There’s a particle more important than the Higgs boson, and we should be investigating it.
Does ‘the God particle’ disprove the existence of God?” a young man asked me after a recent talk, referring to the discovery of the Higgs boson.
“The so-called God particle,” I answered, “has zero charge, zero spin, and a near-zero lifespan; it exists for less than a trillionth of a second. Does that sound like God to you?”
“No, not really,” replied the questioner, taken aback.
“Exactly,” I said. “Its discovery has little bearing on the existence of God; it is just one step forward in the Standard Model, which is just one theory that deals with quantum physics, which is just one branch of physics, which is just one branch of science, which is just one area of human knowledge that deals with material nature, which is just one slice of reality.”
I had anticipated questions on this topic and so was prepared.
“Let me quote theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who writes in the Wall Street Journal, in an article entitled The ‘God Particle’ and the Origins of the Universe:
The Standard Model only gives us a crude approximation of the rich diversity found in the universe. One embarrassing omission is that the Standard Model makes no mention of gravity, even though gravity holds the Earth and the sun together. In fact, the Standard Model only describes 4% of the matter and energy of the universe (the rest being mysterious dark matter and dark energy).
From a strictly aesthetic point of view, the Standard Model is also rather ugly. The various subatomic particles look like they have been slapped together haphazardly. It is a theory that only a mother could love, and even its creators have admitted that it is only a piece of the true, final theory. “So the theory is neither complete nor elegant,” I added. “And if even the full theory doesn’t have any of the attributes of God, what then to speak of one particle within the theory?”
Looking a bit unsure, he asked, “Then why is the particle called ‘the God particle’?”
“Good question. Actually, there is nothing godly about the particle. The name is a deliberately chosen misnomer. The particle is technically known as Higgs boson and derives its name from two scientists: England’s Peter Higgs and India’s Satyendra Nath Bose. Peter Higgs is one of six physicists who, in 1964, proposed the mechanism that suggested the existence of the particle, and boson is a class of particles named after Satyendra Nath Bose because of his work with the particles in the 1920s. When physicist Leon Lederman wrote a book about the particle, his publisher told him the subject was too esoteric to have much appeal. So, like expert spin doctors, they came up with a name that would catch the public imagination: ‘the God particle.’ Most scientists dislike the name, knowing that it overemphasizes the particle’s importance. Science writer John Horgan highlights the inappropriateness of the name on a Scientific American blog: ‘This is scientific hype at its most outrageous. If the Higgs is the “God Particle,” what should we call an even more fundamental particle, like a string? The Godhead Particle? The Mother of God Particle?’
“Although the name is inapt, it has stuck in the media. And the name is one important reason why the discovery has attracted so much attention. Not to discredit the hard work of the scientists who have done the research, but do we have to be misled by the hype?”
“No,” replied my questioner, satisfied.
The Godly Particle
Later, as I pondered the issue, it struck me that something godly could indeed be derived from “the God particle”; it could be used to draw attention to the actual godly particle, the soul, which the Bhagavad-gita (15.7) says is an eternal fragmental part of God. Research into the infinitesimal quantum particle has rich parallels with research into the infinitesimal spiritual particle, the soul. In fact, I noticed that the whole field of modern science has broad similarities with the field of Vedic spirituality.
Here are four of those similarities:
(1) Things are not as they appear;
(2) The unapparent is stunningly greater than the apparent;
(3) The unapparent can be known not by ordinary ways, but only by ways appropriate to it;
(4) The appropriate ways require instruments and qualifications.
(1) Things are not as they appear:
Scientists today dismiss derisively as naïve realism the idea that the world is as it appears. The scientific eye sees things far differently from the normal eye. For example, consider the desk in front of me. It seems solid, but science says it’s mostly empty space. It seems static, but science says it’s filled with electrons whirling around their nuclei a million billion times a second.
Like modern scientists, Vedic spiritualists also assert that all is not as it seems. For example, let’s consider the physical body. It seems to be the source of life, but Vedic savants say it isn’t. The Bhagavadgita (2.17) states that life originates in the soul, which sends a current of consciousness streaming through the body and thereby animates the body’s biochemical machinery.
(2) The unapparent is stunningly greater than the apparent:
Science holds that the layers of existence inaccessible to our senses are far greater than those that are accessible. For example, the visible frequencies comprise only a tiny, narrow band within the greater spectrum of electromagnetic waves. For that matter, half an ounce of water spilled on a table seems insignificant to our eyes, but beyond what our eyes can see, that drop contains 6.023 x 1023 roughly 600,000 billion billion molecules. Like modern science, Vedic spirituality states that what eludes the eye is far greater than what meets it. The spiritual level of existence is much greater and grander than the material. And the happiness available at that spiritual level likewise exceeds the material by millions of times. In fact, the Srimad- Bhagavatam proclaims that spiritual happiness is so oceanically great that in contrast the most intense material enjoyment seems as insignificant as a puddle.
(3) The unapparent can be known not by ordinary ways, but only by ways appropriate to it:
The adage “Seeing is believing” has historically been popular as a polemical tool among religion bashers: “Show me God and the soul, and then I will believe you.” But today’s scientists find themselves at the receiving end of this same old anti-religious jab: “Show me the Higgs boson, and then I will believe you.” And scientists have to respond by using the same argument religionists have always used: “It cannot be seen with the eyes, but can be perceived only by ways suitable to it.”
(4) The appropriate ways require instruments and qualifications:
In modern science, perceiving the Higgs boson requires ultra-sophisticated instruments. In fact, it requires the world’s most expensive and elaborate instrument: the $10.5 billion Large Hadron Collider, housed in an eighteen-mile tunnel buried deep underground near the French-Swiss border. In addition to the instrument, ten thousand scientists engaged in years of study, training, and laboratory experience are also required to comprehend the workings and the readings of the instrument. To anyone without these qualifications, the patterns on the sensors that detected the Higgs boson will make little, if any, sense.
Similarly, in Vedic spirituality, perceiving the soul requires a sophisticated instrument, albeit an internal one: a finely tuned consciousness situated in an evolved state called samadhi. Also, to discern the evidences as they appear on the sensor of the consciousness requires a systematic study of spiritual philosophy and a diligent practice of meditation techniques. To anyone without these qualifications, the changes in consciousness will make little, if any, sense.
Given these substantial parallels, there’s a strong case to be made that intelligent, enterprising people are needed to embark on research into the godly particle. In fact, there are additional incentives for soul research that are absent in particle physics research:
1. No expense:
The Higgs boson research is stupendously expensive (or scandalously so, depending on one’s perspective), requiring as it does billions of dollars. John Horgan, in the above-mentioned article, states that the U.S. government closed down a similar instrument in America (the Superconducting Super collider) because it “was sucking up tax dollars faster than a black hole.” But in comforting contrast, soul research doesn’t require any significant expense. One’s consciousness just needs to be refined using time honored meditation techniques centered on the Hare Krishna mantra, available for free.
2. Individual verification:
Most of us are not specialists in particle physics, and so we do not have the expensive and complex scientific education necessary to personally verify the existence of the Higgs boson. We have to accept its existence as an article of faith. But all of us can individually practice the simple meditation practices and experientially verify the existence of the soul. This is the bold invitational approach of the Bhagavad-gita (9.2): Though the existence of the soul may seem initially like an article of faith, it soon becomes a living reality. In fact, over time we realize that the soul is the foremost of all realities, the ground reality that enables us to perceive and experience the world we are accustomed to honoring with the word “real.”
Most scientists are unclear about how the discovery of the Higgs boson is going to practically benefit humanity. They suggest that it may possibly lead to the development of better technologies. Even if it does, it still won’t add anything to our understanding of the meaning, value, or purpose of life. In fact, the whole arena of particle physics is radically disconnected from the world we live in. David Berlinski, in his book The Devil’s Delusion, points this out poignantly:
Over there, fields are pregnant with latent energy, particles flicker into existence and disappear . . . time and space contract into some sort of agitated quantum foam. Nothing is continuous. Nothing stays the same for long, except the electrons, and they are identical, like porcelain Chinese soldiers. A pointless frenzy prevails throughout. Over here, space and time are stable and continuous. Matter is what it is, and energy is what it does. There are solid and enduring shapes and forms. . . . Changes appear slowly, but even when rapid, they appear in stable patterns. There is dazzling variety throughout.
He concludes the contrast by underscoring that scientists have “no idea whatsoever how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic, and social world . . . could have ever arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles. It is like imagining sea foam resolving itself into the Parthenon.”
The discovery of the soul, however, can bring immense meaning and immediate purpose into our lives. Nobel Laureate brain scientist Roger Sperry pointed out, “Beliefs concerning the ultimate purposes and meaning of life and the accompanying world view perspectives that mold beliefs of right and wrong are critically dependent . . . on concepts regarding the conscious self.”
The discovery of the soul will help us understand that we are not fragile bags of matter doomed to destruction after some feverish flapping in the tiny span of allotted time that is our present life. We will understand that we are indestructible souls destined for eternal happiness. All of us can reclaim that glorious destiny by wisely using our present lifetime for doing soul research and thereby transforming our lifespan into a launching pad for takeoff into immortality. This realization of our spiritual identity can also help us in this world: It can restore a sustainable balance between material and spiritual values in our lives, and thereby free us from the excessive materialism jeopardizing our economy and ecology today.
Can any discovery be as significant as that?
Caitanya Carana Dasa is a disciple of His Holiness Radhanatha Swami. He holds a degree in electronic and telecommunications engineering and serves full time at ISKCON Pune. He is the author of ten books. To read his other articles or to receive his daily reflection on the Bhagavad-gita, “Gita-daily,” visit thespiritualscientist.com.