Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Blue Sky Nonsense: reviewing “Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity” pt. 1: The Quantum Sea of Light

Blue Sky God: The Evolution of Science and Christianity by Don MacGregor (book sources)

Zero Point Field

Zero point energy! We've had most of the other quantum-woo tropes, so I guess it's no surprise that we get this one too. Inexhaustible energy! Misunderstandings of what renormalization is! Invisible webs connecting everything to everything else!

A new wrinkle that I haven't seen before: the claim that the zero-point field contains a permanent record of everything that has ever happened in the universe. Huh, didn't see that one coming.

Our (or rather MacGregor's) sources for all this are once again Lynne McTaggart (who remember is just a journalist), Bernard Haisch, and Ervin László, though this time when referring to László's claimed nominations for the Nobel, MacGregor does at least mention that it's the Peace prize. (The nominations for Nobels are not made public for 50 years, and the nomination process for the Peace prize simply allows anyone from a long list of qualified positions to send in suggested names. Got a couple of friends in government or who are professors of social science or philosophy? You too could be nominated for the Peace prize!)

(An aside: several names in this chapter are misspelled, making it harder than usual to track down the actual researchers. Whether this is MacGregor's error or McTaggart's is not clear.)


More “memory is not in the brain” nonsense now. An interesting breadcrumb trail of a descent from serious research into crankery traced, apparently, by McTaggart starting from Karl Pribram's holographic theories of the brain, to Walter Schempp on MRI, to Peter Marcer, to astronaut-turned-crackpot Edgar Mitchell (who has repeatedly claimed that governments are covering up evidence of alien visitations); and again from Pribram to Stuart Hameroff (proponent, with Penrose, of the theory that consciousness is a quantum phenomenon in microtubules).

(List of names misspelled so far in the chapter: László -> Lazlo, Schempp -> Schemp, Hameroff -> Hammerhof)

So apparently if people remember past lives, it's not because they were actually reincarnated, but rather that they're receiving memories that were stored in the ‘zero-point field’. I guess that solves the otherwise annoying problem of everyone claiming to be the reincarnation of a tiny number of historical figures.


Biophotons! Yes, there are chemical reactions that give off light in a non-thermal manner, and some are biologically important (and not just to fireflies). If the very weak photon emission from plants and animals is in fact related to oxidative stress, as seems plausible, then it could even be a usable diagnostic tool. What it isn't, though, is some magical signalling method inside cells, and certainly not “the DNA [using] coherent light as its means of communication”. Nor is this anything to do with zero-point energy (again). And it is absolutely not the case that “health is maintained when the emission of coherent light photons keeps everything in balance in a state of perfect subatomic communication”. (WTF?)

Spiritual Light

So the “discovery of the central role that light has to play in the body's processes” inspires MacGregor to look up every reference to ‘light’ in the Bible and interpret it accordingly. Too bad that there is no such role.

Incarnation and Photosynthesis

This section presents a rather strained metaphor; before the evolution of photosynthesis (MacGregor, or his source for the metaphor Judy Cannato, actually mean phototrophism here, but we'll pass over the distinction) the energy of sunlight was not directly available for organisms to use; but afterwards, it was. This is used (by Cannato, MacGregor is mostly just quoting with some commentary) as the jumping-off point into flights of spiritual fancy exemplified by phrases such as “After eons of prepararion, humankind is finally able to receive grace in a more conscious way” or “Love is not just a feeling, but a force for evolution, bringing everything into relationship.”.

MacGregor then gets a bit optimistic:

There is also an immediate link with God's bountiful nature, as provision may be there for a limitless supply of free energy – that would be just like the abundant God that Jesus revealed, giving the provision that all may have life in abundance. As we approach an energy crisis in the world, it would be a divine coincidence if, at this stage of human development, we stumbled on a limitless supply of free, safe electromagnetic energy!

Eternal Timeless Life

Haisch points out the oft-quoted claim that according to special relativity, photons travelling in free space do not experience duration—if the photon can be said to have a frame of reference, then it arrives at its destination in zero time having travelled zero distance. He then pattern-matches this to an out-of-context quote from a collection of Jewish Haggadah that says that the light of the first day “was of a sort that would have enabled man to see the world at a glance from one end to the other”. Not mentioned is that the same Jewish sources follow that up with a whole load of nonsense.

Akashic Field

László again (spelled intermittently correctly this time, though without the accents; and MacGregor mentions the Peace prize nominations yet again, I guess he has no idea of how that works), with nonsense about the ‘Akashic field’ and how it explains both quantum nonlocality and a bunch of typically dodgy parapsych experiments by people such as Targ and Puthoff (noted for studying Uri Geller and claiming that he had real psychic abilities, and also associated with the Stargate Project, which ran for nearly 20 years without being able to produce anything of operational value).

Of course the ultimate rebuttal to all the parapsych stuff was best given on XKCD: