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)

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Comments

12 COMMENTS

  1. As a Catholic, it’s embarassing how Galileo was treated after he (following Copernicus) discovered the earth revolved around the sun & not vice versa. Let’s perhaps not be so dogmatic again this time round.

    The discovery of the Higgs Boson particle go’s some way to discrediting the Big Bang theory and Gravity as a primary operating force in this Universe. That’s its significance. But you are correct in saying it is demeaning to refer to it as the “God Particle”.

    At Easter, Pope BenedictXVI spoke about looking out to the stars with awe, mystery & wonder instead of getting caught up in our mundane lives in the bright lights of the cities we have built ourselves. So why not marvel at how clever how scientists are (and our overall level of human consciouness) in teaching us more about the fabric of our Universe?

    As Catholics, the purpose of our lives is to know & love God. The more I learn each day about the precision and elegant laws of our Universe, the easier that becomes. I strongly recommend the author of this article read Pope John Paul ii’s “Faith & Reason” book again and Mark Waldman’s “How God Changes Your Brain” book. Science is now suggesting we live in both a physical and non-physical world (of all that is seen & unseen) – how wonderful is that?! (be in this world, but not of it).

    • The Higgs Boson doesn’t discredit the Big Bang theory. In fact it was a yet unproven part of the theory that most physicists had to take “on faith” for the sake the rest of the theory. This is because the assumed role of the Higgs Boson in the natural universe is to create some kind of “energy field” (for lack of a better term). This is similar to how photons are force carriers of the electromagnetic force, how gluons are force carriers of the strong nuclear force, and so on. The field around the Higgs Boson is supposed to cause a resistive force on particles moving through it. That force is theorized to be the cause of gravity. So, if anything, it defends the idea of gravity as essential to our known standard model of the universe.

      • Anthony, this video is better: http://vimeo.com/41038445

        There’s Newton Physics and there’s Quantum Physics. Under Newton Physics, if there was a big bang you would expect eventually a slowdown. Instead, we have the reverse – our Universe is now expanding at an ever increasing rate. Now of course gravity exists but notice I said not a primary force in our Universe. Here it’s better to adopt Einstein’s concept of SpaceTime which Quantum Physics better explains. But of course you refer to “the known” and this is where Mark Waldman’s book is good in explaining the limitations of rational thinking.

    • Have you ever actually studied the entire unfolding of this event. It may surprise you how it wasn’t actually his theory that was attacked but his demanding of it becoming rule without him actually going through the appropriate scientific procedures to prove his theory. Reality is that the scientific community were the ones who adamently opposed his approach and the church tried effortlessly to convince him to follow protocall which he refused. In the end the church sided with the scientific community in their opposition of him. Funny how history has managed to be re-written with the Church being the enemy.

  2. The whole article was a great read, eye-opening in fact, and of course greatly explains the misinterpretation of the term, “God-Particle”. It took me a while to realize that the aforementioned “Peter Higgs” is directly relevant to the “Higgs boson”. I was about to comment about why a Mr. “Peter Higgs” was mentioned without any background on his authority regarding the “God-Particle”. . . .

  3. Where we fit. our tea is inside the tea cup, we holding the tea cup are inside the house, the house is inside our country, our country is inside our planet earth, planet earth is inside our solar system, our solar system is inside our galaxy, our galaxy is inside our universe, our universe is inside God, God is our Alpha and Omega, the begining and the end. We are in him, with him and through him. God is our final end. We cannot travel to him in body but in spirit there are no barriers, no time, no distance and we can only reach Him in spirit. Above all God is love. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out.

