I didn't get a free book. But I was able to write a blog post with gobbledygook in the title, which is a fine second prize. My investigation into how Christians are mangling quantum theory began with an email that arrived yesterday.
The header read:
'God the Final Frontier' - New Book Explains How Discoveries In Science Reveal the Nature of God Even A Child Can Understand.
That sounded promising. I can be childlike. And I want to know the nature of God. Tell me more.
The author's approach is unique because it reveals scientific discoveries such as how quantum physics provides positive proof for the doctrine of the Trinity (one of the most controversial doctrines in Christianity), and how Einstein's Theory of Relativity fit's the Genesis account of creation, in simple, easy to understand language.
Well, I didn't like the apostrophe in "fit's." But the email apparently came from a public relations firm, not the author, and everybody knows PR types can't write.
I wanted to know how quantum physics proves the Trinity. And praise be, the last words of the email were "Note: Review copies are available by replying to this e-mail . Please furnish your shipping address."
Ooh, ooh! I was excited. I replied as quickly as my trembling fingers could type. Then I got another email:
Brian, review copies are available for established publications and media personalities.
What?!!! This blog is an established publication. The Internet is a form of media. And I've got a personality. Where's my damn free review copy?!!!
My reply must have been forwarded to the author of "God the Final Frontier," because I heard from him. We exchanged a few emails and figured out that the firm which sent out the publicity emails had omitted the "established publications and media personalities" qualifier without his knowledge, which led to my premature free book! excitement.
Fair enough. But I was still curious about quantum physics proving the doctrine of the Trinity. I'd browsed around the book's web site and read some sample pages. One of them, thankfully, got right to my question (page 39).
Philip DelRe, the author, said that he'd typed "light" on the World Wide Web (Can you do that? Don't you have to use a search engine?). In less than a minute he found himself in a quantum physics laboratory in England (Cool. I've never been able to get into one of those Internet tubes and actually go somewhere like that).
He quoted verbatim from the website:
Light is made up of three types of particles, or wavelengths, each distinct from the other, no one of which without the others would be light. Each has its own separate function. The first originates, the second illuminates or manifests, the third consummates, or completes. The first is called invisible light; it is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.
Hmmmm. Now I'm no physicist, but I've read a lot of science books and magazines. Somehow this quote just didn't seem like what you'd expect to find on a quantum physics web site. So I fired up Google and went exploring.
I tried various combinations of quotes from this passage. Nothing popped up at first. That struck me as strange, since usually Google is great at finding quotation sources. So I emailed the author and asked where he found the quote.
Mr. DelRe replied that he failed to note the address of the site and hasn't been able to find it again. He said, "It was a lab. In England. Google apparently moved it and I have tried cannot find it again."
OK. However, I was still curious about the quotation. So I pressed on. Eventually I hit on the right combination of Google search terms and was directed to a Google Book Search result for another book, "Love's Immensity Or the Progressive Revelation of God Through His Hebrew Names" by Bertha Carr-Harris.
This sure wasn't a quantum physics lab website. But Carr-Harris' book had almost the same language.
Light is constituted of three rays, or groups of wave-lengths, distinct from each other, no one of which without the other would be light. Each ray has its own separate function. The first originates, the second formulates, illuminates or manifests, and the third consummates. The first ray, often called invisible light, is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.
Progress. Except no citation was given here either. I poked around Google a bit more and found some other Christian references to light as reflecting the nature of the Trinity. For supposedly the Father is neither seen nor felt; the Son is both seen and felt; and the Spirit is not seen but felt.
The Trinity is a mystery. Light, though, has had a lot of, well, light shone on it. What I learned with some additional Googling, combined with my own common sense, cast some dark shadows over these attempts to use quantum (or electromagnetic) theory to support Christian dogma.
For one thing, I couldn't find any reference to light being composed of three types of particles. My good friend Wikipedia confirmed that the elementary particle that defines light is the photon. There are three basic properties of all electromagnetic radiation – intensity, frequency, polarization – but not three distinct "rays" or "wave lengths."
It's true, though, that the electromagnetic spectrum is made up of ultraviolet, visible light, and infrared. Humans can see visible light, but not ultraviolet or infrared. Infrared light can be felt, so at least part of the DelRe and Carr-Harris quotes are vaguely accurate.
But only vaguely.
I have no idea, scientifically speaking, how unseen and unfelt ultraviolet light (the "Father") is supposed to originate, while unseen and felt infrared light (the "Spirit") consummates. (Except, microwaves are on the infrared side of the spectrum, and they do a good job of heating up leftovers for me to consume).
I also don't know how it's possible to say that the ultraviolet range of the electromagnetic spectrum can be considered "unseen and unfelt." Scientists see it all the time with their instruments, such as radio telescopes. Just because it's unseen by the human eye doesn't mean it can't be "seen" by other means.
God is different, of course. God can't be proven to be seen in any fashion. So this is another way the Light = Trinity analogy breaks down. Somehow the above-mentioned Christian authors never thought about the fact that if the ultraviolet spectrum really was unseen and unfelt, it wouldn't be part of the scientific canon.
Which happens to be the title of a book I'm reading, "The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science." Proving that there is synchronicity (but not that there's a God), my bookmark was left at the exact place where Natalie Angier, the author, began to describe how light works.
It turns out that if the pseudo-quantum Christian connection between light and the Trinity is correct, bees and pit vipers are closer to the Father and Holy Spirit than humans are.
Our eyes evolved to respond as best we could to ambient light, and the sun is very good at propagating light waves that are between 15 and 32 millionths of an inch long. This is the slice of light that we immodest Homo taxonomists have designated as visible light, or optical light, or daylight.
Yet the terms are terribly blinkered. Other animals can see light lying well outside the so-called visible range – in the ultraviolet, in the infrared, in radar. Bees, for example, see perfectly well in the ultraviolet range, and many flowers beckon their pollinators with ultraviolet stripes, while the pits of a pit viper detect infrared light, the signature thermal radiation that emanates from meal and menace alike.
So rather than proving that the "Trinity" revealed by electromagnetism is an objective reality, actually science shows that what is seen and unseen depends on what sort of being is doing the seeing. God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is in the eye of the beholder, whether human, bee, or pit viper.
The electromagnetic spectrum also reveals that light isn't three separate things, or any other number of separate things. It is one thing. Electromagnetism. So much for the Trinity. As a NASA web site says:
We may think that radio waves are completely different physical objects or events than gamma-rays. They are produced in very different ways, and we detect them in different ways. But are they really different things? The answer is 'no'. Radio waves, visible light, X-rays, and all the other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum are fundamentally the same thing. They are all electromagnetic radiation.
Nice. Rather than confirming the Christian dogma of the Trinity, what science knows about light points in the direction of Eastern (and Western, in guises such as Plotinus) philosophy that posits an impersonal Oneness as the ultimate reality.
Good try, Mr. DelRe and Ms. Carr-Harris. But you need to look somewhere else to support your belief in the Trinity. If I may make a suggestion, try blind faith.