Peter Higgs 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 02:58 PM - Not TFTD
Feel for me people, I'm having a very bad day today. First I find myself mocking one of the UK's pre-eminent physicists, John Polkinghorne, now I find I have to comment on the extraordinary ignorance of the legendary Peter Higgs - yes, he of Higgs boson fame.

Peter Higgs is notoriously media shy. Even at the news conference called to announce the almost certain discovery of his famous boson, still he could not be persuaded to give a substantive comment. So when he does give one of his rare media interviews they are very much eagerly anticipated. However, it looks like some journalist who is more interested in grabbing a headline than in learning physics, laid a trap for Peter Higgs, and he walked right into it. Imagine my disappointment when he is reputed to have used his latest interview to label Richard Dawkins "embarrassing."

"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."


It may have been an unprepared remark, but presumably Peter Higgs thinks all these non-fundamentalists are harmless and Richard Dawkins is just as bad as the fundamentalists. You see, when it's not you, or your lifestyle, or your work that's under attack, you probably don't notice just how harmful most religion is. So here's a few questions for Peter Higgs.

The Catholic Church: are its followers fundamentalists? It claims to have over a billion of them. In the last few months it has been campaigning, ever more viciously, to prevent me and my partner of 30+ years getting married. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as that?

In Ireland, a young woman died because of the influence of the Catholic Church over abortion laws in that country. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as that?

Over at least the past 50 years, and probably since its inception, the Catholic Church, worldwide, has systematically covered up child abuse by its priests. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as that?

The Catholic Church enthusiastically supported the brutal regime of General Franco. It gladly formed concordats with Hitler and Mussolini. It suppressed Liberation Theology and was complicit in right wing dictatorships in South America. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as that?

Perhaps the Catholic Church does fall under your definition of fundamentalist after all. Maybe it's just the Protestant denominations that aren't fundamentalists. How about the 50% of Americans that don't think evolution is true? Are they "not fundamentalists?" Or is Richard Dawkins just as fundamentalist as them? If 50% of Americans denied the validity of Quantum Mechanics would that make you a fundamentalist for trying to convince them otherwise?

Maybe it's only the Anglicans, that most liberal and inclusive of all Christian sects that aren't fundamentalists, but who couldn't even agree that women, after 2,000 years, were ready to become bishops. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as them?

What about Islam, it has over a billion followers as well? Is that a fundamentalist religion, where in Saudi Arabia a woman can't even drive a car? Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as them?

Or Afghanistan, were schoolgirls have acid thrown in their faces, or other schoolgirls get shot for speaking out about schoolgirls getting acid thrown in their faces. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as them?

Or girls in sub-Saharan Africa who have their genitals mutilated. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as them?

What about the Middle East where religion has poisoned an already bitter conflict. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as them?

Or Nigeria where religions bomb each other's places of worship? Or Egypt where Coptic Christians are regularly persecuted? Or the Philippines where the Catholic Church fought tooth and nail to prevent access to contraception? Or the mob that tried to hang a primary school teacher for letting a child name a teddy bear Mohammed? Or Northern Ireland, where barely disguised sectarian hatred still bubbles below the surface? Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as them?

I'm sure, apart from these few, isolated examples, most religions are not fundamentalist. I do wish Richard Dawkins would stop embarrassing us all.

Read

Henry 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 04:28 PM
Hear hear.

Well said Peter.


andym 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 05:37 PM
Far be it from me to oppose Peter Hicks but I think a lot of this comes down to grants.As Coyne said,many organisations,whether government or non-government ,would be far less inclined to finance scientific research if they thought they were giving money to a process overtly opposed to religious belief.

Whether or not the fundies or the accommodationists are being the more illogical,is open to debate.At least the fundies make an original decision about science ie.that all empirical evidence is inaadmissable and a lot of their belief stems almost logically from that first irrational decision.Those who support both science and religion perform constant contortionism.

Then again,every time fundies accept modern medical treatment,they've contradicted themselves.It's probably a dead-heat.

Thought For The Dazed And Confused 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 07:30 PM
In the interview, Higgs argued that although he was not a believer, he thought science and religion were not incompatible.

So Mr Higgs, what is it about the $1,000,000 prize that is attracting you to the Templeton Foundation?

Matt Westwood 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 08:26 PM
That's why we mathematicians have difficulty getting government grants (that and our congenital inability to be polite to pompous muggles who have barely the wit to tie their shoelaces).

