Tuesday, November 18, 2014

#1212: Frank Tipler

The creationist rants of Bill Tingley are pretty typical in their display of profound ignorance of science and, in particular, evolution. But we haven’t really managed to find much other information on this guy, so we’ll leave him alone in favor of one of creationism’s big fish.

Frank Jennings Tipler is a once-good scientist turned crackpot. He is still professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane, and in his early career Tipler published technical work on general relativity that were well received by the scientific community. His writings gradually morphed into eccentric pseudoscientific books on intelligent design and Christianity in an attempt to scientifically prove the existence of God. He has thus far failed.

His most famous contribution to pseudoscience is the Omega Point, a ghastly pseudo-scientific mix of cosmology and theology that supposedly proves God’s existence and the immortality of intelligence. His book on the matter, The Physics of Immortality, was described by George Ellis as a “a masterpiece of pseudoscience … the product of a fertile and creative imagination unhampered by the normal constraints of scientific and philosophical discipline.” In essence, the Omega point is a state in the distant proper-time future of the universe occurring after intelligent life has taken over all matter in the universe and eventually forced its collapse. During that collapse, the computational capacity of the universe diverges to infinity and environments emulated with that computational capacity last for an infinite duration as the universe attains a solitary-point cosmological singularity – the Omega Point, or God. With computational resources diverging to infinity, Tipler states that a society far in the future would be able to resurrect the dead by emulating all alternative universes from its start at the Big Bang – in other words, he thinks he has proved the immortality and resurrection of the Bible by physics alone. The whole thing is theological nonsense, of course, blithely misapplying the laws of probability, but made to sound “plausible” to laypeople (who don’t really understand the terminology) by using the technical language of physics. Martin Gardner dubbed Tipler’s “Final Anthropic Principle” (used to derive his results) the “completely ridiculous anthropic principle” (CRAP). Michael Shermer devoted a chapter of his book Why People Believe Weird Things to Tipler’s theory, and Lawrence Krauss described the book as the most “extreme example of uncritical and unsubstantiated arguments put into print by an intelligent professional scientist”.

But really, what qualifies Tipler as a loon isn’t so much his unsubstantiated ravings on theology and metaphysics, but how it affects his views on real science. At present Tipler is also a Fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, and a signatory to the Discovery Instititute’s petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism; he also writes for Uncommon Descent.

And yes, his rants and ravings are utter crackpottery, complete with misuse of technical vocabulary, random capitalization and failure to understand how science works (a scientific theory is only truly scientific if it makes predictions “that the average person can check for himself,” says Tipler) – some examples are discussed by Sean Carroll here.

He also endorses global warming denialism: People say that anthropogenic global warming is now firmly established, but that’s what they said about Ptolemaic astronomy! Therefore, I am like Copernicus (Carroll’s paraphrasing). In other words, that a theory is established in the scientific community is no reason for me to accept it, even though I lack any expertise in the field. To back up the claim, Tipler engages in a lengthy description of the woes ofGalileo. His dismissal of global warming involves ranting about sunspots (apparently unaware of the literature, of course) and alleging that the data has probably been fabricated since it was very cold outside when Tipler was writing his rant. (Another example here.)

In addition to the already mentioned Physics of Immortality, Tipler’s books include The Physics of Christianity (2007) and The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986). The Physics of Christianity (reviewed here) attempts to give tortured explanations of the Shroud of Turin and various Christian miracles (desperately trying to avoid the obvious explanations). It is easily dismissed as profoundly silly, but as Lawrence Krauss points out: “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. It is far more dangerous than mere nonsense, because Tipler’s reasonable descriptions of various aspects of modern physics, combined with his respectable research pedigree, give the persuasive illusion that he is describing what the laws of physics imply. He is not.” For instance, Krauss continues, “he 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. Here Tipler invokes the fact that within the standard model of particle physics the decay of protons and neutrons is possible, although he recognises that such decay would likely take 50 to 100 orders of magnitude longer than the current age of the universe: thus, the probability of such an occurrence is essentially zero. However, using a strange ‘Christian’ version of the anthropic principle, a subject he once co-authored a book about, he then claims that without Jesus’s resurrection, our universe could not exist – therefore, when one convolves this requirement with the almost, but not exactly zero, a priori probability, the net result is a near certainty.” Elements of the religious rightwing media were quite impressed, however.

