"Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance." ~ T.S. Eliot in "Burnt Norton"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The 'God Particle'

Can we use Science to explain God?  Scientists are claiming that they have found evidence of a sub-attomic particle that was used during the creation of the universe.  They are calling this particle the 'God Particle.'  
Here are some questions to think about:
        Can we reduce God to a particle?  
        If we could be 100% certain that this particle "is God," what would that mean for the        
                          religious community?   
        What do you think of scientists calling the newly discovered particle, 'God particle'? 
        Do you think this discovery is a step towards or away from a deeper understanding of   
        What gives scientists the right to try and discover God?  
        Why does science feel the need to try and discover God?


~Grace, Colleen, and Remy 


  1. Einstein said "Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind." I think science and religion can coexist, but should not mix. Science deals with things we can observe with our five senses. Spirituality deals with something else besides our senses. It deals with our souls. God created humans and the earth. The end. Science should not try to be God. What these scientists are trying to do is crossing over the line separating the two. God is far greater than anything we know, so trying to reduce him to a particle just seems immoral and wrong.

  2. The first time I watched the ‘God particle’ video, I immediately thought it was an attack at theology. Because this particle (which may explain why atoms have mass), may lead to an explanation as to why the universe and humans exist, I assumed it was trying to disprove the existence of God. However, with further contemplation, I realized this discovery is not an attack at theology; it has the ability to work with theology towards a deeper understanding of creation.

    First if all, I find the name ‘God particle’ controversial. It is misleading in the sense that the particle is not trying to replace the need for God; however, it is appropriate because the particle is needed to understand the forces in the universe, just like God is needed to understand the universe. After further research, I found that the particle was originally called the “goddamn” particle, but the name was changed when physicist, Leon Lederman published his book, “The God Particle”.

    When placing aside the controversy of the name ‘God particle’, I was able to see that there was room for science and theology to have a complementary relationship in this discovery. The understanding of creation requires both the religious aspect and scientific aspect. The particle may explain why atoms have mass, but this only leads to more questions about concerning purpose, eternity, meaning, etc. in which only theology can provide some sort of explanation.

    What do you think about the particle being called ‘God-particle’? Does this discovery leave room for theology?

  3. I think the name makes sense given that from a religous stand point God is the first creator and from a scientific persepctive the "God Particle" is, (at this point in time)thought to be the first particle of creation. Religion places its focus on the creator of humanity while science focuses on humanity's creation in general, not holding that one specific entity is responsible. It is possible to believe that God created the universe and that the universe began with the God particle; perhaps it's the first thing God created. Clearly this contradicts strict biblical teaching of Genesis but I think there's possibility for the religous camp to compromise. It is possible that as science advances we will learn more about the theology of creation and science will act as a means for religous discovery rather than as an adversary.

  4. http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/07/04/f-god-particle-higgs-boson.html

    I read this article and I found it to be thought-provoking. I think a common goal in both religion and science is to understand where we come from. I believe that we all inherently have a trait that provokes us to want to hold on to our connections to the past. I think this is one of the reasons we do things like take photographs--because we want to capture our current footprint in history and preserve it. We search for photographs of our ancestors because we want to discover a piece of ourselves through them. The point that I'm getting at is that where we come from really matters to us.

    Yes, it is controversial to call the particle, the "God Particle." It is far too assertive and direct to please a large majority of the religious community and perhaps it is a little arrogant of the science community to go ahead and cross the boundaries of the traditions people believe in and put a scientific explanation to the name. However, who is to say that this could be a link between the world we know and God. Perhaps the particle is not God in himself (whatever that really means) but what if it is God's way of allowing us to connect with him/her.

