Does Quantum Physics Validate Christian Science?

quantum physics and christian science

This is the first of two posts critiquing a lecture at Principia College by Laurance Doyle, Ph.D., entitled, “The Metaphysics of Quantum Physics.” Doyle’s talk makes two basic claims: (1) quantum physics validates Christian Science; and (2) Mary Baker Eddy anticipated the findings of 20th century physics. This post tackles the first claim; I will address the second in a later post.


Fifteen years ago physicist and former Christian Scientist, Robert L. Miller, published an article in the journal Skeptic entitled, “Christian Science and the Perversion of Quantum Physics.” Laurance Doyle, an astrophysicist and Christian Scientist, had been proclaiming a metaphysical interpretation of quantum physics that was at odds with generally accepted interpretations and wrong on the physics to boot. Well, Doyle is still at it, perverting theory and experiment to evangelize lay Christian Scientists with the notion that quantum physics validates their religion and that Mary Baker Eddy had a prescient understanding of scientific reality.

In April 2014, Doyle gave a lecture at Principia College where he is director of the oxymoronic “Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics”) on “The Metaphysics of Quantum Physics.” I suppose a talk of that flavor to a community of believers is to be expected, but it is clear from the expressionless faces in the audience that the physics he presented was far over-the-heads of most. I don’t believe anyone in Cox Auditorium that day had sufficient knowledge to question anything Doyle said. Indeed, I suspect the Christian Science community as a whole reveres Dr. Doyle as an unassailable authority on quantum physics.

In fact, however, Doyle is far out of the mainstream of physics consensus. Anyone who has attended a scientific conference knows how participants will challenge others’ hypotheses and interpretations of experimental results, all for the advancement of understanding–but this won’t happen at Principia College. If Doyle were to give this same presentation to a group of his peers at a physics symposium (even stripped of its references to Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science) he would be interrupted and challenged on nearly every slide.

1. The experimenter is not separable from his experiment.

Doyle repeatedly misstates the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics promulgated by Niels Bohr by declaring that “the experimenter is not separable from the experiment” (referring to the famous double-slit experiment). Doyle believes that the experimenter’s mind affects quantum behavior: “What you can know about the experiment turns out to be what’s important.” But Bohr was explicit that it is the measuring apparatus (rather than the mind of the experimenter) that is inseparable from the behavior of the particles: The experiment “implies the impossibility of any sharp separation between the behaviour of atomic objects and the interaction with the measuring instruments which serve to define the conditions under which the phenomena appear.”1

Doyle is incorrect when he declares, “Particles do not exist until they are observed” (i.e., by a human experimenter). Science writer Eliot Hawkins explains his error:

This is where people sometimes get confused and misinterpretations occur. . . . To us regular folks, “observation” means looking at something, seeing something happen. That’s not even close to what it means to quantum physicists. To them, it means measuring. . . . These vastly different definitions left us regular joe’s thinking that reality is unresolved until we look at it and that quantum states didn’t resolve until the information had managed to filter through our human minds.2

2. An underlying immediate connectedness exists between all elementary particles that make up all things.

Doyle bases this assertion on the phenomenon of quantum entanglement, in which particles of common origin and shared properties appear to be “aware” of each other’s states when separated (and theoretically the separation distance is unlimited). Although it defies our common sense, the phenomenon is reliably observable in experiments. Doyle believes that experiments to test Bell’s Theorem prove that entangled particles “communicate” their status via a mechanism that operates faster than the speed of light. But he faces a formidable hurdle with that inference because it conflicts with Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which has been exhaustively validated experimentally. Most physicists reject the notion that superluminal communication is what’s happening in the Bell’s Inequality experiments, and recent experiments continue to demonstrate that faster-than-light transmission is impossible.

Entanglement can be produced in the laboratory, but it is a fragile condition that is instantly destroyed when particles are disturbed by interactions from outside their closed system. Consequently, the random and chaotic nature of the universe ensures that any sort of underlying entanglement or awareness among all particles in the cosmos is impossible.

3. “History” can be changed.

As strange as it seems, experiments with individual particles have shown that at the quantum level time can run backwards. Doyle suggests that this phenomenon raises the interesting possibility of reversing time at macroscopic levels (“changing history”).

