The New York Times went metaphor-happy this morning as it exuberantly celebrated a breakthrough in materialist religion: The front page headline read, "Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe."
In that lead article we learned that the "Higgs boson" would help us to understand "why there is diversity and life in the universe. … Like Omar Sharif materializing out of the shimmering desert as a man on a camel in Lawrence of Arabia, the elusive boson has been coming slowly into view since last winter."
We also learned that "Confirmation of the Higgs boson or something very much like it would constitute a rendezvous with destiny for a generation of physicists." (That's because they "have believed in the boson for half a century without ever seeing it.")
The Times, noting how some have called Higgs the "god particle," offered a smiling simile: Without Higgs "all elementary forms of matter would zoom around at the speed of light, flowing through our hands like moonlight." (Of course they wouldn't flow through our hands because hands would not exist: "There would be neither atoms nor life.")
The best Times sentence was this: "The finding affirms a grand view of a universe described by simple and elegant and symmetrical laws-but one in which everything interesting, like ourselves, results from flaws or breaks in that symmetry." Amen. The Times could have offered one further explanation: Such flaws or breaks are called "miracles." But it did not.
The article reminded me of the famous sentence by astronomer Robert Jastrow, who died four years ago:
"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."