On Wednesday, July 4th, Scientists at CERN announced that they have found the Higgs boson, or the God Particle.
If you don’t know much about the Higgs boson, this video may help shed some light (8 minutes long):
The video does a decent job of explaining what the Higgs boson is, but it doesn’t delve into the drama associated with the discovery. Many are saying that the discovery proves that God does not exist (just read the comments on the announcement from the Daily Mail).
Now, before we go any further, let me clarify that I am neither a doctrinal scholar on the level of Bruce R. McConkie, nor am I a physicist or a scientist. I am lowly human, so what I say here is my interpretation of the news I have been following over the last couple years. Still, I don’t totally get everything, nor do I know the answers. If I have made any errors, please feel free to leave me a comment or two, and I’ll do my best to provide an update with any corrections. I am sure there will be plenty.
My friend Brad first mentioned many of the ideas here on Thursday, and when he did, I realized that he was putting into words what I have been thinking, but unable to express. So, here goes…
What the Higgs Boson Means
From the Daily Mail article above:
The Higgs was proposed in 1964 – it is the last missing piece of the Standard Model, the theory that describes the basic building blocks of the universe. The other 11 particles predicted by the model have been found – the Higgs is the last jigsaw piece.
If the particle was shown not to exist, it would have meant tearing up the Standard Model and going back to the drawing board.
Theory has it that as the universe cooled after the Big Bang, an invisible force known as the Higgs field formed.
This field permeates the cosmos and is made up of countless numbers of tiny particles – or Higgs bosons. As other particles pass through it, they pick up mass.
Experts compare the search for the Higgs boson to the discovery of the electron.
The idea of the electron – a subatomic particle – was first floated in 1838, but its presence was not confirmed for another 60 years.
A century on, the electron’s existence underpins modern science. Our understanding of it is critical to the development of technology from television and CDs to radiotherapy for cancer patients.
As I mentioned, some people believe that the existence of the God particle means that God does not exist. They posit that because there is a particle that can make mass, that explains that the big bang theory is true (or that it at least could have happened), and that matter can essentially be created on its own. Or in other words, two particles could have collided and created the earth and everything that is on it, including humans, and our ancestors, which may or may not have been primordial ooze.
What those who do not believe in God contend is that because of this Higgs boson, we can safely assume that it is our creator. But here is the really interesting thing about the whole discovery, they don’t actually know that it is exists. “Rolf Heuer, director-general of Cern, the home of the Large Hadron Collider, told a packed auditorium: ‘As a layman, I would say we have it.’” What that really means is that they “appeared to have found it”. Now, they cannot say with a hundred percent certainty that they have found it, because it is currently unseeable to us. We can’t be sure that it is there, but (using the info from the PHD Comics video embedded above) we can see that there is a tiny difference in one area, which means that it could exist.
Questions of continued funding based on news and buzz aside, the scientists are still not sure that it exists, they are just pretty sure. They are scientifically certain, however, but they just want more time and data to confirm that they are correct. This is an important point in the next section.
The Scientific Method Vs. Faith
In 2007, Richard G. Scott gave a talk called “Truth: The Foundation of Correct Decisions”. He talked about the need for finding what truth is as “…truth is the only meaningful foundation upon which we can make wise decisions” and if we don’t, then there is really no reason to learn truth. He starts the talk by discussing the two ways to find truth.
There are two ways to find truth—both useful, provided we follow the laws upon which they are predicated. The first is the scientific method. It can require analysis of data to confirm a theory or, alternatively, establish a valid principle through experimentation. The scientific method is a valuable way of seeking truth. However, it has two limitations. First, we never can be sure we have identified absolute truth, though we often draw nearer and nearer to it. Second, sometimes, no matter how earnestly we apply the method, we can get the wrong answer.
The best way of finding truth is simply to go to the origin of all truth and ask or respond to inspiration (Jacob 4:8). For success, two ingredients are essential: first, unwavering faith in the source of all truth; second, a willingness to keep God’s commandments to keep open spiritual communication with Him.(emphasis added)
That is pretty self-explanatory. Use the scientific method, or go to the source of all truth. Jacob 4:8 reads:
Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.
We cannot know what God has done, or all His ways unless He reveals it to us. Luckily, we have prophets and apostles to whom He does reveal many great and important things. He also, as Elder Scott says, allows us to go straight to Him for answers to the questions we seek.
There are many instances of this in the scriptures, one of which is the desire of Alma to understand the resurrection. He says:
Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection. Alma 40:3
Alma shows us that what Elder Scott says is true. If we want to know, we can ask the Father, and He will reveal it to us. Alma was an amazing and holy man, I imagine, and he had to inquire diligently to get the answers he sought. And he still didn’t get everything he wanted to know, but he was happy with what he got. He got what he wanted by asking Heavenly Father if he could know.
