“In him we live and move and have our being.” — Acts 17:28, St. Paul speaking at the Areopagus
“The consistency of matter that enables it to act so decisively on the human body requires the existence of a universal principle that sustains materiality, and is as such non-material.” — David Grumett, summarizing Teilhard de Chardin views in “Teilhard de Chardin: Theology, Humanity and Cosmos“, p. 14
This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the Coursera video lectures on the Big Bang. The lectures for the second week focused on the Higgs Boson, one of the most interesting scientific discoveries of the last two years.
According to the Standard Model of physics, the Higgs Boson is the last particle to be discovered that explains the Big Bang, which occurred approximately 13.7 billion years ago. The Standard Model describes the structure of matter and the forces that bind them together. The evolution of the universe from nothing is unravelled stage by stage by science. The discovery of the Higgs Boson traces what happened in this universe just a Pico second (10-12) after the Big Bang.
The Higgs Boson is part of the Higgs Field, which is an invisible field that exists throughout the universe. As particles pass through the Higgs Field they are slowed beyond the speed of light, much as an object passing through molasses will become slower, and thus are endowed with the property of mass. If the Higgs Field did not exist, particles would not have the mass required to attract one another, and would simply float around freely at light-speed (like photons do). The Higgs Boson is of such importance to the Standard Model that it is sometimes referred to as the “God particle”.
So, what is the theological significance of discovering the Higgs Boson? Fr. Dr. Mathew Chandrankunnel, founder of the Bangalore Forum for Science and Religion, wrote a brief paper on the theological implications of finding the Higgs Boson which is linked below.
I encourage you to read the entire paper as it gives more detailed (but still non-technical) background on the Higgs Boson and the history of the relationship between science and faith. However, here are some key excerpts:
The relevance of this Higgs boson discovery is with respect to the confirmation of the Big Bang model about the origin of the universe. Thus, both scientific experiment and faith experience comes to a convergence about the creation from nothingness. In Christianity from its very inception, a convergence of rationality and faith has been established through the vision of Paul, Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine and other intellectuals tried skilfully to interpret the Christian faith in terms of Greek rational philosophical categories. This positive outlook which has already been set in continued throughout the history. Nicholas of Cusa, Anselm, Aquinas etc., in the Middle Ages, the Council of Trent, Luther, Calvin, Loyola in the beginning of modernity and the Vatican II Council in the twentieth century pioneered a revitalization and reinterpretation of the faith in terms of the constituent trends of those consecutive periods.
Dr. Chandrankunnel goes on to explain how the discovery of the Higgs Boson validates the vision of Teilhard de Chardin, the integration of science and faith in search of both the divine Creator of the Big Bang and the ultimate end of the Omega Point (or Cosmic Christ):
It was Teilhard de Chardin, as a palaeontologist and spiritualist who inspired the generations through his integrated vision of science, theology, philosophy and spirituality, who has with deep theological insights influenced the II Vatican Council. His Future of Man, Phenomenon of Man and the Divine Milieu proposes a holistic theological account of the origin of the universe from God and evolve in and through space and spearhead towards, God. For him, the beginning is A, which he interpreted as God and evolve towards Ω, the resurrected Christ, guided by the principles of the complexity and consciousness, tangential and radial energy, through a process of cosmogenesis, biogenesis, noogenesis, socialization, planatization and omegalization. Science has actually no definite goal for its realization, but Chardin is proposing a final end from his theology and spirituality. According to him, there is continuity and even in the matter, life is latent and in life mind is latent. So by an integrated vision of science and Christian theology, Chardin proposes a converging Omega point where the matter, life and mind fuse into a supreme consciousness.
So what is the significance of this discovery for humanity? It may be similar to the discovery of electrons in the beginning of this century from which we have all the electronic gadgets. The quarks which are now discovered and the God particle may launch us into a new domain and new phenomena which can be manipulated into mind boggling technology such as down loading thoughts and three dimensional projection of matter in terms of quantum teleportation. And would be the plausible philosophical significance? Now these recent scientific experiments and the discovery of the Higgs Boson are drawing closer to the initial moments of the big bang event that happened 13.7 billion years ago while the religious experience pinpoints to a creation out of nothingness. The distinct religious experience and the scientific experiments are thus, converging towards the beginning of the universe. Science could not yet explain how the whole matter was confined into a tiny atom and it too explains the initial explosion as a mystery. Thus, as quantum relativistic cosmology points out, the universe began from a tiny atom, a quantum singularity as shown by the discovery of the God particle. It may also be pointed out in the long run that scientific experiments and religious experience can, thus one day converge towards a goal as described by Teilhard de Chardin towards a trans Cosmic Singularity, a Super-consciousness, describing the evolution of the universe from a quantum singularity towards a cosmic singularity incorporating science and its underpinning reason fused with religion and its foundational faith.
It is definitely an exciting time to be alive. It would be very interesting for someone who has a lot more time than I do (an aspiring Doctoral student?) to compare the science of the Higgs Boson with the concepts of The Divine Milieu and the divinization of matter as articulated by Teilhard de Chardin. I am hoping that others continue the theological implications of the Higgs Boson and other recent scientific discoveries and integrating them into traditional Christian theology.