Diagnosis: A crackpot’s crackpot. This guy is really a phenomenon. His (mis)use of scientific vocabulary in the service of sheer crackpottery may perhaps convince some, but I hope even the reasonably educated layperson will quickly understand, upon encountering his books, that they are in the presence of some serious gibberish. Yeah, right.


  1. Hi, G.D.

    Physicist and mathematician Prof. Frank J. Tipler's Omega Point cosmology is a proof (i.e., mathematical theorem) of God's existence per the known laws of physics (viz., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics), which have been confirmed by every experiment to date. Hence, the only way to avoid the Omega Point Theorem is to reject empirical science. As Prof. Stephen Hawking wrote, "one cannot really argue with a mathematical theorem." (From p. 67 of Stephen Hawking, The Illustrated A Brief History of Time [New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1996; 1st ed., 1988].) Further, the Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model Theory of Everything (TOE) correctly describing and unifying all the forces in physics is also mathematically required by the aforesaid known physical laws.

    Regarding Prof. George Ellis's criticism, to date the only peer-reviewed paper in a physics journal that has criticized Prof. Tipler's Omega Point cosmology has been in 1994 by physicists Ellis and Dr. David Coule (see G. F. R. Ellis and D. H. Coule, "Life at the end of the universe?", General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 26, No. 7 [July 1994], pp. 731-739). In the paper, Ellis and Coule unwittingly gave an argument that the Bekenstein Bound violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics if the universe collapses without having event horizons eliminated. Yet in order to bring about the Omega Point, event horizons must be eliminated, and Tipler cites this paper in favor of the fact that the known laws of physics require the Omega Point to exist.

    Concerning Martin Gardner's review of Profs. John D. Barrow and Tipler's book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), notice that Martin Gardner never states any error on Tipler's part within said review. However, I do find the below exchange between Tipler and Gardner to be quite telling; it transpired from Gardner's aforesaid review of Barrow and Tipler's book. Note Gardner's two-word reply to Tipler.

    Frank J. Tipler, reply by Martin Gardner, "The FAP Flop", New York Review of Books, Vol. 33, No. 19 (December 4, 1986). In reply to Martin Gardner, "WAP, SAP, PAP, & FAP", New York Review of Books, Vol. 33, No. 8 (May 8, 1986).

    Dr. Michael Shermer doesn't attempt to present any error on Prof. Tipler's part regarding the Omega Point cosmology.

    In his review (see Lawrence Krauss, "More dangerous than nonsense", New Scientist, Vol. 194, No. 2603 [May 12, 2007], p. 53) of Prof. Tipler's book The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007), Prof. Lawrence M. Krauss repeatedly commits the logical fallacy of bare assertion. Krauss gives no indication that he followed up on the endnotes in the book The Physics of Christianity and actually read Tipler's physics journal papers. All that Krauss is going off of in said review is Tipler's mostly nontechnical popular-audience book The Physics of Christianity without researching Tipler's technical papers in the physics journals. Krauss's review offers no actual lines of reasoning for Krauss's pronouncements. His readership is simply expected to imbibe what Krauss proclaims, even though it's clear that Krauss is merely critiquing a popular-audience book which does not attempt to present the rigorous technical details.

    Ironically, Krauss has actually published a paper that greatly helped to strengthen Tipler's Omega Point cosmology. Some have suggested that the current acceleration of the universe's expansion due to the positive cosmological constant would appear to obviate the Omega Point. However, Profs. Krauss and Michael S. Turner point out that "there is no set of cosmological observations we can perform that will unambiguously allow us to determine what the ultimate destiny of the Universe will be." (See "Geometry and Destiny", General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 31, No. 10 [Oct. 1999], pp. 1453-1459.)

  2. As pointed out with Ellis and Coule's criticism, this isn't the first time that this ironic outcome has befallen critics of Tipler's Omega Point cosmology. So when Tipler's critics actually do real physics instead of issuing bare assertions and nihil ad rem cavils, they end up making Tipler's case stronger. Ironic though it is, nevertheless that's the expected result, since the Omega Point cosmology is required by the known laws of physics.

    G.D., Prof. Tipler has not written for the blog Uncommon Descent.

    For my reply to Dr. Sean M. Carroll's erroneous criticisms of Prof. Tipler in Carroll's blog post "The Varieties of Crackpot Experience" (Discover Blogs; and Preposterous Universe, Jan. 5, 2009), see WebCite: 5yDcRx6IZ and Archive.Today: 56z3C.

