The Physics of Christianity

By Sean Carroll | May 30, 2007 11:29 am

It’s only with some reluctance that I even mention Frank Tipler’s latest book, The Physics of Christianity. But people keep telling me about it, so, it’s like, my duty or something.

Now, I’m all in favor of writing about the physics of imaginary things; it can be a very enlightening exercise to compare the laws of the actual world to ones that we make up for purposes of fiction. And The Physics of Christianity is such an obvious title that you knew someone would write such a book eventually. And Frank Tipler, in his youth, did some pioneering research on closed timelike curves in general relativity, so he has credentials as an honest physicist.

But, if there remains an interesting book to be written about the physics of Christianity, this isn’t it. And I say that in full confidence, not having actually read the book. Usually I like to defer judgment about crazy-sounding books that I haven’t even looked at, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Reviews by Vic Stenger or Lawrence Krauss tell you everything you need to know. From Lawrence’s review:

As a collection of half-truths and exaggerations, I am tempted to describe Tipler’s new book as nonsense – but that would be unfair to the concept of nonsense…

Tipler, for example, claims that the standard model of particle physics is complete and exact. It isn’t. He claims that we have a clear and consistent theory of quantum gravity. We don’t. He claims that the universe must recollapse. It doesn’t have to, and all evidence thus far suggests that it won’t. He argues that we understand the nature of dark energy. We don’t. He argues that we know why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. We don’t. I could go on, but you get the point…

[Tipler] argues that the resurrection of Jesus occurred when the atoms in his body spontaneously decayed into neutrinos and antineutrinos, which later converted back into atoms to reconstitute him.

Not much motivation for reading further than that. I’ve said many times (even if people don’t believe me) that I have a great deal of respect for intelligent and thoughtful religious people, even if I disagree with them on some deep truths about the universe. But man, those people don’t seem to get a lot of press, do they? The crazy stuff is much bigger box office, which perhaps is not a surprise.

Neutrinos and antineutrinos! That kills me. Everyone knows that Jesus shifted through the extra dimensions onto another brane, where he chilled for three days before coming back.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Religion, Science and Society
  • http://tsm2.blogspot.com wolfgang

    Many years ago, Frank Tipler gave a lecture series in Vienna about general relativity and quantum cosmology, he was very competent and his lecture very interesting. A few years later he published “The physics of immortality” and I had really mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it contained quite a lot of interesting physics and ideas, on the other hand, his conclusions were kind of odd.
    Recently, he crossed the line into complete madness imho.
    Pretty sad story actually.

  • Elliot

    Some years ago I read Tipler’s “The Physics of Immortality”. I have to say that while I consider Barrow and Tipler’s “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle” a very thorough and scientific work, in my opinion Tipler must have had some type of significant life changing experience which led him to very much want to believe in rebirth. He unfortunately lets this belief interfere with objective scientific reasoning.

    All that notwithstanding, I do think that future “Omega Point” theologies are potentially interesting and cannot be totally dismissed categorically. (although Sean you might be able to easily dismiss them ;) )

    There is a deep sadness in this as I think he is/was a genuinely bright scientist at some point and that seems to have been lost along the way.

    e.

  • D

    Wow. When the author of ‘the physics of star trek’ says you’ve written a silly book, you know he knows what he’s talking about. The difference is Krauss was being deliberately tongue-in-cheek.

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    I would agree that Tipler is over the top… No… he’s flat-out, off his rocking high-horse, but it’s been my observation that this is same kind of abusrdity that you get when you extend any flawed theory, so maybe Frank isn’t the whole problem here, and I know that’s giving him a wide benefit of doubt. Make that a grand canyon… OYE!

    I also have to say that Vic Stenger is highly motivated antifanatic and for this reason his physics is full of crackpot holes as Tiper’s is, so don’t waste your time.

  • http://quthoughts.blogspot.com Joe Fitzsimons

    It’s probably worth pointing out that if you don’t have a New Scientist subscription, Krauss’s review can be found on his website http://genesis1.phys.cwru.edu/~krauss/Tiplerreview.pdf

  • Jeremy Chapman

    Absolutely hilarious.
    And I bet the people on that other brane are waiting eagerly for his return.

