07/02/2010 10:51 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Go Not to the LHC to Find God

As I write this, the Large Hadron Collider is smashing the proton beams at record intensity to broaden the chances of finding new particles that could open up new vistas in physics. The Higgs boson (God particle), with its metaphorical name, continues to attract the attention of pundits and rookies, priests and philosophers, and believers and atheists alike. Once again, the debate over the nature of fundamental reality and consciousness is in the forefront of the public media.

There has been an easy temptation to bond the Higgs boson to God, thanks to its popular name, and in that process, quantum theory and the eastern mysticism are again at play.

The real issue at stake is to choose between two different worldviews.The first one posits that matter makes everything, and by the process of reduction, we can reach out to the most elementary particles and their dynamics. Thus the particles are the fundamental reality. Our universe and sentient beings are the 'effect' caused by the interplay among these particles- an upward causation.

The other thought relies on downward causation, where the consciousness is the fundamental reality and the ground of all being. This view is close to many spiritual teachings, where free will exists independently, and the consciousness creates the physical world.

The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that the observer impacts the observed, and is often linked to the above argument. According to this radical view, every possible state must exist as the superposition of wave functions, eventually ,to be collapsed to a single state by the mere act of observation-an idea Einstein refuted by saying, "I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it."

Among the many elementary particles, Higgs boson remains elusive, which theorists think, is responsible for the Higgs field, and the interaction of other particles with Higgs field provides mass to everything. We do not yet know how many Higgs particles are there? Or, are they be made from more elementary particles? There is a hope that such questions would be answered in the LHC experiments.

Religions place God in a chosen residence, temple or church, the futility of that act is reveled in the dazzling words of Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet and teacher.

Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God,
First remove the darkness of sin from your heart...

Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer,
First learn to bow in humility before your fellowmen...

Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,
First bend down to lift someone who is down-trodden. ..

In a similar manner, associating God with any particular particle is untenable ,even if it is in the realm of metaphysics . The God is associated with the Higgs boson as is with electrons or photons.The God particle must not be a preferred object of interest for any God-personal or impersonal. However, finding the Higgs boson will provide a satisfactory explanation for particle mass ,but not all the questions about the beginning.

While it is the reflection of a deeper thought in tune with the Vedanta philosophy that the tangible can spring from intangible as Deepak Chopra suggests, but for all-inclusive Brahman, no such distinction exists. Brahman, the eternal and immanent, doesn't distinguish living or non -- living , tangible or intangible .Brahman dwells in everything from bacteria to humans, in beauty and in the dirt, without being affected by the obvious differences. That's the school of thought in Advaita (non- dualism) Vedanta.

Particle physicist may or may not find the elusive Higgs boson; either outcome will have profound impact on standard model. If found, that may fix jigsaw puzzle in the standard model, if not physicists will have to go back to the drawing board. Either way, this is not the end of the road.

When the physicist Leon Lederman coined the term "God Particle", he might not have thought of referring to a literal God (personal or impersonal), he was probably focusing the elusive nature of the particle, whose existence is not even confirmed yet. After all, as Carl Sagan noted,"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men." It might be true for God particle too.