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Boson and Belief

March 18th, 2013 by Anthony Bosman
Simulated date following the collision of two protons.

Simulated data following the collision of two protons.

Last summer, headlines started appearing announcing the potential discovery of the Higgs boson. Since then CERN has been reviewing data from the experiments and recently confirmed the discovery.

So what’s all this boson business? Here’s a quick overview.

Historically, gravity has been a mysterious force for the scientific community to understand. While we can explain very precisely how gravity works, we have been unable to explain why there is gravity.

Underlying this discussion is the fundamental question of why does stuff have mass. A few decades ago, the Standard Model of physics suggested an answer. The essential thing to know is that the answer relied on the existence of a particle (the Higgs boson) that ‘gives’ mass to everything in the universe.

However, although the Standard Models predicted this particle’s existence, we’ve never had experimental evidence of it. Or, at least, didn’t have evidence until now. CERN’s recent announcement seems to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, potentially helping us understand gravity.

In short, our understanding of the universe is increasing. But what does this have to do with faith?

Shortly after the discovery, a Newsweek article appeared that argued, “[The Higg’s Boson] brings science closer to dispensing with the need for any supernatural shenanigans”, and concluded, “The Higgs particle is now arguably more relevant than God.”

The suggestion is that as our understanding of the universe increases, our need for God diminishes. Indeed, the Higgs boson’s nickname, “the God particle”, may lead one to ask, “Has a boson replaced belief?”

But I’d like to suggest the opposite is true: our increasing scientific knowledge of the universe is a very compelling argument in favor of faith. I believe this principle applies broadly, but let’s consider the case of the Higgs.

Decades ago, thanks to a bunch of math, we posited the existence of a particle that we had no evidence for. Yet, we were so confident in its existence that several governments spent billions to build a massive particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, to attempt to find it.

Did you catch that, we spent billions because we believed that the universe should behave according to mathematical equations. We spent billions because we had faith that we have the capability to understand and predict the behavior of the universe.

And we were right.

How can we explain why the universe is so finely ordered? How can we answer why we are capable of understanding it?

Evolutionary theories fail to explain these fundamental questions (a knowledge of higher mathematics tends not to help when it comes to “survival of the fittest”). Other attempts, such as a recently popularized notion involving a host of parallel universe, simply beg the question.

Could it be that the core assumption of science–that we live in an ordered universe that we’re able to study and understand–is a continual beckoning back to the Only Answer?

When one begins to master the piano, does she think any less of Beethoven? When one learns the delicate process of sculpturing, does not his respect for Michelangelo grow? Likewise, true scientific discovery* doesn’t denounce God, rather it draws us to Him in awe. We’re compelled to join in singing that ancient song,

O Lord, our Lord,

How excellent is Your name in all the earth,

Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,

What is man that You are mindful of him,

And the son of man that You visit him?

For You have made him a little lower than the angels,

And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

O Lord, our Lord,

How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

(see Psalm 8)

For more on the relationship of science and faith, see the related posts: The Heavens Declare and Newton.

 

*Recognizing true science is done in humility, acknowledging our limits and subjecting our clever thinking to divine revelation.

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One Response to “Boson and Belief”

  1. On March 23, 2013 at 12:32 am Kathleen A Lilly responded with... #

    to capture the higgs particle may be something like trying to capture the wind under a microscope, you see the branch blown by it yet the wind itself elludes you. the essence
    of God belongs only to himself.

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