An interesting and, I think, enlightening comment from Jeremy Hardy on this week's news quiz (this link will expire on 23 September).
Regarding the total failure of the Large Hadron Collider to find any Higgs Bosons (my theory being that it's a bit too small for them to see) Jeremy Hardy remarks that it's this kind of thing which causes a higher proportion of physicists to believe in God and therefore incidentally makes physics not a "real science". After all, he remarks, we know chemistry works because we've got Boots. Although I suspect he's ignoring the existence of the Boots homoeopathic range. But Jeremy Hardy rightly points out that physicists eventually have that end point in their research. At the Big Bang - or even if they work out what was before it - at the Higgs Boson - or anything smaller - or whatever they decide may exist instead of it to give us all mass - at some point they're going to have to shrug their shoulders and say "maybe God did it." Maybe not Brian Cox, of course - who seems to believe in analternative higher being. And that has certainly been my experience.
The proper scientists I've known - physicists, theoretical chemists, even biochemists - seemed to have average or even above-average levels of religious belief. Not fundie 6-day-creation religion, because by definition these people can think clearly. But they certainly often have faith. Whereas the soft-scientists and almost-scientists - zoologists, economists, computer scientists - they don't. And I suspect it comes down to your priorities. Physicists and theoretical chemists are interested in truth and facts and mad stuff like that. Whereas zoologists are into fluffy bunnies, economists think human beings can actually control this world in some meaningful way and computer scientists just got into it because they thought it was a way to meet girls.
If the particle physicists have really spent about £3Bn of our money - that's 3-followed-by-11-zeroes pence, as Brian Cox would tell us - in an attempt to find something that doesn't exist, that's got to be an act of faith that outstrips the Oxford Martyrs, Christopher Columbus trying to find the Indies by sailing west, and even people tuning into Big Brother thinking it might be better this year. And what a waste of money - grief, £3Bn could have bailed Greece out for nearly a fortnight. But maybe, as Prof Brian would tell us, the basket-case Euro-zone countries will always be with us. Whereas the Large Hadron Collider will be quietly re-opened as a fairground ride in two years' time, and we'll forget what it was ever meant to be for.