The Higgs Boson and God
It's rare that a discovery in physics is headline news. This week's announcement regarding the Higgs Boson particle was even more sensational due to it also being called "the God particle"; one headline read "Discovery of 'God particle' may explain how world came to exist." And yidden everywhere were scratching their heads, trying to figure out if it was Good For The Jews or Bad For The Jews.
Modern physics is hugely significant to monotheism. As I discuss in detail in The Challenge Of Creation (newly reprinted and available online here), the entire enterprise of modern science emerged from the monotheistic worldview. To quote Loren Eisley:
"The philosophy of experimental science… began its discoveries and made use of its method in the faith, not the knowledge, that it was dealing with a rational universe controlled by a Creator who did not act upon whim nor interfere with the forces He had set in operation… It is surely one of the curious paradoxes of history that science, which professionally has little to do with faith, owes its origins to an act of faith that the universe can be rationally interpreted, and that science today is sustained by that assumption."
The more thoughtful physicists wonder at the extraordinary nature of scientific laws. Where did they come from? Why do they have the form that they do? Almost every other possible configuration of the laws of nature would result in a universe near-infinitely less interesting than our own. The Higgs Boson is part of this extraordinary order, being the particle that gives mass to matter and enables a universe with structure instead of a bland sea of energy.
Another theologically significant aspect of modern physics is that the secrets of the universe are able to be unraveled by the human mind. It's a pity that there are Jewish educators who seek to constantly highlight cases of scientists changing their minds, as though this fundamentally undermines the entire enterprise. The scientific enterprise is an amazing testimony not only to the wonder of the universe, but also to the wonder of the human brain. Not only does the universe follow an orderly set of laws; it is a set of laws that can be comprehended by the human mind. As several physicists have noted, it gives the distinct impression that the whole universe was designed for man to be able to grasp. The Higgs Boson was predicted to exist, and was discovered to actually exist fifty years later.
Finally, the Higgs Boson is significant in that it fills a major gap in our knowledge and ties together disparate entities. As such, it plays a crucial role in understanding the overall unity of the universe. Not only did modern science emerge from monotheism, it continues to support monotheism insofar as it discovers the unity present in the universe. As Rav Hirsch writes:
"In light of the foregoing, would Judaism not be justified in viewing this idea of a universal unity, which inquiring minds have already pieced together from the textbook of the universe and which man’s consciousness yearns to express, as nothing less than the long-awaited triumph of the truth of Judaism? This is the truth with which, thousands of years ago, Judaism first appeared in the midst of a chaotic multitude of gods, proclaiming that there is only one, sole God in heaven and on earth, and that all the phenomena of the universe are founded upon His Law. This idea, the concept of the Unity of God, is the truth for which Judaism has endured a course of martyrdom without parallel in world history."
And so, I would firmly conclude that the discovery of the Higgs Boson is Good For The Jews.
Shabbat Shalom! (And happy birthday to me.)