On July 4th scientists at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva) confirmed the existence of the Higgs particle. A week later Newsweek’s Lawrence Krauss wrote that with the discovery of Higgs Boson science comes even “closer to dispensing with the need for any supernatural shenanigans…. The Higgs particle is now more relevant than God.”
Really? Doesn’t anyone remember when John Lennon said something similar about the Beatles? Next thing you know kids in Tennessee will be burning their copies of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia, and radio stations will stop playing ABBA. (Yes, I know they’re Swedish, but it’s the best I can do.)
Anyway Dr. Kraus is wrong on both counts. First, Higgs doesn’t make God less relevant for the millions of people for whom God is most relevant. They will either deny the existence of Higgs they way they deny evolution and human-made climate change, or they will say that Higgs is God’s way of providing the universe with mass.
Second, linking all Gods to “supernatural shenanigans” suggests a vast theological ignorance. The God of Spinoza and Einstein, for example, doesn’t even play dice let along indulge in shenanigans. And Saint Paul’s description of God as that “in which we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) embraces the Higgs boson, while the Tao that cannot be named might very well be named the Higgs Field if it could be named. There is a lot more depth and sophistication to some thinking about God than Dr. Krauss gives us credit for.
Many of us who have a love for God also have a deep respect for and at least some grounding in science. I, for one, wrote my rabbinical thesis on the influence of quantum mechanics on contemporary Jewish thought and liturgy. (It was a very short thesis.) We don’t set out to refute science but to be challenged by it. We don’t want to compete with science but to place it in a larger context, a grand meaning–filled story that suggests a direction to evolution that many (most?) scientists either fail to see or fear to name lest they suffer a loss of professional status.
I am very excited about the discovery of the Higgs boson, and have no fear it will make any God irrelevant. As for shenanigans, we don’t need God for these at all.