It isn’t easy, however, to get the things that we desire. In “Following the Light of Christ into His Presence,” Pontius says:
It sounds simple, and it is simple. However, simplicity does not mean it isn’t easy. It is a lifelong task. It is designed to be so demanding that only the very, very obedient will accomplish it. Do not count yourself out… You are capable of such obedience and can become worthy of all these blessings. Just set your heart on a course of obedience, and you will accomplish all of this much more quickly than you anticipate. As has been stated many times in this book, a commitment to total obedience will blast you off so fast and high, that it will be breathtaking, the height unimaginable, and the promised blessings very near.
The things that God has created are so vast, that it is nearly unfathomable to imagine getting even a small idea of all that He has created:
Beyond [the Milky Way], we’d encounter galaxies 10 billion light years away that the Hubble telescope has photographed. The dizzying enormity of that distance is suggested by noting that light travels 700 million miles an hour. Even from this extraordinary perspective there would not be the slightest evidence of approaching any limit to God the Father’s creations.
[Continuing in the other direction, down to our DNA and atomic levels…] Were we to penetrate further into the mysteries of the most fundamental makeup of creation, we would come to the limit of our current understanding. In the last 70 years much has been learned about the structure of matter. A Standard Model of Fundamental Particles and Interactions has been developed. It is based on experimentation that has established the existence of fundamental particles designated as quarks and others called leptons. This model explains the patterns of nuclear binding and decay of matter, but it does not yet provide a successful explanation for the forces of gravity. Also, some feel that even more powerful tools than those used to acquire our current understanding of matter might reveal additional fundamental particles. So there are yet more of Father in Heaven’s creations to be understood by the scientific method.
This quote could now be updated to include the discovery of the Higgs boson, which does start to explain how gravity and mass work, but even still, there is so much more to learn.
Elder Scott touches on many things that we have learned through revelation by citing scriptures.
How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?
And were it possible that man could number the … millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet … thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;
… And naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?
The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, … and … gave I unto man his agency;
And unto thy brethren have I … given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.
Through revelation, we have known that there are millions of earths like this one. We still don’t know scientifically that other inhabitable planets exist, but we know through revelation.
Worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. … There are many worlds … , and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.
Moses 1: 33, 35
While our inability to count the stars in the sky and the planets that exist limits us, God knows all that he has created and is aware of every single thing he has created.
There are many things that science cannot yet tell us. Some things we will never learn through science, and others, as we have witnessed this week, we are starting to figure out.
It is truly amazing to be living in a time when these discoveries can happen. CERN Lab Spokesman Joe Incandela said, “This is something that may in the end be one of the biggest discoveries or observations of any new phenomena that we’ve had in our field in the last 30 or 40 years.”
Did We Really Learn about Particle Physics in Primary?
No, not really in primary, but there are many things that are revealed in the scriptures that help us understand that, yes, it certainly makes sense that there would be something immeasurable by man that God would use to create the earth, like the Higgs boson:
There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;
We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter. D&C 131:7–8
When I read this, I think, “Yes! The Higgs boson (and many other particles that we can’t even fathom right now) does exist, and when we are purified after this life, and like God, we will see exactly how it works and what it looks like.”
5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;
6 But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.
8 And I, the Lord God, planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there I put the man whom I had formed.
9 And out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree, naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it. And it became also a living soul. For it was spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it, yea, even all things which I prepared for the use of man; and man saw that it was good for food. And I, the Lord God, planted the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and also the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Moses 3:5–9 (emphasis added)
I’d like to point out a few things here.
First, God created all things before they upon the Earth. Somehow, He has the power to do that. They were created spiritually first, and that is important to note. When I think of discerning spiritual matter with purer eyes, I think I may understand that a little better. It also, to me at least, hints that there is way more going on than the Higgs boson. We are just barely scratching the surface with that one. When the Lord God “spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered” it, there must be some way to explain that. I don’t know what that explanation is, but it is more evidence that the Higgs boson is just scratching the surface.
Second, there is a way that God can breathe life into someone. He formed man first, then he breathed life into him. Think about that for a second. He formed all the minute parts of man, and made sure that it all worked, and then gave him “life”, which he didn’t have before God gave it to him. There is another power, particle, or whatever that gives life to inanimate objects. He does say that all things were created spiritually before they were created physically, so we have to understand that a transformation takes place at some point, just as a transformation takes place after our bodies die, and we are resurrected, though we still don’t understand what that process entails. See Alma 40–41 for a deeper understanding of that mystery.
Personally, I am excited to be alive at a time when the full gospel is on the earth, and we have the opportunity to learn whatever we have faith to ask God about. Many things that are happening around us can be explained by the simple truths of the gospel.