“Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is falsely presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting scientific evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.1
A fellow ex-Christian Scientist blogger has excellent thoughts on the “Pseudoscience of Christian Science“, and their thoughts on this topic are definitely worth reading. In this post, I want to examine one specific example of glaring pseudoscience masquerading (or at least trying to) as science (one of many) in Mary Baker Eddy’s seminal book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She has a habit of throwing out many little anecdotes and ideas like this in her writings, and coating them with a bit of scientific reasoning to give an ever so thin veneer of the appearance of scientific validity.
“Because the muscles of the blacksmith’s arm are strongly developed, it does not follow that exercise has produced this result or that a less used arm must be weak. If matter were the cause of action, and if muscles, without volition of mortal mind, could lift the hammer and strike the anvil, it might be thought true that hammering would enlarge the muscles. The trip-hammer is not increased in size by exercise. Why not, since muscles are as material as wood and iron? Because nobody believes that mind is producing such a result on the hammer.”
(Science and Health, pp. 198 – 199)
It’s hard for me to be polite in ripping apart this statement (so I won’t), and this one is a favourite one among Christian Scientists when they try to assert the validity of Christian Science over traditional (or as I like to call it) real science or evidence-based medical science. In essence, to anyone with even a basic knowledge of biochemistry and/or physics, this statement is complete bullshit. This is a glaring example of the (taken to its extreme) simplistic view Christian Science has regarding the very real “material” universe we live in. I’ll do a quick analysis of this bullshit-laden statement to show, for anyone who isn’t convinced, why it is bullshit.
First off, Eddy speculates on the development of the musculature of a blacksmith’s arm. By virtue of what they do day in and day out, blacksmiths generally have muscular arms. Why? Because they use them. They use them a lot, to wield heavy hammers. In their day-to-day activities, they exercise their arms. This kind of repeated activity, as we all know, causes muscle growth and development–that’s why many people work out with weights. This is a basic biological function. However, Eddy makes a direct, and extremely fallacious correlation between a biochemically active object (muscles) and a biochemically inert object (a hammer). Why, she asks, does the hammer not grow with use like the blacksmith’s muscles? After all, they’re both “material”, and one could make the case that if the hammer’s handle is made of wood, they’re both composed of carbon to a large degree, so why doesn’t the hammer grow with use as well? She dismissively states that the difference is because of human belief. Oh yeah, it’s because we all believe that muscles are developed by exercise, not because it might just be a fundamental biological function, and our belief or non-belief in it has no effect on it whatsoever. Nah, it couldn’t be that.
This is a stupidly simplistic argument, yet many otherwise intelligent people accept this statement and many others like it as “scientific” proof of the efficacy of Christian Science. I was once one of them. To me, this proves the absolute inefficacy of Christian Science. Since Science and Health, according to Eddy, is the “complete statement of Christian Science” (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 37), then this statement is a true and accurate statement of Christian Science. So, there you have it, complete proof that Christian Science is bullshit!
1 “Pseudoscience.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 14 December 2014. Web. 21 December 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience>