Does the Higgs boson undermine God?

FABRICE COFFRINI AFP/GETTY IMAGES Traces of proton-proton collisions events measured by European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the Compact … Continued

FABRICE COFFRINI

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Traces of proton-proton collisions events measured by European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experience on May 25, 2011 in the search for the Higgs boson.

Render unto science what is scientific, I say.

Atheist, fundamentalist, polite church, synagogue, or mosque-goer — all of us — should celebrate the discovery of Higgs boson as a glorious example of the human mind’s ability to figure things out. Here’s to the smattering of human beings who are very, very smart in the ways of quantum mechanics. The rest of us need only be smart enough to honor you.

The affirmation of the existence of Higgs after 30 years of postulating its existence is a real opportunity for organized religion to get out of its own way. As a person of faith in God — but also a person who is not religious in any doctrinal sense — what, I’d like to know, does scientific affirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson particle — the God particle — have to do with anyone’s relationship with the Almighty? What’s wrong with believing that God is, and still being curious about what’s under every last rock that science can turn over?

A lot of religions encourage followers to think of God as a kind of cosmic puppet master who actually does things independently of humans; a kind of CEO God, whose authority trickles down a religion’s managerial hierarchy. Even some non-fundamentalists I know seem to have a need to think that God can choose to intervene magically in the doings of their days. And while belief in this kind of top-down organization of human existence appears to make these folks feel more comfortable, it does not make them curious, it does not make them well-informed, and, most importantly, it does not make them inhabitants of the real world. Where — if God is — God is most certainly to be found.

I am admittedly a religious outsider. To me, the important part of the Bible, the sacred text with which I am most familiar, is its stories about people; some of whom got their relationships with God wrong (greedy, power-hungry Pontius Pilate), and some of whom got their relationship with God right (most notably, Jesus).

There’s also a lot of other biblical stories to explain things that were totally inexplicable and/or scary a couple of millenniums ago – most famously, how the world got here and how human’s got here and what happens to us after death. To anyone who isn’t scared of reality, it’s pretty clear that science has shown, or is in the process of showing, these stories to be untrue. Except of course, for what happens to us after death. About which we really have no idea.

So the enduring – and very real worth of the Bible – is contained in its people stories.

I and most people I know believe that God, the great Whatever, is in some form or fashion. I, personally, believe that God is an inexplicable, inconceivable something available to partner with me in the living of my daily life; and that when I choose to live within that partnership, I am a kinder, more truthful, more productive person, who is much less given to ego-centric, destructive behavior toward others.

My own belief stops right there. That’s all I claim to know about God. And to me this simple acceptance of God’s existence and availability for partnership with each of us appears to be a core message of most religions.

I acknowledge that, for a lot of people, religion is the most comfortable way for them to make such a connection with God. What I quarrel with is when being religious is seen as the same thing as living that connection.

The biggest challenge of talking about any kind of non-religious, action-oriented faith is finding the right words. Organized religion has so polarized us that all you have to do is mention the word “God,” and folks stop listening and start assuming. Those who are not religious assume you buy the myths; those who are Christians assume you believe that Jesus Christ is the divine son of God.

Back a few paragraphs I pointed out that the affirmation of the existence of Higgs boson is a real chance for organized religion to get out of its own way. If for no other reason than “the elusive subatomic beast’s” nickname.

According to the Economist:

It’s a joke, in other words. Which makes it a golden opportunity for organized religion to show it has a sense of humor and can separate myth from core message.

Organized religion must show it has enough faith in the existence of God to rise above silly turf wars with science about the origins of the world, the origins of the species, and climate change. If organized religions don’t, more and more people will turn aside from their central, important message: that with God in our lives (as our conscience, as our partner, as however you like to think about It) we are more useful, less-destructive, less ego-driven humans.

Martha’s note: This essay is a feature of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the Web site), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.

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  • nanonano1

    I think the existence of the Higg`s boson has not been confirmed – merely an indication it exists. The premise” Higg`s boson confirmed” is not firm.

  • Anadish

    The problem with science is the same as religion, it ascribes causality. Today it is Higgs boson, tomorrow it will be a wider, subtler entity causing gravity and mass. Therefore, religion and science shall continue to compete as rivals in a race. I personally do not see any antagonism at all.

  • Dliodoir

    Most believers are perfectly accepting of most if not all of “science.” There may be subtle issues around the extreme margins, but for the most part people of faith find no conflict with their belief in God and the accumulated knowledge that explains our world and univers that is “science.” I find it is atheists who promote the inherent conflict between science and belief as if the two are mutually exclusive and if a person “believes” they must, therefore, reject all that is “known.” The Catholic Church for example has long been a patron of science and has led the way in reconciling faith with science without compromising the integrity of either. Yes, yes. . .we all know of the famous cases of Gallaleo, etc. Oh. . .so the Catholic Church and people of faith aren’t always early adopters. . .but they come around eventually as most people do. The point is that the notion that believers are somehow unscientific is a sterotype perpetuated by non-believers and at the end of the day, that’s just bigotry, isn’t it?

  • larryclyons

    Silly turf wars? When religious extremists are viciously attacking scientific research (e.g. Evolution, or hypnosis), that is not a silly turf war but an attack on our fundamental freedoms – freedom of thought for instance.

  • SODDI

    RELIGION has a SCIENCE problem.

    Science struggles long and hard to investigate the world around us, to provide verifiable theories and methods to approach problems,

    Religion, which has no proofs, can verify nothing, but which claims to have ALL the answers to everything, finds itself lapsing into further and further obsolescence and uselessness. Its proponents keep trying to insinuate themselves into the scientific process, but all they can do is deform the science by twisting it to their own ends and by their own means, which do not include logical problem-solving.

