Thank you for commenting on my Oct. 5 blog post titled, “The importance of viewing ‘Christian’ and ‘Science’ together.” (Readers may wish to read R2-D2’s Nov. 21 comment to see all of the questions in full.)
R2, I hope the following responses are helpful. Thanks so much for following my blog and writing in with your thoughtful questions. I will try to respond to your remaining ones in a future post. In the meantime, I’ve listed some resources at the end of this post that may be useful.
R2: “How can a reasonable person evaluate the claim that Christian Science is scientific?”
Bill: The best way is to study and prove it for yourself. I’ve known sincere, unprejudiced thinkers who reasoned their way to valuing the distinctiveness of Christian Science and learned how to demonstrate its truth for themselves. I encourage you to consider it.
R2: “You mention the 80,000 testimonies as if that represents scientific data, but what aspects of those testimonies are measurable?”
Bill: Many of these testimonies have been medically diagnosed, but no rigorous scientific studies or laboratory experiments have been performed. The anecdotal evidence they represent may seem inconsequential from a strictly natural science perspective, but I assure you they are not insignificant to those who have been healed.
R2: “What actual experimentation could be done to evaluate Christian Science?”
Bill: Unfortunately, spiritual healing does not lend itself well to controlled experiments or laboratory analysis. Not that physical evidence of spiritual healing is not important—it is!
However, the elements of Christian Science are spiritual and mental, which are not easily measured, although they can make the body healthy. A researcher could go to a lot of trouble to control conditions designed to isolate variables, but how would he isolate the variables of gratitude or love in one’s heart?
Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”:
“Strangely enough, we ask for material theories in support of spiritual and eternal truths, when the two are so antagonistic that the material thought must become spiritualized before the spiritual fact can be attained.”
Even if an experiment to evaluate Christian Science healing were attempted, it would likely be problematic from the outset. For instance, if I were praying to heal a physical problem, I would work to keep my thought spiritually uplifted and not focus on the material evidence. Yet knowing that I was part of an “experiment,” and that researchers would be regularly checking on my physical progress, would be distracting at best and might actually hamper or delay a successful outcome.
This question was addressed in a book by author Geoffrey Hoyland, who wrote, “… we cannot lay on faith, love and holiness in a laboratory, to be used as desired, in the same way we can provide water, electricity, and sulphuretted hydrogen.”
R2: “What actual hypotheses are proposed by Christian Science?”
Bill: More than I can possibly share in a blog post! But here is a good start from “Science and Health”:
‘Question. — What is the scientific statement of being?
Answer. — There is no life, truth, intelligence nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.’
R2: “Are there any observations which could, in theory, falsify Christian Science?”
Bill: Do you mean according to Sir Karl Popper? Let’s start with some background for my readers. Sir Karl Popper (1902-1994) made notable the scientific concept of falsifiability. Briefly, his proposition was that it‘s more important to prove something false than to prove it true. He was a critic of the scientific method, because
it looks for conclusions that are the most probable. I appreciate that he believed relying on empirical evidence was limiting in the quest to gain knowledge and truth. On that we agree.
You may find it interesting that Popper was a fan of Albert Einstein who, after attending a Christian Science church in New York City, remarked to a church member, “Do you people realize what a wonderful thing you have?”
To learn more about the topics discussed in this post, please visit your local Christian Science Reading Room, where you can talk to an experienced Christian Scientist and find the three books listed below for further study:
- “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy
- “Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer,” by von Fettweis and Warneck
- “A Century of Christian Healing,” by The Christian Science Publishing Society