Time, like position and momentum, is a probabilistic phenomenon. At the level of individual particles the probability of time going either direction can be high. But at scales greater than small numbers of particles the probability of time reversal increasingly approaches zero. Consequently, at the macroscopic scale in which we live time is an irreversible forward arrow hurtling in the direction of greater entropy, as the second law of thermodynamics requires. Zoran Pazameta explains:

In Einstein’s physics causality holds in all domains of the natural world, but quantum theory allows for violation of microcausality at the (microscopic) quantum level. In our macroscopic world, however, causality holds absolutely. This is one important reason why time travel is impossible; to go backwards in time means reversing every cause-and-effect event in the entire universe between then and now.3

Dr. Doyle’s central argument that modern physics validates Christian Science is a willful misinterpretation of the science. If physics actually validated his three assertions then we could plausibly believe that human thought determines what is real; that every particle of the universe is united under one mind; and that mental force can change the history of human experience (including, I suppose, raising the dead). But Doyle’s assertions are not validated by physics: they are all incorrect. No, Dr. Doyle, quantum physics does not validate Christian Science.

It should be a matter of concern that Dr. Doyle misrepresents physical science to an audience of students in order to promote a metaphysical system. It is unfortunate that students at Principia College will not be exposed to other perspectives on the implications of modern physics, which are indeed fascinating. Principia College remains an intellectually closed community on matters that may challenge Christian Science theology. These students deserve better. Continue reading “Does Quantum Physics Validate Christian Science?”

Five Questions – Prin Edition (A-‘s Answers)


The following answers are from A-, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


1) Why did you attend Principia? 
My cousins went to the Middle and Upper schools so I was familiar with it. I loved the A/U camp at Buena Vista and some of the counselors were students at the college. I thought it would be like camp. My grandfather went to the Upper school, so he approved and helped pay the tuition. Plus I felt safer. This was just after the 60’s and all the campus riots.
2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science? 
Yes, I became more devout. My parents were rather lackadaisical in their observance of CS. I became very active in the church and went through class instruction after graduation.
3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? …
How can I answer that? I loved it at the time and I met my husband there. So I would. But did it prepare me for real life? Not at all. So from that perspective, no.
4) Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist? 
No.
5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college. 
As I said, I met my husband there. As for negative, I didn’t think there was anything really negative at the time. It was after college that the fallout began,  the unexplained deaths of friends from college, the eventual breakup of my marriage due to the fact that my husband had been led to believe he could heal being gay through CS. Even after I left the church, my early indoctrination led to my ignoring serious health problems until it was almost too late.

Five Questions – Prin Edition (T’s Answers)

Why did you attend Principia?

My parents decided and I said fine. There was a private school up the road that I liked better, but it was too far to commute and too close to board. I’m sure that my parents liked the idea of the Christian Science community too. One parent had attended Prin as well, which surely impacted their thought process, and may have helped with financial aid. I visited as an 8th grader and had a pretty fun time. Living in a dorm seemed fun, but the thing that stuck with me was the school store. That tells you all you need to know about whether 14-year-olds can make good long-term decisions for themselves!

Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?

I’m sure it changed it some due to a wider range of exposure. I don’t think I grew closer to it or further from it because I attended. I could not have identified this at the time, but there were always people trying to pass judgement on me under the guise of Christian Science. This happened at home, at church, at Prin. So while Prin perhaps had an opportunity to help me like it more, they didn’t take it. As I became more broad-minded in college I realized that many Christian Scientists maintain their naivety, judgmentalism, and prejudice through the religion. At the same time, there were good people practicing it too, so it just felt like a normal cross-section of the world at the time.

If you had a ‘do-over’, would you attend Principia again? Why or why not?

No, because it kept me from critical family events of the time that I did not know were coming. Of course, that may have been part of the reason that I was shipped off. Not accounting for that facet, and IF I knew then what I know now, then maybe the Upper School only. Living in a dorm was indeed fun, and I had a vast number of experiences that I never could have had at home–participating in productions in an auditorium of a quality that few high schoolers enjoy, sneaking out of the dorms at all hours, eating meals with friends three meals a day. I’m sure a therapist could help me make a long list of traumas and disorders stemming from living in a Christian Science bubble 24/7, but I’d say that the damage that caused is probably no more or less than the damage I would have sustained going to high school as the lone Christian Scientist. In most ways it was a relief at the time. College, though, is too important a time to waste hiding in a bubble. It’s when young adults should be turning outward to the real world.

Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?

