Up Front and Personal

Discovery of the ‘God Particle’

by Stephen Kent

The announcement earlier this month of the discovery of a new subatomic particle caused a good deal of excitement among particle physicists (which most of us are not) and some interest among others for being termed the “God particle” (which it is not).

Confusing? Particle physics has never been known to be simple.

Scientists in Europe who work with the world’s largest atom smasher believe they found the Higgs boson. Its discovery would confirm the standard model of physics that explains why fundamental particles have mass.

Peter Higgs, a physicist in the 1960s, proposed that the whole of space is permeated by a field, similar in some ways to the electromagnetic field. As particles move through space, they travel through this field.

If they interact with it, they acquire what appears to be mass.

Building up to the announcement, the label “God particle” accounted for public interest. Some were disappointed to learn it was neither cosmic sawdust God left behind after he finished creation nor is it a part of God.

There is a good deal that must be known about particle physics to fully appreciate the Higgs boson discovery. But by provoking attention to reflect upon God and creation, it was a good thing.

God created the universe from nothing. Nada. No raw material.

Those who believe in the Big Bang theory to explain the beginning of the universe pose no threat to the belief in God, the creator. If two or more things came together, there had to be a cause for them.

St. Thomas Aquinas proposed a cause and effect theory that has stood up well since medieval times.
The tree outside the window is the effect of a cause. A person planted a seed. That person is the effect of the cause of his parents’ union, and so on. But by the very definition of God, God must be an uncaused cause.

There is always some hope among God deniers that modern discoveries such as the Higgs boson might be the absolute proof of the nonexistence of God.

However, another kind of faith and hope exist in the scientific community, said Jesuit Brother Guy ­­­, a Vatican astronomer.

“No one would have built this enormous experiment,” tapping the time and talents of thousands of scientists around the world, “without faith they would find something,” he told Catholic News Service.

“My belief in God gives me the courage to look at the physical universe and to expect to find order and beauty,” Brother Consolmagno said. “It’s my faith that inspires me to do science.”

It may be presumptuous to believe it is important for creatures to know how God works, but we cannot deny the scientists quest for knowledge of the creation of the universe.

Once we know how the world was made, perhaps we can finally live in it as God intended.

Kent, now retired, was editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle.