You have undoubtedly heard a torrent of reports about the so-called “God Particle”, or the Higgs boson, in the news recently. But as important as this particle is to the understanding of the Standard Model (a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles), this particular particle gets a huge amount of coverage.
One could reasonably explain the interest by it’s popular name, “The God Particle”. Think about it; when else does physics become sensational front page news?
Seemingly, only when it stirs up that old canard, the “supposed” gap between faith and reason. This type of sensationalism is a disservice to both these brilliant physicists and believers. You may have even started to hear from over zealous atheists that the discovery of the God Particle destroys the notion of the Judeo-Christian deity or that it proves God had nothing to do with creation. (Yeesh. And here you thought believers were supposed to scientifically ignorant.)
Two important points need to be made…..
One, for believers in the Catholic tradition, faith cannot be opposed to reason. Catholics believe in faith AND reason, Fides Et Ratio. Catholics have long been at the center of scientific learning, research, and discovery. For example, Fr. Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Jesuit, was the first to propose the “Big Bang” theory, which the Higgs boson has implications in. (Intersetingly, when Lemaître first proposed the Big Bang, it was ridiculed for being to “Theistic”.)
Secondly, The Higgs boson, or God Particle has NOTHING to do with religion!
The Higgs Boson was dubbed the “G-ddamn Particle” [edited so as to not be profane] by Leon Lederman since it was seemingly impossible to isolate. Lederman, a leading researcher in the field, wanted to title his book “The G-ddamn Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?” But his editor decided that the title was too controversial and convinced Lederman to change the title to “The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?”
Basically, this particle was so elusive that Lederman wrote a book to tell the story of this continuing failure and wanted to show the collective frustration of physicists toward the particle.
But since the Higgs Boson deals with how matter was formed at the time of the Big Bang, and since newspapers loved the term, the myth of “God” particle was born.
But scientists hate the term “God Particle” as it is misleading and does not even come close to describing the aims of their scientific work.
Pauline Gagnon, a Canadian member of CERN’s ATLAS team, told Reuters:
“I hate that ‘God particle’ term…. The Higgs is not endowed with any religious meaning. It is ridiculous to call it that.”
Pippa Wells, another CERN scientist, said:
“Without (the Higgs Boson), or something like it, particles would just have remained whizzing around the universe at the speed of light… Hearing it called the ‘God particle’ makes me angry. It confuses people about what we are trying to do here at CERN.”
Even Peter Higgs himself does not care for the name “God particle,” because he thinks it is overly grandiose and it might be offensive to religious people (though he’s an atheist himself).
At most from a religious perspective, its discovery gives us a greater insight in the fecundity and creative mind of God. So when, you hear the term “God Particle”, do not think that it has religious implications about the existence of God.
And remember the words of Pope BenedictXVI –
“Never allow yourselves to become narrow. The world needs good scientists, but a scientific outlook becomes dangerously narrow if it ignores the religious or ethical dimension of life, just as religion becomes narrow if it rejects the legitimate contribution of science to our understanding of the world.”
A SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF THE HIGGS BOSON (VIDEO)