Quantum Physics and the Supernatural

October 13, 2021
Holy Spirit
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Every few years, there is a charismatic book released that explores the space between the supernatural and quantum physics. Here are a few examples:

  • Quantum Glory: Quantum Glory explores the intriguing intersection between the two realities of quantum mechanics and the glory of God. Quantum Glory consists of page after page of revelation as to the glory of God and the wonders of the universe. Part One explores the subatomic world, revealing its exceptionally intricate divine design that unveils the mind of our Creator. In Part Two, the author explains how the glory of God invades our physical universe to bring about miracles of divine healing. Quantum Glory is packed with revelation that will blow your mind! But more than that, it is designed to equip you in supernatural ministry so that you can also release the glory of God on earth as it is in heaven! Prepare to have your world turned upside down!
  • The Physics of Heaven: Some of the most influential and prophetic voices of the Spirit-empowered movement have joined together to help you start hearing the sounds of heaven and discover how natural elements—sound, light, energy, vibration and even quantum physics—are supernaturally bringing Heaven to Earth. Unlock Heaven’s healing energy, tap into the frequency of God’s Kingdom,  and access  a new realm of divine encounters today!
  • The Frequency of the Supernatural: If we could grasp the intersection of the spirit realm and science, what difference would it make in our daily lives? This groundbreaking work reveals how science, God, the spirit realm, and quantum physics all function together. When you discover how to tap into these supernatural frequencies, you can operate in greater dimensions of spiritual power. When you understand the Quantum science of the supernatural, you will be equipped with keys that unlock new measures of Kingdom power, intercessory authority and supernatural miracles in your life!

Have you ever seen literature like this? It's certainly not ubiquitous, but I frequently run into people who are exploring the intersection between these two subjects and I'm frequently asked about it. I decided it's time to write out what I actually think so if nothing else I have something to send people when I have these conversations.

Before I continue any further, let me qualify the vantage point that I speak into this from. My background in these two fields is somewhat unique:

  1. In the period of time from 2001 to 2011, I studied and researched in the field of physics, eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in theoretical quantum physics from University of Illinois (a top-tier school globally in this subject). For any who care to see the proof, here is my dissertation. I speak about this complex subject with the perspective of an insider.
  2. After that period of time, God called me to ministry and I spent much of efforts over the decade from 2011-2021 building the School of Kingdom Ministry, a training school that worked with hundreds of churches and trained thousands of people all across the globe how to move in the ministry of the Spirit, including prayer for healing, deliverance, prophecy, and more. I also speak to the subject of the supernatural as a believer and someone with extensive experience.

I say all of this to say that I spent a decade in both of these fields and I speak from the perspective of a competent practitioner at a high level. I'm not just firing from the hip here.

Okay, so first of all...

When I first have this conversation with someone, they are often excited about what they're reading and learning - and I get it. Quantum physics is cool and learning about it is incredibly fascinating. The wild and wacky world of the quantum scale demonstrates God's creativity as a creator like nowhere else does. Even after having studied and worked in quantum mechanics at a graduate level for many years, the wonder of it hasn't worn off at all.

Add to that an enthusiasm that Christians often feel about a tension between faith and science, which this conversation seems to speak into. Finally we have something where science shows we were right all along! is often the tone of the conversation. I get that too: nobody likes to feel "beat up" by the scientific fields and the ways in which they can be used to assault faith. Having a sort of defense here does feel good, even if it's not actually necessary. (As I discuss in my article Science and Faith: An In-Depth Look, there is no actual tension here, and anyone who uses science to critique faith is only demonstrating their ignorance of how disciplines and disciplinary boundaries work.)

So I get the positives, but we need to be really careful here. Firstly, because we may not be aware, this is actually kind of a sub-current in a broader societal current: one that is trying to connect quantum physics with the new age. Here is a book you've probably not heard of, but is far, far more well read than any of the three above:

  • The Tao of Physics: The Tao of Physics brought the mystical implications of subatomic physics to popular consciousness for the very first time. Many books have been written in the ensuing years about the connections between quantum theory and the ideas of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, but Fritjof Capra’s text serves as the foundation on which the others have been built—and its wisdom has stood the test of time. Its publication in more than twenty-three languages stands as testimony to its universal applicability and its enduring significance.

Tying quantum mechanics to spirituality is nothing new, and it's not at all unique to Christianity. The mystery of quantum mechanics tends to draw out anyone's mystic side. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the manhattan project, famously spoke about reciting the Bhagavad-Gita while watching the first atomic blast.

So my first question in this general area is this: how are we to know which spirituality quantum physics represents? Does it reflect the Christian understanding of spirituality, or a more Eastern perspective? Is this heaven coming to earth, or a yin-yang happening here?

