The following is a post I wrote for another blog that I often contribute to. If you’re interested in checking that one out, click here.
Flying under the radar of most of the news stories of the past two weeks is a report out of Switzerland regarding scientific experimentation with particle smashing. Over the past decade, brilliant men and women have worked tirelessly in hopes of identifying and evaluating the elusive “God particle,” a hypothesized elementary particle that would provide explanation of how the universe was formed. Known as the Higgs boson in scientific circles, its searchers believe the particle indeed exists, but despite creating trillions of particle collisions over the past decade, they have not yet been able to clearly identify it.
What exactly will a discovery of the Higgs boson provide quantum physicists? Namely, the ability to explain how the spontaneous breaking of electroweak symmetry occurs in nature; this would then allow scientists to offer an explanation on why other elementary particles (such as electrons and quarks) have mass.
What will a discovery of the Higgs boson provide humanity? Well, ever since the coining of its nickname, many have believed that identification of the God particle would become an Achilles heel for all religion. If science can finally explain – rather than merely theorize – the formation of the universe without the need for a Creator who at the very least set all things in motion. Others have not jumped to such a drastic conclusion. However, the possibility has proved to make many people nervous, and has lit up comment feeds in articles and on blogs all over the Internet. (Just take a quick glance at the comment section arguments inspired by the article linked above.)
- I’ve always found it odd that many Christians maintain a significant amount of dread and suspicion of scientific study. Some churches go so far as to vilify the work of biologists, anthropologists, chemists and physicists, believing that they are arrogantly meddling with the things of God. Now, as I work with college students and worship alongside Biology majors and Physics majors, the aversion to science I see present in the Church today only bewilders me more. I’ve even heard people who I once considered wise and thoughtful believers suggest the existence of a global conspiracy by a scientific community that will stop at nothing to rid the world of religious belief.
- Often, Christians feel as if their responsibility is to protect God from these arrogant, impious scientists. They’ll never admit this, of course, but rather claim they are simply affirming the relevance of our faith and religious practice. But that is rarely the root motivation. It seems that these days Christians are much more interested in arguing for the sake of domination rather than dialogue. Consider the comment sections you’ve glanced at in regard to recent hot-button issues like gay marriage or Obamacare. We’re not so much interested in genuine dialogue as we are in protecting our viewpoint, as if someone actually held an opinion so solidly composed that the rhetorical ramifications would be the complete negation of God himself. The same sense of anxiety pervades our minds when we encounter controversial topics of a scientific nature. When many Christians read a news story about physicists closing in on the God particle, or a team of archeologists uncovering a secret tomb outside Jerusalem, or even the discovery of a collection of ancient religious texts, they immediately find themselves playing defense. Their strategy? Deny, discredit, and denigrate. Conversations tend to go like this:
“Did you see that documentary special about the crew that discovered what might be Jesus’ actual burial place?”
“Yeah, right. There’s not a shred of truth to it.”
“Well, the filmmaker and the historians he interviewed make a compelling argument, at least.”
“Please! The filmmaker is being financed by a company that has a history of giving money to projects and organizations that work to disprove the Bible. And those historians aren’t even experts in their field. They were only featured because the real experts refused to be interviewed.”
“Well, if anything, it raises some questions.”
“Like what? How much money the people interviewed were paid to say what they said? It was all scripted! Those so-called experts were only featured because they need the publicity, since they aren’t even respected in their own field.”
There’s something to be said for defending our faith. But we defend the faith by shining its light, not by ridiculing the darkness. Jesus taught his disciples to let their good works (and, by extension, their good words) shine before all people, that by the witness of our faith in action, people might believe in God. “You are the light of the world,” he reminded his followers. “No one who lights a lamp puts a basket over it.”
Likewise, when we notice scientific progress raising questions about the origins of life or the fundamental principles on which our faith is based, we should see it as an opportunity to engage in dialogue. To listen closely to the other side and ask ourselves why a person would truly want to think in such a way. We ignore the hype of the masses, and sincerely question the motives of a scientist desperately invested in discovering the Higgs boson. We consider how to respond in a way that does not tear science a new one, or prophesy their inevitable roast in the unquenchable fires of hell (a favorite endgame argument for a lot of anxious Christians), but rather how we can offer a more compelling case for the benefits of faith. In short, we commit ourselves not to the business of disproof, but of redemption.
Will these scientists in Switzerland discover the God particle? Maybe. Maybe not. Is God at all afraid of their work. Absolutely not. And just as he is, let us likewise live.