Friday, May 16, 2008

Not Smelling What Frank Tipler is Cooking – Part I

As indicated by the preceding three essays, I have certain issues with Ken Wilber, not so much with his the core of his (primarily Dharmic) theory of Reality as with how he chooses to frame it. In the light of my ardent support for scientific rationalism one might reasonably assume that I would be more in tune with the materialist theory of Reality put forth by Frank J. Tipler, professor of Physics and Mathematics and author of several books, most notably, ‘The Physics of Immortality’. But, in the words of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I cannot smell what Frank Tipler is cooking.

If you wanted to describe the science-based theory of Reality that is furthest from my views, you would be hard-pressed to do better than Tipler’s ‘The Physics of Immortality’. According to Tipler, numerous key elements of spiritual (primarily Christian) eschatology including the Resurrection of the Dead, Judgment Day, Heaven and Hell are supported by contemporary physics. This thesis alone led to his book becoming a major bestseller. Though he is a credentialed scientist with an impressive resume, Tipler’s theory simply does not hold up very well from either a scientific or philosophical point of view.

To save time let me first focus on the one thing Tipler posits that I agree with in a general sense. Tipler theorizes the existence of the Omega Point, a material singularity at the end of time that represents the ultimate destiny of all beings. In my framework the ultimate destiny of every distinguishable entity is Unity in what is essentially a metaphysical singularity. But even in this area of relative agreement Tipler and I do not see eye to eye.

For one thing as a hardcore causal materialist, Tipler characterizes the Omega Point as a God-like being (though he claimed to be an atheist at the time he wrote ‘The Physics of Immortality’) that represents the purely material end-product of the entire causal dynamic. As described by Tipler the essence of the end of this process is that the universe will continue to expand to a certain point at which gravity will overcome the expansion caused by the Big Bang and initiate a period of contraction that will end in what cosmologists refer to as the Big Crunch.

According to Tipler certain rather extraordinary events must transpire in the period leading up to the Big Crunch to lead to the formation of the Omega Point that is consistent with Christian eschatology. The most incredible of these events is that somehow intelligent life on Earth (Tipler argues against there being intelligent life anywhere else in the universe) is supposed to colonize the entire universe between now and the Big Crunch. Here Tipler steps way out of his element but proceeds to describe this dynamic as though his specialties included the Philosophy of the Mind, Information Theory, Aerospace Engineering, Cybernetics and a host of others. Tipler’s tendency to imply that his doctorate in physics and ability to cite largely obscure authoritative sources makes him an expert on pretty much everything reminded me of our friend Ken Wilber.

Tipler insists that in order for the (super) aware Omega Point to form (as opposed to simply a mindless, lifeless singularity), intelligence, in the form of sentient machines, must take over the entire universe such that life is actually able to significantly change the gross structure of the universe in a way that distorts its inevitable gravitation collapse. This alteration allows for the manifestation of a truly universal intelligence that brings about many of the predictions of the Christian Bible in the final microseconds before the Big Crunch. In addition, because of the nature of this universal intelligence and the manner in which it reshapes time itself, these last few material microseconds will last for an informational eternity.

Tipler’s claim that this fantastic hypothesis is not inconsistent with cosmological theory did not make it much easier for me to believe than the Book of Revelations. The primary reason for this is the fact that the years since the initial publishing of ‘The Physics of Immortality’ have not been kind to the a key prediction underlying Tipler’s theory. In the interim cosmologists have determined that his fundamental premise that the universe will collapse into a singularity is highly improbable. Current cosmological observations indicate that our universe’s rate of expansion is increasing, arguably thanks to the phenomenon known as dark energy. This increasing rate of expansion indicates that the universe is not likely to collapse into the singularity, an event that is a necessary condition of the formation of Tipler’s Omega Point.

Tipler has since come up with some re-interpretive hand-waving in an effort to re-validate his theory but it is difficult to take him seriously when he himself put forth in ‘The Physics of Immortality’ that it is the falsifiability of his theory that makes it a scientific rather than philosophical or spiritual speculation. One of the critical falsifiable aspects of his theory is the fact that he unequivocally predicts that the universe will collapse into a singularity.

I picked up‘The Physics of Immortality’ well after cosmologists had largely disproved one of Tipler's key predictions. As a result, reading it felt analogous to encountering a seemingly rational exposition on life after the Second Coming that is predicated on the belief that it occurred during the lifetime of the apostles of Jesus Christ.

10 comments:

James Redford said...