As always, the lynchpin of whether something is truly Christian is whether Jesus Christ and his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and returning one day, is at the center. This is what is uniquely Christian: whether it is irreducibly about Jesus.

So far, I've not seen anything in the science itself (or in what I've read in these books) that is irreducibly about Jesus. There may be dynamics in place which may be connected to how Jesus did the miraculous (something I'll later argue is highly tenuous), but that doesn't mean that quantum mechanics is inherently Christian, it makes it inherently spiritual. Anything that could be written like this should then be framed accordingly: "these are the rules that both Moses and Pharaoh's magicians used to turn their staffs into snakes." 

Does that mean it shouldn't be explored? Not necessarily, I just think it's really important to be clear on what your claim is. But that's just kind of a technicality compared with the bigger issues.

How do we Know if We're doing Quantum Mechanics?

Okay, with that aside, let's ask a deeper question, what actually is quantum mechanics and how do we know if we're doing it? To connect with this, it's worth examining the state of physics before quantum mechanics was discovered. Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg writes in his Dreams of a Final Theory:

...by the 1890s an odd sense of completion had spread to many scientists. In the folklore of science there is an apocryphal story about some physicist who, near the turn of the century, proclaimed that physics was just about complete, with nothing left but to carry measurement to a few more decimal places. The story seems to originate in a remark made in 1894 in a talk at the University of Chicago by the American experimental physicist Albert Michelson: "While it is never safe to affirm that the future of Physical Science has no marvels in store even more astonishing than those of the past, it seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established and that further advances are to be sought chiefly in the rigorous application of these principles to all the phenomena which come under our notice... An eminent physicist has remarked that the future truths of Physical Science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals."

At this point, the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism had revolutionized the world. Steam engines, electricity, all manner of optics and more had developed incredible new technologies and explained nearly everything that seemed observable. There was nothing left to explain or understand!

It was after this that the story of quantum mechanics began. I won't digress into that history - fascinating though it may be - but I will note that in one of the obscure corners of physicists, scientists stumbled into some confusing behavior and in time the quantum picture of the atom was born. But here is the overall point: the world of the atom is so far detached from our everyday reality that the world's leading professionals had to bend over backwards, then stand on their head and cross their eyes to see the tiniest glimpse of it. Once they caught that, it required the whole field working together to do experiments for decades to gather enough data to begin to piece together a working theory. Quantum physics is a long, long, long, long, long, long, long way from the comings and goings of our everyday lives.

Quantum mechanics, furthermore, is not just a set of interesting effects, it is a calculational framework that can be used to understand and predict various phenomena. There are times it does apply and there are times (much more often than not) when it is not the framework you use to understand something. If you're not using this calculational framework to predict and explain, then you're not doing quantum mechanics.

Let me make this concrete with an example. In quantum mechanics, there is a fascinating behavior called tunneling: particles can "leak through" barriers that should be impossible for them to climb over. This is often illustrated with a chart like this:

Quantum tunneling: particles traveling through impassable barriers.

If a Christian has read their Bible and comes across this idea, it's easy to connect the dots with this behavior and Jesus walking through walls to meet the disciples in John 20. With this connection, it's easy to come to the conclusion - voila - that Jesus has used quantum physics to walk through a wall.

Makes a lot of sense, right? Except for one thing - that pretty picture aside, this is what quantum mechanics actually looks like:

It's doing all that calculational work that produces the outcome of the pretty chart above. When we do all that calculational work we see the boundaries to when that chart above applies and when it doesn't. Until we do that hard work, taking that chart as it applies to one particle operating at atomic scales and applying it to an entire person operating at the scales we experience in everyday life is a ridiculous, astronomical, incredulous assumption.

As another example, consider this tweet from author Caroline Leaf:

According to the principle of entanglement in quantum physics, when someone has hurt you and you don’t forgive them, you still remain entangled to the source of pain.

Doubtless a quote like this adds to Dr. Leaf's credibility in most people's eyes. Wow, she's connecting insights from quantum mechanics to the importance of forgiveness! As a trained quantum physicist, when I read this I'm shocked at the leaps in logic and baffled that she would draw this conclusion. I'm sure Dr. Leaf is a smart and qualified woman in her field, but when I read this quote, I honestly have to hold back laughter. Let me break it down:

