The Higgs boson: Seeking to have the mind of God?

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:

  1. I think it exists.
  2. I cannot see it directly.
  3. I can explain its existence only indirectly.
  4. I cannot “prove” that it exists.
  5. 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:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/scientists-close-in-on-linchpin-of-physics-the-god-particle/2011/12/12/gIQAmk2cqO_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

11 Responses to The Higgs boson: Seeking to have the mind of God?

  • As a person having worked in the nuclear energy field for 35 years (which admittedly isn’t the same as theoretical particle physics), I agree with this blog post.

    For a discussion on the “God particle” (albeit from a Protestant perspective), please see Dr. Hugh Ross’s “Have the Real ‘God Particles” Been Found? Part 1 (of 4)’ at the Reasons to Believe Institute (links to parts 2, 3 and 4 are at the bottom of the page):

    http://www.reasons.org/have-real-god-particles-been-found-part-1-4

  • The Wikipedia article on fundamental particles (fermions or matter particles, and gauge bosons or force carriers) is also pretty good.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elementary_particle

    The two diagrams (“Standard Model of Elementary Particles” near the top right of the page and the “Elementary Particles” flow diagram part way down the page) are illustrative of the Standard Model of Particle Physics at the current state of knowledge. This all obviates another long-winded “bloviation” from me about what others explain far better.

  • Twitter had lots on the CERN press conference this morning, particularly @NatureNews, @CERN and @gbrumfiel.

  • I’m seeing headlines suggesting that they haven’t found it, but have narrowed the window at which it could exist. What’s curious is about a month ago, I read a Scientific American article that said some CERN scientists said that with a 95% probability, the Higgs Boson doesn’t exist.

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/08/23/a-higgs-setback-did-stephen-hawking-just-win-the-most-outrageous-bet-in-physics-history/

  • I’m not remotely worried about new discoveries or understandings as such. The more we learn, the more we inevitably realize how much we don’t know. Every discovery introduces new and wholly unaticipated questions. Knowing too much is not itself a moral problem. But knowing too much can introduce moral temptations. Just because we have the technology to manufacture an abortion pill does not mean we should. Just because some new understanding might permit time travel for instance, does not mean we should.

  • I saw a docuemtnary a while back where Fermilab lost or got its funding cut. Or maybe that was just one part of it? Although I do not care for wasteful spending, this is oneof those areas where a little splurge may not be so bad.

  • If you read the atheists’ comments on the Tebow thread, you’d think that we weren’t the slightest bit interested in cutting edge science. Blogs like this on the CERN experiments show the opposite is true: people firm in their faith can participate in and enjoy these types of scientific inquiries. If the world had to wait for true atheists to lead us in science, I suspect we would be very far behind where we are now.

  • C Matt,

    In January, 2011, Fermilab lost funding post fiscal 2011. It shutdown on September 30th, 2011. It is now used as a museum.

    Back in the 1990s there were plans to build a 20 TeV superconducting supercollider some 54 miles in circumference in Texas. In 1993 (under the Clinton Administration) the project was abandoned due to budget problems.

    The days of US dominance in high energy particle physics are over. So are the days of US dominance in anything nuclear-related, including commercial nuclear energy. We have embraced secular atheism as the religion of our national socialist democracy. As Spambot pointed out, “If the world had to wait for true atheists to lead us in science, I suspect we would be very far behind where we are now.” Well, they are leading, and we are falling behind.

  • Spambot — If you are interested in the combination of Catholicism and science, I keep a blog on that very topic at deepsoftime.com. You’ll also find links there to a number of other Catholicism/science writers and sites.

  • Michael, thanks.

  • Ditto to Spambot’s thanks. Tibi multas gratias!

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