Faith and Science

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, have announced the discovery of a Higgs particle, sometimes referred to as the “God Particle”. What does this mean for our understanding of faith? Has the secret of the universe been discovered in this odd particle? Is God now obsolete? Or has science gone too far and God’s judgment just around the corner? Questions like this have plagued people of faith for centuries.


First, let me try to describe, to the best of my layperson’s understanding, what a Higgs particle is and why it is called the “God Particle”. As I have mentioned in previous entries, sub-atomic particles have no mass until they are coupled with wave energy. For over 50 years, quantum physicists have theorized that this coupling occurs with an elusive particle named after Peter Higgs in 1964. The Higgs Particle (or more precisely, Higgs Boson) is extremely heavy for its size, exists in a dual material state (both matter and anti-matter) and lives for a very short time. Hence, it has been very hard to identify. Leon Lederman wrote a popular book on the particle, which he wanted to call “The Goddamn Particle” because it was so difficult to prove and billions had been spent on the quest. However, the publisher named the book “The God Particle” and its importance was elevated to theological proportions. The Higgs Boson may be the particle that catalyzes the coupling of wave energy and matter to give a particle mass, but it is not God.


People of faith need to be careful not to marry their belief in God to a certain understanding of science. Likewise, people of science need to be careful not to marry their understanding of how the universe works to the negation of the existence of God. String theory may provide a working theory of how gravitons transmit gravity between masses. Evolution may provide an explanation of how species adapt over eons of time. The Higgs Particle may give us an understanding of how sub-atomic particles develop mass. None of those discoveries negate the existence of God. All of those discoveries require us to expand our understanding of God from our little parochial god that we can understand and manipulate into something much more infinite and cosmological.


When the Roman Catholic Church censored Galileo, it was not because he was teaching an understanding of the solar system that was contrary to the Bible. Actually, the Bible has no description of how the solar system works. The Catholic hierarchy had married their understanding of God to an Aristotelian scientific worldview. We have long since forgotten about a terra centric universe, the composition of all matter from four primal elements, and other components of Aristotelian science. In doing so, we greatly expanded our understanding of God. Let’s not have to wait 500 years to allow discoveries in quantum mechanics to expand our understanding of God even further.


If you attend church (and I realize many of my readers do not) you should be aware that most churches are populated by people who, like myself, are over 50. The exception to that are certain highly emotionalized churches. If we want Christianity to exist in the next generation on anything but an emotional level, we need to embrace our rapidly changing world, its broadening approach to spirituality, and its scientific understanding. This is difficult since most churches are funded by people who, like myself, are over 50. but the challenge is ours to take on or ignore.


Let me begin this little treatise with a quick word to any atheists who may be reading this article. You are right. The god you do not believe in does not exist.

St. John the Evangelist opens his gospel by introducing a new concept, that of God as Logos. I have mentioned logos a couple of times in earlier posts, so I thought I would devote an entire reflection on the idea. I find it especially important for our 21st century culture.

Logos is a Greek word usually translated “word”, but, in truth, it is a great deal more than a particle of language. Logos finds its way into our English language in the form of the suffix “-logy” as in biology, geology, psychology, etc. Webster usually defines it as “the study of….” Again, it is so much more. It is best understood as, “the sum of all.” So, geology is the sum of all knowledge pertaining to the “geos” or earth. Biology is the sum of all knowledge pertaining to the “bios” or all living things. When St. John describes God as Logos, he is saying, “God is the sum of all – all knowledge, all wisdom, all energy and thereby all existence in heaven and earth.” That is a far cry from the anthropomorphic image of God usually gleaned from reading the Bible.

Now, I am not knocking the way the Bible talks about God. The Bible is written in language, and language is limiting. The Bible was written to reveal man’s relationship with God. It follows naturally that the Bible would focus on the personhood of God and his intimate character. Therefore the Bible uses anthropomorphic language to describe God as a person with whom man can be intimate. But if we take the language too far and think of God as human, albeit some kind of super-human, we have severely limited God. Countering that limitation, St. John describes God as Logos, the sum of all. Then, once he has us viewing God in inexpressible expansiveness, he goes on to say, “The Logos became flesh and pitched his tent among us.”