I have no tolerance for those who deny the Axiom of Choice or the Law of the Excluded Middle - does this make me a fundamentalist. Probably. Does this make me a bad person? Is Dawkins a fundamentalist? Probably, as he believes in fundamentals (i.e. things which are true).

To denounce someone as a "fundamentalist" is linguistically unsound. Until you declare what those fundamentals are, you are merely decrying a philosophical attitude.

I'm a fundamentalist, I'm proud of it. I'm proud of being a fundamentalist Bourbakist and a fundamentalist Ockhamist. I would *not* be proud of being the opposite of a fundamentalist *anything* because that smacks of being wishy-washy and having no firm driving mental force in any direction at all.

Just sayin'.

Stonyground 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 08:30 PM
Since it is highly unlikely that Peter Higgs reads this blog, are you going to contact him with these questions or are you sort of asking them retorically?



Euphobia1 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 08:58 PM
Bravo!

LindaR 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 09:41 PM
I wept when I read that Guardian article today: how one of the greatest scientists of our time can fail to understand that lacking belief cannot by any definition be fundamentalist just leaves me shaking my head.
I only hope that, given that the original article was in a Spanish newspaper, maybe there has been a mistranslation at one point. Otherwise, *sigh* belief without evidence is not rational. And science should always be rational.


Ian Edmond 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 09:53 PM
Peter, I love you.

Stonyground 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 10:39 PM
Both PZ Meyers and Jerry Coyne have ripped into him. The entire atheist blogsphere appears to be against him. I wonder how much he is aware of the opposition to his, obviously wrong, position? If all atheist scientists would just stop prevaricating and say what they know to be true, that all religion is poisonous superstitious tripe, the world would be a better place. Science has the upper hand right now, so throw down the gauntlet. Let religious people know that they face a stark choice between observable reality and absurd superstitious fairy tales. Surely by doing so, we will be left with only the stupidest people on the planet opposing us.

Matt Westwood 
Thursday, 27 December, 2012, 11:29 PM
@Stonyground: Be interesting to see whether any of these scientists would ever get any government funding again ... I believe that if what you suggest did happen, then the Wail and Getelarph would be up in arms: "Government gives money to godless heathens! Hellbound universities given millions to destroy Our Beliefs!" You can see it coming down the road.

Administrator (Rev. Dr. Peter Hearty) 
Friday, 28 December, 2012, 06:30 AM
That's why we mathematicians have difficulty getting government grants


Tut, tut, tut Matt. You mean you still haven't figured it out. It's easy, you call yourself a "Computer Scientist" instead. Heck, I've even known some physicists that have relabelled themselves "Computer Scientists" to get some funding. You better be quick though, before the powers that be figure out what's going on.

Administrator (Rev. Dr. Peter Hearty) 
Friday, 28 December, 2012, 06:31 AM
Since it is highly unlikely that Peter Higgs reads this blog, are you going to contact him with these questions or are you sort of asking them retorically?


It's rhetorical, but who knows what blogs Peter Higgs reads?

HarryR 
Friday, 28 December, 2012, 11:39 AM
In Ireland, a young woman died because of the influence of the Catholic Church over abortion laws in that country. Is Richard Dawkins as fundamentalist as that?


This event, the pointlessness of the death of a young dentist shocked almost everyone and has caused venting of pressure building up in Ireland about the catholic church under stress since the child abuse revelations, and prompted demonstrations and review and changes to the Law.

It shocked everyone except the RCC who declare there is no need for changes to the law. It was their laws after all that stopped the lady being treated.

I feel for her husband who over a weekend went from being part of a happy successful professional couple with their first baby on the way, to losing the baby thru miscarriage, to then seeing his wife suffer horribly and, too late, realising that the doctors to whom he had entrusted her care were just going to watch her die according to bizarre religious beliefs that he and his wife had no connection with and in stark contrast to common sense as the baby was already doomed and was now threatening the life of the mother.

If he'd known their intention sooner he could have perhaps arranged her transfer out of Eire to the UK. Did they mislead him to stop this? ( As Irish police some years back stopped a 14 year old girl who tried to travel to England for an abortion having being raped by a neighbour)

I assume, but am open to contradiction, that the RCC is content with what happened, the woman dying, and when the same circumstances arise in future will expect/require of catholic doctors the same inaction from them - or else.

Administrator (Rev. Dr. Peter Hearty) 
Friday, 28 December, 2012, 12:00 PM
I assume, but am open to contradiction, that the RCC is content with what happened, the woman dying, and when the same circumstances arise in future will expect/require of catholic doctors the same inaction from them - or else.


You assume correct:

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/ ... 54392.html

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