July 8, 2012

"God Particle" - A Metaphor Causing Increased Science And Religion Collisions

A graphic showing traces of collision of particles at CERN in Geneva,
where scientists believe they have found the Higgs boson.

My previous post, “'God Particle' Discovered – Really?,” cautioned that the journalistic over-use of the term “God particle” could be problematic for science, religious believers, and the global public at large.  It is already proving to be so.  The following is a small sample of articles about believers’ reactions to news of the possible discovery of the “Higgs boson.” The responses range from a reaffirmation that the particle is the creation of the Abrahamic deity as described in the Bible, to indifference, to a condemnation of godless scientists for not possessing a reason for awe, wonder and worship:

“God and the God Particle”
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/06/faqs-god-and-the-god-particle/  "The Higgs boson may be responsible for holding the universe together, but Jesus holds the "God particle" in its place."

"All Things Visible and Invisible - Celebrating the 'God Particle'"
http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2012/all-things-visible-and-invisible-celerating-the-god-particle.html "God is not a particle, of course. God is absolute being, which is something else entirely. We now have more insight into the physical reality of God’s creation. “Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man’s dominion over creation,” the Catechism tells us. This week’s result is as basic as research can get. … The Church – and belief in the supernatural in general – are often said to be in conflict with science. Not true. But the Church is in conflict with a materialist scientism that believes all reality is empirically observable and testable, and that no other questions are worth asking. This scientism is deadly. Walker Percy writes:

[T]he consciousness of Western man, the layman in particular, has been transformed by a curious misapprehension of the scientific method. One is tempted to use the theological term “idolatry.” This misapprehension, which is not the fault of science, but rather the inevitable consequence of the victory of the scientific worldview. . .takes the form of a radical and paradoxical loss of sovereignty by the layman and of a radical impoverishment of human relations.

"So it was wonderful to hear the excitement of the scientists, to see them celebrate with the ordinary ritual of champagne, to hear of Higgs’ own amazement at the discovery within his lifetime. They were marking a success in where wonder can take us using our reason to seek truth."

"Pakistan Shuns Physicist Linked to 'God Particle'"
http://www.omaha.com/article/20120708/AP15/307089958 "Despite his achievements (researching the Higgs boson), Abdus Salam's (Pakistan's first Nobel laureate) name appears in few textbooks and is rarely mentioned by Pakistani leaders or the media. (Salam belonged to the Ahmadi sect, considered to be heretical by Pakistan's Muslims.) By contrast, fellow Pakistani physicist A.Q. Khan, who played a key role in developing the country's nuclear bomb and later confessed to spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, is considered a national hero. Khan is a Muslim."

“Scientists Discover ‘The God Particle’, As Clerics Insist It Represents God”
http://www.tribune.com.ng/sun/church-features/7805-scientists-discover-the-god-particle-as-clerics-insist-it-represents-god  "It (the discovery) shows that it is establishing the fact that there was a force behind creation in such a way that God was behind it. Those particles did not just happen. It was the spoken word of God that caused the collision that resulted in creation."

“Vatican Astronomer Says 'God Particle' Misnamed, But Exciting” http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-astronomer-says-god-particle-is-misnamed-but-exciting/  "...if there was a particle that could exist that could explain all the little things we wanted to explain, it would be a gift from God."

"Evidence of the God Particle Found"
"The discovery of The God Particle represents a step forward in appreciation of God’s awe-inspiring universe however claiming to find the elusive piece of the cosmic puzzle is too na├»ve an attempt. Having said that, scientists may discover it, but we can’t deny HE (the eternal force God) invented it! To deny is to accept it too. ... Faith is the opposite of proof. I have faith in HIM and need no proof. God exists outside and inside of it all. He's not something which can be explained away by science, nor proven by religious fervor or argument. The God Particle is, in you and in me and in every particle around us. We only need to seek earnestly."

