Christian Science and the Perversion of Quantum Physics

By Miller, Robert L. | Skeptic (Altadena, CA), Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Christian Science and the Perversion of Quantum Physics


Miller, Robert L., Skeptic (Altadena, CA)


Robert Miller, J.D., B.A., is an attorney practicing in Irvine, California. As a child, he was raised a Christian Scientist. During his teenage years, he lived with a self-described "Judeo-Christian Militia" cult in rural Oregon, where he observed demon exorcisms, received instruction on creationism and learned of massive government conspiracies designed to oppress the American people under a one-world government. Since coming to his senses, Robert writes on matters of the intersection of law, religion, and science, teaches and lectures on constitutional issues, encourages reading and critical thinking, and is a distance road bicyclist and amateur astronomer. He can be reached at frogmaniii@aol.com.

"Anyone who is not shocked by Quantum Physics doesn't understand it."--Niels Bohr

"What did you do to the cat? It looks half dead."--Schrodinger's wife

THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE RELIGION has long suffered membership losses and criticism for its stance on refusal of medical treatment. In recent years, however, the Christian Science Church has gained new momentum from its interpretation of quantum physics, a point of view supported by some physicists sympathetic to the church. Since most of its members hardly understand even classical physical science, let alone the "weirdness" posed by quantum theory (I should know since I was raised as a Christian Scientist), this coupling of religion with the world of the subatomic is somewhat shocking. In an unofficial Christian Science publication circulated in the Los Angeles area, a recent article entitled "A Thought From Quantum Physics" was published by David Carico, a Christian Scientist and physics professor at the University of Santa Clara. Dr. Carico's article contained the following statement:

...according to physics these days... that which we call "matter" and perceive as a solid substance, actually has the same properties as a rainbow [they don't exist until they are observed]. Anything that suggests otherwise is an illusion. Here's how it works: The sheet of paper you're holding is made up of atoms, and these atoms are in turn made up of what we call "subatomic particles" (electrons, protons, neutrons, and others). But to describe the behavior of these subatomic particles, we have had to accept the fact that they are not things that are sitting there, in the paper, to be observed by you or not, as you choose. Rather, they can only be described as potential things--they're not actually in the paper, anymore than a rainbow is sitting out there in the sky They provide the potential for you to see a sheet of paper when you choose to look at the paper--just as the light and raindrops provide the potential to see that which you will call a rainbow when you choose to look in the sky. And since this ap plies to all subatomic particles, it also applies by inference to all atoms, and by further inference to all matter. That's pretty much it! Neat, huh?!? By the way--everything in the previous paragraphs is physics just as you might find it in a physics book. I have not filtered any of it through Christian Science. (Carico, 1998, emphasis in original).

Of course, this particular angle on the attempt to merge quantum physics and religion is not exactly new. The best known attempt in recent years is probably Fritjof Capra's 1980 book, The Tao of Physics. Capra's book, in turn, has spawned many imitators, even influencing Gary Zukav's The Dancing Wu Li Masters, and some of Deepak Chopra's writings (see SKEPTIC Vol. 6, No. 2). But despite sharing its roots in Eastern thinking (Gardner, 1993), Christian Science is actually an unlikely religion to repackage quantum theory. For much of its history, the Christian Science church has rejected physics and other sciences as illusory, and thus relatively unimportant.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE AND ITS DOCTRINES

The First Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science's formal name) was founded in 1866 by Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), a semi-invalid, semi-illiterate who was a student of Phineas Quimby, a homeopathic faith healer and a major player in the spiritualist movement of the time. …

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