Essay:Scientific Foreknowledge in Gilbert and Sullivan
I have decided to essay-ify this as I think it was getting too long for the Saloon Bar. It requires a little explanation for why it's relevant and just to explain the background. I actually got quite excited noticing this... ah, well.
 Scientific foreknowledge
Everyone seems to know about the lists of things the Bible seems to predict. We have two pretty good lists on RW, Science Confirms the Bible and Biblical scientific foreknowledge. These make amusing reading for any skeptic because the fallacious reasoning is quite obvious. The problem is the open interpretation and the fact that the Bible doesn't really describe any of these claimed phenomenon directly. But how do you get this across to a hardcore True Believer? Similar to how the "Bible Code" has been applied to the likes of Lord of the Rings and Moby Dick to produce equal results, I propose an absurd example based on open interpretation and wishful thinking. It turns out that W.S. Gilbert may have predicted one of the great mysteries of quantum mechanics years before quantum theory was even proposed - if you use the same reasoning as the Bible science fools do, that is.
 The Gondoliers
The plot of Gilbert and Sullivan's last big hit, The Gondoliers, revolves around two brothers, the titular Venetian gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe. With two dozen peasant girls wanting to marry them, they eventually manage to choose Tessa and Gianetta and get married at once. Now, I can never remember which one gets which even though I'm directing this show over the next few months, but it's not important at the moment. What is important is the highly contrived topsy-turvy plot twist in The Gondoliers. It turns out that Marco and Giuseppe aren't brothers at all; one is actually adopted and is the son of the king of Barataria, who has just died. The twist, however, is that they don't know which one is now the king. So in essence (and this isn't just interpretation, it's an integral part of the plot and the joke in Act II), they are now both the king and both not the king until it is revealed at the end which is which. Now, I could leave this plot as being a prediction of "quantum superposition" and be quite smug for noticing it, but it does get better.
In the second act they're finally told that not only is one of them the king, but he is also married to a girl called Casilda. So they are both married to Casilda. Again quantum superposition with respect to their marital status but recall that these two fine gentlemen were already married in the first act! Therefore the marital status of their wives, Tessa and Gianetta, are entangled with the result of which of the gondoliers is king - they are now also in a superposition of being both married and both not married to an unwitting bigamist. This is clearly a prediction of quantum entanglement. As soon as it's revealed which of the gondoliers is king, the martial states of their entangled wives will also be decided, instantly. They're now in an entangled system - if one pair becomes married, the other pair become unmarried.
Thing is, the Bible science people will often just state the verse and chapter number and be done with it - as if everyone has the Bible memorised in their head! However, on close inspection it's probably to cover up the fact that they're, frankly, full of shit. A verse saying that birds fly being interpreted as foreshadowing aeroplanes? Hopefully my example here will be a bit more convincing and be beyond an over-interpretation of the plot's set up, so I'll put the actual words below.
Marco points out their own superposition while Gianetta comments on the the entanglement between the two girls and the gondoliers.
- Marco: "...One of us is married to two young ladies, and nobody knows which; and the other is married to one young lady whom nobody can identify!"
- Gianetta: "And one of us is married to one of you, and the other is married to nobody."
Just after the reveal of their odd situation, Marco notes:
- Marco: "...The situation is entangled..."
They actually use the right word! Of course, quantum entanglement has its etymology in the original use of "entangle"... but if the Bible science goons are allowed to get away with some of their reasoning I don't see why I can't do the same.
Later, Casilda's parents (the Duke and Duchess) arrive and become regular old Max Plancks when describing the situation.
- Duke: "It is true that at present His Majesty is a double gentleman; but as soon as the circumstances of his marriage are ascertained, he will, ipso facto, boil down to a single gentleman thus presenting a unique example of an individual who becomes a single man and a married man by the same operation."
A clear indication of superposition there! As soon as the observation is made, they collapse back into individuality instantly. The Duke later attempts to address them as both individuals and a superpositional state.
- Duke: "I am now about to address myself to the gentleman whom my daughter married; the other may allow his attention to wander if he likes, for what I am about to say does not concern him [...] There is some little doubt as to which of you is the gentleman I am addressing, and which is the gentleman who is allowing his attention to wander; but when that doubt is solved, I shall say (still addressing the attentive gentleman), "Take her, and may she make you happier than her mother has made me.""
And a little later the Duchess weighs in:
- Duchess: "...characteristics of both conditions existed concurrently in the same individual."
Again, pretty spot on for superposition! It could also be a nod to particle-wave duality as this definitely a case where "characteristics of both conditions existed concurrently in the same individual." Characteristics of waves and particles exist within all objects operating under quantum mechanics.
The Gondoliers came about and was first performed in 1889. It would be another 11 years until Planck proposed the basics of quantum theory. However, quantum theory remained an obscure hypothesis until the 1927 Solvay Conference where it become more accepted and began to develop. Duality wasn't established until the 20th Century either with double-slit experiments (1909 for the first "low intensity" experiment) and photoelectric effect (Einstein's 1905 work) but the quantum mechanical explanation had to wait another decade or two. The phenomenon of quantum entanglement wasn't proposed until 50 years after The Gondoliers (Einstein's "spooky action at a distance" of 1935) and it was nearly a full century after Marco and Giuseppe took to the stage that it was demonstrated with better experiments.
Does this make W.S. Gilbert God?