by Kevin J. Sharpe


ABSTRACT. David Bohm's thinking has become widely publicized since the 1982 performance of a form of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment. Bohm's holomovement theory, in particular, tries to explain the nonlocality which the experiment supports. His theories are close to his metaphysical and religious thinking. Fritjof Capra's writings try something similar: supporting a theory (the bootstrap theory) because it is close to his religious beliefs. Both Bohm and Capra appear to use their religious ideas in their physics. Religion is the source for physical hypotheses and provides the motivation to develop and uphold them.


KEYWORDS. David Bohm, holomovement, religion and science, Fritjof Capra, nonlocality, physics.


David Bohm started his career in physics as a brilliant exponent of the accepted point of view. In the early 1950s he changed. Since then, his theories have been controversial. Most physicists do not accept them. Yet Bohm wrestles with basic questions raised by contemporary quantum physics. He does not escape physics into a world of his own. He asks questions of the accepted physics and, using its techniques, tries to solve them. One of his principle drives is to clarify an idea he finds at the heart of quantum physics. It is connectedness. Every thing connects with everything else.

Bohm has a strong philosophical and religious sense. Physics also immerses him. His religion appears to influence his physics, as well as the other way around. In this paper I will explore a little of his physics and his religion. I will look at some of their connections. The nonlocality illustrated by the EPR experiment will be my focus.




For Bohm, one of the significant and novel features of quantum theory appears in the EPR paradox. Its name comes from the first letters of its authors, Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, who published an article on it in 1935 (Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen 1935). Bohm helped to develop it further in 1951 (Bohm 1951, 611-23). In this thought experiment certain events appear connected, but they do not physically interact with each other and are some distance apart.

A simplified version of the EPR experiment is as follows. A particle enters the experimental device. It has the properties that it is not spinning and can be split in half. It is split with each half heading off in opposite directions. One half is spinning in one direction and the other half is spinning in the opposite direction. The total spin must be zero by the conservation of spin at the point at which the parent split. The parent particle had zero spin and equal but opposite spins cancel each other out. When the two halves are some distance apart one half has its spin changed. The question concerns what happens to the spin of the other half. It would instantaneously change so the conservation of spin holds. How could it do this? It is a blatant contradiction of physics as Einstein understood it.

One way to approach this question is to ask about the connection between the two half particles. What tells the second half that its sibling has changed its spin? Normal connections do not travel faster than light. The EPR experiment, however, requires a connection which travels faster than light. This conflicts with Einstein's relativity theory in which nothing can travel at such speeds.

Einstein's original intention in pointing to this problem was to bring out a difficulty with quantum theory. The instantaneous connection between particles suggested by quantum physics is a base for the EPR experiment. However, the experiment contradicts the idea that connections cannot travel faster than the speed of light. Thus it disproves, to Einstein at least, the validity of quantum physics.

Unlike Einstein, however, Bohm and his colleagues do not interpret the result of the EPR experiment as illustrating a problem in quantum physics. They see it as representing an essential new feature in quantum phenomena. Moreover, they do not think it contradicts relativity. They have another way of explaining it (Bohm and Hiley 1980).

The experiment is an example of a nonlocal effect. This means that something affects something else which is not within its immediate area. Neither is there a normal causal connection between the two; for instance, there are no physical forces connecting them. Nonlocality contrasts with the common-sense "principle of local causes", or locality. This says the following. Take two places some distance apart. Take them at the same moment of time. What happens in one has nothing to do with what happens at the other (Stapp 1977, 314). The opposite idea, nonlocality, is sensational. Physics violates common sense once again. The public interest arouses from its slumber.

The EPR paper is Einstein's most famous statement of his dislike of the nonlocality in Niels Bohr's quantum theory. Einstein writes that physics should be "free from spooky actions from a distance [that is, nonlocality]". Locality was necessary in his relativity theory and he took it as being an "absolutely inevitable requirement for any reasonable physical theory" (Bohm and Hiley 1980, 51).

For many years the EPR experiment existed only in the imaginations of physicists. John Bell was a primary force in changing that. In a paper published in 1964 he distinguished precisely and mathematically the experimental results of the two types of theories (Bell 1964). One is classical and assumes locality. It takes the properties of a system to be independent of those which are some distance from it. The other supports the nonlocal connection, at least at the quantum level, of systems which are quite separate. Bell's theorem produces a mathematical inequality. Suppose quantum theory has the locality of classical physics. Then there is a limit on the number of pairs of particles with a certain property. Experiments can detect this number. To exceed this limit and thus to break Bell's inequality will mean that quantum theory does not have a simple classical locality. Einstein would then be wrong.

Experimental evidence for nonlocality did exist to some extent in 1957 (Bohm and Aharonov 1957). However, the unambigous carrying out of an EPR experiment had to wait until the 1980s. A team headed by Alain Aspect performed the decisive experiment, which most physicists now accept (Aspect, Dalibard and Roger 1982). It turns out to violate Bell's inequality considerably. In so doing it confirms quantum connections over distances up to twenty-six meters and perhaps up to thirty meters. It disproves theories which assume locality. Researchers also plan more experimental work on this question.

Bohm and Basil Hiley leave us with a warning. We may want to accept nonlocality. We may even want to see it in all situations. Thus we may think of everything as connected to everything else regardless of their separations in time and space. The evidence, however, does not support doing this. The connection between objects at the quantum level may only apply in certain circumstances. An example is "over relatively short distances for simple systems". It can also appear in complex systems and over somewhat longer distances with the temperature near absolute zero. Thus breaking systems into independent subsystems as required by classical physics is often quite acceptable. Bohm and Hiley believe "nonlocality will only reveal itself in very subtle ways". They want to explore "the precise conditions under which such effects appear" (Bohm and Hiley 1976, 178).


     Interpreting and Resolving Nonlocality


The results of Aspect's EPR experiment uphold quantum physics and its nonlocality. However, they challenge our usual understandings of, for example, space, time and matter. "As physicists we have learned to live with this [experiment], but we have never really come to terms with it." So conclude F. Frescura and Hiley (Frescura and Hiley 1980, 8). John Clauser and Abner Shimony think similarly. "Either one must. . .abandon the realistic philosophy of most working scientists, or dramatically revise our concept of space-time" (Clauser and Shimony 1978, 1881). Speculations run wild. There are many conflicting approaches and interpretations. Must we have nonlocality or can we rewrite physics to keep locality? If we do have to have nonlocality, how are we to understand why it is there? What causes nonlocality?

Approaches which accept nonlocality differ from common sense. Nonlocality itself is not common sense. Some approaches go so far as to conflict with acceptable physics. T.M. Helliwell and D.A. Konkowski ask about influences travelling faster than the speed of light (Helliwell and Konkowski 1983, 1000). Could there be a relativity-disobedient faster-than-light "elaborate signalling mechanism" between the two particles in the experiment? (Gribbin 1984, 228-29). Or do the particles somehow know what is going on with each other? An "unattractive proposition" to Hiley (Hiley 1977, 413). Jack Sarfatti suggests a faster-than-light transfer of information without signals. Perhaps it connects the two particles immediately and intimately (Zukav 1979, 310-14). Shimony offers a property called passion. It allows the instantaneous matching of the behaviors of two particles far apart. It does this without them interacting via any forces classical physics knows about. There is some form of communication which does not involve information passing as we know it. Jean-Pierre Vigier replies: "Passion without interaction isn't satisfying" (Anon 1986, 12).

Some approaches move in a different direction than those above. One comes from Itamar Pitowsky. He claims the EPR experiments only point to a problem with the theory of probability used in quantum physics. Changes to this theory allow him to sidestep Bell's theorem (Pitowsky 1982). He also encourages controversy (Ballentine 1987, 790).

An unconventional way of presenting quantum theory makes use of hidden variables. Quantum theory principally deals with the quantum or subatomic level. This is the level of the world where exist electrons and other objects smaller than the atom. These make up atoms. Continuing down the scale, hidden variables help make up the objects of the subatomic level. They are some of the basic building blocks which go in to making such particles as electrons.

The behavior of the hidden variables determines the behavior of particles at the quantum level. It is like understanding the behavior of a nest of ants as the net outcome of the behavior of each ant in the nest. This creates a problem. It contradicts the usual approach to quantum physics whose uncertainty principle says there is no way to determine the behavior of subatomic particles. There is only a chance that an electron, for instance, has a particular position and velocity. We cannot make two definite statements about the electron. We may know that it is in such and such a place. Then we cannot know the velocity at which it is travelling. It is not possible according to the usual quantum physics to be precise about two such properties at once. A theory of hidden variables, however, says that in principle it is possible to be precise about them. All we need to know is the behavior of the hidden variables of the system. Then we can predict with certainty - within experimental error - what will be the behavior of the electron. To so fly in the face of the accepted approach creates major opposition to hidden variables theories.

Einstein made use of hidden variables in his EPR paper. He first showed that the nonlocality of accepted quantum physics leads to faster-than-light communication. This is unacceptable. He then rebuilt quantum theory using hidden variables and suggested that his new theory resolves the EPR problem. Since the hidden variables would underlie the existence and behaviors of both particles in the experiment, they could determine the simultaneous spin changes. It is like pushing one button to cause two effects.

However, the hidden variables of Einstein are local hidden variables. He hoped they would help remove the so-called strange nonlocality he saw in quantum physics. He was wrong. The Aspect experiment rules out their existence. Physics must abandon his alternative base for quantum theory.

Thus we need to come to terms with the nonlocality of quantum physics. The question is how to explain it.

Bohm has built a couple of bases for quantum physics which differ from the usual approach. One uses nonlocal hidden variables. It agrees with the EPR experiments. Bohm can explain how nonlocality occurs, and thereby help us come to terms with it (Bohm and Hiley 1984, 260-62).[1] For him there is no faster-than-light signalling or an instantaneous awareness. Rather he suggests there is something including or underlying simultaneous but distant events. This underlying something means the events are not distinct (Bohm and Aharonov 1957, 1072). There is a type of connection between events at the quantum level even if they happen simultaneously.

Several physicists follow Bohm. Richard Mattuck lists reasons why nonlocal hidden variables theories have merit:

First, such models can yield agreement with quantum physics. Second, they can solve the quantum measurement problem [a puzzle raised by the usual quantum physics]. Third, history shows us that it is risky to reject theories on the grounds that they defy "common-sense". Fourth, these models may reflect a [basic], inescapable nonlocality in nature itself (Mattuck 1981, 331).


     The Holomovement Theory of Bohm


Hidden variables theories are one of the ways Bohm tries to understand and explain such quantum phenomena as nonlocality. Another is to develop his holomovement or implicate order ideas. These center on the notion of unbroken wholeness. They deny the dominant picture of the world as made up of separate and independent parts.[2]

One of the ideas used by Bohm and Hiley to describe unbroken wholeness is that of a system. Classical physics studies each part of the universe as separate. The parts come together to explain the whole. Bohm and Hiley, however, take the relationships between the parts and the qualities of a part as dependent on the whole. They do this even if for practical purposes they approximate the part as being separate. Thus they do not see the world made up of independent elementary parts arranged into systems. Rather, each part connects with every other part at the quantum level. The whole universe is the basic reality. The system of the whole is what comes first. The separate parts are only temporary approximations (Bohm and Hiley 1975, 101-6).

Bohm and Hiley divide reality into supersystem, system and subsystem. They do not, of course, assume as does classical physics that subsystems explain their larger system. Or that a subsystem is independent of its larger system. Subsystems are usually dependent on the systems that include them. Subsystems and their larger systems form a chain up to the whole universe.

The emphasis on dependency is what Bohm calls wholeness of form. It means that a complete description is never possible. Every system is in a supersystem. A theory that claims it is complete has closed itself off from the unknown whole into which everything merges.

The idea of a system is only a start of Bohm's trying to develop the notion of unbroken wholeness. And it is easier to understand than his others. Another revolves around the holomovement. The holomovement is what is basic to reality. "What is is the holomovement" (Bohm 1980, 178).

There are two essential properties of the holomovement.

The holomovement model for reality comes from the properties of a holographic image of an object. This forms on a photographic plate by capturing a certain pattern of light. This pattern is the interaction or interference pattern of two portions of a beam of laser light. One beam reflects off an object. The other reflects off a mirror. Lighting the photographic plate with a laser will produce an image of the object which has three dimensions. In addition, the plate has the property that an image of the whole object forms by lighting any portion of the plate. When lighting a piece of the plate the image will have less detail than when lighting the whole plate. The smaller the portion of the plate lit up, the less the detail. The point is still the same, however. Any portion of the holographic plate (the hologram) contains information on the whole object (Bohm 1973, 144-45).

The major point about the hologram, according to Bohm, is not the photographic plate. Rather, it is that movement is always taking place (Bohm 1978, 91). Light waves from the laser are continually interfering with those reflected off the object. The interference pattern is a moving web of the light waves interacting with each other in that region of space. The holographic plate captures a record of the moving pattern. The first aspect of the holomovement to notice has to do with the movement part of the word. Rather than taking something essentially static and rigid as the basis for their new order, Bohm and his colleagues propose to make activity basic (Hiley 1980, 94).

Psychological and neurological research shows that the idea of an unchanging object is a device we learn in early childhood. Bohm continues by suggesting there is a more primitive level of perception than that of objects. Movement, or change, or breaks in regular arrangements, are basic. From the confusing mass of movements that we sense, our minds make stable simplifications. From these in turn we build the objects we see as relatively fixed or slowly moving (Bohm, Hiley and Stuart 1970, 175). Bohm thinks that our common-sense descriptions of objects as unchanging are devices we learn to think of as primary. Classical physics mirrors this common-sense approach.

Grammar also mirrors this object metaphysics our culture conditions us to accept. For instance, the noun, the indicator of an object, has a primary grammatical role. However, verbs, which call attention to action, have a secondary status. Bohm wants us to stop taking objects as primitive. He wants to give the basic role to the verb and think of nouns as being creations from verbs. Thus Bohm's new approach to language emphasizes movement and activity (Bohm 1980, chap. 2).

The second element of the holomovement is that of undivided or unbroken wholeness. The word holomovement uses the prefix holo from the Greek word meaning whole. It refers to the unbroken and undivided movement which Bohm takes as basic (Hiley 1980, 78).

The wholeness parts of the holomovement idea draw on the hologram. The photographic plate of the hologram records the interference pattern of the light present in its region of space. Within this pattern, and therefore in the plate, is the whole lit up object. The whole object becomes part of the light in each region of space.

Bohm builds the hologram into a general idea of undivided wholeness. He suggests that each region of space and time contains in it the total order of the universe. This includes the past, the present and the future (Bohm 1980, 177). Bohm thinks of everything as folded into everything. He uses the idea of the implicate order. The word implicate comes from the verb to implicate, to fold inward. Reality as implicate means for Bohm that any portion of it involves every other portion. Each portion of reality contains information on every other portion within it. One could say that each region of space and time contains the total structure of the universe within it. The whole is in some sense contained in any region (Bohm 1973, 146-47).

The holomovement is an example of the implicate order. Bohm defines the holomovement to be that which carries an implicate order. The movement of the holomovement in each region carries information on every other part of reality. This parallels the hologram. With it the movement of light in each segment of space carries information on the whole lit up object.

Bohm and his colleagues rebuild quantum theory from their informal language centered on the holomovement. They claim the holographic image to be more adequate for the reality quantum theory describes than is the usual approach. The latter, they claim, still relies in part on classical metaphysics (Bohm 1978, 37-38). In particular, the holomovement physics explains nonlocality. In the holomovement, the basic connections between elements are neither local nor nonlocal. They are, rather, alocal or neutral concerning locality. The nonlocal connections of the EPR experiment can be thought of as coming from the more basic alocal connections of the holomovement (Hiley 1980, 93).


The Metaphysics and Religion of Bohm


The wider physics community determine if Bohm's theories stand or fall as physics. This applies to his hidden variables, holomovement, and other theories. People who are not physicists cannot pass judgement on it. At the moment most physicists do not accept it; only time and experiments will tell. The only experimental test of his ideas involved the second of his hidden variables theories. It fell to the usual quantum physics (Papaliolios 1967). The current strength of Bohm's physical theories is that they overcome perplexities in the usual approach (for example, Bohm and Hiley 1984).

A danger is using Bohm's theories out of context. Some writers use his physical theories to support their metaphysics as if the weight of physics is behind Bohm. It is not (Bohm and Hiley 1976).

On the other hand, his theories are also metaphysics. The holomovement theory is an example. Its evaluation as a metaphysics does not necessarily depend on its success or failure as physics. Some theologians think it may be useful as a base for their discipline (for example, see Zygon 1985).

There is a religious and philosophical background to Bohm and his theories. They do not come out of a vacuum.

Bohm grew up in a Jewish household. Eastern mysticism has influenced him since then. The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, in whom Bohm first became interested in 1959, has had a special role. Bohm has always had a sense of the wholeness of nature and a drive to break free from conventional ideas. Many he finds distorting and inappropriate. He writes: "it is far more dangerous to adhere to illusion than to face what the actual fact is." What is the point of life, he continues, if one lives in an invented world? There is none if there is no relationship to people, the world, or anything (Briggs and Peat 1987, 70; and Temple 1982, 361-63).

The metaphysical beliefs which Bohm holds lies under as well as inspires his physics. What follows in this section describes part of Bohm's metaphysical base. It introduces us to some of his beliefs that have helped shape his physics. The beliefs are also religious in the sense that they resemble ideas from some religions.

That reality has an endless depth is one of the core ideas in Bohm's metaphysics. What we know of reality does not exhaust it. Our scientific knowledge may grasp its significance to a marked extent. Its properties and qualities will, however, always be beyond us. We cannot imagine or sense by intuition how far reality lies beyond our knowledge. Bohm writes that every object and process has infinitely many sides to it. The laws and the ideas used by science at any time only partly express the objects or processes supposedly covered (Bohm 1976, 3).

 However, reality must have some stability. Otherwise, Bohm suggests, there could not even be such approximate representations as scientific theories. For the predictions of a theory to be right at least some of the time reality must have some stability.

Since nature is always beyond human knowledge, Bohm says that a theory is only a limited insight. It is like a light shining on some aspects of reality, penetrating to an extent into the open and unknown. Thus one ought to expect a continuing development of quite different insights. There should not be a steady approach towards some fixed knowledge which is what the world supposedly really is. Bohm interprets the history of science as fitting well with his idea of the unending creation of new forms of insight. Each form is in harmony with the real world only to a certain extent. The unclear features of a theory need looking at not only to try clearing them up. They may not have a resolution. They may point towards new forms of insight (Bohm 1976, 3).

That the parts of reality relate to each other is another core idea. Bohm emphasizes the wholeness of reality. Every segment selected from it connects with any other segment. Isolating pieces from it simplifies it and can distort its true character.

Bohm frequently raises the question of relation or its opposite, fragmentation. In an article entitled "Fragmentation in Science and Society", he writes that science and technology have flaws. They have damaging results for society. This is because they reflect an important problem in society itself: fragmentation. No human act, no element of life or of environment, no human activity is an island. Any more than is an individual person. However, people deal with these fragments as separate objects. People do not think how the fragments act with each other within wholes. Bohm continues by opposing fragmentation to wholeness with its dynamic character moving in cycles. He directs us to think in wholes (Bohm 1970, 159).

This emphasis on the connections between objects and events often appears in Bohm's physics. A thorough mechanist emphasizes an objectivity of uninvolved and distant physicists. Bohm opposes this to a more person-involving subjectivity found by emphasizing relations. He thinks that the former is inadequate. It can become an authoritarian faith. Rather there needs to be an openness between the two approaches. He seeks a close relationship between the subjective and objective. Neither can stand in totality; they are two views of the one reality (Bohm 1974).

The third core idea is that of movement. The whole and any piece of reality are constantly in process, in movement, in activity. "Rocks, trees, people, electrons, atoms, planets, galaxies, are. . .the centers or foci of vast processes, extending ultimately over the whole universe" (Bohm 1969, 42). Each piece of reality is constantly changing. Each center or focus of change refers to some aspect of the total or overall process of the universe.

There are connections between the three metaphysical ideas mentioned above. For instance, the latter two support the first by suggesting two ways in which reality has a depth. Its isolated segments relate with e-ach other and are always moving. Any freeze is artificial.

Two further ideas which have their roots in the above three also exist in Bohm's writings. The first is that the movement of reality is creative. Reality is always transforming itself. "There are no basic objects, entities, or substances, but. . .all that [we can observe] comes into existence. . .remains relatively stable for some time, and then passes out of existence" (Bohm 1969, 43). Each piece of reality continuously forms, reforms, transforms, and ceases to be.

The second additional property, the fifth in all, is that reality divides into levels. In turn the levels are in systems of hierarchies. This is one way to represent the qualitative infinity of nature, its endless depth (Bohm 1969, 51-58).

The world contains infinitely many levels. A set of laws based perhaps on probabilities, direct causes, or both, characterizes each level. The validity of a set of laws does not have to go beyond the level to which it belongs. On leaving a particular level, quite different processes may appear. To describe them requires a new set of laws (Feyerabend 1960, 328-30).

Reality has an endless depth. It divides into levels. Its parts relate to each other. The whole and every piece of it is constantly creative and in process. These are the beliefs of Bohm outlined above. There are others as well, including the following. Consciousness is material with its origin in the holomovement. Fragmentation and chaos infect consciousness and the world. And there is something beyond the world and the holomovement (Bohm and Weber 1978). The holomovement theory developed by Bohm for physics and philosophy is an expression of his underlying beliefs. 


     Capra and The Bootstrap Theory


Fritjof Capra stirred recent interest in the comparison between physics and such metaphysical or religious ideas as wholeness with his book The Tao of Physics. His subtitle explains his work: an "exploration of the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism".

The companion article to this by Robert Clifton and Marilyn Regehr explains and critiques Capra's thinking (Clifton and Regehr 1990).[3] They interpret Capra as tying his religious beliefs to physical theories. Their chief problem with his approach is its danger. Physical theories can change and have several interpretations. This fickleness will pass to any religious beliefs wed to the physics.

I find Clifton and Regehr's criticism unclear. They do not say why it is unhealthy to have religious beliefs which can change and be open to various interpretations. What is wrong with having a theology called into question because science has replaced its base? Why do we want a theology that is somehow permanent? On the contrary, it is healthy to question a theology as society and its ideas change. Each theology builds from a metaphysics which can go out of vogue. A theology also assumes a social order which we question. Liberation theology does this admirably. Clifton and Regehr also point to the problem of a physical theory having several interpretations. This is true for all fields, theology transgressing more than most. One has to live with this problem and justify the interpretation one eventually takes.

Clifton and Regehr propose an alternative to tying religious ideas to physical theory, while still having some relationship between physics and theology. They propose a solution to what they call the positive conformity problem (Clifton and Regehr 1990, 18???). It asks two questions. Why can we present the interaction between us and the world in rigorous mathematical terms? Second, why can we be so successful in using this to predict what might happen? This capacity allows us to control the world. They base their solution on the belief that God created human beings. He intentionally gave us those innate qualities with which we describe and predict our interactions with the physical world.

There are nonreligious answers to the positive conformity problem which Clifton and Regehr have not considered. For instance, considering the evolution and development of human belief systems produces a solution. A function of a belief system is to increase the believing group's chances of survival. Control of the environment is essential to human survival. All belief systems must enable the control of the environment to some extent or other for the believing group to survive. Further, the better is a belief system at controlling the world, the more likely it is to survive, flourish and dominate. Western science appears better at doing this than are other belief systems (Sharpe 1984, 48-49, 105).

Another approach compares the physical matter of our brains and the physical matter of the universe outside of our brains. They are the same. The brain and non-brain stuff obey the same laws. Thus our theories as products of our brains may reflect the laws which control our brains and the world.

Clifton and Regehr promote their interesting solution in the following ways. First it reassures those who hold a theistic faith. Their faith is reasonable and they do not have to seek for its confirmation from science. Second, it sidesteps science's changing nature and its various interpretations. Third, it satisfies the theist by not separating science and theism into two unrelated realms (Clifton and Regehr 1990, 21???).

My possible solutions to the problem, however, undermine the theist's reassurance granted by Clifton and Regehr. For many people my suggestions may be more reasonable than appealing to the theistic competitor. Thus we have not secured a place for God. God does not fill this gap. Nor does Clifton and Regehr's proposal escape the changing nature of science and its having different interpretations. This is because there may come a time when changes in science open it up to explain the positive conformity question. Perhaps my proposals may lead to such explanations. Then we have to deal with the many interpretations of the theory. Finally, rather than avoiding the segregation of theism and science, their proposal may promote it. Theirs is a competitor to natural explanations such I have sketched. When faced with this, theists may want to dig their heels more deeply into their beliefs.

Thus I find Clifton and Regehr's criticism and alternative to Capra's work unconvincing. They do not show the error in tying religious beliefs to scientific theories. Neither does their approach work; theology cannot be immune to changes in science while still in dialogue with it. Their theological answer may have scientific competitors which may be more adequate. I am skeptical about having that dialogue while saying one side cannot change the other.

Most critics of Capra, including Clifton and Regehr, overlook an aspect of his work. He is intending something more than pointing out the parallels. He is also intending more than seeking a validation of his religious beliefs from physics, as Clifton and Regehr believe. The reverse direction, using the religious beliefs in physics, may also be part of his work. Eastern mysticism may, for instance, help in solving certain standard puzzles in quantum theory. One of Capra's parallels between physics and Eastern mysticism is the bootstrap theory. When raising this Capra moves beyond seeing the similarities. Rather, he is seeking an influence of mysticism on physics.

Capra suggests the bootstrap theory not only as a physical theory, but also as a vision, a metaphysic, of the universe. Bootstrappers believe the universe is a dynamic web of related events with no basic parts or properties, be they laws, equations or principles. Any property of a part of the universe follows from the properties of all the other parts. The harmony of all the relationships between the parts determines the structure of the entire web. Moreover, they believe that the structure of the universe at the subatomic level follows directly from a few general ideas which they think are important. They explain the universe's properties by its properties ("each particle helps to generate other particles which in turn generate it"). In so doing they have the universe pulling itself up by its own bootstraps (Capra 1977, 276, 291-92; Dull 1978, 389).

Perhaps Capra puts forward the bootstrap idea because it is close to what he sees Eastern mysticism to be. The latter is, after all, an experience of considerable meaning and importance to him. I say this because Capra's way of presenting the theory suggests that physics does accept it. It is, however, a theory now out of vogue. It also faces many difficulties (Dull 1978, 388-89). The quark competitor - which says there is a most elementary particle which explains other particles - appears more successful and acceptable. Even Capra admits there are considerable problems in setting up and confirming the bootstrap theory (Capra 1977, 290).

Capra appears to prefer the bootstrap theory for physics because it is similar to the ideas of Eastern mysticism. This does not mean it has no use or truth as a theory for physics. It is to say that part of the drive for suggesting and upholding it lies for Capra in his belief that it is true. Capra has energy for trying to show that it is more adequate and truthful than its competitors. Some of his energy comes from his personal religious or mystical experience. In this way Capra's religion is influencing his science. He supports and develops a physical theory because it is more or less the same as his religious belief.[4]

Capra says he is not proposing a synthesis of science and mysticism. In some places he is even quite clear about their separation. One does not contain the other, he believes. Physics and mysticism complement each other. Each provides a type of understanding, a mode of knowing, which the other cannot be (Capra 1977, 297). I do not agree with him. By saying this he is misleading us. His proposing and using the bootstrap theory contradicts the separation.


     Bohm's Religion and Physics


John Schumacher and Robert Anderson in their "Defense of Mystical Science" want to reconcile science and mysticism. They want to synthesize them. From this they hope for "a new and fuller science" (Schumacher and Anderson 1979, 73). There is considerable interest at present in the possible similarities between some central ideas of contemporary physics and those of Eastern mysticism. As Schumacher and Anderson suggest, there is even interest in developing a new science. One based on what some consider to be truths uncovered by Eastern mysticism. Capra's physics and religion are examples of this development.

I am suggesting two moves. One is from science to religion. Religion is using scientific ideas in a variety of ways. The example Clifton and Regehr bring to our notice is Capra. They suggest he is trying to support his religious beliefs with physics. One could also construct a scientifically informed metaphysics, or make religious ideas conform to science.

The second move I am suggesting is from religion to science. This is what Schumacher and Anderson refer to. They want to base science in some ways on religious insights. Capra is trying to do this by introducing and upholding the bootstrap theory.[5]

            Earlier this century the mysticism of various schools influenced several physicists. Arthur Stanley Eddington is one example. He was a Quaker and a Christian mystic who felt a close connection between the spiritual and the scientific fields of inquiry. The knowledge gained in each had for him an influence over the other (Douglas 1956, 136).

Bohm's religious ideas also appear to shape his physics. He may be trying to use religion in physics by his rebuilding of physics, making the latter spiritual or mystical (Restivo 1983, 117, 121, 124).

There are several reasons why I think Bohm is using religion in physics. First, he is trying to create not only a physics, but an entire world-view beyond physics. I suggest it also because of Bohm's own religious interests. The third reason centers on his efforts to rebuild physics, what he accepts and what he rejects. There is no convincing reason from physics for making the choices he does (Bohm 1971, 369-79; and Sharpe 1983, 48). Bohm's motivation may come from another source as well, such as a religious one.

The point is that Bohm's idea of undivided wholeness has its roots in religion or mysticism. It may or may not be useful in physics. Bohm proposes it as a physical hypothesis subject to the testing ground of physics. There is as well a second contribution religion can make. It can create in a believer such as Bohm the dedication, enthusiasm and tenacity to try to have his ideas accepted as a physical theory. It does this despite the opposition and difficulties involved.

The physics of Bohm and Capra show that religion can try to add to the knowledge of the hardest of the sciences, namely physics. Many religions, including Christianity, have much to say about the nature and direction of the physical world. They should not be afraid of bringing these ideas, in appropriate forms, to the sciences. As hypotheses they are still, of course, open to the strictures of factual support.








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Author's Footnote


Kevin J. Sharpe is a Core Faculty member of the Union Graduate School, Cincinnati. He is also Executive Officer of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS), and Director of the International Division of Meyer, Stone and Co., Inc. His address is 65 Hoit Road, Concord, New Hampshire 03301. This paper derives from one read to the Annual Summer Conference of IRAS held on Star Island, New Hampshire, July-August 1988.


[1]­The reference also outlines Bohm's quantum potential theory. This is his most recent approach, closely related to his original hidden variables theory. Between proposing these two theories he championed another hidden variables theory with Jeffrey Bub (Bohm and Bub 1966).

[2]­The hidden variables theories are physics. They also have a metaphysical base. Presentations of the holomovement/implicate order theories usually take them as a philosophy or metaphysics. However, they also have a physics counterpart. Bohm and his colleagues have modelled them mathematically (for example, Bohm 1973), even though they now appear to have abandoned this approach.

[3]­They have omitted mentioning an important work on Capra, namely Restivo 1983.

[4]­Clifton and Regehr tell us that taking "theistic conceptions as physical hypotheses is simply misguided" (Clifton and Regehr 1990, 18????). They do not say why this is so.

[5]­Elsewhere I suggest a ladder model as a way of thinking about this science-religion integration (Sharpe 1984, 86-91).