Does the 'God Particle' Prove that God Does or Does Not Exist?

Ron Lipsman
The scientific world is abuzz with news of the ratification of the existence of the subatomic particle called the Higgs boson - or more colloquially, the 'God particle.' This subatomic particle's existence - which was verified recently (with virtually near certainty) by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland - lends credence to several long-standing physical theories such as the so-called Standard Model and the Big Bang Theory.

The nickname God particle is ironic for two reasons. First, generally, the nuclear physicists who deal with these matters - postulating the fundamental physical laws of the universe and then setting about to either verify or refute them - tend not to be regular church-goers. While there are some highly prominent scientists who balance personal, religious beliefs with professional, scientific quests, most probably go along with the thoughts of the world-famous physicist, Stephen Hawking:

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. [Interview in The Guardian, 7/9/12]

Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God... [from his book; The Grand Design, 2010]

So it is a bit ironic that physics' most famous quest has resulted in the discovery of the 'God particle.' Most physicists are quite comfortable having their names associated with famous - even if dead - humans like Newton, Einstein or the afore-mentioned Hawking. One will find few, if any, attributions to deities in the objects that physicists discover and name or the theories they propose.

Second, and more importantly, the discovery that the God particle really exists does not - as the name suggests - imply that God played some role in the creation of the universe. In fact, quite the opposite. The matter is discussed at some length in the July 9 Daily Beast by Lawrence Kraus, a well-known physicist/cosmologist from Arizona State University:

This term [God particle] appeared first in the unfortunate title of a book written by physicist Leon Lederman two decades ago, and while to my knowledge it was never used by any scientist (including Lederman) before or since, it has captured the media's imagination.

What makes this term particularly unfortunate is that nothing could be further from the truth. Assuming the particle in question is indeed the Higgs, it validates an unprecedented revolution in our understanding of fundamental physics and brings science closer to dispensing with the need for any supernatural shenanigans all the way back to the beginning of the universe...If these bold, some would say arrogant, notions derive support from the remarkable results at the Large Hadron Collider, they may reinforce two potentially uncomfortable possibilities: first, that many features of our universe, including our existence, may be accidental consequences of conditions associated with the universe's birth; and second, that creating "stuff" from "no stuff" seems to be no problem at all-everything we see could have emerged as a purposeless quantum burp in space or perhaps a quantum burp of space itself. Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge. The Higgs particle is now arguably more relevant than God.

So the term God particle was first used by a scientist, but was picked up and popularized by the media. It's catchy and enhances interest in the subject among the public. But like so much else that the media promotes, it is misleading and inappropriate.


The scientific world is abuzz with news of the ratification of the existence of the subatomic particle called the Higgs boson - or more colloquially, the 'God particle.' This subatomic particle's existence - which was verified recently (with virtually near certainty) by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland - lends credence to several long-standing physical theories such as the so-called Standard Model and the Big Bang Theory.

The nickname God particle is ironic for two reasons. First, generally, the nuclear physicists who deal with these matters - postulating the fundamental physical laws of the universe and then setting about to either verify or refute them - tend not to be regular church-goers. While there are some highly prominent scientists who balance personal, religious beliefs with professional, scientific quests, most probably go along with the thoughts of the world-famous physicist, Stephen Hawking:

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. [Interview in The Guardian, 7/9/12]

Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God... [from his book; The Grand Design, 2010]

So it is a bit ironic that physics' most famous quest has resulted in the discovery of the 'God particle.' Most physicists are quite comfortable having their names associated with famous - even if dead - humans like Newton, Einstein or the afore-mentioned Hawking. One will find few, if any, attributions to deities in the objects that physicists discover and name or the theories they propose.

Second, and more importantly, the discovery that the God particle really exists does not - as the name suggests - imply that God played some role in the creation of the universe. In fact, quite the opposite. The matter is discussed at some length in the July 9 Daily Beast by Lawrence Kraus, a well-known physicist/cosmologist from Arizona State University:

This term [God particle] appeared first in the unfortunate title of a book written by physicist Leon Lederman two decades ago, and while to my knowledge it was never used by any scientist (including Lederman) before or since, it has captured the media's imagination.

What makes this term particularly unfortunate is that nothing could be further from the truth. Assuming the particle in question is indeed the Higgs, it validates an unprecedented revolution in our understanding of fundamental physics and brings science closer to dispensing with the need for any supernatural shenanigans all the way back to the beginning of the universe...If these bold, some would say arrogant, notions derive support from the remarkable results at the Large Hadron Collider, they may reinforce two potentially uncomfortable possibilities: first, that many features of our universe, including our existence, may be accidental consequences of conditions associated with the universe's birth; and second, that creating "stuff" from "no stuff" seems to be no problem at all-everything we see could have emerged as a purposeless quantum burp in space or perhaps a quantum burp of space itself. Humans, with their remarkable tools and their remarkable brains, may have just taken a giant step toward replacing metaphysical speculation with empirically verifiable knowledge. The Higgs particle is now arguably more relevant than God.

So the term God particle was first used by a scientist, but was picked up and popularized by the media. It's catchy and enhances interest in the subject among the public. But like so much else that the media promotes, it is misleading and inappropriate.