Let’s all celebrate the Higgs Boson

It has has been announced today that Peter Higgs and Francois Englert have been awarded the Noble Prize in physics for their work on the Higgs boson. Congratulations to both on a well deserved award.  Gives me an excuse to re-publish this little piece I did back in July last year :)Today, on the 4th July 2012, physicists at CERN and indeed around the world were celebrating the discovery of the Higgs Boson. First theorized in 1962 as the explanation for why matter has mass, it’s central to our understanding of how this universe works and up until now, remained the most elusive aspect of that understanding. This is one of the reasons why the Large Hadron Collider [1] was built and now that they’ve found it, it opens up the possibility of discovering more than was ever conceived possible. Everyone involved deserve the acclaim they are now getting.

Inevitably with discoveries like this though, the question of the existence of God raises its head. It’s not a surprise in this case since the Higgs Boson has a popular nickname – The God Particle , named after Leon Ledermans book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? It’s not only central to our understanding of the universe now, but many believe it could help answer questions about its beginning. If the last aspect of our understanding is found, what is left for God?

But anyone looking to write Gods death certificate may need to hold on for a second. To say that the Higgs Boson rules out God is to make a classic category mistake. Just because we have an explanation regarding mechanism, doesn’t mean there isn’t an agent, a creator, that designed this mechanism. That would be like saying “now I have the internal combustion engine, I don’t need Henry Ford as an explanation” or “choose between the 2 as an explanation” We need both levels in order to have a full explanation and understanding of the internal combustion engine. One does not rule out the other or make it invalid. The importance of the particle itself may well be being overstated. It’s discovery still leaves unanswered questions about the unification of quantum chromodynamics, the electroweak interaction, and gravity, as well as the ultimate origin of the universe [3]  It seems then it is far from the final word on the universe.

There is another aspect to this linked to the above. The notion that belief in God is based on what we don’t know, that he is only evoked to explain what is currently unknown. This is referred to as “God-of-the-gaps” If a belief is based on this then yes, the more science knows the more the faith will be squeezed into a corner until there is no where left to go. But my faith is not based on what I don’t know, it’s what I do know. My first reaction to the news of the discovery was “wow, how amazing is God to design that?” The more science discovers, the more I look in wonder at the God that is ultimately responsible for it all. Christians have nothing to fear from science and its discoveries and especially not from today’s news. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the physicists involved hold religious beliefs.

But today’s discovery is about the achievements of the physicists. Many scientists are not happy with the nickname given. As CERN member Pauline Gagnon puts it; “The Higgs is not endowed with any religious meaning” [3] and she is right. It is just a particle that before today was just a theory. We should all celebrate the victory for scientific endeavor, some of us will just also worship the creator that made it all possible.

For a far more thorough treatment of the issues raised here, I recommend Gods Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox [4]

 

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One thought on “Let’s all celebrate the Higgs Boson

  1. […] in no way threatens believing God is ultimately behind it all.  Much like when they found the Higgs Boson, the more science finds out the more I go ““wow, how amazing is God to design that?” […]

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