Higgs boson and the death of God

Visual Higgs Boson

Visual Higgs Boson (Photo credit: Michael J. Linden)

So the shy Higgs boson has been found hiding beneath the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland.  Or something has been found that looks and acts the way we think the Higgs boson would, had we ever been able to coax it into the light before.

And a columnist in our local newspaper, Michael Worsnip, has got his gander up, and his newly found atheistic knickers in a knot, excitedly telling the world that this, at last, is the death of God.  Well he will have to join a rather long and distinguished queue, behind such luminaries as Nietzsche, the original “death of God” movement, Stephen Hawking, and, of course, Richard Dawkins, although to be fair, the latter never believed God was alive in the first place.

But, in spite of Worsnip’s excited claims, this is not the final nail in God’s coffin, nor final proof of the foolishness of the claims of all people of faith.  And I’m glad to see Worsnip include Muslims and Jews in his tirade.  So often they are left out, as if Christians were the only fools.

Over the years, at every turn of the scientist’s screw as it were, there has been a collective grin of triumph from the Worsnips of this world, and a collective gasp of fear from some Christians, both groups thinking, “This means there is no room for God.”  The discovery of gravity meant that there was no room to believe in a God holding us in place.  Well if that’s all you thought God did, I have news for you.  Similarly, Worsnip’s claim is that, because the Higgs boson is the “glue” that holds the universe together, belief in God as the coherent force falls away.  He seems to hope that Christians, Muslims and other foolish believers will do the honourable thing and quietly disband.  In reality, such claims are not a rejection of God, but of some small part of our understanding of what we thought God did.  If God is, then he is by definition, beyond our understanding and beyond our manipulations—and that is a word of caution as much to Christians as to atheists.

There will of course be Christians (I cannot speak for others) whose proverbial knickers will be just as tied up as Worsnip’s.  They will be confirmed in their condemnation of the entire scientific endeavour as a plot to destroy the credibility of belief in God.  Why we want to give scientists such power (which the best of them reject) I do not know.  God’s credibility, and the credibility of our faith, does not depend on the discoveries and interpretations of scientists or of anyone else, just as scientists do not need our permission to proclaim their discoveries. 

Nothing science has discovered disproves the existence of a benevolent (we say, loving) creator.  All they have done is to tell us something of how that creation may have taken place.  Equally, nothing of the Christian faith disproves the methodology scientists are discovering.  The Bible says nothing about the “how” of creation, and science has no handle on the “why”.

I summed it up in an earlier poem:

Quite soon there’ll be no hidden things; Higgs boson will be found,
And closed doors will be opened by this ‘particle of god’.
One question still remains beyond where scientists like to go.
“It’s not important, quite absurd.” But still we want to know.

The question that’s ignored is, Why? What purpose could there be
In you and me, in life and death, and all we do and see?
Some think the universe is fickle, some think it quite benign.
But could there be behind it a creative force, divine?

(You can read the rest of the poem here.)


Filed under Odds & Ends, Science & Religion

11 responses to “Higgs boson and the death of God

  1. The death of God was always a metaphor, even when Nietzsche used it, not just Dawkins.


  2. Bless you Ian, we do miss you! Ja, for me, I think that when I see God face to face one day I might ask Him for all the answers …. then again…..I don’t know if it will be important any more 🙂


  3. Excellent article. Thank you


  4. Thanks for calling in. We lived in Stamford for a time when I was a kid.
    I shal visit and read more of your blog when I get a chance. Some interesting thoughts.


  5. Thank you Wondering Preacher. I think that the either/or people (strict rationalists, or strict faithists) might do well to question the binary world that they instigate. Divinity, I humbly suspect, is beyond those binaries, which the myth says were triggered by the symbolism of the Fall. And which bedevil our lives in a zillion ways. I’m teased by the fact that Aristotle, ‘father’ of empirical thought, used, for matter, the Greek word for wood (‘hyle’). Thus the very roots of modernity’s empiricism speak of the living natural world. And the Latin ‘materia’ comes ultimately from matrix, Mother! All is at once energy and particle, a universe of divine and renewing and extraordinary grace.


  6. My favourite thing about the Higgs Boson is that is has no theological implications at all, and yet the amateur atheist-scientist claims a small victory. The nick-name “The God Particle” is the result of an editor’s decision about the title of a book that was supposed to be called “The Goddamn Particle: if the universe is the answer what is the question”. Censorship changed that to “The God Particle” and it’s played its misplaced part in theological discussions ever since.
    Anyone remotely verse in the Higgs Boson (and if there’s any word that described how well versed I am in the Higgs Boson, it’s “remotely”) and in theology know that the two issues only collide when a person takes the most fundamental of young-earth creation stances. Higgs has not killed God.

    That being said, you can go to my blog (allalltor.wordpress.com) and see how certain traits and definitions can be killed off, leaving an ever-less-powerful God behind. Even that God is only a god that can be asserted in a logically consistent way, not a God that can be demonstrated or evidentially defended.


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