Note: The FAQs is an ongoing TGC series in which we answer your questions about the latest news and current events.
What exactly is this “God Particle”?
“God particle” is the nickname for the Higgs boson, a particle that was proposed in the 1960s by British physicist Peter Higgs as a way of explaining why other particles have mass. Theoretically, the Higgs particle is responsible for mass, without which there would be no gravity—and no universe.
For a simple but illuminating explanation of what the Higgs boson is and how it was confirmed to exist, watch the video at the end of this article.
Where did the term “God Particle” come from?
In his 1993 book The God Particle, Nobel-prize winning physicist Leon Lederman explains how he coined the name:
This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet to elusive, that I have given it a nickname: The God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn’t let us call it the [G–d—] Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one . . .
Lederman goes on to discuss the Tower of Babel and “intellectual stress.”
See also: Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Why Scientists Don’t Like the Term ‘God Particle’ for the Higgs boson”
How is the God Particle related to the Big Bang?
According to Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at CUNY,
The press has dubbed the Higgs boson the “God particle,” a nickname that makes many physicists cringe. But there is some logic to it. According to the Bible, God set the universe into motion as he proclaimed “Let there be light!” In physics, the universe started off with a cosmic explosion, the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, which sent the stars and galaxies hurtling in all directions. But the key question is left unanswered: Why did it bang? The big-bang theory says nothing about how and why it banged in the first place.
To put it another way, what was the match that set off the initial cosmic explosion? What put the “bang” in the Big Bang? In quantum physics, it was a Higgs-like particle that sparked the cosmic explosion. In other words, everything we see around us, including galaxies, stars, planets and us, owes its existence to the Higgs boson.
Is the discovery of the Higgs boson evidence that God did not create the universe?
Because of the misleading nickname and the connection to the Big Bang, some people might assume that the Higgs boson has theological—or atheological—implications. It does not. The confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson may illuminate physics but it doesn’t shed any light on metaphysics.
Even if we were to find evidence that the universe has always existed and was uncaused (i.e., the view of steady-state cosmology), its existence would still require a causal agent to keep it from ceasing to exist, to prevent what philosopher Mortimer Adler called its exnihilation. An uncaused being that exists outside and apart from the universe (i.e., God) is required to prevent the universe from turning into nothingness.
God not only caused the universe to come into existence (Gen. 1:1), he continues to sustain its existence. Every particle in the universe would cease to exist if God were not actively, continuously, and sovereignly ensuring their continued existence. The existence of the universe is as dependent on a Sustainer now as it was dependent on the Creator at the time of the Big Bang. “And he is before all things,” said Paul, “and in him all things hold together.” The Higgs boson may be responsible for holding the universe together, but Jesus holds the “God particle” in its place.
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