I’ve gone back and forth on this many many times since graduating, for a different reason each time. But in the end, the most major consideration is the lack of security in health and safety available in a Christian Science community. One student died in the dorm when I was a student there. He had a heart problem of some kind or another … We got no more information, and I’m not sure there was much more to be had. Would he have survived at another school? His chances would have been a lot better, anyway! Many Christian Science parents go out of their way to ensure that if anything happens, an ambulance is NOT called for their children. This just isn’t where you want to send your kids, or where you want to be, when it hits the fan. If you’re an 8th grader contemplating Prin, just remember that at your public school you can probably get to the hospital before your folks find out. It may save your life.

One positive experience & one negative experience.

Having a huge campus as a 24-hour playground was a positive. I never injured myself, but I did face major disciplinary action a few times. A negative was the ignoring of the students’ emotional health by houseparents, teachers, administrators, everybody. High school is a period of huge growth in a child’s life, and I had family and other situations that made my progress difficult in many ways. During my time at the US I had a couple people who were helping me by playing the long game, but no one who I really thought cared about my day-to-day struggles. I turned in a couple pieces of work that would probably have gotten me sent to the school psychologist in a public school, but which were completely ignored at Prin–not as much as a line from Science and Health offered.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – M’s Answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences. 


1) Why did you attend Principia?

[Principia College] gave me a good scholarship and the place felt very comfortable. It had a homey atmosphere. Visiting weekend was fun, and I felt better attending a school I had actually seen. I had plenty of qualms about the school, but it was affordable and nice.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?

Yes. I was a devout Christian Scientist throughout and in the years following Prin. I attributed my disagreements with the numerous people there and the institution itself to a misinterpretation of Christian Science, which I considered a personal religion. I didn’t think it could be regulated in the way the school tried to do. I felt as though it was an intolerant, harmful, and in some cases illegal means of practicing the religion, and I had a hard time reconciling how so many Christian Scientists, who were supposedly praying to God for guidance, could get the wrong answer from God so many times. I also struggled with what I felt to be true and what I thought should be true according to Christian Science.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

I don’t think I’d redo my time there because I learned so much about the way the world works. It was a microcosm of bureaucracy and mundane evil. Counterintuitively, I might be more naive if I had gone to a more “worldly” college. I met a few great people who are still good friends. We went through a lot together. Maybe I would have had a more ordinary and “better” experience elsewhere, but I’m trying to accept that my weird background is part of who I am. And I do think I got a good education there. I really liked my professors and the place was beautiful with nice facilities.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?

This is a hard question. I don’t know if I could recommend it to anyone. It is not a healthy place. A few years ago I might have said yes. There are some amazing opportunities, and many people treasured their time there. But I’m no longer a Christian Scientist and I’ve seen its dark side and seclusion from the world.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

There are so many of both. One of my best experiences [at the College] was an abroad program to England. It, as well as a field study program to the Southern United States, was magical.

Perhaps my most memorable bad experience was when I tried to report a student for harassment and the school proceeded to make everyone involved, except the perpetrator, feel guilty. Many institutions deal abominably with this sort of thing, and in this case there was a special Christian Science brand of victim blaming.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – H’s answers


Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

“Good” grants and scholarship combinations made it appear affordable (which it was not, in either case). The small, quiet campus was a promising break from an overcrowded high school experience and I didn’t want to face thousands of new faces who were likely to be drinking or otherwise more rowdy than I wanted to handle.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

Yes – knowing that a lot of students who attended Prin left CS after, I thought it was a shame that Prin turned so many people off of the religion. In hindsight, their draconian policies were probably helpful in highlighting the absurdity of the religion as a whole. One regret was that while I felt like a “bad” CS at Prin, I got more into CS after leaving. I did gradually ease away from the religion a few years after leaving Prin, though.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

Yes – I would take it less seriously, but the friends and the campus made it worthwhile: I would have gone under at a larger school and Prin was a comfortable size.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

No – a similar experience can probably be found elsewhere with less baggage.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive…………………..

Negative – total lack of confidentiality when dealing with RCs; nosy RCs who would shame single students for not having a boyfriend but would hound students who were dating, assuring them that if anything was amiss/a violation of the code, they’d be caught.

