Large Hadron Collider: Should We Seek Knowledge? Or Just God?

CERN_large_hadron_colliderStarted up just hours ago, the Large Hadron Collider has taken me into a contemplative state I never thought I’d be in or to have discussions I didn’t expect to have with people I admire, love and respect.

As it states in a Wikipedia article, the Collider initiative is focused on trying to “produce the elusive Higgs boson. The verification of the existence of the Higgs boson would be a significant step in the search for a Grand Unified Theory, which seeks to unify three of the four known fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force, leaving out only gravity.”

It seems that all the geeks I follow who blog and Twitter like crazy are feeling the same level of excitement I am about this roughly €6-7 billion physics experiment starting up (and that the jokes about it generating a black hole and sucking the Earth into it luckily didn’t occur!).

What most intrigues me is this audacious search for knowledge that this investment and risk represents. Nothing we enjoy today — from our cars to iPods to extended life spans — would be possible without the constant and accelerating knowledge seeking (and building upon knowledge gained) which is occurring around the world in thousands and thousands of different disciplines. Read everything you could ever want to know about the Collider here.

What’s interesting and troubling about this Collider startup is how it’s sparked conversations I’ve been having in the last few days with really smart friends who also happen to be staunch Christians who take the bible literally (as apparently Governor and VP candidate Sarah Palin does). They do, in fact, join the 1/3rd of Americans who also believe in the word-for-word literal Bible, and many of these folks also believe the Earth is only a few thousand years old (“geology is just a theory” said one acquaintance), and that searching for the big bang or a Theory of Everything is somehow blasphemous. It saddens me as I observe their mental doors slamming shut as we talk.

I think it was Socrates that said, “the more I learn, the less I know” and I’ve felt that way all my life, which is one reason why my Catholic upbringing has morphed into a massively expansive view of “God” in my adult life that I strive valiantly to learn more about and to comprehend. What I do know is that in a world and universe where knowledge equals survival, I’d rather place my bets on the seekers of knowledge vs. those that seemingly rely solely on faith to guide a country, scientific policy and investments, the education of our youth, the competitiveness of our nation, and that we still need to find Waldo.

UPDATE: If you’re interested, here’s how the Large Haldron Collider works:

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About Steve Borsch

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