Beliefs Culture

“God particle” discovery ignites debate over science and religion

RNS photo courtesy CERN / via Flickr (

(RNS) The Higgs boson is perhaps better known by its sexier nickname: the “God particle.”

But in fact, many scientists, including the physicist for whom it is named, dislike the term.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a particle accelerator and collider located at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland.  The collider produces the elusive Higgs boson ? often dubbed the God Particle ? the observation of which could confirm the predictions and 'missing links' in the Standard Model of physics, and explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a particle accelerator and collider located at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. The collider produces the elusive Higgs boson ? often dubbed the God Particle ? the observation of which could confirm the predictions and ‘missing links’ in the Standard Model of physics, and explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass.

In 1993 when American physicist Leon Lederman was writing a book on the Higgs boson, he dubbed it “the goddamn particle.” An editor suggested “the God particle” instead.

One thing is clear: The July 4 discovery that marked a new chapter in scientific knowledge also reignited debate over the universe’s origins — and the validity of religious faith as scientific knowledge expands.

The Higgs boson explains why particles have mass — and in turn why we exist. Without the boson, the universe would have no physical matter, only energy.

The cosmological implications are hotly debated. Can God fit in a scientific story of creation?

The answer is “no” for Lawrence M. Krauss, an Arizona State University theoretical physicist. He argued in Newsweek that the Higgs boson discovery “posits a new story of our creation” independent of religious belief.

“Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge,” he wrote.

With enough data, physics would make God obsolete, he said. “If we can describe the laws of nature back to the beginning of time without any supernatural shenanigans, it becomes clear that you don’t need God.”

Religious believers see things differently.

Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno argued in a Washington Post column that scientifically deduced universal laws expose “the personality” of God. “The mysteries revealed by modern science are a constant reminder that reality is bigger than our day-to-day lives,” he wrote.

Alternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra said in a YouTube video that the boson hints at a divine interconnectedness of all things.

“It only strengthens the notion that the universe comes out of a nothingness which is everything,” he said.

This much is true: Higgs bosons — which permeate the universe — help us understand how something comes from nothing.

The awe we feel with this heady topic causes even nonreligious people to use religious language, said Philip Clayton, dean of Claremont School of Theology and a researcher of science and religion.

“Humans are really fascinated with what we know scientifically and what lies right at the boundaries of what we can know,” he said.

Albert Einstein’s quip that God “doesn’t play dice with the world” is a metaphor to help explain our quest for order in a world that seems chaotic, Clayton said.

Such metaphorical language helps to explain the world at the particle level where physical laws such as gravity break down, and physicists rely on abstractions to describe how particles interact.

Clayton said discussing whether the discovery “disproves religion or supports creation” misses the point. “The fans and the foes of religion … are overreaching on both sides. The quest for the Higgs boson, and its ultimate discovery, neither proves nor disproves God,” he wrote in a Huffington Post column.

But Krauss says science isn’t trying to disprove God. Rather, data only have to offer an explanation for the universe that would make a divine creator redundant. When English physicist Peter Higgs proposed the Higgs boson in 1964, it helped codify an incomplete model of the universe. This model was shown accurate through experimentation culminating in July 4’s discovery.

Krauss said further experimentation will lead toward a “unified theory” of the universe that accounts for everything from quarks to galaxies.

“That’s the difference between science and religion,” he said. “We don’t require the universe to be what we want — we force our beliefs to conform to the evidence of reality.

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Chris Lisee


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  • What a deal of ignorant nonsense from Christians and arrogant scientism from scientists is getting spouted everywhere on this issue of the God particle! Although there are none so blind as those who will not see and there is a level of interpretation and faith that cannot be passed, the fact is the “God particle” is correctly enough named. Or it is to the extent we are told it is a condition and field of the material. It is arguably absurd for a theologian to propose that the particle merely strengthens the notion the universe comes from nothingness and only a little less misleading to propose with Deepak Chopra that the Higgs Boson hints at the divine interconnectedness of everything from the Nothingness which is Everything.

    True there is an interconnectedness. The fact is it was always a Christian heresy and a damaging one to maintain things were created from absolute “nothing”. It is to be deaf to all biblical references to God (not Chopra’s Everything-Nothing) filling all things, connecting all things, the Logos being the condition of all creation. As I wrote in a just issued book, Solomon’s Tantric Song (available Amazon)

    “Traditional – some might say “orthodox” – Christianity has taught the existence of a wholly transcendent God who created everything from “nothing” as though absolute “nothing” could ever exist apart from God in the first place. Yet such is neither affirmed nor implied by the Genesis narrative, and Jewish mysticism would later decide everything is within God having been formed in a created womb space or vacuum. Be that as it may, with the passage of time the objective God of an objective world as imagined by rationalizing early Church fathers, would be increasingly crowded out becoming at most the “God of the gaps” as science progressively explained everything. These worldviews amount to a great and terrible western heresy, one that cowers beneath God under medievalism, then disposes of the same deity under secularism and the kind of modern evolutionary theory which considers itself, or is considered to be, at total variance with any belief in creation….. All this can be misleading and destructive for any real spiritual life and understanding. The fact is that even if you have no intimations of God, claim no “illumination”, no mystical or “born again” or charismatic experiences, like it or not you are still within God, the God who is both outside and in some measure inside nature and ourselves, the lure and direction of all that is”.

