The metaphysical muddle of Lawrence Krauss: Why science can’t get rid of God

By Neil Ormerod

The fact that Lawrence Krauss’ muddled work has been showered with praise just goes to show it is not just religious thinkers who can suspend the power of critical thought when it suits them.

There is a certain desperation apparent in the attempts of various authors to eliminate God from an account of the origins of the universe. For, at bottom, what motivates such attempts is the desire to overcome the very incompleteness of the scientific project itself – I call it anxiety over contingency.

This anxiety is perhaps nowhere better exemplified than in the recent work of Lawrence Krauss, who is attempting to do for cosmology what Darwin did for biology: remove the need for God as an explanatory cause. The muddle that Krauss’ most recent work illustrates will help bring us to a fuller account of the need to recover the significance of intelligence and reason in relation to reality.

Science as hypothetical and existentially incomplete: The case of the Higgs boson
First, however, let me say something about the nature and limitations of the process of scientific discovery by means of the event that led to the discovery of the Higgs boson. Peter Higgs first postulated the existence of the Higgs boson in 1965. That postulate formed part of what has become known as the standard model – a physical theory which sought to unite in a single account the electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions between sub-atomic particles. These are three of the four basic forces in nature, the other being gravitation.

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This model operates on the basis of identifying underlying symmetries in the known data on these particles and their interactions. In this case, the different particles and fields become related through processes of “symmetry breaking.” Prior to this process the various forces are unified and indistinguishable; after this symmetry breaking, they become distinct but related through symmetry operations. The various particles and forces are then related through these symmetry operations. These operations reveal the deep patterning or intelligibility of the fundamental sub-atomic particles.

Such theories are of interest, not just when they render existing data intelligible, but when they lead to predictions of new phenomena not currently identified. The standard model made three such predictions, the W and Z bosons, which were discovered in 1981, and lastly the Higgs boson…


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