Positive – maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome, but some of the friendships forged there have been remarkable.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – C’s answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

I had several reasons for attending Principia College. My grandmother took me to Summer Session twice during my high school years and I fell in love with the campus. I was still fighting hard to understand and believe Christian Science at that point in my life because my family expected it of me. I thought being surrounded by a community of practicing Christian Scientists would help me understand. The largest reason was that I wanted to get away from my emotionally abusive father.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

They did, to some extent. I was initially surprised at the strong pressure from the young men there to be sexually involved. I guess I had somehow thought CS guys would be above that. I was blissfully unaware of some of the hypocritical things that went on around campus, but just knowing that so many of my peers were not living up to the “moral standards” changed my views a bit.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

This is so hard to answer. I regret sinking myself so far into debt for undergrad school. I regret being in a department (art history) that had so little concentration on helping students be ready for employment or grad school. I do not regret getting away from home. I love so many of the friends I made at Prin. I was fortunate to miss any serious medical events like a measles epidemic (although I was there for the flood of ’93). I can’t go back and change my decision, and it’s really hard to imagine choosing anything different. Going to Summer Session made me want to be there. I didn’t even apply to any other colleges. I would like to change that part, but I loved being at Prin most of the time, so overall, I don’t regret it.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

Only if they can do it without going deep into debt. I generally would recommend a less expensive school for undergrad. I would also warn them not to expect a bunch of perfect Christian Scientists.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive experience: I made some wonderful friends during my time at Principia, some of whom are still close. I learned a lot about dealing with different personality types, too.

Negative experience: I got pregnant the first time I ever had sex, but I had no idea. My first time happened on the last day of my freshman year at Principia College. My boyfriend and I had been skirting the edges of intercourse for some time, and we both wanted to have sex before we parted for the summer. We didn’t use any form of birth control. Unlike some CS parents, mine had allowed me to attend health and science classes all through my years in public schools, so I wasn’t entirely ignorant on these matters, but I had a vague belief that my case of chicken pox at the age of 16 had rendered me infertile. I have no idea what his reasoning was; we didn’t discuss it. I was embarrassed enough without trying to ask him if he had a condom.

The reason I didn’t know I was pregnant was that I had periods pretty much as normal during that summer. The pregnancy was probably abnormal—tubal, perhaps. My boyfriend and I both arrived back on campus early that fall. He was on his House Board and I was on a sports team. At our earliest opportunity, we had sex again. I went back to my dorm to clean up and noticed that I had started to bleed. I called him with my concern, but he simply said something reassuring—I don’t remember exactly what it was. That evening, he went to St. Louis for an event. I stayed alone in my dorm room.

I bled heavily and began to notice bits of solid material included in the blood. It didn’t occur to me at first that it was a miscarriage because I had been having my period. I think I briefly realized it later on as I continued to bleed into the night, but it didn’t sink in until a couple years later. Eventually, I passed out on my bed. I woke up to blood soaked through my clothes and into the mattress. I realized my roommates would ask questions if they saw it and flipped my mattress.

It never seemed like a real option to go to Cox Cottage. I was alone and scared, but didn’t dare ask for help because I knew I would face condemnation if someone figured out what had happened. I think I also realized that I was unlikely to get any real help at Cox Cottage. That night was one of the scariest of my life.

My eyesight was on the line!

This piece was originally published on 


By Jenny, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor.

When I was in my final year at Principia College, I developed some kind of eye infection. I went to the emergency room secretly, but was still somehow found out by a Christian Science nurse who interrogated me about why I was there. When I refused to tell her, she called my house mom and the dean of students. They each spent an hour or so interrogating me, trying to get me to tell them why I was at the hospital.

The crux of the issue for them was not my well-being or health or whether my eye problem was contagious, but whether I had been given a prescription. They told me that if I didn’t tell them they would have to make me move to Cox Cottage or possibly kick me out. I told them it was my body, my choice, and that I felt it was confidential.

We eventually reached a truce when I told them that if it would make them feel better I would be more than happy to lie to them and tell them that I was not taking a prescription. It was one of the single weirdest experiences of my life. My eyesight was on the line! What would have happened if I had been less sure of my decision or more concerned about public perception or what my parents would say if I was asked to leave?

It felt like being smothered by a soft blanket

By Marie, an Ex-Christian Scientist Group contributor. Marie is a pseudonym.

 

The college encouraged school spirit. They told you to spread the word about how great the place was. You felt pressure to participate in your House’s events. Some asked you to leave your doors open. You had no choice but to leave them unlocked. The door locks had been broken, if the doors were built to have locks at all. If items were stolen, students were taught to pray about attachment to material objects.

