Atheist Physicist Denounces 'God Particle' Nickname for Higgs Boson

Peter Higgs, the physicist who introduced the theory behind a subatomic particle now known as the Higgs boson, says he is against calling the boson a "God particle" partly because he is an atheist.

The nickname for the particle, The Telegraph reports, was coined by Nobel-prize winning physicist Leon Lederman and writer Dick Teresi in the book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? Higgs, however, says he doesn't want the phrase to be used to describe the boson.

"First of all, I'm an atheist," Higgs recently told BBC Scotland, according to The Telegraph. "The second thing is I know that name was a kind of joke and not a very good one. I think he shouldn't have done that as it's so misleading."

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Higgs previously criticized outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and the author of The God Delusion, saying Dawkins needed to realize religion and science aren't necessarily incompatible with one another.

"What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists," Higgs told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the Herald Scotland reported in December. "Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind."

The Higgs boson is believed to give mass to other particles, allowing them to clump together to form planets, stars and other physical objects. Higgs made known his theory supporting the boson's existence in 1964, but only recently was such a particle discovered through experimentation.

In March, scientific teams from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) confirmed that they had discovered a Higgs boson using data provided by CERN's Large Hadron Collider, a machine that collides proton beams traveling at nearly the speed of light into each other. Researchers announced the discovery of the particle back in July 2012, but after analyzing two and a half times more data they were able to further confirm that its characteristics match those of a Higgs boson.

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