    There are no gods in particle physics. There are not even any gods in the questions that particle physicists ask.

    And until PROVEN otherwise, there are no gods. Please keep your superstitious drivel out of scientific discussions.

  • SODDI

    Another bigot claiming that those he is bigoted against are REALLY the bigoted ones.

    With Romney getting booed at the NAACP meeting, this must be the 2,125th such claim in the WaPo today by you right-wingers.

    The truth is not bigotry. You are an adherent of the cult of unreason,

  • itsthedax

    The Higgs Boson has nothing to do with any god that has yet been invented.

    The only people that will have a problem with the Higgs Boson are the ones who treat the bible as a fundamental science text.

  • joe

    there is a God,, that is no doubt , hi created all things, includeing humans,
    and the bible, is the gide , hi left for all people , to knos him and obey him ,but we need to study the bible , to know what hi wants, 1 timothy, 2:3-5 say this ,,This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, 4 whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, now,, in what has to do with ,, the dead, this is what it say , in Ecclesiastes, 9:5say this 4 For as respects whoever is joined to all the living there exists confidence, because a live dog is better off than a dead lion. 5 For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten. 6 Also, their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun. ; and on verse 10 hi say , 10 All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in She′ol, the place to which you are going.;

  • joe

    nothing sparks a fire, faster, than talking about religion, wy?? couse religion have not done theyr job,, in teaching the truth,, to people,, Jesus said in Joh 13:34-35
    . 34 I am giving YOU a new commandment, that YOU love one another; just as I have loved YOU, that YOU also love one another. 35 By this all will know that YOU are my disciples, if YOU have love among yourselves.”;; that clearly shows that religion in general ,, are a fraude ,, they don`t follow money

  • ClarkKent1

    Do you understand what circular reasoning is and why it is not valid?

  • smt123

    “What’s wrong with believing that God is, and still being curious about what’s under every last rock that science can turn over? ”
    1) Because being scientific means being skeptical and curious about what’s under every rock, including the existence of god. Why are you curious and skeptical about what is under that rock but you know for sure that the universe was created by a supernatiral personal force?
    2) Becuase notions of god/gods have ALWAYS come hand in hand with (incorrect) explanations about the origin and nature of the physical universe. If you think you have the answer (“God did it!”) then you stop being curious.

  • Roger Morris

    Here’s two amazing things to ponder:

    1. That this cosmos, that supposedly arose out of nothing (whatever that is these days), for no reason and completely by accident – seems to be conceivable by finite human minds and mathematical musings.

    2. The finite human mind, apparently arising purely by accident and random chance, and evolved it is said to purely propagate our selfish genes, can somehow theorize, investigate and conceive of the initimate workings of reality ranging from the origin of the cosmos to the ultimate nature of subatomic quantum physics.

    Now that’s amazing!

  • Roger Morris

    Here’s two amazing things to ponder:

    1. That this cosmos, that supposedly arose out of nothing (whatever that is these days), for no reason and completely by accident – seems to be conceivable by finite human minds and our mathematical musings.

    2. The finite human mind, apparently arising purely by accident and random chance, completely determined by the laws of physics and chemistry, and evolved (it is said) for no other reason than to propagate our selfish genes, can somehow theorize, investigate and conceive of the initimate workings of reality ranging from the origin of the cosmos to the ultimate intimate nature of subatomic quantum physics.

    Now that’s amazing – and spooky!

  • larryclyons

    Consider the opposite, we evolved to fit this environment, its perfect for us because life has been spending over 4 billions years to adapt.

    Its very simple actually. Why ascribe to the supernatural when the natural is a simpler and more effective answer?

  • PhysicsGirl14

    I’m sorry, but if you’re going to write a blog, you should at least do your research first. First of all, you are right about one thing, the Higgs Boson has nothing to do with anyone’s “relation with the Almighty.” It is a nickname for an elementary particle that is central to the Standard Model of particle physics which is one of the currently proposed theories which explain why other elementary particles have mass. The potential discovery of the Higgs Boson is exciting because it supports this theory.

    Secondly, if you openly admit that you are a “religious outsider,” please do not state your scatterings of knowlege as fact. It is a sign of good journalism to do your research before writing. For example, if you are going to claim Pontious Pilate had his relationship with God wrong, please read John first. It explicitly states that Pontious Pilate attempted to save Jesus’s life and was told that he was not to blame. Jesus told Pontious Pilate not to free him.

    If you are going to write an article such as this where you admit you don’t know much about either related subject (particle physics or religion), please make sure it is clearly labled as an opinion article and not as fact.

  • SimonTemplar

    While everyone keeps telling me, in articles such as those on this site, that I should feel threatened (in terms of my faith) because of Higgs Bosson, I have yet to see a single article that actually details why this should be so.

    The discovery of Higgs Bosson confirms the standard model of particle physics. Since cosmological arguments for the origin of the universe and the teleological arguments for the fine-tuning of the universe are based on this standard model, I actually rejoice in the Higgs Bosson discovery. It gives testimony to the mathematical precision of this universe which agrees with the Judeo-Christian understanding of the Sovereign Creator.

    I think that atheists should be at least a little shake with regard to the HB discovery as it slightly weakens one of their arguments agains the existence of God, namely their argument that God is undetectable. William Lane Craig draws this conclusion, “…the lesson of the Higgs boson is that physical undetectability is no proof of non-existence, and something can be objectively there and real, even pervasively present, even when we have no direct evidence of its presence. ”

    Now scientists just need to figure out a Grand Unified Theory and a quantum theory of gravity (Theory of Everything).

    Chop Chop!