Maybe the Big Bang Wasn’t So Big

By Ed Spivey Jr. 12-23-2011
Large Hadron Collider (particle accelerator) at CERN. Image via http://www.wyli
Large Hadron Collider (particle excellerator) at CERN. Image via

The international scientific community is excited about the growing possibility of discovering the so-called “God particle,” the spark they believe is the origin of the universe.

Despite the fact the Newt Gingrich has for many years claimed this title, physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland, apparently stopped appearing in Dan Brown novels long enough to come close to identifying this illusive particle. (Coincidentally, my college roommate’s car was called the Small Hadron Collider, a rusty Corvair with a habit of resisting the driver’s directional input at crucial moments, such as intersections.)

By the way, perhaps you’re wondering why unlocking the fundamental mysteries of the universe—such as Rick Santorum’s political career—and creating an enormous wealth of knowledge in experimental physics is not being done in the United States. It’s because President Bill Clinton chose to strip funding from the proposed collider outside Houston and instead funded the International Space Station, a rusty construction of old Corvair parts that has cost us over $150 billion and has provided little scientific discovery, unless you count the surprising effectiveness of duct tape in low gravity situations. To be fair, someday the Space Station will look really cool streaking across the sky just before it crashes onto somebody’s backyard. But I digress.

The God particle is actually called the Higgs Boson, although since it purports to compete with the existence of God you might think it would be called “Awesome Boson” or “Boson On High.” (Be honest, is God sweating anything that starts with “Higgs”?) The Higgs Boson is the only elementary particle predicted to exist---but not yet observed---by the Standard Model. (Of course, one wonders what particles would be listed in the Deluxe Model. Probably air conditioning, a CD player, and keyless entry. With the Standard Model you just get a radio. Plus, you have to roll up your own windows, and that sucks.)

Be that as it may, the three elementary particles of the Standard Model that have been discovered and observed are:

• The dirt that collects inside the treads of sneakers and only fall outs when you’re walking on expensive carpet, at your boss’s house;

• That pink stuff you see at salad bars that nobody ever eats; you know, the glop in the back that looks like old Cool Whip left over from a Christmas party in the 1950s;

• Ron Paul. No one can remember when he wasn’t around. And it appears he’s never leaving.

Admittedly, the above list is just a guess on my part. But how long do you expect me to stay on that Wikipedia website for Higgs’ sakes?! With no good ads on the margins to distract me, and not a single video of cute animals, it’s just not relevant to my typical work day.

But the main issue of this scientific quest is a theological one: Does the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle call into question the existence of God? If so, how does God feel about that? I figure she’ll be pissed. Upstaged by a particle!

If God had wanted to use a subatomic particle to start the universe Jesus would have said “if you have faith as small as a Boson Higgs…” (Disciple: “Uhm, that’s ‘Higgs Boson,’ sir.” Jesus: “Whatever.”)

But forget the New Testament; narrowing down the cataclysm of creation to a single molecular moment takes half the fun out of the Old Testament. Instead of a sonorous voice cutting through the dark void with a “Let there be light,” the universe may have started by a bit of dandruff falling from the Celestial Head, or maybe a dust particle kicked up from God’s Throw Rug. (You know how hard it is to keep those things clean, especially in a high traffic area. Plus, at my house, we have this cat.) 

Point is (you were wondering when, right?), whether the universe began with a Big Ban or a Tiny Whimper, it doesn’t rule out the necessity of God lighting the fuse, or winking at the Little Particle That Could, who’d been waiting patiently like, FOREVER, over there on the throw rug. Regardless, the world turned out okay. Although I’d hate to have vacuum it.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners magazine.


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