  • http://tsm2.blogspot.com wolfgang

    by the way, Frank Tipler wrote about ‘The Omega Point and Christianity’
    here.
    This should give one some flavor of what is in the book:
    “It is this mechanism of baryon annihilation via electroweak tunnelling that could have been used to accomplish ALL of the miracles described in the Gospels, in particular the Resurrection. I point out in my book [1] that Jesus’ resurrection body, as described in the Gospels, has all the essential properties of the computer emulation resurrection bodies we all will have in the far future. “

  • T

    Oh dear. Well, at least the book tries to use science to explain how various religious dogmas may be true and not how religious texts may illuminate science. I’ve seen that before. I’m still waiting for some apologist to say that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is alluded to in Matthew 24:36 (“No one knows about that day or hour [of the coming of the Son of Man], not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”)

    Krauss raises some interesting points from a scientific standpoint. However, I don’t see how the real problem with this work is its scientific accuracy as we currently understand physics so much as something else. Stenger notes that Tipler’s previous book, “The Physics of Immortality”, was written prior to the work providing evidence for the existence of dark energy. As that book was predicated on having a ‘controlled collapse’ of the universe (by robots, no less), empirical evidence in favor of a braking mechanism against collapse presents ‘challenges’ (to put it mildly) to Tipler’s model. His new book seems to retort “No problem! Higgs field to the rescue”. Now, I’m nowhere near an expert in astroparticle physics, but is it possible that new developments in particle physics may cast doubt on the idea that the Higgs field could help bring about collapse? My worry is that his explanations may hide in the shadows of theories that are just beyond empirical testing/falsification at the moment. Once the theories upon which his apologetics rest are cast into doubt he simply moves onto the next one: very ad hoc. This isn’t much better than adding another dozen epicycles to fit an orbit once you find out that 20 won’t do.

  • Chemicalscum

    I agree with Elliot. I was quite impressed after reading “The Physics of Immortality” that he had made a prediction of the energy, of the not yet observed top quark, which matched the observed value when it was found. He also made a prediction of the energy of the Higgs boson – I don’t know if we have passed that energy yet.

    But of course the prediction that he really falls down on for the value of the Hubble constant to be consistent with a closed universe. The revolution in cosmology from the SN1a supernova studies sure wrecked that. Though I understand from these reviews that he has multiplied hypotheses to try to get round this.

    In the introduction to “The Physics of Immortality” Tipler states “I am still an atheist”. I guess he has changed now, indeed he has moved into the raving loony territory.

  • Pingback: Science After Sunclipse

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    But of course the prediction that he really falls down on for the value of the Hubble constant to be consistent with a closed universe.

    It is possible to derive a geometrically closed model from general relativity that expands at an accelerating rate, without losing stability, so “closed” doesn’t have to necessitate recollapse.

    Not that your point doesn’t appear to be correct, but it could be a mistake to assume too much from evidence for accelerating expansion, when it comes to geometry vs. matter density.

  • Frac

    [Tipler] argues that the resurrection of Jesus occurred when the atoms in his body spontaneously decayed into neutrinos and antineutrinos, which later converted back into atoms to reconstitute him.

    I love that. A very complicated and energy intensive way to get… a dead body. Does he think people die because their atoms get old and need to be “rebooted”?

  • Robert the Red

    I’m still waiting for some apologist to say that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is alluded to in Matthew 24:36 (“No one knows about that day or hour [of the coming of the Son of Man], not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”)

    Can we use the quantum Zeno effect to get around this measurement problem? That would be totally cool!

  • Pingback: Cosmic Variance: They physics of christianity... « Identity Unknown

  • anonymous

    Gee, that does sound bad alright, but you really should read it before you dismiss it, even if you sort of know in advance that you won’t like it. I’ve come to this conclusion after reading so many attacks on Richard Dawkins in the last year, almost always by people who said they hadn’t bothered to read his book yet. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If it’s not worth reading, it’s not worth mentioning, and if it’s worth mentioning, you have to read it first.

  • http://www.pha.jhu.edu/~npa N. Peter Armitage

    I always thought that this biblical passage….

    Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    – Mark 10:25,

    … became well-defined if interpreted in turns of a quantum mechanical probablistic point of view. Just as there is a vanishingly small, but still non-zero probability that camel could tunnel through the eye of a needle, one can imagine there is some vanishingly small, but non-zero probability than a rich man could go to heaven.