“‘God particle’ Discovered by Scientists - What It Means For Your Faith”
http://odysseynetworks.org/news/2012/07/03/scientist-christian-theologian-and-the-god-particle  “People of faith have nothing to fear by these new scientific discoveries.  The God of Christian theology is not a god of the gaps, an intelligent designer who can be proved in the places of our scientific ignorance. God is the One who holds the whole scientific story in existence by maintaining the laws of physics. … Behind the myriad of particles and the laws, the universe has a coherent story because it is creation.”

“The God Particle: What Does It Mean From a Spiritual and Metaphysical Perspective?”
http://metaphysicalbible.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/the-god-particle-what-does-it-mean-from-a-spiritual-and-metaphysical-perspective/  “I’m putting my quantum spirituality and metaphysician hats on when I say I believe the ‘God particle’ quantum physicists believe they’ve found is really the ‘Christ Particle.’ Why? I believe it is most appropriately called the  ‘Christ Particle’ because the Christ is God in physicality. And that’s the most famous duet of all: God expressing as the Christ. It is the ‘Christ Particle that gives “all matter in the universe size and shape.”

“Hunt For ‘God Particle’ Will Collide With Faith”
http://blog.crown.org/2011/12/16/hunt-for-god-particle-will-collide-with-faith/  “This infinitesimally small piece of physical matter will likely become a big matter indeed and could impact the lives of Christians globally. For many in the scientific community, the Higgs boson particle is the Holy Grail that will allow modern science to finally and forever trump ancient religious beliefs.” … “The paradox of it all is that the “God particle” will likely be used in an attempt to undermine the very existence of God—even though any discovery will fail to explain how the Higgs boson particle originated in the first place. … But we have nothing to fear. Our God created every particle in the universe, and I am confident His fingerprints will ultimately be found on each and every one. … The invisible God not only made the Higgs boson particle, He made all other matter!”

“God Particle Found: What is the Significance?”
http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/god-particle-found-what-is-the-significance/  “God sees no controversy in this subatomic particle ‘footprint’ because He has declared, ‘For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him’ (Col 1:16).  As Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, ‘For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.’ Indeed, ‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made’ (John 1:3).”

“Early Thoughts on the ‘God particle’ Across the Faith Divide” by Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel
http://rabbimichaelsamuel.com/2011/12/earlythoughts-on-the-god-particle/  “British theologian Keith Ward offers a perspective that is important to our discussion. ‘The cosmos not only springs from a Supreme Consciousness: it is destined to produce beings that will relate in knowledge and in cooperative action to that Consciousness. . . . The cosmos must be such that it will produce beings of awareness, intention, a sense of transcendence, and the possibility of conscious union with God.’ … When I hear scientists speak about awesome qualities of this new discovery, one senses a perception of a Higher Reality that operates at the ground of our being. For me, God is Mystery. Mystery is the nexus that brings art and true science and religion together. For people of faith, learning more about the nature of the cosmos inspires a sense of humility, deep appreciation and radical amazement that flows through the heart of true faith.”

“Evidence of Higgs Boson ‘God Particle’ Disproves Religion or Supports Creation?”
http://www.christianpost.com/news/evidence-of-higgs-boson-god-particle-disproves-religion-or-supports-creation-77752/  “Dr. Larry Vardiman, writing for the Institute of Creation Research before the July 4 announcement, believes that although the Higgs Boson has no "specific religious connotations," its discovery may very well shed light on the biblical account of creation. Dr. Vardiman, a senior research scientist, Astro/Geophysics at the ICR, writes:

‘It's legitimate to try and understand how mass, space, and time originated, but not if the processes we use to explain their origin don't involve the Creator. ... The Big Bang says that the universe began as an infinitesimal point and expanded outward, creating space and mass billions of years ago. Although this idea may seem consistent with the description of creation in Genesis 1:1, it is thought to have happened billions of years ago, while the Bible says it happened in one 24-hour day only a few thousand years ago. The theory is also presented as a natural event that didn't require God's involvement.’