    Nor has Prof. Tipler ever denied climate change, whether it involves global warming or global cooling. The climate is in constant flux, and Tipler acknowledges that fact. Rather, Tipler quite correctly rejects the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), which has been repeatedly experimentally falsified.

    It's very unfortunate that AGW isn't true, as life loves a warm, carbon dioxide-rich Earth. It would be quite a life-giving boon to humanity and the other creatures if AGW had been true.

    G.D., you state that Prof. Tipler is a "crackpot", misuses technical terminology, and doesn't understand science, but bear in mind that Prof. Tipler's Omega Point cosmology has been published and extensively peer-reviewed in leading physics journals. And as said, the Omega Point/Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model TOE is mathematically forced by the known laws of physics, which have been confirmed by every experiment to date, so the only way to reject the Omega Point TOE is to reject empirical science.

    For much more on that, see my following article, which details Prof. Tipler's Omega Point cosmology and the Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model TOE. The Omega Point cosmology demonstrates that the known laws of physics require that the universe end in the Omega Point: the final cosmological singularity and state of infinite informational capacity having all the unique properties traditionally claimed for God, and of which is a different aspect of the Big Bang initial singularity, i.e., the first cause.

    James Redford, "The Physics of God and the Quantum Gravity Theory of Everything", Social Science Research Network (SSRN), Sept. 10, 2012 (orig. pub. Dec. 19, 2011), 186 pp., doi:10.2139/ssrn.1974708.

    Additionally, in the below resource are six sections which contain very informative videos of Prof. Tipler explaining the Omega Point cosmology and the Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model TOE. The seventh section therein contains an audio interview of Tipler. I also provide some helpful notes and commentary for some of these videos.

    James Redford, "Video of Profs. Frank Tipler and Lawrence Krauss's Debate at Caltech: Can Physics Prove God and Christianity?", alt.sci.astro, Message-ID: jghev8tcbv02b6vn3uiq8jmelp7jijluqk[at sign]4ax[period]com , July 30, 2013.

    1. It's too bad your argument holds less weight on account of you being a raving conspiratard, Mr "NWO Mark of the beast." Yeah, I looked you up, and I gotta say, you're every bit as nutty as Tipler, if not moreso. Also, I suspect his involvement with NASA had less to do with his Omega Point nonsense and more to do with his work on relativity.

    2. Hi, Jacker. One hardly has to "looked [me] up", since in my previous post above I directed everyone to my following article wherein I address these topics, i.e., in Sec.: "The New World Order: Government’s Attempt at Autoapotheosis", pp. 87-98, and Sec. 8.2.2: "The Mark of the Beast", pp. 98-107:

      * James Redford, "The Physics of God and the Quantum Gravity Theory of Everything", Social Science Research Network (SSRN), Sept. 10, 2012 (orig. pub. Dec. 19, 2011), 186 pp., doi:10.2139/ssrn.1974708.

      I agree with you that the globalist oligarchy's goal for their self-termed New World Order is quite demented, not to mention that their program has already been quite mass-murderous.

      However, technological immortality and superintelligence is soon coming. With the advancement of technology, this is unavoidable, unless there is something about the human mind which is quite literally magical (a position known as vitalism). So what is fast approaching mankind is already within the realm of the utterly outré.

      I did not mention physicist and mathematician Prof. Frank J. Tipler vis-à-vis NASA in my previous two posts above, but I figure you are making reference to his below paper, wherein Tipler gives the Omega Point cosmology as a proof (i.e., mathematical theorem) per the known laws of physics (viz., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics):

      * Frank J. Tipler, "Ultrarelativistic Rockets and the Ultimate Future of the Universe", NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Workshop Proceedings, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Jan. 1999, pp. 111-119; an invited paper in the proceedings of a conference held at and sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, Aug. 12-14, 1997; doi:2060/19990023204. Document ID: 19990023204. Report Number: E-11429; NAS 1.55:208694; NASA/CP-1999-208694.

      Prof. Tipler's foregoing paper was an invited paper for a conference held at and sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center, so NASA itself has peer-reviewed Tipler's Omega Point Theorem (peer-review is a standard process for published proceedings papers; and again, Tipler's said paper was an *invited* paper by NASA, as opposed to what are called "poster papers").

  3. Frank made the list on ListVerse: