Last week, a few of the best kind of nerds — the kind that apply their respective staggering intellects to exploring the nature of our physical universe rather than to, say, creating supremely funny doctored jpegs — made a mind-blowing announcement. These finest of minds might have kind of, sort of, maybe uncovered evidence that the Holy Grail of physics, the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle,” may exist.
(I understand that’s a lot of qualifiers. Bear with me.)
Naturally, the Internet erupted in praise, commentary, consideration and supremely funny doctored jpegs. It also manifested a surprising amount of commentary from Christians inspired by the news to, in somehow typically un-Christian fashion, tell atheists to suck it.
Because they assumed the “God particle” has something to do with proving the existence of God.
Because they’re idiots.
Listen: I’m not saying all Christians are idiots. I know and read a lot of thoughtful, intelligent Christians, from my parents to C.S. Lewis. Every subset of humanity has its geniuses, its regular ol’ folks, its callers for tolerance, its callers for intolerance, its thinkers, its feelers, its doers, its evildoers — and its morons. That’s just how things shake out.
And so, regrettably, it is with a certain amount of confidence that I can assert the notion that if you’re a Christian who thinks the Higgs boson particle literally has anything to do with God, then you’re, well … uninformed. Unsettlingly so. Let’s put it this way: I know much, much more about Christianity than I do about physics, and I know that’s not the case.
This week, a different group of awesome nerds posited that the aforementioned awesome nerds may have discovered indications not of the God particle, but of an “impostor particle.” (For the sake of annoying easily annoyed Christians, we’ll call it the “Justin Bieber particle.”) Which is neither here nor there. But this news may set off another firestorm of online controversy.
So, with the aim of heading off a small torrent of irrelevant theological white noise, I offer this primer on the “God particle” for uninformed Christians. Here are five things you should know:
The “God particle” has nothing to do with God. The Higgs boson is nicknamed the “God particle” due to its theoretical power; it might be what holds the entire universe together. LIKE a bearded white guy on a cloud, but NOT a bearded white guy on a cloud.
Physicists hate the term “God particle.” They’ve cringed at it for years, probably because they didn’t want anyone getting confused and, like, inferring that one of the potential basic architectural elements of the physical universe might be a bearded white guy on a cloud.
They didn’t definitively find it anyway. It’s important to hedge your bets when dealing with something of this magnitude, and bets have definitely been hedged. Ninety-nine percent sure is, in this case, most certainly not 100 percent sure. Compelling evidence exists, but the “God particle” won’t be touring Bay area science classes just yet.
If and when the existence of the Higgs boson is proven, it will not prove the existence of God. The opposite is more likely. Unequivocal evidence that the “God particle” exists would bolster a decidedly secular description of the universe. You know — Big Bang, space-time, logical order, math, etc.
None of us can define the universe beyond rebuttal, so let’s try not to be a cocksauce about it. For every Christian that reads the phrase “God particle” and automatically assumes it fits neatly into his or her view of reality, there’s a smug-ass atheist with a “Christianity is Stupid” T-shirt in regular rotation. What you believe is important, but it’s the way you treat those whose beliefs run counter to yours that truly defines our shared reality.
Get more Scott Harrell at lifeasweblowit.com and @lifeasweblowit on Twitter.