    In the article I listed, it said, “Without the Higgs particle, other particles, such as electrons and quarks, would be massless and the universe would not be what it is." I find that to be a widely important discovery and a bridge between science and religion because the ultimate goal in both (from my perspective) is that it helps us become closer to understanding where we come from. I think we would go insane if we didn't have some sort of idea or belief to link us to an open-ended answer of our purpose in this world. I think the discovery in itself is not controversial and does not necessarily overstep the boundaries between science and religion (who is to define those boundaries anyway). However, I can understand that the name of the discovery, "The God Particle," is inappropriate for some. Yet, at the same time, if a religious/scientific person wanted to refer to it as "The God Particle," because that is what they truly believe it is, I do not think others have the right to judge. I think it is right to allow people to label it as whatever they consider it to be and leave it at that.

  5. In regards to the question why does science feel the need to discover God, there is a simple answer in my mind. Science wants to discover God for the same reason that it wants to discover anything else in the world. Science has an unquenchable thirst for discovery. There will never be an end to discovery because once we discover something science wants to know where it came from, what purpose do it have.

    1. There is a theological standpoint that says every human being has an innate desire for God, and I think if one accepts that, it explains the scientific need to discover God. It is because the scientific community is clearly made up of human beings, who desire nothing more than to find God. They simply go about finding him through a scientific approach to the world.

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  7. I'll agree with Colleen in her assertion that the title "God Particle" was way too controversial. For me, it invites a world of criticism on both sides rather than provide the opportunity for discussion. Setting aside debate as to the dialogue/contrast of theology and science, I want to state my thoughts as to the actual implications of this discovery.

    In my mind, this provides the scientific and religious community, or one could simply say humanity as a whole, the opportunity to continue its pursuit of knowledge. As Bob said, we have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and nothing will stop us. It's just human nature. This discovery leads us in a new direction, and will continue to yield new answers to our creation, however, as I have also said in class. With new answers, we are left yet with even more questions.

    This particle is not God, in my mind. No, if anything, it is only a part of him in an ever unfolding story of creation, glory, etc. God for me is all that is around us. My questions pertaining to the search are as follows...

    Will we continue to look at the subatomic level, and pursue this as a means to discover more about God?

    Will we, once again, turn our endeavors to the cosmos, and instead search for things like habitable planets? Would a discovery of one, work to damn our longtime assumption that we are unique and special? Or would it open up more questions, and leave mankind in a sense of awe?

    I know I kinda went big on that last one, but it's late for me. Night.

  8. Well everyone has been focusing on the question of the name of the particle. Why it is called the “God Particle” and if that is socially acceptable. I don’t want to talk about who might be offended by the choice of a name, other than to say that I don’t believe it was an attack on God.

    Now, on to the topic that I really want to talk about. I’m choosing to focus on the question “What gives scientists the right to try and discover God?”. Looking for explanations of life and the universe is not new and scientists are not the only ones doing it. Religious people are also guilty of trying to discover God and His awesome mysteries. Human nature makes us curious and gives a thirst for answers. As Bob and Ben have said we just want to know everything we can. That being said I don’t believe that scientists think they are “privileged” or “chosen” to find answers. They believe that everyone has the right to search for answers any way they see fit.

    I would also say that looking for answers to the beginning of the universe and the trying to “discover God” are two different things. Some would say they are the same but that is not my opinion. Scientists want to know where we came from and why the universe is ordered as it is. This doesn’t mean that they can’t believe in God or that he created the universe. It simply means they are trying to understand things that we have never dreamed of before. More understanding is not a bad thing and it is not arrogant to try and comprehend where we came from. If you don’t want to know the answers to the mysteries of the universe that is fine but don’t condemn those scientists who are trying to discover amazing things.

  9. Can we reduce God to a particle?  

    Religions have depicted god as many different people/things. Some religions believe in multiple gods while others just believe in one. Because of the large amount of content that people now relate to God I do not think it would be possible to reduce God to one particle. We are taught that God is supposed to be a all powerful higher power, whom looks over the Earth and enhances the lives of the people. It would not be possible to tell followers of God that what they have been worshiping is just a simple particle. It would just not be accepted by everyone.
    If we could be 100% certain that this particle "is God," what would that mean for the religious community?

