The following is a guest post from regular reader and commenter realscience.
If a fundamentalist Bible college were to establish an “Institute for Creation Science Studies” and use it to contort geology and paleontology in order to “prove” that the planet is only six thousand years old and life forms are the product of design, the scientific community would regard it as a joke. And now Principia College is establishing something exactly analogous to that with its “Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics.”
This ill-conceived foray into quantum quackery will diminish the reputation of Principia as a serious institution of learning–and more importantly, it will harm the prospects of Principia students who may be interested in careers in physics, engineering, and the sciences.
The bizarre effects of quantum phenomena have been exploited by the New Age community to support their various metaphysical beliefs for decades, and it continues to be quite popular. In recent years Christian Science has jumped on that wagon too. But all such speculations have been effectively knocked down by the physics community. Modern physics, including quantum mechanics, continues to be explainable without resorting to metaphysical constructs.
The proposed institute will be a great disservice to serious students of physics. Prin’s announcement says that it will provide “opportunities for student and faculty research, particularly in the area of metaphysics as it relates to quantum physics.” But metaphysics is philosophy, not science. A student will have a hard time getting a paper published in any peer-reviewed journal if he or she mixes science and metaphysics. And students should be aware that association with this “Institute” will not look good on an application to a graduate program. My advice is to go somewhere other than Prin.
As Carl Sagan wrote: “Like it or not, we are stuck with science. We had better make the best of it. When we finally come to terms with it and fully recognize its beauty and its power, we will find, in spiritual as well as in practical matters, that we have made a bargain strongly in our favor. But superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way.” (http://www.csicop.org/si/show/does_truth_matter_science_pseudoscience_and_civilization)
realscience is a former Christian Scientist, Principia College graduate, and recently retired after 30-plus years as a technical writer at one of our nation’s nuclear laboratories. He was so upset at reading about Principia’s new “Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics” that he actually sat down and wrote something.
As a follow up, I did a bit of researching:
Searching for the “Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics” turns up one Principia-related link (appropriately the first one) for Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics Launches | PrincipiaWire. All the other links on the first page of the search are decidedly not Christian Science/Principia related.
The PrincipiaWire article, explains
- [Doyle] goes on to note that, as a school for Christian Scientists, “Principia College is particularly well equipped to participate in the metaphysics (underlying reality) of these academic discoveries, which Mary Baker Eddy foresaw and discovered. Principia students should be ground-level participants in a revolution going on in the physics world with respect to observation, reality, the insubstantiality of matter, and the fundamental role of consciousness in science.”
I take a few issues with Ms. Eddy’s “discoveries” of 19th century philosophy, but I will save my objections for another post.
A bit more on Dr. Doyle:
- from TMC’s time4thinkers http://time4thinkers.com/laurance-doyle/
- from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurance_Doyle
- from SETI.org http://www.seti.org/users/laurance-doyle and http://www.seti.org/node/463
- from HuffPost: Life at the SETI Institute: Laurance Doyle, a Man of Many Firsts (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seti-institute/life-at-the-seti-institut_b_520988.html)
- How We Found Tatooine – Laurance Doyle (SETI Talks) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV1kVg0OiZ4)
- Historic Eclipses – Laurance Doyle (SETI Talks) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWp3j3eLSFA)
- from BibleWise TeenTime: Guest of the Month Laurance Doyle, Interview with Laurance Doyle, Astronomer with the SETI Institute and President, PlanetQuest – The Universe Revealing Itself (http://www.biblewise.com/archives/2006/february/teen_time/guest/guest_month.htm)
Searching for “Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics Principia” turns up an article in the local (Alton) paper (linked below), and one or two links to Principia-based sites. A search of principia.edu is equally vague about the Institute’s initiatives.
So what else turns up when you search for “Institute for the Metaphysics of Physics“?
- The American Institute of Metaphysics which features a “Demonology Doctoral Program” http://www.instituteofmetaphysics.com/
- School of Metaphysics which lets you upgrade your “spiritual DNA” http://www.som.org/
- Institute of Metaphysical Humanistic Science “a metaphysics school that offers online metaphysics Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD Doctoral degrees, parapsychology degrees, life coaching degrees and certifications, spiritual counseling degrees and certifications, metaphysics certificate courses, metaphysics classes, life-skills courses, paranormal investigator certification, relationship courses, hypnosis degrees, hypnosis certification, Reiki classes, Tarot classes, and more that are affordable and comprehensive. All metaphysical distance-learning, online courses and metaphysics degree programs are self-paced and may be completed in your own time frame.” (emphasis mine) http://www.metaphysicsinstitute.org/
The list goes on. I will let readers come to their own conclusions, but I find myself strongly agreeing with guest poster realscience.