Latest from the Large Hadron Collider is that we should know by the end of this year whether or not the Higgs Boson (AKA ‘God Particle’) exists. The elusive particle was given its nickname because one of its functions (if it exists) would be to give mass to other particles. This idea has given the impression that we would then understand everything there is to know about the universe.
However, particle physicists are the last people on earth who really believe this. In fact, they themselves speculate intensively about the existence of new particles to explain difficult observations. Even within the so-called ‘standard model’ there are sixteen particles, twenty-eight if you include anti particles. The Higgs boson is the last piece of the jigsaw, but has yet to be observed.
It would be easy to get the impression, then, that if the existence of the Higgs is verified then the game is well and truly up as far as God is concerned. But that is a bad piece of reasoning. To begin with, even with Higgs, the standard model flounders on the subjects of gravity, dark matter and dark energy. There are other more technical issues as well.
More important, though, is the false assumption behind this impression, which is that religion relies on belief in a “God of the gaps”. Fill in all the gaps and it’s good-bye God. Now of course there are always exceptions, but that has not been the way of most religious thought, at least in the Christian tradition. Arguing that the existence of the cosmos supports the existence of God is to argue from what we know, not from what we don’t know. Many will disagree with that argument, but it’s not an argument from ignorance.
If the existence of the Higgs is proven, I will be as intrigued as anyone else, at least within the bounds of what we mere mortals can understand. But my belief in the existence of God is based on a much broader foundation: the existence of things, design, morality, human consciousness and the person of Christ. I’m still not certain that the discovery or otherwise of the Higgs boson (or other particles for that matter) can justify the enormous cost of the Large Hadron Collider, but I am certain that it will not be a faith-shattering experience.