    The religious community doesn’t have to change or anything if this ‘God’ particle is confirmed. Religion will still be existent and have a serious influence on the people. Religion already has deep roots in societies through scripture, texts, stories, etc.. Just because a scientific discovery has come along does not mean that their beliefs have to cease. If people believe what they’ve been taught about that religion then it is completely their choice if they agree with the ‘God’ particle or not.

    What do you think of scientists calling the newly discovered particle, 'God particle'? 

    I think they should re-name it to ‘Beginning’ particle. Using the word ‘God’ brings religious connotations that are just going to aggravate Religious communities whom want to combat science. The word ‘Beginning’ would not imply as much of a religious feel and would more accurately describe the particle, as this is the particle that gave all other particles their qualities of existence.

    What gives scientists the right to try and discover God?  

    You don’t need the right to ‘discover’ God, there are no restrictions on how to or whom can try to understand a higher power. If scientists feel compelled to ‘discover’ God then let them at it, if they want to research something else, so be it. A scientist could be compelled to discover god just to disprove a religious person they know, or just for self achievement.

  10. After reading everyones thoughts and the reading for class tomorrow, I see this topic in a new light. At first I did not agree with the name or the fact that they should even be attempting to discover the particle that was used during creation. However, now I agree with E. Gollup that it should simply have a different name, such as 'Beginning' particle. I also agree with what Ben said "This particle is not God, in my mind. No, if anything, it is only a part of him in an ever unfolding story of creation, glory, etc." After reading the comments, doing more research, and reading for class tomorrow, I no longer think these scientists are trying to be God, but just trying to explain a concept no one can fully wrap their minds around.

    Even Pope John Paul II had some of the same views as you all did. "The scientific disciplines too, as is obvious, are endowing us with an understanding and appreciation of our universe as a whole and of the incredibly rich variety of intricately related processes and structures which constitute its animate and inanimate components....Contemporary physics furnishes a striking example....this unification may wall combine discoveries from the sub-atomic and the cosmological domains and shed light both on the origin of the universe, and, eventually, on the origin of the laws and constants which govern its evolution." (p 295 of the reading)

    He goes on to say "The Church does not propose that science should become religion or religion science" (p 297). Even Pope John Paul II realized that science and religion can work together. "For science develops best when its concepts and conclusions are integrated into the broader human culture and its concerns for ultimate meaning and value" (p 299).

  11. Regarding the opening poster's comment, in my opinion:

    I do not think it is fair to reduce 'God' to a single item and challenge His existence on said accusations: this leads to an unfair causal oversimplification.

    I feel as though this must be what the initial reaction to the proposition of evolution was like when Darwin and other advocators of the notion popularized it back in the 19th century.

    The particle resembles 'God' in name, and to give credit /some/ of its nature (according to the Abrahamic description of God), which is most likely the root of this controversy. However I will not peddle an argument that demands a perfect solution; the Nirvana fallacy. Nonetheless, I am extremely curious and about the topic and, instead, of immediately judging the actions of the scientists and their pursuits, would much much much rather see more experiments and tests done revolving around the 'God' particle. Be that as it may, I am not putting up the front that 'I need more evidence to have an opinion' as a means to dodge the matter at hand, but rather would like a more elaborate explanation of what the God particle is aside from something observed at CERN. Again, I'm not trying to shift the burden of proof back onto CERN to prove to me that the 'God' particle or God exists, but rather would like more information on the subject. That is all.

    I'm sure the religious and scientific community will find something even greater and more mysterious preceding the 'God' particle which is when all the fuss starts all over again.

    and by then, the particle will likely be assimilated and accepted by most/some religious community as evolution was/is being accepted.

    It's much too early to have knee-jerk reactions to a 'sensitive' subject.

