn Delusion:

    Not at all. I’m all for calling out dishonesty and stating the facts, but it’s in how he states it. I’ll revise what I said earlier a little bit, I think it’s okay for Dawkins to state his conclusion that it’s fake, but I wish he would have done so after presenting evidence rather than before, and have a less accusatory tone of voice,

    for comparison:
    What dawkins said “I recently read the book of mormonism and what strikes me is that it is an obvious FAKE. It’s a 19th century book written in 16th century English. That’s not the way people talked in the 19 century. It’s a FAKE! It’s not beautiful, it was written by a charlatan!”

    versus

    “I recently read the book of mormonisn and what strikes me as odd is that it’s a 19th century book written in 16th century English [add additional suspect details as you like, including Joseph being convicted of fraud] which is pretty strong evidence for it being fake”

    The second example contains pretty much the same statements as the first, but gives credible reasons FIRST before he arrives at the conclusion, and has a calmer, more respectful tone. If Brandon is still offended, then so be it, but at least Dawkins remained professional.

    I can understand your viewpoint as one coming in cold, new to the debate, but the issue is that these apologists know only too well what the evidence is and what arguments have already been made on this subject.

    The evidence is too extensive and complex to present in a brief discussion, but is soundly based and well known – as are the regularly trotted-out Mormon apologist disingenuous alleged “refutations” of it.

    They are liars for their cause , and will even argue publicly that Joseph Smith’s fraud conviction was unfair and unjust! Such is the mindless loyalty and cognitive dissonance of the TRRrrrooo believer!
    They have put their denial based convoluted fallacious arguments in earlier discussions on this site, so Richard is likely to be well aware of them.

    In my view, undue public respect for wilful liars and charlatans should not be given. Arguments should be put politely, but facts are facts. Evidence which has been public knowledge for years, should not be fudged because dishonest debaters will play at being offended.

    Crooks, liars, gullible idiots and charlatans, are always offended by being exposed for what they are when called out!
    That is not a reason to uphold their false image of respectability! These people are upholding a convicted fraudster as a public role model and soliciting financial support for his organisation. I regard that as reprehensible, dishonest, and in no way deserving of respect, with lying about it, adding nothing of merit to their position.

    The standard theist crook or stooge, will simply make up excuses, make up their own “new fictional facts”, and dishonestly deny and dispute ANY evidence ad-nauseum.

    Their leaders provide them with website scripts to do so! – Just as creationist sites provide garbage denial arguments, against scientific evidence, which are only credible to the ignorant and gullible!

    You are mistaking Mormon dishonest posturings of “honesty”, for the real honesty.

    There is nothing unprofessional in telling facts as they are, or accusing liars of lying – especially when faced with devious denials!

  19. In reply to #25 by The Unicorn Delusion:

    for comparison:
    What dawkins said “I recently read the book of mormonism and what strikes me is that it is an obvious FAKE. It’s a 19th century book written in 16th century English. That’s not the way people talked in the 19 century. It’s a FAKE! It’s not beautiful, it was written by a charlatan!”

    versus

    “I recently read the book of mormonisn and what strikes me as odd is that it’s a 19th century book written in 16th century English [add additional suspect details as you like, including Joseph being convicted of fraud] which is pretty strong evidence for it being fake”

    The second example contains pretty much the same statements as the first, but gives credible reasons FIRST before he arrives at the conclusion, and has a calmer, more respectful tone. If Brandon is still offended, then so be it, but at least Dawkins remained professional.

    But there are so many things that one might say in public that require evidence — should we always do this? If I mention 9/11 should I provide evidence that it wasn’t a false flag conspiracy, when I mention Obama should I provide evidence that he is a US citizen, when I mention the pyramids should I provide evidence that they aren’t of alien origin, when I mention the Loch Ness monster should should I point out it doesn’t exist, etc, etc. My question is why can all these people be dismissed as nutters without needing to recite the evidence every time you do it whereas religious nutters have to be treated with respect.

    The real irony in all this for me is that all the things I have mentioned above are actually far more plausible than any of the established religious superstitions. All they lack is evidence. The established religious superstitions lack evidence and require a rewriting of everything we understand about modern physics.

    Michael

  20. I doubt that this article can be relied upon to be wholly accurate, it’s having gone through so many incarnations.

    I find self serving religious tripe irritating from a lay perspective, so I can imagine how infuriating it must be to someone whose specialist field is being dissed by it. No wonder Professor Dawkins flies off the handle now and then.

  21. It is truly disturbing and disgusting to see how an elite Scientist of if his stature would protect a trillion dollar industry of lies, violence and delusion and attack a Scientist in this case Richard who tries to spread reason and Science.

    I admire Richard for his mental strength, he is getting attacks from every side nonstop.
    I will support him as much as I can.

    Higgs knows how to make progress in particle physics and at the same time he knows how to slow Reason and Social Progress.
    Congratulations Higgs stay a lab rat and support the billion religious sheep around the world.
    This huge Behemoth of money and violence apparently needs your support.

  22. Higgs confuses respect for the person, the devout, pious but probably harmless believer, with respect for the belief system. I have many sincere, kind, generous religious friends, who are more intelligent than I, and while I give them respect and try to match their wonderful moral qualities; I cannot respect their beliefs. This is a complicated position, a bit like saying that you respect gay people, but not their sexuality or their sexual practices.

    It is easier in the case of fundamentalists; you neither have to respect their beliefs nor their personalities and moral perspective. I don’t have a clear answer to the conundrum.

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