The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Science comments on CERN’s discovery of a Higgs-like particle and asks who created the laws of nature discovered by science
Alessandro Speciale (Vatican Insider Reporter)
The Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Science, Mgr. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, already knew that the discovery of the Higgs boson was close. He learnt the news before it went public, last autumn.
During the sub nuclear physics symposium held at the Casina Pio IV villa, in the Vatican, some of the physicians at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) explained that the Large Hadron Collinder – the mega particle accelerator underneath Geneva which was inaugurated a year ago – had started showing “clues” of a mysterious particle which physicians had spent fifty years searching for. Taking into account the current theories on the nature of the universe, without this particle, nothing in our world would have mass and everything would be a stew of pure energy.
“Every time we are shown that creation is something wonderful,” Mgr. Sanchez Sorondo told Vatican Insider, commenting on the announcement confirming yesterday’s discovery in Geneva.
The existence of the Higgs boson, as predicted by physicians in 1964, shows that the universe “has a fundamental structure that is discovered.” “But the fact it is there – the Argentinean prelate said with a sly tone – means someone must have put it there.”
The Higgs boson became the rock star of nuclear physics, particularly thanks to the nickname given to it in a book published in 1993 by Nobel prize-winning physicist Leon M. Lederman: the “God particle”. The physicist had actually wanted to call it the “goddamn particle” but was forced to change the name by his editor.
The name is perhaps a little pompous. “But I am glad – Mgr. Sanchez Sorondo joked – that Margherita Hack, an atheist, also refers to it as the “God particle.”
On a more serious note, the theologian points out two positive aspects of CERN’s discovery. First of all, “our knowledge helps us to discover what goes on in nature.” In practice, “mathematics is useful but only to a certain extent,” because we need a comparison with reality: it is a line of thought which the prelate calls “neo-realism”, stressing that there is a concrete link between “what happens in nature” and “what is understood by the mind.”
Mgr. Sanchez Sorondo went on to say that “the scientist discovers laws which he did not create. The question of who created these laws is a theological one: scientists limits themselves to saying that they discovered them; faithful see the fruits of God’s actions.”