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Are Hal and God one and the same?
I’ve been thinking a little more about Hal, the world’s largest particle collider that went online recently in Geneva, Switzerland. As you may recall, Hal is a multibillion dollar experiment intended to recreate the Big Bang. If the experiment is successful, it will shed new light on the origins of the universe and the nature of matter, and will immeasurably enrich our understanding of space and time.
If it is unsuccessful, it could be the biggest bust since New Coke. If it’s really unsuccessful, it could destroy the earth and perhaps the entire universe, including Silverdale and the Fox network, which I realize wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing.
Hal is now shut down for the winter for repairs (evidently the boys at CERN neglected to purchase the extended warranty package), so we’ll have to wait until next spring to see how the big experiment is going to turn out and whether we’re all going to be black-holed to death. I certainly understand the scientific interest in recreating the Big Bang and trying to better understand the origins of the universe, although if scientists really wanted to know how the universe was created, perhaps they just ought to ask someone who was there, like Sen. John McCain. (Ta-dum! Thank you very much).
Some have suggested that, among the things the new atom smasher may do is prove or disprove the existence of God. If Hal demonstrates conclusively that the universe could have been created from the random collision of a couple of primordial protons, say proponents of this argument, then doesn’t that prove that there was no divine origin to the universe, and therefore no divine origin to the earth, and therefore that we really are all alone in this big old dark and expanding universe?
I suppose the counter to this line of thinking is to argue that perhaps God has His own Hal, and perhaps it was really God’s Hal that collided those two fateful protons that eventually formed the universe and all life on earth, including infomercial hosts and Yankee fans, both of which are prime exhibits in the case against the existence of an all-wise and benevolent God.
Somehow the idea that God might be a slightly nerdy mad scientist wearing a stained lab coat in a high school chemistry lab is not exactly the image of the divine that I carry around with me. It’s sort of hard for me to picture the same God who appeared to Moses in a burning bush back then appearing today to Stephen Hawking in a Bunsen burner. Then again, you never know. Is that idea really any stranger or less predictable than the thought of a major league baseball team with a $117 million payroll losing 101 games?
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I really want to know if there really is a God or not. If there is, then I’ll look back with some relief on all those hours I’ve spent on Sunday mornings over the years listening for His voice and hoping to see Her presence in the faces of those around me.
And so what if there really isn’t a God? The non-existent God I may have foolishly believed in all these years is infinitely compassionate, wants us to love and be kind to each other, take care of the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged and be grateful for the good things that we have been given in this life even as we struggle to deal with the bad.
Those seem to me like pretty good rules to follow, whether they originate from a divine source or from the random collision of microscopic particles billions of years ago. In fact, maybe we’ve all had it wrong all along. Maybe the big new atom smasher experiment will conclusively prove that there is a God, and maybe we’ll find out that His name is Hal.
Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney
for the Trust for Public Land. He is author
of “Skeletons From Our Closet,”
a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.