UPDATE: Look out God, here comes the God Particle

By Bryan Cones| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

UPDATE: Thought I'd share an article about how lots of Higgs hunters (physicists) are mad that journalists continue to call their quarry the "God particle," via Reuters. Here's a good quote from the story: ""I hate that 'God particle' term," said Pauline Gagnon, a Canadian member of CERN's ATLAS team of so-called "Higgs hunters"--an epithet they do not reject. "The Higgs is not endowed with any religious meaning. It is ridiculous to call it that," she told Reuters at a news conference after her colleagues revealed growing evidence, albeit not yet proof, of the particle's existence.

So, I was at a holiday party last night--it really was a holiday party, hosted by an atheist who is also Jewish!--anyway, the French father of the host tells me that this week is the last one we will need God, because scientists are set to discover the Higgs boson this week (or announce it's discovery anyway), the particle that gives things mass according to the current Standard Model of particle physics. It's the "God particle," I guess, because in giving thing mass it makes possible stars and planets, which eventually produce life.

What's the connection? I have no idea. But it got me thinking about our February interview with George Coyne, a Jesuit priest and astronomer who is the former director of the Vatican Observatory. He related a conversation he had with the physicist Stephen Hawking, who has a theory that would eliminate the need for "boundary conditions," which, the best I can tell, is a set of assumptions that explain why the universe is the way it is. (Go read this if you are curious.)

According to Coyne, Hawking said that if his theory turned out to be true, "Then we don't need God." Coyne's reply: "Stephen, who told you that God or religious faith is a boundary condition for the universe?" (In Hawking's defense, I found him saying that his no-boundary proposal "says nothing about whether or not God exists--just that He isn't arbitrary.")

These kinds of conversations always leave me wondering if scientists and religious people are actually speaking the same language; it's clear to me that they aren't anyway. To be honest, I probably don't believe in the God Stephen Hawking doesn't believe in either. When he says "God," it's not the same thing I mean when I say it. And even if science unravels all the secrets of the physical universe, I don't think my faith will be threatened at all.

I guess what I'm saying is that I wish some scientists would quit trying to replace God and get to work on warp drive. Well, they can try to replace God if they want, but I would also still like them to hurry up on warp drive. I will probably still believe in God either way.