  12. As others have stated the name itself brings forth a lot of controversy that distracts from the actual discovery. I believe that anything which helps us to better understand ourselves and our universe is a good thing, be it an observable scientific discovery or a personal spiritual realization. In regards to the question of "What gives scientists the right to try and discover God?" I like to look at it as a parallel to the child-parent relationship. I feel this is appropriate since so often we see God portrayed as a patriarch or father figure. When we're young our parents make decisions that effect us and we either agree or disagree with them. I am sure nobody is a stranger to feeling like one's parents made a wrong decision, however, as we grow older we see and understand more sides to the issue. Our parents become more transparent in their actions. I think we can look at this situation and call it the continued maturation of the human race. We are getting to a point where we understand more and more of the universe around us and in that way the "system" which we inhabit, through secular means or through the actions of God, become more transparent. I believe our "right" to try and discover God or his universe is that we are now at a point where we can.

  13. I also like the idea of calling it the Beginning particle. Not everyone is religious, but I think most would argue that we are all made up of some sort of matter and that we all have substance that has to come from some sort of beginning (or does it?)

    No one wants to aggravate religious communities, and I think labeling it "The Beginning" Particle isn't a large offense. No one is indicating that anyone has to necessarily believe that it is "the beginning" or not. After all, between religious communities, different religions perceive God as different things...so does that mean it is offensive for a Catholic when a Muslim says "God" and means something entirely different? It shouldn't be. So why then are we only offended when scientists want to call it "The God Particle." Shouldn't it be ok if God means something different from their perspective? I think sometimes society can be oversensitive. But perhaps I am being under-sympathetic..I don't mean to be...I'm just trying to understand what is so offensive to others about an individuals personal beliefs.

    I like what Andrew said that anything which helps us better understand ourselves is a good thing. I think we have to access the discovery positively...to not jump to the side of being offended but to jump to the side of listening and trying to understand what exactly the scientists are implying by "The God Particle"

  14. I agree with Colleen in terms of reducing the scientific name, Higgs Boson, to “the God particle.” It can be interpreted as an attack on the foundation of religion. Religion can’t be defined without God being the supreme “being” or the creator of all things. Pope John Paul II encourages a unity among the two. In this case, it is hard to integrate the two, but Ben made a good point, “it is only a part of him in an ever unfolding story of creation.” Religion can interpret this as one God’s many wonders, part of the mystique.

    Science can’t be limited by religion. It doesn’t have boundaries. Instead of criticizing this new discovery, I think we should appreciate and congratulate the fact that science can cross borders and is the means to understanding the unexplained. Like other great historical moments in scientific discoveries, the initial reaction was skepticism. However, we should be open-minded about new discoveries. As we’ve discussed in class about mythos and logos, I think in this situation, mythos is crossing over to logos. This existence of “the God particle,” can lead us to a new scientific revolution, which can explain the Big Bang Theory. I think it’s important to us as humans, to know where we originated, whether you believe in God’s creation, or “the God particle.”

  15. I personally was SUPER excited to hear CERN finally come out with this announcement in July! The discovery of the proof of the Higgs was a major leap forward for modern particle physics; right now, we live in a scientific era that is sort of stuck in an odd rut between classical mechanics and a quantum model of the universe. On a daily level, you could pretty much say that scientists are currently scratching their heads trying to decide how to piece together 500+ years of traditional Newtonian physics with a newer model straight out of your favorite scifi blockbuster. We are finally beginning to realize how the world around us really operates on both a cosmic and quantum scale, and the discovery of the Higgs cleared away a little bit of the fog on our window of perception.
    In terms of the relationship between science and religion, I feel that this over time will be one of the major points to ease the sometimes zealous split between the two institutions. It is the particle that gives mass to the physical dimension; it in theory it should provide comfortable support and solid evidence to both world views revolving around an omnipotent entity/being/idea/thing etc that brought the universe into being as well as a reality where the tangible scientific facts of the universe's birth are known and studied. I do not believe that the idea of God can be reduced to a particle, I believe that inherent evidence of the result of more than merely an accidental occurrence can be witnessed in the study of a particle. I believe that as human beings it is within every one of our natural rights to seek out such order, as in the process of doing so we come to conclusions and deeper realizations about ourselves as individuals, and as a species.