The concept that God became man for a brief point in human history is the fulcrum of Christianity. It is what Christians refer to as the incarnation. To those of us who have inherited two millennia of Christian culture, it seems like a very normal thing to talk about. To first century Jews who believed you might be struck dead for just whispering the name of God, the concept of God being human – eating, drinking, shaking hands with the guys – was inconceivable. However, the incarnation event, that of Logos in flesh, was inevitable, as it is written into the very fabric of existence.
Let me make it clear that you do not need to understand quantum physics to have faith. I, for one, find it helpful to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the way the universe works in order to expand my understanding of God and embrace the power of faith in a new and more expansive way. Others, especially those who began searching the internet for images from the Hubble telescope in kindergarten, may find it difficult to believe in a God as explained by their parents and grandparents (old fogies like me). For them, perhaps a quantum understanding of God is essential to find their faith.

We all know that the universe is made up of atoms. We learned in school that atoms are made up of subatomic particles called protons, electrons and neutrons. Now, here is where the Logos comes in. While protons, electrons, neutrons, and photons (light particles) for that matter are indeed particles (corpuscles in the quantum vernacular), they have no matter unless they are also waves of energy. While energy can exist without matter, matter cannot exist without energy. This is called the “principle of complementarity”. Furthermore, all these energy waves exist as a single energy in what is called the “unified field”, which interconnects all energy in the universe. Remember what I said about Logos, it is the sum of all energy and thereby of all things in heaven and earth. Every particle is Divine energy in the form of matter, fully energy and fully matter making the building blocks that form everything in the universe. Just as Jesus Christ is (from the Christian’s perspective) fully God and fully man becoming the perfect revelation of God.

Every atom in your body and in mine is an incarnation of the Divine energy that empowers us and connects us to God, to each other, and to the entire universe. This is not an impersonal god who wound the universe like a clock then went on vacation, or an anthropomorphic god who is a little disguised super version of myself. This is truly the God of the universe whose depths can never be fathomed but who is as intimate and personal as every atom within me. This is a God I, for one, find joy to believe in.


Light, Time, and God

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Matter, Antimatter, Photons and Time


Everyone over the age of six knows that time moves in only one direction. Yesterday came before today, and today comes before tomorrow. But in the quantum world time zigzags back and forth in a shimmering dance as matter, antimatter and photons interact with each other. When a photon (light particle) encounters a vacuum, it discharges itself into an electron (matter), and a positron (antimatter) converting its energy into mass. Rather than be completely destroyed, the photon moves backward in time to give the electron and positron “space” to collide, annihilating each other with the ensuing energy discharging the photon that started the dance.


There is an exception to the matter/antimatter cycle of destruction that involves a singularity (black hole). If the photon is converted into mass along the gravitational vortex of a singularity, the matter and antimatter are not able to collide because one will be drawn into the gravitational field of the black hole while the other will race off in the opposite direction. Fifteen thousand million years ago, the universe was one giant singularity. When light surrounded the singularity, mass and radiation was created that began spreading out in all directions beginning the expanding, cooling universe we know today. That expansion is what started the clock moving forward. As long as the universe is expanding, time moves away from yesterday and toward tomorrow. This moment of primordial light interacting with primordial darkness is what we know as the big bang. Genesis describes it this way, “God said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God separated the light from the darkness.”


Light particles (photons) are able to do this because of two basic properties of the photon. First, every particle in the universe has an antiparticle seeking to destroy it except for one, the photon. Photons are their own antiparticle so they are never destroyed in matter – antimatter collisions. Second, from a photon’s perspective, there is no such thing as time.


We turn our radio telescopes to the sky and watch photons in the cosmic background radiation pass by the Earth. It is easy for us to imagine those photons traveling for 15 thousand million years from the big bang itself. But the photon “sees” the big bang, the current state of the universe, and the chilling end of the universe in the same instant. To a photon, all times are “now”. The result is that everything in the universe: past, present, and future, is connected to everything else by a web of electromagnetic radiation that “sees” everything at once. No wonder Saint John wrote, “God is light. In him is no darkness at all.”


Once again, we come back to the basic quantum understanding of God, which is the incarnate understanding of God, that Creator and Creation are one. God is the energy that permeates the universe and empowers its existence. This is a giant leap of courage for the lifelong believer to give up their Sunday school understanding of God who is “out there somewhere watching” to one in which God’s glory is not just seen in the world, but is “all and in all”. It is also a giant leap of courage for those who have decided that science has made God irrelevant to recognize that science and the universe make no sense without God for “in God we live and move and have our being.”

Light, Life and Logos

Bio-photons emmanating from a leaf.
Bio-photons emmanating from a leaf.

Dr. Fritz Albert Popp recently proved that all living things emit light. Furthermore, research indicates that the purpose of this light is to provide a channel of communication both within the cell and between cells throughout the body. The principal subject of communication between the cells is metabolism. During periods of stress, such as illness or injury, the emission of biophotons is increased. One can imagine a scene from the TV series ER, when the near death patient is wheeled into the emergency room. Suddenly everyone is frenetic with activity trying to save the patient. It is as if the cells are both working harder and talking louder to participate in the healing process. However, in malignant cancer cells, the biophoton emissions begin to decrease as the essence of life is being drained from the cell.
We should not be surprised at this intrinsic relationship between light and life. We have often thought of the Sun as being the source of life giving light, providing the energy that drives photosynthesis that ultimately feeds us all. But plants and animals live in the depths of the sea and hidden in caverns that never see the light of the Sun.

Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World."
Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.”

Do we now see that it is the light from within that is the true source of life?
Jesus once said, “I am the light of the world.” John, on his discourse on Logos stated, “All things came into existence through the Logos. Without him, nothing exists. What came to be through him was life. And this life was the light of the human race.

The Quantum God

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, scientists have been struggling to understand the behavior of subatomic particles. The world as we know it has always been governed by Newtonian physics, which is dominated by natural laws that are very predictable. We all learned the laws of gravity and geometry in school. What goes up must come down. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The problem that has vexed scientists for a century now is that these laws do not apply in the subatomic world. What goes up is already down as particles can be in multiple locations at the same time. The shortest distance between two points is to cease to exist in one place and instantaneously exist in the other without passing through the space in between. To study and understand this behavior that seems so bizarre to us required the development of an entirely new field of science known as quantum mechanics. In the subatomic world, sometimes referred to as the quantum field, particles do not exist as tangible objects, but as pure energy in potentiality. What causes the potentiality to exist in what we think of as the real world is the act of observation.

If you and I are sitting in a room conversing with each other, we appear very real and solid. In fact, everything appears very real and solid. We can sit on chairs, drink from coffee mugs, and set our books on the table in front of us. However, in the quantum world, sub atomic particles of pure energy are moving about, exchanging places with other particles between you and me and the table, waiting for the act of our observation to pass from potentiality to reality in the form we expect to see. So this energy is everywhere and in everything at the same time. We just do not see it that way.

Ever since I began learning about quantum physics, I have been struck by the similarities between the quantum field and the spiritual world. As “Christ is all and in all”, energy in the quantum field exists in all things and connects all things. As the Spirit is “like the wind with no one knowing where it comes from or where it is going”, so the quantum energy is constantly in motion passing between people, objects (some scientists theorize between universes) in their own quantum dance beyond our comprehension. As observation is required to make quantum potentialities into physical realities, faith is required to give “substance to things unseen.” Is the reason that the quantum field does not answer to the physical laws of the universe that it is the realm of God, omnipotent and omnipresent?

The reason this sounds heretical is because we have millennia of anthropomorphic religious expression to overcome. God sits on his throne and saves with the power of his arm. However, which seems more true: to see God as possessing human qualities, or to see God as the divine energy that permeates, animates and interconnects all beings and objects in the vast universe?

In this 21st century, antiquated expressions about God are quickly becoming obsolete. God has not changed, but humankind has. If God is to be relevant, we need to broaden our understanding and expression of God just as we have broadened our understanding and expression of the natural world. When I was a kid, we sang a song in Bible school, “Somewhere in outer space, God has prepared a place for those who trust him and obey.” That concept just seems silly to a generation raised on Hubble telescope images of a trillion galaxies containing a hundred billion stars each. It is not surprising that the median age of regular church attendees is over 50.

In fact, it was looking at the deep field image of the Hubble telescope that started me on this journey. When I realized that the thousands of dots of light in the photograph were not stars but galaxies of stars, I remember thinking, “Your God is too small.”

To expand my understanding of God, I had to set aside my old anthropomorphic language about God and see God as Saint John describes in the prologue to his gospel. “In the beginning was the Logos, the sum of all things, and the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.”