    That’s what Tipler should have written about! :) Plus, it woulda been much more in keeping with the whole “Physics of….” genre.

  • http://xspector.blogspot.com/ Keith

    That was pretty much the conclusion I came to from picking up the book and glancing through the contents so I’m happy that Krauss has read it so I don’t have to. It’s a shame because I too enjoyed “The Physics of Immortality” – you have to like a book which includes a game theory analysis of hell and purgatory. Tipler’s idea that a sufficiently advanced intelligence might “resurrect” us by simulation has been picked up by Charles Stross in his SF book Accelerando.

  • http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com Neil B.

    I know most of Tipler’s latest is easy to make fun of, but he has made some good points in the past about the difficulty of defending modal realism versus the problem of existential principle of sufficient reason for substantive selective realism (you’ll have to look up and puzzle over “modal realism” etc.) One point about survival in a more abstract and non-sectarian sense: If you can agree that destroying a computer that a program once ran on won’t destroy “the program” if the program can run on another computer… then perhaps your mind can in some sense survice, if there’s something for it to “run” on somewhere. If you look into modal realism, that isn’t so far-fetched. If other universes at all, what’s to keep them penned into nice “physics” style analogs of our own?

  • Cynthia

    Since Tipler in a mathematician (not a physicist), it would seem more appropriate for him to write about the math of Christianity rather than the physics of Christianity. Plus, mathematicians are free to play around with the supernatural (so it appears), whereas physicists must stay within the confines of Nature – at least I pray that’s the case.;) But then, we all know physics is sexier than math and sex sells, especially Christian sex, I reckon…;)

  • http://andyxl.wordpress.com/ Andy Lawrence

    Is it only physicists who go mad in this grandiose and vaguely mystical manner ? Is there a book on the Chemistry of Baptism ? Or the Statistics of Judaism ? Doesn’t sound like a banker. Maybe the Genetics of the Saints could be gripping though.

  • Changcho

    “The Physics of Christianity”: that is quite sad. The sequel of course will be called “The Physics of Islam”, while the prequel will be called “The Physics of Judaism”. Just absolutely nuts…

  • http://tsm2.blogspot.com wolfgang

    > it would seem more appropriate for him to write about the math of Christianity
    This has been done already by somebody else here.

  • Matt

    Sean, I have been meaning to mention this for a few weeks now. Professor Tipler is a regular source over at NRO’s ‘higher education’ sub-blog, for complaints on how post-modernism is destroying Physics as well as the humanities. His whining centers around the fact that he feels the Standard Model and GR aren’t getting enough attention in physics undergraduate and graduate curricula, and that this is evidence of intellectual laziness on the part of a new breed of academics.

    examples:
    http://www.popecenter.org/clarion_call/article.html?id=1843
    http://ronrosenbaum.pajamasmedia.com/2007/04/29/the_damage_done_2_academias_po.php

    Would love to hear some thoughts to this from some academic physicists who inhabit the comments section here.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/interactions Rob Knop

    [Tipler] argues that the resurrection of Jesus occurred when the atoms in his body spontaneously decayed into neutrinos and antineutrinos, which later converted back into atoms to reconstitute him.

    That’s just nutty. On several levels. Was this a self-published book? ‘Cause this is right there on the level of the Internet crackpots with their “alternate theory” web pages (some of whom even comment here). This isn’t even worthy of response.

    complaints on how post-modernism is destroying Physics as well as the humanities.

    Some parts of post-modernism are bash-in-your-head stupid, but I don’t think Physics is under any serious threat from it.

    Most undergraduate Physics courses do have some sort of basic introduction to quarks and the standard model, in a modern physics course. They don’t go heavy-duty into the math because it’s *hard*. Hell, a good fraction of grad students get a PhD without ever studying quantum field theory (like, say, me).

    -Rob

  • Matt

    Professor Tipler is a tenured professor of mathematical physics at Tulane, just as a reference. His homepage is here: http://www.math.tulane.edu/~tipler/

    Rob, I am going to be a first year physics graduate student in the upcoming fall, so I have been spending a little time scanning through my upcoming classes, both the required ones and the electives. Thats math methods, classical mechanics, two semesters of E&M and Quantum, and Stat mech to round it out. Thats seven classes, pretty standard, and covers all of first year +1. Then you have the classes for your speciality like biophysics, HEP, or computational, etc. While some schools, like my alma mater have an introductory course for undergrad & grad students in condensed matter or particle physics, a full blown semester course on Quantum Field Theory is rather narrow for a departmental requirement.

