Higgs Boson and God’s Remarkable Universe
Before I get too far into my musings, I need to admit that I know virtually nothing about Higgs, physics or bosons of any kind. And my understanding of the working of the universe is inversely proportionate to my awe and wonder at its magnificence. That being said, I’ve really enjoyed the excitement over the Higgs boson ‘discovery.’
It began about two weeks ago when John and I were visiting the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland where we stumbled upon the Pioneers of Science exhibit that included a portrait of Peter Higgs.
Peter Higgs - Lucinda L. Mackay, artist
The caption read, ‘The theoretical physicist Peter Higgs is known for the particle named after him – the as yet undiscovered Higgs boson.’ Here was a man who had a particle named after him that hadn’t even been discovered yet. I thought that was pretty amazing.
When I arrived in Durham for my graduation festivities, I mentioned my excitement about seeing Higgs’ portrait to my supervising professor, David Wilkinson. David has been an amazing source of wisdom and guidance to me as I’ve worked toward my PhD.
David Wilkinson, Principal, St. John's College, Durham University
With a PhD in theoretical astrophysics and a PhD in theology, you can imagine how intriguing our conversations have been over the years. At any rate, David told me more about Higgs, but added that his boson was no longer theoretical. In the next several weeks, he said, there would be an announcement confirming the existence of Higgs boson.
And now of course, everyone is talking about Higgs boson. The connections continue – this morning our local paper reported that the parents of one of my youngest daughter’s soccer teammates, both physicists, have been intimately involved in the CMS experiments leading up to the discovery. Who knew?
I’m not sure why I’m so intrigued with Higgs boson. Actually, it’s not the particle itself or the theories that explain it that has captured my imagination – that would require me to actually understand all this stuff. What has captured my imagination is the process that led up to the final confirmation by the scientific community that Higgs was correct – there really is a Higgs boson.
That kind of process is about the whole idea of knowing something, or intuiting something, or being convinced of something – and then asserting it, laying claim to it, standing by it – having faith in it – in the face of doubt or skepticism, and without absolute proof. That captures my imagination because it reminds me so much of the life of faith.
Being a Christ follower is in large part about laying claim to something in the face of doubt or skepticism and without absolute proof. It’s about living with confidence in the loving work of the creator God who is so much bigger than our limited ability to understand – a God wise enough to create something as amazing a Higgs boson and generous enough to give humans the ability to ‘discover’ it.
But being a Christ follower goes even beyond that. It’s not limited to the ‘how’ of the universe – even though astounding developments in science like the Higgs boson definitely point to how awe-inspiring and remarkable God’s universe really is. At its heart, being a Christ follower involves the ‘why’ of the universe. It’s about laying claim to the (as yet ‘undiscovered’ by some) truth that in creating the universe, God has actively entered into the space and time of that universe – transcending it, but also engaging it and relating to it in a personal way.
For Christ followers, the how of the universe may involve Higgs bosons and all manner of other fantastic things, but the ‘why’ of the universe involves relationship and covenant. Our God is the source of all creation and is irrevocably connected to its unfolding history. That’s why it’s impossible to fully understand the universe without reference to its intimate and essential connection to God. Not only that, but as Christ followers we believe that Jesus Christ is at the center of all this amazing creative activity. He is the means through which the Creator and covenantal God is supremely known. Jesus as the ‘image of the invisible God,’ (Colossians 1.15) – the projection of God into the dimensions of space-time in a way that reveals God’s true nature.
That’s a lot to lay claim to in the face of doubt, skepticism and without any absolute proof. But I like to think of myself as a theological or spiritual Peter Higgs. He might not appreciate that comparison since he’s an atheist, but I still like it. He asserted something he truly believed in, despite skepticism and doubt, despite numerous other theories being offered in opposition in that they depended on there being NO Higgs boson, despite 50+ years of inability to confirm his assertions – until one day…
We Christ followers are spiritual/theological Peter Higgs. We lay claim to a truth greater than many can grasp – greater than we ourselves can grasp. But one day…
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.9-11)