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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The "God Particle": Does the Higgs Boson replace God?

The physicists at CERN have announced today that they are nearly certain that they have identified the elementary particle that gives mass to all matter, the so-called "God particle" otherwise known as the Higgs boson. Almost immediately, I've seen atheists crowing about how science has once again displaced God and I've seen Christians troubled at the discovery that's supposed to somehow rock their faith. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

The real facts are that we've known about the twelve elementary particles (six quarks and six leptons, see image) as well as the four forces for about 40 years now. The Higgs boson was an anticipated missing piece to the puzzle. However, when writing a book on the search for the Higgs, physicist Leon D. Lederman decided to have a bit of fun and nickname the particle "the God particle."  After the book "The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?" was published, its title has caused confusion for both reporters and the general public ever since.

In seeing so much confusion about the implications of the Higgs boson discovery, I interviewed Dr. Barry Ritchie, Professor of Nuclear Physics at Arizona State University, which is a cutting edge institution in this field.  Here's Dr. Ritchie commenting on the Higgs and its implications to theology:
"Lederman's choice of that name, that moniker, was first of all whimsical. It certainly wasn't something that indicated a theological perspective of any kind.  He's offered up a number, well at least a couple anyway, explanations as to why he chose it: one of them had to do with profanity, the other was talking about how difficult it would be… how difficult it was to find and so forth. 

"But again, the important thing to realize is it was meant to be whimsical, it wasn't meant to be something that has anything to do with theology. What the Higgs boson does is it tells us again the origins of mass; it tells us that we think we do understand how the particles of the universe interact with each other and things like that. All those things are independent of any understanding of God. This may be the way God works. If the standard model is correct, then this must be the way that the universe that God's made comes together in terms of these subatomic particles. But it's, it's…   The applicability of the Higgs boson to learning about the existence of God is about as relevant as being able to balance a checkbook is to the existence of God. There's not a theological angle on this."
The entire interview is great, as Dr. Ritchie also discusses the current understanding of our universe's makeup, recent attempts to explain the origin of the universe by appealing to quantum vacuums, and how the man of faith can also be a man of science. To hear the entire interview, click here.

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