    In passing I might add that it belongs to the mixture of secular and American tyranny under which some of us who pass for Christians have to live, that even as a doctor of religious studies formerly published with critical success in religion I haven’t so much as offered the mentioned highly topical book to any publisher but independently issued it. The arrogant secular prejudice against the “religion” category is now so strong here in Australia one cannot get considered (or only after endless delaying striving) with agents and houses, while again and again it is American Christian opinion, itself unacceptably name and fame obsessed but often ill informed or intolerant, which hogs whatever room is left internationally in terms of media and publishing for opinion in religion.
    See also article:

  • Some scientists claim that all the workings of the universe can be explained by rational analysis, leaving no room for divine wisdom. But many people, including scientists, are not comfortable with that view. They attempt to comprehend reality by looking to both science and religion. They feel that science deals with the how of our existence and of the cosmos around us, while religion deals principally with the why.
    Explaining this dual approach, physicist Freeman Dyson said: “Science and religion are two windows that people look through trying to understand the big universe outside.”
    “Science deals with the measurable, religion deals with the immeasurable,” suggested author William Rees-Mogg. He said: “Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, any more than it can prove or disprove any moral or aesthetic proposition. There is no scientific reason to love one’s neighbour or to respect human life . . . To argue that nothing exists which cannot be proved scientifically is the crudest of errors, which would eliminate almost everything we value in life, not only God or the human spirit, but love and poetry and music.”

  • This ‘end result and meaning’ debate is getting so far ahead of itself it is as out of control as the scientific LHC experimental results that they speculate on.

    The fact is that the CERN teams have NOT as yet identified with any certainty a sub atomic particle that might be the theorized Higgs boson. While one physicist claimed it to be “most probably a Higgs boson but we (still) have to find out what kind of Higgs boson it is”; another reported the discovery as “not necessarily definitive but an important stepping-stone”. A third stated that “The Standard Model has a few major flaws; the Higgs boson discovery would only fix one of them. We still have no clue regarding what makes 96 percent of the content of the universe. This should keep us physicists busy for a few more decades.”

    Just what global public mandate do these scientists and their financial backers have ($10 billion for the LHC atom smasher alone). What democratically elected and accountable political body has approved or been granted watchdog authority over these scientific experiments designed to specifically investigate the nature of dark matter, antimatter and the creation of the universe known to scientists as the Big Bang.

    In keeping with the associated theory that black holes need mass to grow, the LHC has been used to successfully create micro-black holes, but to date without stability of mass these have quickly evaporated. The theoretical Higgs boson particle is considered the missing piece required to retain the created micro-black holes. The key to the experiment is therefore to identify the Higgs boson particle, as without mass these subatomic particles zip through the cosmos at the speed of light unable to bind together to form the atoms that make up everything in the universe.

    Let’s hope, therefore, that in the course of their attempts to give mass to micro-black holes these physicists do not create an uncontrollable localized black hole that sucks God’s unique earthly creation and mankind into it. If God as part of his creation had wanted a black hole any where near earth, he would not have made the universe so incredibly large and placed such sub atomic dangers well away from man’s ability to control it.

  • Because of the impossibility of direct observation, the existence of God is not something that can be known to be true to an absolute certainty, any more than one can speak with absolute certainty about the behavior of, say, protons or the existence of Higgs boson. God’s existence is simply one of the possibilities that arises when one is thinking about the origin and makeup of the universe. At the basic level of reality there is an indeterminacy which leaves the door open for the input of rational intelligence on a cosmic level. This hypothesis is not testable by scientific means. It can only come by way of an intuitive grasp of the meaning of the whole. If “man is the measure of all things,” then it is not too much of a stretch to suppose that the universe is a celestial organism – a synergistic system of interdependent parts not unlike human beings. Furthermore, the more we discover about the world, especially at the sub-atomic level, the more we learn about the activity of God. God is the soul of the world that struggles to maintain life and energy in a universe ruled by entropy.

    Dr. Warren F. Taylor. Alpha and Omega: A Reflection on Life and Death (Kindle Locations 2443-2450). CreateSpace.

  • Higgs Boson / “God Particle” -2012 Science news is actually a 150+ year old discovery by a different name ………………Infinite Intelligence….Steve Meyer / New Thought Movement / HolisticDNA

    The Sixth Sense Activation Sequence – GROUNDBREAKING New Book in 2012!

    “New Thought promotes the ideas that “Infinite Intelligence” or “God” is ubiquitous, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and “right thinking” has a healing effect…” Wikipedia