Rational Scientific Theories from Theism

Physics Approach to Theistic Science

So what's it all about?
A new film explaining spirituality through quantum physics has caught the attention of the stars, but fashionable doesn’t mean right,
says Bryan Appleyard

The Sunday Times, 8th May 2005.

Ever since the Beatles adopted, dumped and finally, in their song Sexy Sadie, abused the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, celebrity spirituality has been a rocky and exotic road. The basic setup is, of course, familiar: famous person with lots of money is stricken by doubt and uncertainty. What, he or she wonders, is it all about? Along comes an Indian guru, for the Fab Four, kabbalah, for Madonna, or Scientology, for Tom Cruise, and all is revealed.

There are two crucial features of this process. The first is the spiritual emptiness that accompanies fame; second, the exoticism of the chosen form of salvation. Cliff Richard became a mainstream Christian; Bob Dylan, for a while, a born-again American Protestant. But these revelations now seem desperately unhip. Mere bog-standard Christianity would not do for the likes of Madonna. It would be like buying jeans at Primark.

Which brings me to What the Bleep Do We Know?, an indie American documentary that opened in one cinema in Washington State a year ago, and has become spirituality’s latest fashion moment. It was in the top 25 of the US film charts for 14 weeks. It forms part of a new spiritual wave in Hollywood. A Spiritual Cinema Circle has been formed by, among others, Bruce Joel Rubin, writer of Ghost and Deep Impact, Stephen Simon, director of Indigo, who is now filming The Celestine Prophecy, and Mark Vicente, co-director of What the Bleep?

Of course, celebs are not alone in wanting something more, and the Circle is said to have 60,000 members. You join at http://www.thespiritualcinemacircle.com/, which has a handy check list of the sort of thing that is currently meant by spirituality: “Life after life; enhanced powers and sensibilities; reality and time; the magic of spiritual family; the power of love; visionary romance and adventure.”

The terms are vague, but, plainly, they don’t just mean: go to church on Sundays. Rather, they imply that the seeking of an alternative, transcendent reality, whatever it might be, is intrinsically a good thing. Spiritually speaking, it’s a case of whatever floats your boat.

And what is intended to float your boat in What the Bleep? is weird science. A strange melange of interviews, narrative and visual effects, it is based on the premise that what is now happening in cutting-edge science has the power to start a spiritual revolution.

It has certainly stirred up the celebs. Madonna is onto it, as is, weirdly, Stephen Hawking. Drew Barrymore less than lucidly declared: “You know when you get so excited, because someone has expressed something that you haven’t been able to put into words? That’s how I felt about this film. The way it explains how the universe works, or the science of things, or God. Most of all, I was amazed that it spoke so much about perception. That everything exists purely in our perception is such a crazy, druggie, interesting, intimidating-yet-setting-you-free kind of thought.”

According to its website, What the Bleep? offers “an expansive view and provides hope, a stairway leading out of and above the din, and true freedom”.

Essentially, the film makes three points. First, quantum mechanics — the science of the very small — proves that reality is not the soulless machine of classical science. Rather, it is a teeming world of possibilities and indeterminacy that proves we can be reborn and saved from the current narrowness of our existence. Second, cognitive science is proving something similar with its insight that we don’t live in a given world, but rather create our own. And third, molecular biology, combined with brain chemistry, suggests that we may be able to remake our own bodies as centres of positive energy.

The first point is nonsense. There is no way our big lives can be remade along the lines of little electrons or photons. The second point is right, but, if seriously pursued as therapy on a large scale, could lead to widespread insanity. The third point is dubious in the extreme. I initially took the man who advances this idea in the film to be a physicist who had suffered a nervous breakdown, but he is, in fact, a chiropractor. In short, the film is as wrong-headed as it is tedious to watch. However, to regard it as a cultural and fashionable phenomenon is very interesting indeed.

Science has conventionally been regarded as the enemy of religion and spirituality. And so, to a large extent, it is. Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary scientist, never misses a chance to trash religion, and most of the claims of the church about the physical world have, over the past 400 years, been disproved. But the science, particularly the physics, of the past 100 years has grown progressively more strange. As a result, the spiritually inclined have seized on these developments as raising the possibility that science may actually perform a U-turn and come out on the side of the spiritual.

It might happen, but why do we want it to? We all get what Freud called the “oceanic” feeling — a sense that we are connected to something much vaster than our own little world, that another reality lies just beyond the one in which we live, a “third realm” of knowledge to which we have denied ourselves access. In the past, this has expressed itself through what we now call conventional religion; now it is expressed through countless cults, crazes and alternative therapies.

These exotic spiritualities attract popularity because they are different enough to be fashionable and because, compared with the rigours of religious observances, they are cost-free. You don’t actually have to do much to feel all dreamy and significant about quantum theory or cognitive science — and the Beatles seemed to do little more than chill out when they hung with the Maharishi.

The big picture, however, is that to be human is to suspect that there is, indeed, a higher reality, and that the world is not as obvious and banal as it appears to be. No human society has been without religion and none ever will be. You don’t need to stray into the exotic to understand this, you just have to read our “traditional” philosophy and literature, from Plato onwards. This may sound like hard work — but, believe me, it’s nothing compared with getting through the last mind-bendingly wrong-headed 29 minutes of What the Bleep?

What the Bleep Do We Know About Anything? opens on May 20; www.thebleep.co.uk


www.TheisticScience.org Author: Ian J. Thompson, Email: IanT at TheisticScience.org