Sunday, July 8, 2012

Particle God, pt. 2

Part 1 talked about whether you believe in something or nothing. Many people I know believe that there is indeed something out there, but they're kind of vague and unspecified in just exactly what that something is. Their definition doesn't go much farther than "a Higher Power". Many of them believe this power is a sort of innocuous, vaguely beneficent Energy that directs and guides us.

A belief very similar to the following, if you'll allow me to quote some sage wisdom from a venerable master:
It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.
                                                                         -Obi-wan Kenobi
Old Ben's not entirely wrong.

Although to me that's a shallow and woefully inadequate conception of the higher power that's really out there, there is some truth to it. With the confirmation (mostly) of the existence of the Higgs boson, there is empirical evidence to support this view. Here are two humorous descriptions for the layperson of what the "god particle" actually does:

New York Times:
the Higgs boson is the only manifestation of an invisible force field, a cosmic molasses that permeates space and imbues elementary particles with mass. Particles wading through the field gain heft the way a bill going through Congress attracts riders and amendments, becoming ever more ponderous.
BBC News:
The way the Higgs field works has been likened to the way photographers and reporters congregate around a celebrity. The cluster of people are strongly attracted to the celebrity and create resistance to his or her movement across a room. In other words, they give the celebrity "mass".
To put it bluntly: there actually is an energy field that surrounds us and penetrates us. This Higgs field gives the entire universe its mass and in a very real sense binds it all together.

Who knew George Lucas was such a brilliant particle physicist?

Here's the thing, though. This energy we're talking about isn't just a faceless, nameless Thing. It's more than just "the Force". It is actually the Word of God. Consider the opening of John's gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
John hints at it here, but you just need to read a few more verses to see him declare outright that the Word of God is actually a personal being, someone with a personality--with intention, with purpose:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (v.14)
Paul later amplifies this truth, and you may consider the following sentences--written 2000 years ago--in a whole new light:
For in him [God the Son] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1:16-17)

You might say the god particle really is God.

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not a pantheist. I'm not proposing that God literally is the Higgs boson or the Higgs energy field. But I don't think it's too far off the mark to say that this energy field is in some mystical, supernatural way a physical expression of the creative, sustaining life-force of the Word of God...Jesus.

This may seem really weird to both believer and non-believer alike, for different reasons. But if your convictions about God and ultimate reality include nothing that unsettles you, nothing that baffles you, nothing that exceeds your own understanding, then take care to examine your convictions. It's possible you have constructed god (or the universe) in your own image--a god that'll fall over if you don't nail him down.

To be sure, it can be difficult to believe in an invisible God or a risen Jesus, I won't argue that one bit. But this God in the Bible, this is a God to be reckoned with. A God who's always surprising. A God you can grapple with. A God you can personally interact with.

And in the end don't we all want that to be true? That there is a Something out there who cares whether you live or die?
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
Their words aren't heard,
their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
Indeed. Three thousand years later, they're still declaring.


  1. The term "God Particle" came from the book "The God Particle / If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?," by Leon Lederman & Dick Teresi (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jun 26, 2006), which is in the bibliography of my free ebook on comparative mysticism.

    In the Preface to his book Dr. Lederman, a Nobel laureate in physics, wrote:
    Now as for the title, The God Particle, my coauthor, Dick Teresi, has agreed to accept the blame. I mentioned the phrase as a joke once in a speech, and he remembered it and used it as the working title of the book. "Don't worry," he said, "no publisher ever uses the working title on the final book." The title ended up offending two groups: 1) those who believe in God and 2) those who do not. We were warmly received by those in the middle.

  2. Hehe, I love that quote. I also love what he says he originally wanted to call it.

  3. I had a good chuckle at this guy's idea today--he made a Twitter account called "The Universe" and responded to tweets that have the word "Universe" in them.