‘Sadly, scientists who have the best seat in the house to observe God's handiwork through a microscope or a telescope often seem to be the first to deny that He is the Creator. Because they deny He is Creator, they fail to grasp the ultimate explanation for the world around us. Scripture says it best: 'For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse' (Romans 1:20).’

Dr. Jeff Miller, writing last year for Apologetics Press, claimed the discovery of evidence for the Higgs Boson might not prove anything (emphasis his own):

‘Notice that without the existence of this theoretical particle, Big Bang theorists recognize that the Universe could not even form after the Big Bang theoretically occurred. Its existence would not prove that the Universe did form in the manner suggested by Big Bang Theory. Its existence would not even prove that the Universe could form after a hypothesized Big Bang occurred. Further, its existence would not prove that the Big Bang itself could occur at all.’

‘Its existence would not prove that matter could exist forever or pop into existence out of nothing, one of which must be true in order for the Big Bang to even get started. And its existence would certainly not prove that the scientific laws governing the Universe could write themselves into existence. However, without the existence of the particle, theorists know the Big Bang could not happen. Thus, discovery of its existence would not prove anything in the end, but only allow evolutionists to cross one of the many chasms that stand in the way of their theory even being considered a remote possibility. In other words, the Big Bang has not even reached square one in the realm of proof. It still lies firmly in the realm of impossibility. Bottom line: the Creation model still stands as the most logical explanation for the origin of the Universe — the model that matches the scientific evidence.’”

“The God Particle”
http://unapologeticapologist.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/the-god-particle/  “Christians shouldn’t be scared of anything that seems to prove God out of the picture. We shouldn’t have such a narrow mind in our theology or understanding of His creations, that we are frozen when anything arrives to demolish our framework of interpretation. I commend these new discoveries as feats in the human grasp of all that essentially belongs to God. We should be ready to applaud the efforts of those who invested time and effort into making the discoveries such as this that help us see the beauty in God’s creation and how it works. If there is one quality that should stand out most is how finely tuned our universe is that this particle exists for an extremely necessary purpose. Our view of God should grow, in fact, with this amazing news, as should the position that the universe requires design by the Creator.”

“Thinking About the ‘God Particle’”
http://graceuniversity.edu/iip/2012/01/12-01-07-1/  “The Higgs Boson, the “God particle,” is just another confirmation of the fact that science and theology are asking the same questions.  Theology concludes that this is another proof for God’s existence; science rejects that conclusion and, therefore, has no reason for wonder, awe or worship—and that is profoundly sad!”

My original post was a cautionary note on the pitfalls of using the term "God particle." The above excerpts remind me of veteran journalist Charles Pierce (Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free) who explains how the glorification of ignorance and supernaturalism in modern America came about and how it is sustained through what he calls the “Three Great Premises of Idiot America”: 1) Any theory (or idea) is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units; 2) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it; and, 3) Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.

According to Pierce's premises, if journalists keep using the “God particle” in reference to what may be the “Higgs boson,” many in America and around the world will very likely conflate the two.  From the above, it is apparent that this has already begun, accompanied by a strong reaction from some fundamentalist believers.  This is not good during an already trying time for science.

For more on Pierce see my earlier post, a review of his book: http://jameselassiter.blogspot.com/2010/09/ever-wonder-why-so-many-americans-hate.html.


Ron Krumpos said...

The term "God Particle" came from the book "The God Particle / If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?," by Leon Lederman & Dick Teresi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jun 26, 2006), which is in the bibliography of my free ebook on comparative mysticism.

In the Preface to his book Dr. Lederman, a Nobel laureate in physics, wrote:
Now as for the title, The God Particle, my coauthor, Dick Teresi, has agreed to accept the blame. I mentioned the phrase as a joke once in a speech, and he remembered it and used it as the working title of the book. "Don't worry," he said, "no publisher ever uses the working title on the final book." The title ended up offending two groups: 1) those who believe in God and 2) those who do not. We were warmly received by those in the middle.

Christopher Sears said...

This is a good list of references. Now that I'm done teaching for the summer, I can get through them. Thanks for sharing.