When I was there, only the women’s dorms were locked and only during certain hours. We had no control over this, and sometimes the security guards locked the doors early or forgot to lock them entirely. Because students didn’t need to carry keys most of the day, women often forget their keys and got locked out or had a virtual curfew that men didn’t worry about. Whenever students discussed the injustice and sexism of this practice, people replied, “Life isn’t fair.” Even after a male student was beaten by a group of men who came from off campus, it was up to the male students to decide whether to lock their dorms. We were told that state law required women’s dorms to be locked. When brought up specifically with the administration, they admitted that this was untrue. Administrators blamed ‘student rumours’ on this falsehood.

Men and women lived in separate hallways, usually separate dorms. Spying on and reporting one another for breaking rules, including visiting the hallway or room of the opposite sex during specific hours, was called moral courage.

People occasionally disappeared. It was a mystery as to whether they were suspended due to having sex, falling ill, or getting hurt and taking medicine or staying in the hospital, or attempting to commit suicide. Perhaps they simply transferred to another school, or maybe they committed an actual crime. Rumours ran rampant because, (1) people fiercely guarded their frequently violated privacy, and (2) speaking about ‘bad’ things was discouraged.

This made activism difficult. Pointing out the evil in the world and fighting it with material means was looked down upon and outright silenced. It was more important to focus on the community than on the outside world. Then again, protesting the administration was also highly regulated if allowed at all. For example, at that point, students could only be homosexual if they actively tried to pray the gay away and remained celibate. Protesting this rule was considered ‘homosexual activity’ which was forbidden.

The campus itself was beautiful and clean. The school offered several amazing opportunities, including a fabulous array of abroad programs. Most of us felt comfortable leaving our bags out when grabbing lunch, trusting that nothing would be stolen in this small religious community. Considering the very limited options, the food was good, and the dorms were lovely. The dorms were one of several things that reminded me of Harry Potter. We were an incestuous, tiny school of magical outsiders.
Continue reading “It felt like being smothered by a soft blanket”

A Principian’s Reflections on the Matthew Code

Originally published on 


Way back when I was still a naive and optimistic freshman at Principia College I signed up to participate in an off-campus activity with some fellow students. It would take us away from the campus for several weeks, during which time it was of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE that we uphold the values of Principia and if we saw anyone partaking in un-Principia-like activities (aka breaking the prin code) we were to report them AT ONCE to the staff member who was tending to us.

My fellow freshman and I felt a little uneasy about ratting out our fellow students, but it was the sophomores (those wise older sophomores) who got really upset. What about the Matthew Code!? they demanded. What about it?! we asked. They didn’t tell you?! They sounded incredulous.

The Matthew Code is from Matthew 18:15-17, and most Christian Science groups omit “but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” which I think is rather silly.

The Matthew Code & My Experience With Hypocrisy at Principia

Originally published on 


 

(15) If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. (16) But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (17) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector.
(Matthew 18:15-17 – New International Version)

The Matthew Code, as the above quoted Bible verses have come to be known, was thrown at me and my fellow students at Principia College time and time again, and is a part of the moral code that Principia students are required to abide by. Now, I read the above verses, and I clearly come away with a certain interpretation, and no, I do not need anyone else’s interpretation to gain what I feel to be clarity on what these verses say and mean. It’s simple: if you encounter someone doing something wrong, you go to them directly on your own and talk to them about it; if they don’t listen, and don’t acknowledge that they’ve done something wrong, you bring a couple of friends (preferably mutual friends) along; if that fails, then you go to higher authorities to have the situation corrected and ‘balanced’, so to speak. You do not go to the authorities first. Now, I’m talking of someone committing minor moral offenses. If I see someone robbing a house, assaulting, or murdering, I’ll go straight to the police, no questions asked.

In the context of being a Principia student, I saw it as: if I encountered someone breaking the rules, I’d confront them myself first and seek to redress the situation that way, and if that didn’t work, go up the Matthew Code ladder from there. That’s how I saw it when I did have my own encounter with rule-breakers while I was at Principia. In practice however, the administrative authorities at Principia had a different take on the Matthew Code, and most of us students knew that, and many of us saw it as hypocritical. They wanted you to skip past the first few steps. Continue reading “The Matthew Code & My Experience With Hypocrisy at Principia”