The Motley Monk was surprised to learn of the “Higgs boson” in a Washington Post article. Nicknamed “the God particle,” scientists believe that Higgs boson is essential to understanding of how the universe works.
Scientists in the the 1960s and 70s theorized that Higgs boson would explain a force field that permeates the universe and imbues other particles—like protons and electrons—with their mass, which is not their weight, but rather their resistance to efforts to move them. If scientists confirm the particle, the discovery close the chapter on the fundamental theory of particle physics, called “the Standard Model,” which for physicists is the equivalent of the chemists’ periodic table, as it describes all the known particles and forces in the universe.
If scientists cannot confirm the existence of Higgs boson, it’s not quite back to “square one.” But, scientists will remain unable to explain nature’s deepest structure.
All of this reminds The Motley Monk of the Book of Genesis, where God forbade the first human beings from eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. To know what is good and evil and to be able to distinguish one from the other infallibly would rid the human beings of having to live with ambiguity, due to omniscience. Hence the problem: humans would not be creatures but gods.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the search to understand nature’s deepest mysteries. After all, God endowed human beings with minds that are capable of engaging in that search. But, for human beings to believe they can know nature’s deepest structure would be to possess the mind of its Creator. As Blessed John Paul II noted in Fides et ratio, science and faith must be in dialogue for each to fulfill its important purpose in advancing knowledge. One without the other is the breeding ground of human failure, oftentimes catastrophic in its consequences.
Yet, some human beings do want to figure out what’s in the mind of nature’s Creator and, to this end, have constructed a $10B, 17-mile-long circular tunnel underneath the French-Swiss border, the Large Hadron Collider. In the collider, scientists smash subatomic particles together at astounding speeds. The scientists believe the remaining debris offers clues about the existence of Higgs boson and what it might look like.
The problem is that there is no way for human beings to see Higgs boson directly. It exists only for a yoctosecond—one septillionth of one second—following collisions of subatomic particles. Higgs boson then decays into other particles.
The latest results indicate that the data are “sufficient to make significant progress in the search for the Higgs boson, but insufficient to make any conclusive statement on the existence or non-existence of the Higgs.” So, it is likely a Higgs boson of a certain type exists, but scientists cannot make any statistically significant conclusions and, in this case, less than 1M-to-1.
So, consider these points:
- I think it exists.
- I cannot see it directly.
- I can explain its existence only indirectly.
- I cannot “prove” that it exists.
- I am impelled from within to continue searching for it.
Sounds like the search for Bigfoot, no?
No, it sounds like St. Thomas Aquinas’ difficulty in attempting to explain the mystery called “God.” The best the “Angelic Doctor” could say about his search was “I can’t prove that God exists, but I can demonstrate it reasonable to believe that God exists.” And that conclusion was derived without the assistance of a $10B supercollider!
Let the discussion begin…
To read the Washington Post article, click on the following link: