The smokehad barely settled from the conclave of cardinals’ announcement that Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio had been elected as Pope Francis, when the scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland, made their own announcement: the so-called “God particle” does indeed exist.
“Look quick,” my wife told me, directing me to the evening news. “They’ve discovered the ‘God particle.’”
I was curious: Was it A God Particle? Or The God Particle? Or God in a Particle? Or just God’s Particle? And since it carries God’s name, doesn’t that imply He created it? Or rather does it mean it replaces the necessity of God?
The “God particle” is actually the particle that literally gives substance to our universe. Called the Higgs boson, it is what makes stuff have “mass,” and it therefore permeates the universe. For the past 50 years, scientists have predicted this particle and just last week physicists at the Large Hadron Collider, which lies beneath the ground between the borders of France and Switzerland, have, after years of testing, made the discovery. The Higgs boson does exist. The “God particle” is also believed to be the “force” that resulted in the so-called “Big Bang,” which many believe resulted in the universe. The term “God particle” has nothing to do with God, really, except for the fact that like it, God is everywhere but mysteriously hidden. Noble Prize winning physicist Leon Lederman’s editor suggested the phrase for Lederman’s book on the subject. The research leading to and the discovery of the Higgs boson will likely have positive results, just as quantum physics led to the discovery of other inventions, like MRIs and PET scans.
But will the discovery lead us to or away from an affirmation in God’s existence?
It can do both, depending on what you believe or don’t believe.
Those who think the confirmation of the Higgs boson renders God irrelevant, or that it proves science has once and forever blown any possibility of holy smoke into the winds, are likely to be disappointed, unless they already disbelieved God. Getting closer to the supposed moment of creation doesn’t necessarily disprove God’s existence.
But neither does it prove it.
Yet, the question remains, where did that particle come from?
Perhaps it is as astronomer Robert Jastrow described it: “For the scientist who has lived by faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
But maybe those theologians should welcome the arrival of the scientists as both scientists and theologians continue their search for further confirmations of truth.
The Higgs boson may give us a better understanding of the origin of the universe, and in doing so provoke questions about who or what or if anything was behind its creation, or if it was created at all.
Most believers maintain that God has chosen to reveal Himself not only in nature but in other ways as well, in revelations usually referred to as Holy Scripture. But even then, this God doesn’t fit conveniently into formulas, either scientific or theological. Indeed, He is elusive, even though by faith believers affirm He is always there.
Is it possible to find God? “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,” God told the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah. And according to the Christian Scriptures, the resurrected Jesus told the women who were the first to see his post-resurrected body, to go and tell the others that they should leave for Galilee, where they, too, would find him.
That would be on the far side of Easter, there with the One who existed before Higgs boson was.
Or had yet to explode into a universe. Or had a name.
Except in the mysterious mind of the One who is … And who was …
And is to come.