The New Omega Point Theory II

At the Friendly Atheist blog I made this comment as a summary of Frank Tipler’s new Christian Omega Point Theory…

The “Theory of Everything” he promotes is nothing new – just the Minimally Extended Standard Model, plus a quantum gravity equation developed years ago. And Tipler’s use of the Many Worlds approach to Quantum Mechanics is nothing new either.

Somewhat batty is his ideas about Jesus using macroscopic sphaleron fields to cause super-rapid proton-decay, turning a tiny bit of mass into a neutrino beam to carry him across water, or turning neutrinos into “loaves and fishes” to feed the 4000. Basically he’s saying “miracles” are really “God-tech”, literally, and so only use physical law, rather than violating it. If you believe that God is the Omega Point then I guess those sort of miracles might work.

Most of his claims have pretty solid physics behind them BUT he’s saying his take on the physics is the ONLY valid approach. That’s where his claim to some kind of divine truth really has problems. His strident advocacy of the Many Worlds version of QM, for example, might have problems because of recent experiments that potentially falsify it.

Tipler also thinks the quantum gravity equation of Richard Feynman and Steve Weinberg is correct – but it has been rejected by most physicists working on quantum gravity because it has an infinite number of terms when expanded and can’t be renormalised. Tipler argues, perhaps validly, that many proofs in mathematics potentially involve an infinite number of statements, but I think most physicists working on quantum gravity are hoping for a set of equations their finite minds can handle. Tipler might be right but his case is a LONG way from proven.

As for his Apocalyptic hyperbole… well I’d blame it on his faith tradition’s penchant for “Left Behind” style dramas in human history. Except more than a few Futurists expect radical changes as Super-Intelligence is developed. He’s certainly not a lone lunatic voice on this one – for example Vernor Vinge thinks the Singularity is only 50 years away.

…and I feel I need to expand. My promised critique is waiting on getting a hold of his book, “The Physics of Christianity”, which isn’t looking good – maybe not until August (i.e. overseas order for my Birthday.) Even “Borders” doesn’t have it here in BrisVegas, which is annoying. But I’ve read a lot of his online material and so I think I have some idea of what he’s saying.

“Somewhat batty” isn’t an intentional insult BTW. Atheists tend to see all claims of miracles as absurd, and claiming that Jesus’s miracles are thanks to Omega Point technology (macroscopic sphalerons) is only a bit less weird. As a rule theists haven’t claimed to know the mechanism of God’s interactions with the world in any detail – Tipler is a pioneer, and a brave one in that regard.

Do I believe him?

Firstly, I am unsure if the specific miracles Tipler focuses on need to be explained as real events. Biblical scholarship has cast serious doubt on the nature miracles as anything other than parabolic fictionalising of prophecies about Jesus-as-Messiah. But the problem with that approach is that Jesus, as a real person, fades out of view if we start hacking away at the Gospels in an over-zealous attempt to demythologise. We have to use “discernment” to disentangle history and historicised prophecy in the New Testament, and that’s pretty subjective. In epistemological terms (“how do we know”) Tipler has used as much imagination as the demythologisers who decide what’s history and what’s not.

So if we accept them as events to be explained, then what? Tipler’s ideas become one possibility amongst many – and that’s my main issue with the Whole of his thesis: that physics has already uncovered The Truth. Which physics?

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