Quran and Science (part 2)
The “God Particle” From an Islamic Perspective
In July 2012 physicists at the world renowned laboratory “Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory” (Fermilab) announced that they got closer to proving the existence of the vague subatomic particle called “Higgs boson”.
These subatomic particles, symbolized as H0, form one piece of a class of subatomic particles called Bosons which includes the Photons; “the elementary particle of light”, and the Graviton; “the still-undiscovered hypothetical elementary particle of gravity”, in addition to some other less famous subatomic particles.
Bosons and many other particles make up the basic building blocks of matter in the universe, which means that they form everything Allah created around us, starting from the largest structures of the universe; the “Galactic Filaments” to the smallest thing ever; “the hypothetical Planck Particle”.
Because of this vital characteristic, and due to Higgs bosons' ability to give mass and weight to matter, many media outlets and some atheist scientists sarcastically named it “the God Particle” as to make fun of the concept of God among believers.
To shed light on the “God Particle” from an Islamic perspective, we present this interview with Dr. Shabir Ally.
Host: Safiyyah Ally, of “Let The Quran Speak”
Guest: Dr. Shabir Ally.
Q: Scientists recently announced the discovery of Higgs boson, more commonly known as a God Particle. The discovery of one of the most fundamental particles which gives mass to all matter, gives creed in the science theory of the universe’s origins.
What relationship does the “God Particle” have with God?
What are the implications of the discovery?
Does it weaken arguments for creation?
And should people of religion welcome the discovery?
Here to discuss this with us is brother Shabir Ally, the President of the Islamic Information Centre.
Brother Shabir, to begin what is the “God particle”, as it’s called?
Dr. Shabir: We should start by saying that this is a misnomer. There is no such thing as a God particle. But, the Higgs boson, which has been nicknamed as the God Particle in the media, is, as you rightly described, the particle which explains how other particles that had no mass were able to develop mass later on, almost like one walking through a field covered with snow and picks up snow as one goes.
So it is thought that if particles which have no mass were to path through a Higgs Field, then those particles will acquire mass.
So the discovery of the Higgs boson now helps to, in a way, clarify and verify that there was a time when there were particles having no mass and then suddenly they developed mass. And this led to the way of stating the matter by saying: “Well, this explains creation out of nothing.”
Q: How is it related to the Big Bang Theory?
Dr. Shabir: The Big Bang Theory basically proposes that some 14 billion years ago the universe started out as a massive explosion from basically a “singularity”.
It was a thought in 1964, proposed by Peter Higgs, that there must have been in the few seconds following that Big Bang the existence of these particles, and hence it came to be called the Higgs boson, that would have given mass to other particles that did not have mass.
Q: What do you think are the implications of this discovery?
Dr. Shabir: This discovery helps to solidify and explain one of the aspects of the “Standard Model”, the theory of the expansion of the universe from the initial Big Bang explosion, but in terms of religion, I see it’s a confirmation of what we’ve always believed.
We believe that God created everything out of nothing and this is a theory that helps to explain how this could have been physically possible.
Scientists are explaining things looking at it from the physical perspective, and religion explains things by looking at it from the spiritual perspective. From the physical side, things are explained it terms of atoms and subatomic particles, such as Bosons. But from the spiritual perspective, things are explained by including God, and saying that “God did it this way. God created the universe.”
So the faith perspective says that God created the universe, while the scientific perspective is explaining the manner in which the universe was created, regardless of who created it, or whether there is a “who” to begin with.
Q: So you think there is no contradiction there between science and religion?
Dr. Shabir: No, to me they are two alternative ways of looking at the same thing, like the two sides of the same coin, and to me the person of religion looks at it from both sides, now as a scientist and now as a faith believer, and scientists only look at it from one side.
Of course the scientist himself could be a faith believer, and the scientist can, when he’s not in the midst of explaining to a scientific community what his findings imply, whether in a church or a mosque, be explaining the same thing but from a spiritual perspective, and say “these findings of mine help to confirm in a way my belief in God.”
Q: Some people might say, “Well, this sort of shows the irrelevance of God. So, what do we need God for?”
Dr. Shabir: Science can only explain how these particles interact with each other. But, how for example do we get the scientific law that explains this interaction, whether it be Bosons or Protons or Photons or Electrons or whatever subatomic particles we’re speaking about?
They all operate according to some pre-defined scientific laws. That does not come from the mode of nowhere. This is embedded in the universe.
You look at a triangle and you can describe it by saying, the square of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. That’s a property of the triangle by itself, but how did such a mathematically precise property emerge? And this is not only a triangle; this is like embedded in the entire universe.
Things are working according to precise scientific laws, and things happen in a predictable and routine manner as if they’re following a program that was there before even the existence of these subatomic particles.
From the perspective of faith, this is easily understandable. God is the source of all of this direction of the universe. The Qur’an says: [Who created and proportioned. And Who destined and [then] guided]. (Surat Al A'la: 83:2-3). He created and fashioned and He determined how things are going to operate.
Q: Should individuals of faith, be just as excited about this discovery as scientists are?
Dr. Shabir: Of course the discovery was propelled by scientific interests, not so much by faith interests. For the faith believer, one rests assured that God created the universe without necessarily needing to know how. Nevertheless, believers can be excited about this, as lay people are excited about any sort of discovery. As lay persons are now excited about this as a modern phenomenon, something that really makes the news as result from a massive endeavor, $10 billion of investment, many years of research, labor from some of our top scientists in the world, and the Large Hadron Collider which has been dug under several countries used as atoms smasher; all of this has suddenly led to something.
It’s an exciting discovery in that we do have some results from that massive scientific endeavor. I think everybody should be excited about this, that our knowledge of the world and its origins is increasing as it goes, and the more we develop science, the more we are able to cooperate with God in doing the things that He desires to be done in our world.