  1. I'm not sure what the "principle of entanglement" even is. Entanglement is a phenomenon, not a principle. It's something that happens, not a rule in the order of things. Dr. Leaf's misquote of a entanglement as a principle already disqualifies the rest of her application: quantum mechanics is one of the most complex and intricate bodies of knowledge on the planet: if she's making mistakes on the basics of the labels, why on earth would I expect her application to make any sense?
  2. Latent in this explanation is the underlying assumption that when someone hurts me, somehow my mental state is entangled with theirs? What on earth would make me assume that? Entanglement is a deeply complex physical phenomenon that requires a lot of work to create, and that is true with the simplest type of entangled system (like a pair of particles). You're suggesting that somehow by the actions of someone my entire mental state - on the order of magnitude of billions of billions of particles are instantly entangled by no specific given mechanism? That seems an incredible miracle right there.
  3. Add to that the way that entanglement degrades incredibly quickly when not separated from other physical systems. For example, this 2015 article cites research done which scientists were successfully able to make an entanglement of two particles last nearly one hundredth of a second. This is the level of scientific breakthrough: two particles, one hundredth of a second. Forgive me if I'm skeptical that this dynamic is what is driving buried pain in people's psyche for decades. Our brain would have to be such a sophisticated quantum-magic-machine that we would have discovered all kinds of weird properties it's had a long time ago.
  4. How exactly does forgiveness result in the disentanglement of said mental state? In quantum mechanics, entanglement is resolved by observation: observe the system and the quantum entangled state collapses into one of its eigenstates. In what way does forgiveness result in a quantum observation, and in what ways does that observation not happen in any other mental action which would equally collapse the entangled state and release the person from the source of pain?

In all honesty, there is nothing about the quantum mechanical phenomenon of entanglement that I see any reason to tie to pain and forgiveness, other than some kind of analogous concept: like two entangled particles, we can stay tied to our pain until we forgive.

And this is exactly the point. If you're going to reason by analogous concepts, that's okay - there is nothing wrong with that, just be clear that is what you're doing. There is nothing wrong with saying, "like particles can tunnel through barriers, Jesus can walk through walls" - just don't step beyond that and say Jesus is walking through ways by quantum tunneling. Functionally that is claiming the backing of science when in reality you haven't done any science at all. Real applications of quantum mechanics look like my thesis linked above. If you didn't before, give it a scan and get a feel for what this field looks like in application.

I'm sure Dr. Leaf is a very intelligent woman and I'm sure she knows quite a bit in various fields of study. I'm sure the writers of Quantum Glory and the other books above are the same, but quantum mechanics (and physics in general) is a highly technical and specialized field and unless you speak the language of the blackboard above, you have no business linking quantum mechanics as a science to any application, spiritual or otherwise. To anyone who is familiar with the field, this kind of thing comes across as a joke. I'm not a trained neurosurgeon, so I have no business jumping in and volunteering to lead brain surgery - don't try and jump in and claim to understand the applications of quantum mechanics if you're not trained in that field either.

But that isn't actually what we want anyways...

So as someone trained in the field of quantum mechanics I would say that any of the content above may safely use science in a metaphorical way: in a way similar to the way we see this behavior in quantum mechanics, so also we know this type of behavior can happen according to dynamics of the spiritual realm. That kind of expression is fine, but to step beyond that and link the two together is to go beyond scientific claims and in my opinion is highly misleading.

But if you stop and think about it, what do we do when we claim that the miraculous or the supernatural operates according to the rules of quantum mechanics? Well, in a subtle way, we are naturalizing the supernatural. To say that God works miracles by quantum mechanics is to change the claim: rather than saying that God is operating in ways that transcend the natural order (supernatural), what we're saying is that God is better at using the natural laws than we are (more clever natural).

This may not seem like a big deal, but I am very leery of any move that renders God's transcendent aspects clever workings of natural laws. The message of the Scriptures is not that God is better at working in the natural order than we are - though to be sure he is - but rather that God is a reality that goes beyond the natural order and can reach into the natural order and in that intersection break the boundaries of natural laws and introduce new realities. This is the message of the gospel: the resurrection - something that does not exist in this world - broke into the state of death and resurrected Jesus as the firstfruit of a resurrection movement that will engulf all things and bring about a new order of creation. The message of the kingdom is that another world is intersecting our one, and that world does not operate according to our natural laws, and as a result new things are possible and all things are being made new.

To ascribe the supernatural to quantum mechanics sounds like a cool idea, but the reality is that it actually lessens God and his activity. I'm not excited about that: I don't want a God who is just more clever than I am. Jesus is more glorious than that.

Putty Putman's Spirit-inspired innovative insights come from his wild journey with Jesus from physicist to pastor to entrepreneur to author and speaker. His three main passions are the Holy Spirit, effective communication and journeying towards the future God has for the church and the world.

Putty founded the School of Kingdom Ministry and spent eleven years as a pastor on the staff team of The Vineyard Church of Central Illinois. He is now serving as the interim campus pastor at the Hinsdale campus of The Chapel. He is the author of two books, and lives with his wife and three children in Hinsdale, IL.

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