Inside USD

‘God Particle’: Higgs Boson, Intelligibility of the Universe

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It’s called “the God particle” but what, exactly, does this groundbreaking discovery in physics have to do with religion?

Nothing and everything, says Professor Neil Ormerod, a visiting fellow at USD’s Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture this fall.

Ormerod, who is both a theologian and a mathematician, will discuss the issue in a talk this Thursday called: “The God (particle) of Small Things: Higgs Boson and the Intelligibility of the Universe.”

Over the summer, scientists in Switzerland believe they discovered the particle, proposed  by physicist Peter Higgs nearly 50 years ago, that explains why elementary particles obtain mass. Without it, scientists say, atoms could not form and the physical universe would not exist.

Ormerod, a systematic theologian at Australian Catholic University who also holds a PhD in pure mathematics, explained that the title of his talk is a ”playful take” on the title of the novel by Arunhati Roy, The God of Small Things.  ”The Higgs boson, recently discovered is pretty small and has been dubbed the ‘God particle’ but the real purpose of the talk is to use the discovery of the Higgs boson to illustrate how scientific theories in general can give rise to the question of  God’s existence.”

While God has nothing to do with the God particle per se, Ormerod said, the discovery illustrates both the deep intelligibility of the universe and also perhaps the intelligence that was behind its creation.

He hopes attendees will come away from the talk “with an understanding of the significance of the discovery, which is truly one of the great scientific achievements of our age. Higgs may well get a Nobel Prize out of this. I also hope they grasp some of the limitations of science, the issues it presupposes rather than proves, and how these presuppositions raise the God question rather than reject it.”

The free talk takes place at 6 p.m. in the Executive Classroom in Mother Rosalie Hill Hall. For more information go to www.sandiego.edu/cctc.

– Liz Harman

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