Researchers Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the coveted Nobel Prize
in physics Tuesday for developing the theory of the “God particle,” which helped lead to its discovery a little over a year ago. Rather than disproving God, Christian scientists believe the particle points to the creativity and mastery of the Creator of the universe.
Working independently in the 1960s, Higgs and Englert came up with a theory for how matter formed and gained mass to become the universe and everything in it. They proposed the existence of an invisible field that sprawls through space like a net. The building blocks of matter, they suggested, acquired mass when this field trapped them. Much later, as the universe cooled, those building blocks formed atoms that eventually became stars and planets.
The theory hinged on the existence of a subatomic particle that came to be called the Higgs boson, even though for more than 50 years no scientist had proved its existence. Then a little over a year ago, scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced they had finally found a Higgs boson using a $10 billion particle collider. The discovery took so long because only about one collision per trillion will produce a Higgs boson.
“This is a giant discovery,” said Ulf Danielsson, member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the physics prize. “It means the final building block in the so-called Standard Model for particle physics has been put in place, so it marks a milestone in the history of physics."
The Higgs boson captured the public’s imagination when Nobel-winning physicist Leon Lederman coined the phrase “the God particle,” but some secular physicists dislike the term because it connotes the supernatural.
“The secular worldview is always trying to explain the universe without divine origin,” said Rob Putman, a particle physicist and pastor of Vineyard Church in central Illinois. “Secular scientists believe God is what people grab onto to explain what they don’t understand. They think once they do understand there is no longer a need for God, no reason to appeal to anything beyond scientific explanations.”
But Thomas Greenlee, professor of physics at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., believes there is nothing about the discovery of the Higgs boson that should challenge the Christian picture of how the universe was created.
“This is true whether a Christian is a long-time scale theistic evolutionist, a believer in intelligent design, or a six-day young-earth creationist,” Greenlee said. “The Higgs field is simply what gives particles their masses, and therefore to a Christian, the Higgs is simply God's instrument in assigning mass to particles.”
Putman agrees that science and faith do not need to be at odds: “The Higgs boson is an exciting discovery, really, because it opens up a new world to explore. From a Christian perspective it gives us one more thing to appreciate about how God stitched the universe together.”