• Peter Higgs, you are the embarrassing one

    The Fundamentals

    Peter Higgs, the theoretical physicist who predicted the discovery of the particle named after him earlier this year, has given an interview in which he goes after Richard Dawkins. Higgs finds Dawkins’ anti-religious views 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.

    That is a straw man argument, of course. Dawkins doesn’t exclusively attack fundamentalists; he goes after the very principle of faith, and that is shared between fundamentalists and religious liberal. And Higgs thinks this kind of criticism is unfair, because not all religion is fundamentalist. So if they are not fundamentalists, that means they should be immune from criticism? How about the fact that they are the fundamentalists’ partners in demonizing the nonbelievers? Or that so many of them are hateful and stupid? Or that they end up being fundamentalists’ enablers?

    Higgs doesn’t know or doesn’t care. But it gets worse. He goes on to parrot one of religious apologists’ worst bits of inanity.

    “Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”

    That is the classical fallacy of false equivalence. If you criticize them, you are just bad as they are. Of course, Higgs is not the first one to accuse atheists of fundamentalism, but the fact that it comes from such a prominent scientist makes it ever more ghastly.

    Let’s take a step back. This is how fundamentalism started:

    The movement arose in British and American Protestant denominations in the late 19th century and early 20th century among evangelical Christians.[2] These Protestants reacted against modernist Protestant theology of the 19th century, which they felt undermined their basic faith. They especially insisted on the inerrancy of the Bible, which was denied by the modernists.

    Fundamentalism is a movement, rather than a denomination or a systematic theology. It became active in the 1910s after the release of a ten-volume set of essays, apologetic and polemic, written by conservative Protestant theologians to defend what they saw as Protestant orthodoxy. Written over the course of 1910-1915, these essays are called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, from which the movement receives its eponymous name. The essays cover a wide range of topics, from defenses of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, his Virgin Birth, of the historicity of Biblical narratives, Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and of Biblical inerrancy against the prevalent higher-critical theories of the day, to the falsity of theological systems such as Christian Science, “Millennial Dawnism”, Mormonism, to the errors of “Romanism”.

    So how is it that a movement so obsessed with the infallibility of the scripture has come to be synonymous for extremism, to the point that even atheists get accused of it? That is because the scripture itself is so extreme. The texts forming of the foundation of faith for millions, rather billions, of people around the world are so awful that they have come to be embody the very notion of extremism. Does Higgs know this? It is truly embarrassing when a glaring irony come from a scientist like Higgs.

    Higgs then goes on to claim that science and faith are compatible (without providing much evidence). Maybe he has set his sight on the Templeton prize, in addition to the Nobel prize he’ll likely win?
    As it happens I need not provide a refutation of Higgs’ view on science/faith compatibility, because on the same day that the interview came out, Dr Jerry Coyne posted the video of his talk online, offering his reasons for rejecting this notion. I am sure that was an act of God.


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