Will the 'God particle' disprove God?
WILL THE ?GOD PARTICLE? DISPROVE GOD?
In recent days there has been much talk of the largest experiment ever devised by human kind. Work has been focused on the building of a massive particle accelerator at the cost of ?5 billion. It is funded by and built in collaboration with over eight thousand physicists from over eighty-five countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories.
In total, over 1,600 superconducting magnets are installed, with most weighing over 27 tonnes. 96 tonnes of liquid helium is needed to keep the magnets at their operating temperature so that protons can move at 99.999999% of the speed of light. It will take less than 90 microseconds for a proton to travel once around the 27-km circular tunnel ? a speed of about 11,000 revolutions per second. This is the Large Hadron Collider in CERN. The scientists are looking for missing ?dark matter?.
One of the experiments is looking for a specific particle, never seen but predicted by the scientist Peter Higgs. Higgs described it in 1964 to make sense of the way things behave. It has become known as the Higgs boson particle or, the God Particle. Its theistic nickname was coined by Nobel-prize winning physicist Leon Lederman. Apparently he wanted to refer to it as that 'goddamn particle' but his publishing editor wouldn't let him. The experiment is being hailed by some as an opportunity it to sort out what really happened at the start of time and therefore dispense with a God inspired beginning.
Of course we must be careful not to confuse the fact that Science and faith are asking two very different questions about the start of time. Science asks how things happen, faith asks why this happened.
I see a boiling kettle. I could either say that I flicked a switch which tapped into an energy source, which in turn exited some molecules through energy exchange. This resulted in heat being given off in readiness to release taste from some leaves grown on the foothills of Sri Lanka. Gravity accelerated the poured water towards the large mass known as the earth. The excited water hit the leaves at the bottom of my china pot ?and the rest you know! Or I could, say ?I was thirsty and needed a cup of tea?. The Bible teaches us the way to go to heaven not the way the heavens go.
Will the 'God particle' disprove God? I say 'no'. Two trains on different parallel tracks cannot bump into each other. You cannot smell yellow. You cannot weigh joy. You cannot taste music.
Christians believe that we have a God given curiosity about the universe. Many of the early scientists understood science as a gift from God. If any CERN discoveries are used for the good of all, then the cost could well be worth it. Sadly, faith tells us that despite humans being inspired by God that there is another force at work in us. There is a dark side to us that can be discovered very easily. It was revealed and dealt with at the intersection of two pieces of wood 2000 years ago.
SPECKS OF DUST
It's the most ambitious project in the history of science. The aim of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva is to recreate the conditions one trillionth of a second after the orgin of the universe in the 'Big Bang' - 13.7 billion years ago.
A major hope is to boost our understanding of particle physics - to find the 'Higgs boson' also known as the 'God particle'.
What is truly amazing, as Einstein noted, is that the universe - from the smallest particle to the most distant galaxy - is comprehensible to finite human minds at all. But that is explicable if, as the Bible tells us, we are made in God's image.
The Bible verse that sends me reeling is John 1:2 - All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. That same Word of God, through whom the universe was made, became flesh in Jesus.
The God of the 100,000 million galaxies - each with 100,000 million stars in our observable universe - became one of us, led a perfect human life, died on the cross and rose again for us. Yet we are like specks of dust in the vastness of it all. That just bowls me over!
Revd Dr Rodney Holder is a Fellow othe Royal Astronomical Society and Course Director at the Faraday Institue for Science and Religion.
Article from Word in action Spring 09