    Those elite tier one schools which the right loves to site, may not have all the same basic required cources. They oftern have students take a set number of courses among the areas of specialization depending on their particular focus. But that still is a far cry from requiring to learn GR (however spectacular Sean’s book may be).

    Prof. Tipler should know better. Just because he doesn’t get his way funding or curriculum wise in a department dominated by Condensed Matter experimentalists, doesnt mean the entire structure of physics education is rotting from within due to an infection of radical literary theory and post-structuralism.

    -Matt

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    I’d be happy if every physics undergrad at least knew the basics of GR and the Standard Model, although I’m sympathetic with the difficulties of fitting it all in. Tipler’s judgment that we can blame postmodernists for the absence of the Standard Model in undergrad curricula is up there with the neutrino business.

  • http://www.sunclipse.org Blake Stacey

    A good many physics undergrads I knew at MIT had encountered postmodern literary theory in humanities classes and such places. Every last one of them lionized Alan Sokal.

    We also got the basic basics of GR (Schwarzschild metric, some cosmology) before sophomore year was out. Moderately formal introductions to the Standard Model happened junior year.

  • Haelfix

    Everyone on this board is horribly overreacting. I suggest reading the book instead of ending up arguing about strawmen.

    I have read it (in fact it seems I might be the only one here), am a bonafide atheist and while it does contain some factual innaccuracies with physics (notably w.r.t to darkenergy), there is nothing a priori wrong with the gist.

    To begin with Tipler himself points out *many* times, that he himself does not believe in these scenarios that he is writing about. Instead the whole point of the book was ‘knowing all we know about physics, is there any possible way, no matter how outlandish; to make the whole xtian thing work so long as we are consistent’. In many ways the book shows just how small the god of the gaps argument really is, and I think shows fairly well that such a thing is almost impossible. . Or so ludicrously improbable that its likely already falsified.

    Its the type of book that any serious physicist might take up as a passtime to amuse himself, and thats exactly what this is. Its no different than the physics of star trek.

  • http://evolutionarydesign.blogspot.com/ island

    Haelfix, what you say might be correct, but FT has been making god arguments from the anthropic physics for quite a while now, and his theories about the role and destiny of the human race have been every bit as absurd for just as long as that.

    He’s extended the completely rediculous anthropic principle beyond anything that anyone could call plausible physics for quite some time now, so now it seems like maybe he’s suddenly trying to say that he was only kidding?

    That would be great, and then maybe James Gardner would follow suit and leave Lee Smolin’s cosmology alone… haha, I wish.

  • Haelfix

    Point taken.

    But I mean there’s a good deal of precedent. Physicists often will throw up a preprint with ridiculously over the top speculative ideas and even sometimes mutter some philosophy mumbo jumbo.

    I mean to this day we have preprints with designs for warpdrives, timetravelling devices (ctcs) and so forth. And yes, im well aware usually the interesting physics is to see why such a thing *can’t* work, or ought to be forbidden, but it still is what it is.

    The AP is another notable offender, where even very serious physicists sometimes go (how should I put it) a little bit awry in their usage. The early days of inflation model building had some notable lapses in this regard.

    Then we have all the doomsday preprints (usually arguing for spacetravel) and so forth.

    Ultimately it doesn’t bother me that much, b/c usually we know the physicists involved are just putting it out there for semi entertainement value, to make a little grant money from some overzealous foundation or for quicky coffee table chit chat in a sort of proffessional suspension of disbelief sort of way. The only times it can get problematic is when the popular press take it way out of context and make it into something its not.

  • Mark Hudson

    Since when have “branes” had anything to do with believing in Christianity? Most of the ones I know seem to have left them at the door.

  • http://tsm2.blogspot.com wolfgang

    Haelfix,

    as I mentioned in comment #7, Frank Tipler wrote about ‘The Omega Point and Christianity’ here.
    Nowhere does he state that all his explanations are clearly nonsense. I think that he really believes his explanations are reasonable and reviewers of his book were under the same impression.

