Will the ‘God Particle’ Change Theology?

This image, from a sensor at the particle accelerator at CERN, is an example of the data signature a Higgs particle might generate.

According to numerous news outlets, scientists are about to unveil the Higgs boson — aka, the God Particle. Here’s NPR:

King Arthur had his quest for the Holy Grail. Physicists hope they are hot on the trail of the Higgs particle. You might call it the final puzzle piece, needed to complete our picture of how all the fundamental particles make up the universe.

Joe Lykken at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois has been part of this quest since the early 1980s.

“Our former director, Leon Lederman, called the Higgs particle the God Particle,” Lykken says. “It was not meant to be a religious comment, it was meant to express our understanding of how the universe works. We think without a Higgs boson you can’t have a universe in the first place.”

At the very least, the universe would be incredibly boring. That’s because the Higgs particle, or Higgs boson, is supposed to explain why the atoms in the galaxies, the stars, the earth at our feet, and in our bodies, have mass. If they didn’t have mass, we wouldn’t exist as physical beings.

We think the Higgs boson is a manifestation of the fact that the universe is filled with a force that we haven’t been able to detect yet, that gives other particles mass,” Lykken says. (via Is The Hunt For The ‘God Particle’ Finally Over? : NPR.)

I think that profound scientific discoveries always make doing theology more challenging, and therefore more fun, so I look forward to learning more about Higgs boson for my next book — after Why Pray? — which is tentatively titled, Wild God.

How do you think Higgs boson will challenge theology?

  • http://www.simotasia.com/words/ Collin Simula

    I think it’s incredibly exciting—and you’re right, it will definitely make theology more challenging. The thing about it though is, even in that article above, people keep calling it “the final piece” or the “final answer” or whatever. It seems to imply “we now understand everything” or “we’ve arrived.” And that kind of arrogance is just as dangerous to me as theology that implies the same thing.

    So in essence, if they unveil this thing, the science community will have that “gotcha!” to Christians, espousing arrogance under the guise of discovery. Aptly nicknamed, I think.

    I just hope the discovery of this Higgs boson will open up more exciting mystery and dialogue, and not some ideological endpoint that closes any and all discussion.

    • Jannie Botha

      As a Christian I keep to the normal Biblical truth – God created the universe and all in it. God gave everyting it’s structure, purpose, live and yes it’s mass. This means that scientists can find whatever they can find (as long as it is poroven and not pure theory like many of the so-called scientific facts), it will not change the fact that God made it all. Just a reminder that the God I refer to is the God of the Bible – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
      The bottom line is – there is nothing wrong with science and their efforts to explore and understand, but mankind will never find the truth about God and how he created the Universe. To answer the question whether this finding will change theology and how we think about God? No, it should not as the truth of God’s Word is not determined by man or what man finds or discover.

    • gddd

      i agree

    • gddd

      :-)

  • Bradm

    This would have very little to do with theology, as far as I’m concerned (at least, no more than any other scientific experiment). Right now, of all the elementary particles that the Standard Model predicts, the Higgs boson is the only one that hasn’t been observed. If it were to be observed, then this would offer more evidence for the Standard Model of particle physics.

  • Joel Avery

    I agree with Bradm. This would be huge for the standard model. The reconciliation of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics remains to be done. But even if a Theory of Everything is spmeday achieved, it would remain a theory of the physical world, and as Wittgenstein said, the meaning of the world is not in the world.

  • Evelyn

    I think theories of the physical world are important for providing metaphors for the spiritual world and hence make theology a bit easier. There are people who believe that they must base all of their ideas about the possibility of God acting in their lives on their own personal experience. There are many mechanisms in the world of particle physics and quantum mechanics that defy everyday explanations. Take, for example, wave-particle duality. I was in a group discussion about the fully human and fully divine nature of Christ and a whiner complained that it was physically impossible for Christ to be fully human and fully divine at the same time because something can’t be two things at once. I explained that light can be viewed as either a wave or a particle depending on how you observe it so it is physically possible for something to be two things at once depending on how it is observed. PWNED!

    As far as the Higgs Boson is concerned, the Wikipedia page says it is like a big pool of molasses that sticks to massless particles giving them mass. Perhaps God is the same way. He/she/it is like a big pool of molasses that sticks to inanimate matter giving it life … or maybe theology is like a big pool of molasses …

  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com Mike B

    Agree with BradM. Don’t see the Higgs Boson as impacting theology. I certainly don’t understand all the science but the boson is part of the process that describes how particles have mass and how atoms formed. It would affirm theories within the Standard Model of physics and could lead to other breakthroughs in science regarding how the cosmos work but I don’t see how the “God Particle” would alter the way we understand our Creator just His creation.

    http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2012/files/Higgs_Boson_FAQ.pdf

  • http://mpzrd.blogspot.com Marshall

    An NYT article said that the Higgs quantum field “imputes” mass to particles/other quantum fields, showing that Science and Theology do reflect each other in surprising ways. I posted about it. Calling it the “God particle” is ridiculous twice, but understanding quantum fields and the Standard Model in at least in a handwavy way, like all understanding of how Creation proceeds, is useful information about the nature of the Creator. Even New Atheists agree with that thought, although of course they don’t put it that way. The thing that’s different is the News think we are teetering on the very brink of being able to explain everything with some straightforward math, whereas we (… if I may say “we”…) think it’s a little deeper than that. No fear we will run out of Mystery.

  • http://rhett.wordpress.com Rhett

    Laminin!

    Your argument is irrelevant.

    • Richard

      +1

  • http://www.theburnerblog.com The Burner

    TB agrees with BradM. Lederman’s book evidently wanted to call it the goddamn particle (according to Wikipedia).

  • Adam Louw

    I think that neuroscience and sociobiology possibly have the larger impact on theology in my opinion and are thus our closest competitors.

    Neuroscience for instance says that the existence of the soul is highly unlikely which is not necessarily a concern because Christianity has 2000 odd years of resources to glean from. Sociobiology’s view on altruism as purely family centric I think is a grave underestimation at the cost of what is known as pure altruism which talks about sacrificing your self not just for family but also for the complete stranger for example. Again we have the resources to counter these, but the heart is willing, but the body is not.

  • The Haggard

    Stop Calling it the God Particle
    http://io9.com/5923170/stop-calling-it-the-god-particle?utm_source=io9+Newsletter&utm_campaign=10cca45019-UA-142218-29&utm_medium=email

    I find it odd that they actually have no proof, just seen effects, just faith… to “prove” so much.

  • http://hifil.blogspot.com joel

    I really have a hard time with the idea that the Higgs Boson would change much of anything in contemporary theology. Since God is need not be “nature”, “materia” or a “being among beings”… http://www.millinerd.com/search/label/analogy%20of%20being

  • http://spirit-cry.com/ Cameron

    I doubt it will change theology. In fact, it probably won’t even change science, because it will simply complete our understanding of the standard model. It’s simply a signal that physics is likely to be on the right track. If they announced that they were five sigmas certain that it DIDN’T exist, well, there would be a (good) problem for physics.

    And theology still wouldn’t care.

  • Pingback: Hello Higgs!

  • Jan Karolcik

    The god particle may be a great scientific advancement to unify the theories and make the math of physics workable. But please remeber that the scientific questions and theological questions differ. SCIENCE AsKS HOW? THEOLOGY ASKS WHY?

  • The Haggard
  • PJ

    I’m not very bright and this is all way over my head. I am a Christian who believes in the words of the Bible which say that God created the heavens and the earth.

    I take this to mean that He created EVERYTHING; even the ‘God Particle’.

  • http://scottpaeth.typepad.com Scott Paeth
  • Bradm
  • http://www.rollanmccleary.com Rollan McCleary

    I don’t know if it willor can change theology but it should; the God particle is very much about God if you haven’t fallen for the illusion of scientists and traditional theologians alike that God created everything from “nothing”. It is impossible “nothing” would exist outside God therefore everything is to some degree from the God who forms the original space in which the created exists. The Genesis story is only about order from chaos, not order from “nothing”. The Higgs Boson agrees with the doctrine of omnipresence and God as the condition of all things. Ignore the article’s title, some relevant comments are made in this article at
    http://wp.me/p2v96G-M

  • Right2speak3

    Stop calling it the G*ddamn particle!!!! Or the God particle.

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/change-the-god-particle-to-the-love-particle.html

    For all the hippies!

    Ok, you can sign it even if your not a hippy or a atheist, but if you don’t believe in love, get a life :)

  • Pingback: Missional, Like A Boson! or Physicsleship: What Can We Learn From the Higgs Discovery?

  • anthony battaglia

    The particle won’t challenge true biblical theology at all. If you understand the bible, you would understand that we are “dead people” observing a “dead world” through “dead eyes” and until one is “born again” he cannot see the kingdom of God. Looking for God through unregenerate scientific theory is like looking for a Kindle at the Apple Store!

  • Rey De Armas

    The God Particle makes Christian Theology so much easier to explain.
    The God Particle is best explained by Phycists as the “pervasive permeating Molasses”
    that holds all things together.
    In the New Testament the book of John begins with a genealogy of Jesus that is different from the other Three Gospels. John describes the genealogy of Jesus “as God”
    John 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

    Colossians 1:17-18 better explains the God Particle which always existed but man had no idea of its significance – “17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

    Conisder the evidence and the words John & Paul used to describe the mystery of the universe, which was revealed in Jesus Christ.

  • Nelson Varghese

    The discovery of God’s particle is once again endorsing the intelligent design of the supreme being. It is not going to change the theology but provide yet more solid foundation for the same. The discovery of God’s particle has brought many more mysteries before man and he has to continue his hunt to unravel them all.

  • Rev. Len Jepson

    One of the definitional names of mystery is “God.” As a Christian but also as a Lutheran pastor and an administrator of an interreligious community I continue to emphasize that we cannot become overenthusiastic with leaving mystery with narrow speculations / world-views. The Higgs Discovery for me is fascinating, for it draws us from human speculation to a new mystery. Rev. Len Jepson


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