  4. Lately, as I became so attached to my faith which is glorious I have to say, oppositions also start to mingle in my mind. Atheist, Other denominations and now Higgs bosom. For me Colin is precisely correct. Even if we have the milky way (Big Bang or Higgs Bosom) to take, who does created the milky way? I always believed that all these scientists has the B particle. If we are at the end of the alphabet then there are somebody or something earlier came before us and so if B is the theory of creation then there is A. The question is who is A? A for me speaking through all what I understand and believed in, is my Father GOD in Heaven who sent His Son to atoned our sins and give us eternal life in Heaven. My A is my “LORD Jesus Christ”. I am a true and son of the Catholic Faith and no matter what comes out, my catholic faith will give me freedom from all these evil knowledge that tries to destroy our faith in the risen LORD. My weapon is Prayer to my “LORD Jesus Christ”… It is good to understand these scientific evidence but when they tries to destroy my faith and disrespect my “LORD Jesus Christ” that is when my heart rebels against them… Holy, Holy, Holy, Halleluyah to the LORD Almighty who was and is and is to come!!!

  5. That quote from Pope Benedict XVI is exquisite, and he is so incredibly right. I have long held very firmly that science divorced from basic moorings in human philosophical and religious thought (and I include reference to the metaphysically Absolute and Transcendent in that, namely, God or something like God) becomes meaningless; in a similar way, religious thought divorced from reason and science neglects Truth, which is shameful since that would be a self-contradiction. Catholics in particular claim to be essentially in love with the deepest level of Reality; God has made a lifestyle for us over the last two millennia of being married to Truth. That is our level of comfort and intimacy with Ultimate Reality, and that is a profoundly human way to live a short stay here on our planet. We have no business shying away from science or reason, nor does science or reason find any meaning or being apart from reference to the wholeness of human thought, which I maintain is predicated intrinsically to the Divine. There is such a wonderful harmony between the two, Faith and Reason, and that is a major reason why I am proud to be a Catholic, a theistic evolutionist, a practical philosopher, and a very religious layman.

    If every religious person adopted a more Catholic-like attitude toward this harmony of Faith and Reason, and likewise if every human being convinced of atheism adopted a more Albert Einstein-like, quasi-Deistic, and I daresay mystical and very human attitude (I recall a quote something like ‘behind the Universe there is a Mind so immense and so subtle we cannot fathom it,’ though that’s paraphrased) toward the mystery of the Universe, this world would be a lot better off and there would be a lot less hatred and fighting.

    “All religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree.”

    “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

    “It is appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

    “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the Mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

    “We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.”

    “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior Spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

    “Nature only shows us the tail of the Lion. I am convinced, however, that the Lion is attached to it, even though he cannot reveal himself directly because of his enormous size.”

    – all quotes from Albert Einstein

  6. […] é mais crítico em relação ao termo “partícula de Deus”. Para ele, trata-se de um “sensacionalismo que presta um desserviço tanto a esses brilhantes físicos quanto aos crente…. Eu tenho lá minhas dúvidas quanto a isso. O autor fala de ateus militantes trombeteando por aí […]

  7. Enough of being shy about the Catholic church trying to protect science from charlatans. There were in the renaisance people who claimed to convert lead into gold reanimate dead bodies and other ridiculous stuff one fellow even had a fetus in a jar and claimed he had combined blood with semen to create it. No wonder the Church didn’t buy Galileos idea right off. I remember the chart we had on the wall in school with all the different men on it. The piltdown man who came from parts salted into a dig. The Peking man that was probably just a gorilla snack for real men, Java man proven to be a fantasy also. And my faovorite Neanderthal who used to be depicted on my wall stooped over and hairy naked with a stick in his hand looking like a monkey. Now he has speech and religion and wears clothes throws spears and just may have been bred into modern man. But let not forget the remains of an extinct pig named Nebraska man. I went to physics also and remember learning about steady state and The Cosmological Constant a figure that Einstein used to make his calcultaions confirm a steady state until he finally gave up. Why should I take the word of a religion that has preached such stupidity so easily. I will wait and see. There is only one thing I know for sure and that is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucarist.

  8. Religion needs science and vice versa. The discovery of the particle will never disprove the existence of God. From my point of view the particle itself is a clear sign that God really does exist, from something so small as a particle creates the big bang. The process of creation itself is God giving sign to us that he does exist even when the nature of the particle can be explained scientifically. Sometimes God does his work in a scientific way so that we understand the true nature of the world that he create.

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