  • Alex Nichols

    Having read one of John Barrow’s books and not thinking it was particularly offensive at the time, I thought that there might at least be some sort of attempt at sophistication by his former co-author Tipler.

    Evidently I was wrong.
    Here’s a quote: -

    “Christians claim that Jesus will come again, at the end of human history. Two developments in physics suggest that human history will end in about fifty years: computer experts predict that computers will exceed human intelligence within fifty years, and the de-materialization mechanism can be used to make weapons that are to atomic bombs as atomic bombs are to spitballs. Such weapons and super-human computers would make human survival unlikely, and in his discussion of the Second Coming, Jesus said he would return when human would face a “Great Tribulation” of such magnitude that we would not survive without his direct intervention. We will face such a Great Tribulation within fifty years.

    From the perspective of the latest physical theories, Christianity is not a mere religion, but an experimentally testable science.”

    I can’t believe that this is just a matter someone losing the plot, he’s writing it to reinforce a definite audience:

    The same people who will visit the Creationist Museum in Kentucky, the Global Warming denialist hooligans and right-wing fundamentalists who want science to be replaced by religious dogma.

    The same people who will no doubt ask for it to be put on the course list and ordered by the library, arguing that “We have to consider both positions” as valid science.

    It’s a conscious political tactic.

  • http://predelusional.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    Tipler wrote my undergrad physics book. Should i forget everything i learned about physics or not? (i suppose it could simply be outdated. Anything of interest happen in physics since 1977? …At the undergrad level?)

  • http://tsm2.blogspot.com wolfgang

    I guess your book was written by Paul Tipler, not Frank Tipler.

  • http://ofteninerror.blogspot.com Urbano

    Tipler wrote my undergrad physics book.

    Stephen, don’t be confused: this guy (Frank) is NOT that one (Paul)!! Poor Paul ;-)

  • anonymous

    If you are actually looking for some comparative books which attempt to deal with both a higher power and real physics, I would recommend the works of Paul Davies, e.g. God and the New Physics.

  • Elliot

    I think I’ll write a book claiming that the devil is really entropy and god is really emergent complexity. I think I can make a reasonable sounding hand waving argument that this is what the bible is actually about.

    I guess I’ll just publish it myself on the internet so I don’t have to share with those greedy publishers ;)

    Suggested titles?

    e.

  • Lee

    Talking about addressing both sides, here’s an article about a creationist professor at the late Falwell’s Liberty University. This is an article from my local paper on Tuesday and may not have been picked up by any of the national press although I think it raises some important issues of intellectual integrity:

    http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=125584&ran=220383

  • Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD

    Do you suppose Tipler is angling for a Templeton prize?

    Meanwhile, the new Creationist museum in Kentucky has a planaetarium:
    Astronomy for Creationists

  • Cynthia

    When I hear about creationist books written so-called scholars of science/math, I clearly understand why both Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ books are hitting best-seller lists! Thank God, maybe there’s hope for legit science, after all…

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    From Vic Stenger’s review:

    The collapse to the final singularity takes an infinite time as viewed from inside the universe. During that time the robots recreate all the humans and life forms that ever existed in a computer simulation. Not only do we all live our lives over again in that simulation, but over and over and over again. And not just our lives, but also all the possible lives we ever might have had, good and bad. That’s the immortality Tipler says we can look forward to.

    So, any simulated observer will just experience a normal life. I mean there are only a finite number of quantum state a brain can be in. On the whole set of all possible states you can define a partial order according to a notion of subjective time….

    Anthropic reasoning will then force you to conclude that we are already living in this sort of simulation. But then I don’t undestand why Jesus had to be resurrected in that very exotic way. Why didn’t Tipler let the robots take care of that? :)

  • Max

    I remember reading The Physics of Immortality one time in the bookstore, when I was 12 or so. I guess I didn’t realize at the time that nobody really knows. The gist of his argument is this:

    One day, the universe will recollapse to an infinitely small counterpart of the big bang called the Omega Point (I believe this was invented by a guy named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). At this point, all information in the universe will be compressed in an infinitesimal space, and thus any creature living in that space will have access to all information from the past. This creature will be a descendant of previous creatures like ourselves, but will also be god, by virtue of being omniscient. This creature will simulate every living being that has ever lived in its mind, which will be like an enormous computer. These living beings will thereby be resurrected.

