Perhaps you’ve heard the recent announcement by a group of physicists that they have seen hints of a subatomic particle called the Higgs boson. You may have even heard it called the ‘God particle’ because it’s so important. So what’s the big deal?
Throughout the past century, a model of the basic building blocks of matter has been assembled. It’s called the Standard Model of Particle Physics. The model describes subatomic particles such as electrons and quarks and the forces that hold these elements together. A discovery of the Higgs would provide a crucial element towards the completion of that model.
Big deal? Well, there’s something much deeper in the works. The energy level at which the Higgs may have been discovered points to a more fundamental level of physics, an even bigger (smaller) picture. Theoreticians have been developing a theory of physics call supersymmetry. For starters, supersymmetry adds an additional layer of particles to the Standard Model. More than that, supersymmetry provides evidence for a new branch of physics called string theory. String theory states that electrons and quarks are not the basic building blocks of nature. Instead, everything is composed of tiny vibrating strings.
OK, let’s assume that the string theorists are right. In days to come, perhaps researchers will find evidence of those strings and be able to demonstrate string theory just like they found the Higgs boson and developed the Standard Model. Now another group comes along and says that strings aren’t actually the fundamental building blocks, they are really Legons (from Legos). Obviously I’m making this up here. But where does it stop? Some future physicist will say that in fact Legons aren’t the basic elements at all. It’s something much smaller, like maybe futurons or infinitons which can only be seen with a Higgs bosonic string-cooled yoctoscope that costs 15 quadrillions. It will cost so much that Earth will need a bailout from Alpha Centauri!
I think you get the picture. There can be no end to scientific discovery. Once we think we’ve discovered the final fundamental particle, we still have to answer what’s it composed of and how did it get there? These questions will never be ultimately answered by experimental science.
There is another discipline that has been passed down to us from ancient times. Plato and Aristotle of classical Greece came up with an idea called the first cause or the prime mover. It was picked up in later generations by Augustine and then Thomas Aquinas of the Christian tradition, and also Al-Kindi and Al-Ghazali of the Islamic tradition, among many others. It is an argument that has been accepted by almost all religions.
The argument states that everything in the universe has a cause, going back until there is a first cause. That prime mover sets everything else into motion. The first cause is like a point, a line, or a plane is to mathematics. It just is. In better words, the ultimate answer that has been passed down to us through thousands of years of humanity has been God. That’s the First Cause. He’s the Prime Mover. That’s the real ‘God Particle.’