The God Particle

by Joanie Butman

You’ve probably heard the recent announcement that Francois Englert and Peter Higgs were awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery of the sub-atomic Higgs boson, more commonly referred to as the‘God Particle.’ I have little interest (or understanding) in advanced science, but the name intrigued me given the usual disdain many scientists have towards the possibility of a divine creator. Apparently, the religious and scientific communities are finally in agreement about something: their dislike for the nickname. God Particle is certainly a misleading name, but it has done its job by sensationalizing the discovery and attracting the attention of the general public to the Higgs boson, what it is, how it ‘matters’ and the enormous amount of work and money dedicated over the past 50 years to prove its existence. Think about it: Unless you’re into science, would you really be enticed by an article about the discovery of a sub-atomic particle? I know I wouldn’t have given it a second glance.

The moniker was coined by another Nobel prize-winning physicist, Leon Lederman, as a title to his 1993 book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?When questioned about his choice of title, he answered, “Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn’t let us call it TheGoddamn Particle, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one. . . ”  There’s a cliff hanger. Higgs is particularly unhappy with Lederman’s designation. He is quoted as saying “I’m an atheist, but I have an uneasy feeling that playing around with names like that could be unnecessarily offensive to people who are religious.” I thought his statement showed an enormous amount of grace and sensitivity. Frankly, I was more impressed with that then his Higgs boson.

In Hebrews 11:1 the Bible says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While Higgs may claim to be an atheist, it’s obvious he has faith – science is his god. I suppose that’s as good a starting point as any because I believe at the end of science is where he will make his ultimate discovery. Scientists spend their entire lives trying to solve mysteries whose solutions just lead to more mysteries. The same can be said of the Christian journey. It is like peeling an onion one layer at a time. For me each layer reveals another facet of the divine. For physicists each layer reveals another facet of His creation to be unraveled.

I can think of a better reason for christening this newfound particle the God Particle. You can’t see it. Yet, not only does it exist, but it is the basis on which all mass and matter are formed. That sounds eerily similar to a supreme being regardless of what name you assign. I can’t prove the existence of God anymore than Higgs could prove the existence of the sub-atomic particle bearing his name 50 years ago. On the flipside, no one can prove  He doesn't exist either. The object of my faith is a personal God that defies scientific explanation. He is meant to be experienced, not explained. Faith requires a certain comfort with mystery. Still, a changed heart is all the proof I will ever need to know that God is real, God is good, God is with me.

After reading a little about the God Particle, it wasn’t long before I remembered why science was my least favorite subject in school. However, while viewing a clip of the Nobel announcement, I watched with interest as Higgs wiped a tear from his eye. I smiled because I truly believe when you discover the God Particle, which resides in the deepest recesses of your soul, you can’t help but be moved to tears. How utterly incredible that the Creator of all that is, chooses to dwell within His children and partner with us as we travel through life.

Contrary to what many believe, I’ve never felt that science and spirituality need to be mutually exclusive.Historically, there have been plenty of famous scientists who believed in the existence of a supreme being. As a Christian, I’ve always considered science as simply the study of HOW God does things. I study the Creator, scientists study creation. What amazes me is how anyone can study science and not believe in a creator. Albert Einstein is a perfect example of a man of science with a healthy appreciation for spirituality as his statement reveals: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

Another interesting thing I discovered in my reading is the amount of people involved in the Higgs boson discovery beginning with Englert and Higgs’ original group of six physicists that proposed the theory in 1964. Over the next fifty years, billions of dollars and hundreds of people were involved in proving its existence. Regardless, the Nobel Prize can only be awarded to individuals not groups. And so it is with salvation. As I half-jokingly tell my family every time I leave for church, “Remember, God doesn’t offer a family plan. You can’t get in by proxy.”

You don’t need to be a scientist to discover the true God Particle. Even Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz eventually learned that: “the next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won't look any further than my own backyard.” God yearns to be your heart’s desire. He is waiting in the backyard of your heart, but it is your choice whether or not to begin your own journey of discovery. That road isn’t always easy; it is fraught with just as many dangers and mishaps as Dorothy’s yellow brick road, but you won't be traveling it alone. I can tell you from personal experience it’swell worth the effort and is far more valuable than anything you can hope to gain in this world.

I choose to savor the mystery of God. The following poem may give you some insight as to why.

Do you need Me ? 

I am there.

You cannot see Me, yet I am the light you see by. 

You cannot hear Me, yet I speak through your voice. 

You cannot feel Me, yet I am the power at work in your hands.

I am at work, though you do not understand My ways. 

I am at work, though you do not understand My works. 

I am not strange visions. I am not mysteries.

Only in absolute stillness, beyond self, can you know Me 

as I AM, and then but as a feeling and a faith.

Yet I am here. Yet I hear. Yet I answer. 

When you need ME, I am there. 

Even if you deny Me, I am there. 

Even when you feel most alone, I am there. 

Even in your fears, I am there. 

Even in your pain, I am there.

I am there when you pray and when you do not pray. 

I am in you, and you are in Me. 

Only in your mind can you feel separate from Me, for 

only in your mind are the mists of "yours" and "mine". 

Yet only with your mind can you know Me and experience Me.

Empty your heart of empty fears. 

When you get yourself out of the way, I am there. 

You can of yourself do nothing, but I can do all. 

And I AM in all.

Though you may not see the good, good is there, for 

I am there. I am there because I have to be, because I AM.

Only in Me does the world have meaning; only out of Me does the world take form; only because of ME does the world go forward. 

I am the law on which the movement of the stars and the growth of living cells are founded.

I am the love that is the law's fulfilling. I am assurance. 

I am peace. I am oneness.  I am the law that you can live by. 

I am the love that you can cling to. I am your assurance. 

I am your peace. I am ONE with you. I am.

Though you fail to find ME, I do not fail you. 

Though your faith in Me is unsure, My faith in you never 

wavers, because I know you, because I love you.

Beloved, I AM there.

                                                                            James Dillet Freeman