Godless Particle

July 6, 2012

It’s a coincidence that I happened to be reading The Grand Design (by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow) when news of the confirmation of the Higgs Boson was announced. (I’m trying to fill some holes in a limited physics education.)

Many who read these pages probably bristle at that description – God Particle – for various reasons: it’s not much of a description at all; it’s got nothing to do with whether God exists or not; and the guy who coined the term, Nobel Prize-winner Leon Lederman , really wanted to call it the “goddamn particle” since it was so elusive. Oh, and on a related note, the eponymous Peter Higgs is an atheist.

God Particle. Please. If anything, the new (overwhelming) evidence for this particle paints God into a tinier corner than he was already in. It answers one more question about how the universe works that God doesn’t. This evidence allows us to focus more directly on a path to more discovery about the nature of mass, time, and space.

It renders the notion of God a little more irrelevant.

This step in our understanding of Nature sweeps God aside a tad more because God has no predictive or explanatory power.Science makes wonderfully accurate predictions about how matter and energy interact. It explains with great detail and consistency how life persists, how planets move, how waves behave and scads of other processes that interact with our lives every day.

God (at least the God of Abraham), on the other hand, is capricious, and offers no explanations that shed light on what might happen next. One day devout Christians drown in a New Orleans flood, the next devout Muslims are crushed to death in a Turkish earthquake. What will he do next? We never know.

No, this isn’t a God particle at all. This is a science particle. Science predicted it. Science built the Large Hadron Collider that generated it. And science detected it.

The champagne being poured after this discovery sparkled in labs, universities, and halls of science all over the world while the God partisans search for the next gap of human knowledge to cling to.