  16. Wow, a lot to think about!

    To start off my thoughts, there is no reason for this to be called the ‘God Particle’. As many others have stated it should take on another name such as the ‘Beginning Particle’ or the ‘Creation Particle’. As far as I understand, I do not really think this solves the answer of God or Religion at all. Sure, it would give us information on how the earth was in fact created, but what is next? Where exactly did these protons come from that smashed together?

    Sure this discovery would nullify the story of God creating the World is seven days… but as Catholics we don’t even take the bible to be literal truth anyway, so what does it really matter?

    I believe that scientists have the right to try and answer all of their questions, even if it is impossible to do so. I think as humans, not just scientists, it is a very natural thing for us to want to know the answer to everything.

  17. I don't think God could ever be reduced down to a single particle. There's no way the scientific community could ever be 100% sure that this particle is God because that would go against the very nature of what God is. The fact that we do not and cannot understand God is part of what defines him. I think the discovery of the Higgs-Boson is awesome and can fill in another puzzle piece to the mystery of our universe but its discovery by no stretch of the imagination means we've "found" God. What if God set this particle into motion? Science will never be able to find God.

  18. As previously stated in almost every comment, discovering more about ourselves and learning more about the world as a whole is beneficial in our understanding of both religion and science. I agree with Khulan’s statement that with the new discovery of this particle intertwines the logos world with the mythos world. In the reading, Pope John Paul II stresses the importance of the unification of both science and religion. As he states the ‘dynamic interchange’ between science and religion will benefit both the science community and the church. This new discovery can be interpreted as part of God’s creation, for this particle could not have existed without a cause. That inference can support the religious aspect of this controversy, which can lead to this necessary unification, according to John Paull II.

  19. Gretchen does make a very good point that they could never be positive of what God is in the first place. Meaning that not one particle could encompass everything God is for religion. Why does science even need to call it the "God particle"? It couldn't be called something else that doesn't spark the anger of the religious community. Just image what religion does for millions and millions of people everyday. Now tell all those people what they are believing is not true. There are many implications just by naming this the "God Particle" that will if proven to be what it is, have a very detrimental effect on the world we live in today.

  20. The Scientists searching for the God particle seek to describe the creation of the universe in a new way, specifically looking for the moment when matter first came into being from light. I think the first point of interest is the unique similarity to the first creation story, where God separated the light from the darkness as his first act of creation. The specifics of these actions were before our own times impossible to understand. However, the efforts of the scientists in this direction are extremely interesting. From a great deal of theology and revelation, it is natural to see how God might work through a particle like this at the moment of creation. However, it doesnt seem from the video that the scientist actually believe the particle is God, but that they are giving it that descriptive name to describe its role in the formation of mass from pure light. The desire to discover God is an important part of every person, as evinced by the plethora of religions existent in the world. The desire to answer the why and how led to the creation of many myths, and with all the technological advancements of modern society its important to recognize the similarity of our own discoveries to the early myths which sought to answer the same questions.

  21. In regards to the name "God particle", I did not find, after reading the post nor watching the video, that this participle was somehow being equalized with God. Instead, I took the naming more figuratively, in the way that they believe this particle is essentially the origin of mass and all beings in the universe; just as, as Christians, we believe God to the be the origin of everything. At no point did I get the impression that this particle was somehow replacing God. I think, as has said in earlier comments, that every contribution to our knowledge of the world is something to be gained and learned from and something beneficial to us. While I am not sure that we can ever really come to know God, we can certainly get as close as He will let us.