Hi, Rational Answers. For much more on what you spoke of above, see Prof. Frank J. Tipler's below paper, which among other things demonstrates that the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics) require that the universe end in the Omega Point (the final cosmological singularity and state of infinite informational capacity identified as being God):

F. J. Tipler, "The structure of the world from pure numbers," Reports on Progress in Physics, Vol. 68, No. 4 (April 2005), pp. 897-964. http://math.tulane.edu/~tipler/theoryofeverything.pdf Also released as "Feynman-Weinberg Quantum Gravity and the Extended Standard Model as a Theory of Everything," arXiv:0704.3276, April 24, 2007. http://arxiv.org/abs/0704.3276

Out of 50 articles, Prof. Tipler's above paper was selected as one of 12 for the "Highlights of 2005" accolade as "the very best articles published in Reports on Progress in Physics in 2005 [Vol. 68]. Articles were selected by the Editorial Board for their outstanding reviews of the field. They all received the highest praise from our international referees and a high number of downloads from the journal Website." (See Richard Palmer, Publisher, "Highlights of 2005," Reports on Progress in Physics. http://www.iop.org/EJ/journal/-page=extra.highlights/0034-4885 ) Reports on Progress in Physics is the leading journal of the Institute of Physics, Britain's main professional body for physicists.

Further, Reports on Progress in Physics has a higher impact factor (according to Journal Citation Reports) than Physical Review Letters, which is the most prestigious American physics journal (one, incidently, which Prof. Tipler has been published in more than once). A journal's impact factor reflects the importance the science community places in that journal in the sense of actually citing its papers in their own papers. (And just to point out, Tipler's 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper could not have been published in Physical Review Letters since said paper is nearly book-length, and hence not a "letter" as defined by the latter journal.)

See also the below resource for further information on the Omega Point Theory:

Theophysics http://geocities.com/theophysics/

Tipler is Professor of Mathematics and Physics (joint appointment) at Tulane University. His Ph.D. is in the field of global general relativity (the same rarefied field that Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking developed), and he is also an expert in particle physics and computer science. His Omega Point Theory has been published in a number of prestigious peer-reviewed physics and science journals in addition to Reports on Progress in Physics, such as Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (one of the world's leading astrophysics journals), Physics Letters B, the International Journal of Theoretical Physics, etc.

Prof. John A. Wheeler (the father of most relativity research in the U.S.) wrote that "Frank Tipler is widely known for important concepts and theorems in general relativity and gravitation physics" on pg. viii in the "Foreword" to The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986) by cosmologist Prof. John D. Barrow and Tipler, which was the first book wherein Tipler's Omega Point Theory was described.

The leading quantum physicist in the world, Prof. David Deutsch (inventor of the quantum computer, being the first person to mathematically describe the workings of such a device, and winner of the Institute of Physics' 1998 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize for his work), endorses the physics of the Omega Point Theory in his book The Fabric of Reality (1997). For that, see:

David Deutsch, extracts from Chapter 14: "The Ends of the Universe" of The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1997), ISBN: 0713990619; with additional comments by Frank J. Tipler. http://geocities.com/theophysics/deutsch-ends-of-the-universe.html

The only way to avoid the Omega Point cosmology is to invent tenuous physical theories which have no experimental support and which violate the known laws of physics, such as with Prof. Stephen Hawking's paper on the black hole information issue which is dependant on the conjectured string theory-based anti-de Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence (AdS/CFT correspondence). See S. W. Hawking, "Information loss in black holes," Physical Review D, Vol. 72, No. 8, 084013 (October 2005); also at arXiv:hep-th/0507171, July 18, 2005. http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0507171

That is, Hawking's paper is based upon proposed, unconfirmed physics. It's an impressive testament to the Omega Point Theory's correctness, as Hawking implicitly confirms that the known laws of physics require the universe to collapse in finite time. Hawking realizes that the black hole information issue must be resolved without violating unitarity, yet he's forced to abandon the known laws of physics in order to avoid unitarity violation without the universe collapsing.

Some have suggested that the universe's current acceleration of its expansion obviates the universe collapsing (and therefore obviates the Omega Point). But as Profs. Lawrence M. Krauss and Michael S. Turner point out in "Geometry and Destiny" (General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 31, No. 10 [October 1999], pp. 1453-1459; also at arXiv:astro-ph/9904020, April 1, 1999 http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9904020 ), there is no set of cosmological observations which can tell us whether the universe will expand forever or eventually collapse.

There's a very good reason for that, because that is dependant on the actions of intelligent life. The known laws of physics provide the mechanism for the universe's collapse. As required by the Standard Model, the net baryon number was created in the early universe by baryogenesis via electroweak quantum tunneling. This necessarily forces the Higgs field to be in a vacuum state that is not its absolute vacuum, which is the cause of the positive cosmological constant. But if the baryons in the universe were to be annihilated by the inverse of baryogenesis, again via electroweak quantum tunneling (which is allowed in the Standard Model, as B - L is conserved), then this would force the Higgs field toward its absolute vacuum, cancelling the positive cosmological constant and thereby forcing the universe to collapse. Moreover, this process would provide the ideal form of energy resource and rocket propulsion during the colonization phase of the universe.

Prof. Tipler's above 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper also demonstrates that the correct quantum gravity theory has existed since 1962, first discovered by Richard Feynman in that year, and independently discovered by Steven Weinberg and Bryce DeWitt, among others. But because these physicists were looking for equations with a finite number of terms (i.e., derivatives no higher than second order), they abandoned this qualitatively unique quantum gravity theory since in order for it to be consistent it requires an arbitrarily higher number of terms. Further, they didn't realize that this proper theory of quantum gravity is consistent only with a certain set of boundary conditions imposed (which includes the initial Big Bang, and the final Omega Point, cosmological singularities). The equations for this theory of quantum gravity are term-by-term finite, but the same mechanism that forces each term in the series to be finite also forces the entire series to be infinite (i.e., infinities that would otherwise occur in spacetime, consequently destabilizing it, are transferred to the cosmological singularities, thereby preventing the universe from immediately collapsing into nonexistence). As Tipler notes in his 2007 book The Physics of Christianity (pp. 49 and 279), "It is a fundamental mathematical fact that this [infinite series] is the best that we can do. ... This is somewhat analogous to Liouville's theorem in complex analysis, which says that all analytic functions other than constants have singularities either a finite distance from the origin of coordinates or at infinity."

When combined with the Standard Model, the result is a Theory of Everything (TOE) correctly describing and unifying all the forces in physics.

Major Generalist said...

As I was reading your post, Capt. Rational, I kept thinking, "But the Big Crunch theory has been disproved!" And of course, you got to that.

James, your post is interesting, but you lost me at this sentence: "this process would provide the ideal form of energy resource and rocket propulsion during the colonization phase of the universe." Umm. Are we really going to colonize the ENTIRE universe? Should we even try given how we bungle so much on Earth? I can't really get behind a statement that actually believes that we will single-handedly save anything as large as our universe, let alone any other universes that might be out there. It just doesn't make sense to me.

James Redford said...

Fortunately, Major Generalist, reality is not predicated on what does or does not make sense to you.

James Redford said...

The above was my short and sweet answer to your inquiry, Major Generalist. But if you would like technological reassurances that truly great things (such as literal immortality) are already very close to humanity's grasp, then see the following:

Ray Kurzweil, "How technology's accelerating power will transform us," TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), filmed February 2005, posted November 2006 http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/38

Also keep in mind that the Omega Point is required by the known laws of physics (and so also the only quantum gravity Theory of Everything which is consistent with the known laws of physics). In physics it's just as accurate to say that causation goes from future to past events: viz, the principle of least action; and unitarity. So the ultimate end-state of the Omega Point is controlling (within broad limits) what is occuring now.

That is, the Omega Point is the final boundary condition of the universe: the universe has no choice but to evolve into the Omega Point (of course, individual actors can make choices which delay or hasten this process, but globally across the universe this process cannot be prevented). Just as we cannot jump to the moon, because the laws of physics prevents us from doing that. But we do have a wide range of choices available to us within the limits imposed by the laws of physics.

To put it in other terms, existence cannot exist without the Omega Point. Again, in physics it's just as accurate to view existence evolving out of the Omega Point as it is the Alpha Point (i.e., the Big Bang cosmological singularity). In logic, this can be stated as "Alpha Point if and only if Omega Point." And of course, the reverse of that statement is also true.

This is not to say that mankind will not experience, e.g., a nuclear war, or that truly bad times are not coming. It's merely to say that there's a limit to how bad things can get (e.g., the exinction of mankind cannot happen without at least one other sapient species being evolved within roughly the vacinity of our Hubble volume). Although it certainly does appear that things will get much worse before things get better.

For more on these physical limits, watch the video of the below talk given by Prof. Tipler. Particularly see the question-and-answer period.

Video of a lecture by Prof. Frank J. Tipler on the Omega Point Theory, "Program for 1st Annual Workshop on Geoethical Nanotechnology," Terasem Movement, July 20, 2005. http://www.terasemfoundation.org/program.htm (Program page.)
http://mfile3.akamai.com/12032/wmv/kurzweil.download.akamai.com/12032/terasem/Tipler56k.wmv (Lowband video.)
http://mfile3.akamai.com/12032/wmv/kurzweil.download.akamai.com/12032/terasem/Tiplerdsl.wmv (Broadband video.)
http://mfile3.akamai.com/12032/mov/kurzweil.download.akamai.com/12032/terasem/Tiplerdsl.mov (Lowband QuickTime video.)
http://www.terasemfoundation.org/webcast/ppt/Tipler.ppt (PowerPoint topics of lecture.)

As well, your concerns are already covered in detail in the links I provided in my original post above, although you may have to do a bit of reading to locate the answers to your concerns.

Rational Answers said...

Mr. Redford,

Bear in mind that Tipler’s position that the Omega Point is not inconsistent with “the known laws of physics” does not mean that it is required by them. Your zealous insistence that is does sounds more “theo” than “physics”.

In addition, the teleological position that the Omega Point is controlling the flow of events towards its own creation represents literally a deus ex machine dodge of the empirical cosmological observation cited by Major General (the rate of expansion of the universe has actually been observed to be increasing, in opposition to the formation of the Omega Point). It also represents the ultimate example of begging the question in that it essentially says that the Omega Point has to exist in order for the Omega Point to exist.

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