    Clearly, there is quite a number of things here that don’t follow, but if anyone wants to know, there it is. I remember a whole chapter being devoted to the plausibility of simulating a living creature in a computer, etc.

  • T

    One day, the universe will recollapse to an infinitely small counterpart of the big bang called the Omega Point (I believe this was invented by a guy named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin).

    Yes, the ‘Omega Point’ idea traces its origin to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who coined the idea in a series of essays circa 1920-1930 and wrote about it more extensively in ‘The Phenomenon of Man’. He saw the Omega Point as something inevitable in the context of biological evolution, which in turn is simply another link in the chain of evolution from cosmological to stellar, to geological ..etc. While the emergence of life on Earth initiated the birth of the ‘biosphere’, he thought of the emergence of beings with rational free agency as the birth of the ‘noosphere’, the sphere of thought/self-conscious reflection. From this point, evolution isn’t just physiological but psychological-social. This emergence also necessitates the emergence of units of ‘cultural inheritance’ (there’s some interesting discussion of something that sounds like memes …40 years before Dawkins). Etc. Etc. Eventually this has something to do with God and Christianity and such. His ideas have some rather well known champions, including Julian Huxley, Theodosius Dobzhansky, and (today) Simon Conway Morris: not exactly lightweights. On the other hand, he’s had some fierce critics, most notably Peter Medawar who came completely unglued in a review of the book circa 1960. This happened after Teilhard had died (so he couldn’t defend himself), though it’s pretty clear to me his criticisms were rather silly: Medawar didn’t read the book very carefully.

    While the idea shares the same name as Tipler’s, he never went into specifics about how the Omega Point would actually be reached. Certainly nothing was said of robots or computers bringing the Omega Point to actualization (even though there is one section in ‘The Phenomenon of Man’ that sounds eerily close to discussing the Internet, one of many extremely far-sighted aspects of that book).
    While there are aspects of Teilhard’s thesis which are suspect -veers too close to Lamarckism at some points (though his argument is better without it) and the same ‘squaring the circle’ feeling you get from Tipler — it seems to feel less ‘contrived’ than saying that the Higgs field holds the key to understanding the resurrection.

  • Kevin Runnels
  • No One

    Apparently, he decided it was a good idea to write this book after seeing that Not Even Wrong and Trouble With Physics actually got published.

  • Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD

    Neutrinos and antineutrinos! That kills me. Everyone knows that Jesus shifted through the extra dimensions onto another brane, where he chilled for three days before coming back.

    Splitter.

  • http://www.libertypages.com/clark Clark

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one confusing the Tiplers. I honestly thought they were the same guy. The freshman physics text by Paul Tipler was really quite good. I had two and I thought for learning Tipler was far superior to Halleday and Resnick (sp?). Of course once you knew it I enjoyed Halleday and Resnick better.

  • Elliot

    T,

    I read a bizarre essay in in late ’90s where the author contended that the internet was going to evolve into God.

    Maybe it’s part of the plan.

    e.

  • http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman Secret Rapture

    My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions! The Secret Rapture soon, by my hand!
    Read My Inaugural Address
    My Site=http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman

  • Paul Gowder

    Oh my god. It gets worse. His “popular articles” page includes a piece arguing that the Coase Theorem in economics somehow blows away the fact/value distinction.

    For those non-social-scientists in the crowd (e.g. everyone but me), a quick introduction. The Coase Theorem basically proves that in a world with no transaction costs (e.g. costs of finding out who you can deal with, costs of negotiating, costs of enforcing contracts, etc.), the economy will be welfare-maximizing. (summary)

    It’s hard to figure out what exactly the argument is, because it’s filled with insane digressions about “the relation between the cosmos and humanity” and so forth. But as far as I can tell, he argues that a world with “no transaction costs” also entails:
    - A world of universal mind-reading, and, indeed, universal omniscience (“if transactions cost nothing, then information costs nothing, so all actors have all, and I mean all information relevant to their actions.”)
    - “eternity is experienced in a split second.”
    - everyone will have complete empathy for everyone else
    - Since everyone knows all facts, they agree on all social/moral decisions.

    Needless to say, the first three points are silly and that last point ignores so many philosophical questions about ethics that it’s worthless to any serious reader. For example, he suggests that perfect knowledge about who would turn out to be a criminal (and what sorts of positions does that commit him to about fatalism, etc.?) would entail agreement on who should be killed, etc. But that assumes away a whole ethical debate over the morality of intervening, e.g., to save A and B by killing C.

    More to the point, he “refutes” the fact/value distinction by simply ignoring it, by claiming that in a world of universal empathy and omniscience, the values *of course* would be the same. Argument? Well, there isn’t one.

    And then, of course, he suggests a moral rule for this, “thou shalt act to reduce transaction costs for others.” Somehow this “underlies” the scientific rule against faking data. And then he claims that he’s achieve the reduction of philosophy of economics and of economics (natch) to physics.

  • http://quantumnonsense.blogspot.com/ Qubit

    [Tipler] argues that the resurrection of Jesus occurred when the atoms in his body spontaneously decayed into neutrinos and antineutrinos, which later converted back into atoms to reconstitute him.

    Maybe there were two external observations of the life of Christ, An interference of Born probability through the reconstruction of his wave function, creating a reverse superposition that will not be observed until a certain point in the future, therefore leaving resurrection still a possibility.

  • Pingback: Sean and the book "The Physics of Christianity" « Dudesky

  • http://moridura.blogspot.com Peter Curran

    I have tried to examine (in my novel ‘The Ancient Order of Moridura’) some aspects of the relationship of religion to science, and religious faith to secular pressures, in this case, an isolated order of monks guarding a nascent singularity and facing an intrusion of 21st century science into their medieval world. (The monks have a few surprises for the scientists up their sleeves!)

    Some ruminations on the writing of the book, its themes, and the CERN LHC can be found on my blog http://moridura.blogspot.com also some sample chapters.

  • Pingback: The ID Arts Blog » Blog Archive » Book I am currently reading: Frank Tipler’s Physics of Christianity

  • http://physics.about.com/ Andrew Zimmerman Jones – About.com Physics Guide

    I, too, read and reviewed The Physics of Christianity and I agree wholeheartedly with Krauss’ statements. I cannot say that Tipler at any point lies or states an erroneous fact, but his rhetorical tactics are grossly misleading about the solidity of the core assumptions from which he derives his conclusions.

    One of my biggest problems with his line of logic falls on his understanding (or lack thereof) of the word “consistent.” In his argument, for the laws of physics to be consistent throughout time, life must exist and advance to sufficient technology level to somehow buffer the Second Law of Thermodynamics against violation in the collapsing universe. This, to me, means that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not a fundamental, consistent law of the universe. Either that, or it means the collapse cannot happen without help. However, his assumption was that the collapse must happen – “the laws of physics guarantee it” is his mantra, it seems – which leads to the conclusion that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is only consistent with the intervention of life in the universe, which means it is not consistent.

    It’s just one of many problems. What I found most fascinating was that I think that Christians will find this book just as disappointing as physicists (not to imply there can’t be a substantial overlap between the two). For example, his definition of “heaven” as a utopia for uploaded or simulated concsciousnesses that mimic life lacks a hell … something which he does not address in his book much, if at all … I don’t recall any mention of hell, actually. I’ll have to check the index.

    It describes neither recognizable physics nor recognizable Christianity, though Tipler is clearly knowledgable enough in both fields to avoid any outright falsehood in talking about either, and instead skirts the issue with compelling misdirections.

  • Suzy

    @:

    The collapse to the final singularity takes an infinite time as viewed from inside the universe. During that time the robots recreate all the humans and life forms that ever existed in a computer simulation. Not only do we all live our lives over again in that simulation, but over and over and over again. And not just our lives, but also all the possible lives we ever might have had, good and bad. That’s the immortality Tipler says we can look forward to.

    That sounds like the ending to this creepy Charles Stross story.

  • Pingback: The Varieties of Crackpot Experience | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine

  • mark holland

    If you require any serious validation of Frank Tiplers research concepts look into David Deutsch ‘The Fabric of Reality’ Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking. You all sound as though you have become crazed by whatever threat you feel Tipler has provided to your current world view. As if convincing each other will serve to convince yourselves of something.

    Think! no wonder it takes hundreds of years for the Newtons, the Hawkings and the Tiplers to emerge. You should all be ashamed to be representative of the scared, ignorant, rabid masses to whom a threat to their individual world view quickly becomes a threat to their very minimal being.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »