The God Particle and Reductionism
Welcome to my first post in my expanded Blog title.
I am happy about opening up to discuss new areas of health and science. You can see by this title that I am freeing myself from the confines of purely electromagnetism and now discussing the bigger topics!
So, to address my topic, I would like to start with the last word: Reductionism. A reductionist philosophy is essentially to distill knowledge down to its smallest components so that one may understand the mechanisms behind the nature of a complex system.
Without question, reductionist philosophies have pushed our knowledge and in fact, established the framework by which we understand: chemistry, physics, and biology. Think of where our understanding of chemistry and in fact life, would be without somebody wanting to know what was matter made of and then what is an atom made of. In order to understand what matter is made of and what an atom is made of, a reductionist philosophy sought to see if there was something more to the atom.
In approximately 496 BC, an ancient Greek philosopher named Democritus proposed that all of matter was composed of smaller pieces called atoms. Not surprisingly, this idea that matter was composed of invisible bits called atoms was not easily accepted in ancient Greece. Even Aristotle dismissed the idea and said it had no merit.
It would not be until the early 1800s that an English chemist – John Dalton found that indeed, matter did seem to contain some invisible particles like atoms. Later that century, J.J. Thompson proposed a structure for the atom which contained an electron whirling about some internal mass. From this point in the early 1900s through until now, scientists such as Max Planck and Albert Einstein have added details to help explain the atom and some interesting characteristics such as the photon and the nature of light and energy.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself where would we be if nobody wondered what matter was made of? What if we, by nature, were not reductionists? Without understanding the electron, we would have no electricity, no appliances, no electronic communication, no cell phones, etc. It is truly amazing how our world jerked forward with the discovery of the electron. We owe much to Democritus and those who followed a reductionist philosophy.
Now to the first part of my title: the God Particle. Have you heard about this? If you haven’t don’t worry, it is not like it has received coverage like a new Justin Bieber song. The unfortunate part about the lack of publicity of the God particle is that it may prove to be the most important sub-atomic discovery since the electron! It is quite sad how poorly this find was really spread to the rest of the world.
In fact, it was only this past summer that evidence of this God particle actually was found. Okay, what is a God particle? In my opinion, this is an inappropriate name give to this sub-atomic particle. Since the beginning of time, man has sought to understand his/her relationship with the world/universe/and the existence or not of a God.
One theory that helped advance and yet, polarize the discussion of origins of life was the Big Bang theory. Essentially, most people on the earth are in one of two camps: the believers in a Big Bang or the believers in Creationism. Here is where the God particle comes in…
The question of origin is, in some ways, not that different. Whether you believe a massive release of energy in space which created the universe and solar systems or a God that created it all, it is still about energy. The God particle is this underlying force that is said to give mass to sub-atomic particle such as electrons. While this may not seem very God-like, it is another piece of the puzzle which supports the super string theory which essentially says that matter and the four fundamental forces (weak, strong, gravity and electromagnetism) are all connected. Mass should be considered to the “glue” of the universe.
If we know what makes things attract to one another in a gravitational sense (the God particle), we get a better understanding of the God particle. The God particle goes by another name: the Higgs Boson. The discovery of this predicted particle has been described by some scientists as the greatest discovery since the electron. While we don’t yet know what it will mean to us; it most certainly will mean something to our great grandchildren.
While I consider my own philosophical views as a balance of holism and reductionism, I never forget that the reductionists such Democritus, Dalton, Plank, and Einstein are the ones who brought us into the “light”.