My issue with Tipler – the Singularity. Not with the idea that God is the Singularity, as that has too many resonances with theology, both Christian and Kabbalistic. No problems with his Trinity concept either, as I am quite happy believing in God’s Triunity.
The real problem I have is when Tipler claims that Physicists are evading God by wanting to get rid of the Singularity from GR, particle physics and quantum cosmology.
The crazy thing is that Tipler mentions a few examples of singularities appearing in physics equations and how physics avoided them – for example the Hamilton-Jacobi equations of classical motion produce singularities when applied to wave motion, a ‘fault’ corrected when Schrodinger developed the full equations of quantum mechanics. One consequence of that successful singularity evasion is the Many-Worlds Multiverse that Tipler’s theories rely on heavily.
Another example is from the assumption that particles are infinitesimal points – that produces infinite field strength as the particle is approached infinitely closely. Feynmann ‘solved’ that by demonstrating shielding of the naked charge by virtual particles.
Another mentioned by Tipler is the extraction of infinite energy during gravitational interactions between particles – if there was no upper speed limit on interactions. But because lightspeed is that limit infinite interactions don’t occur.
Now if the success of modern quantum physics is based on “eliminating” singularities, then why is it an ‘evasion’ by physicists when they develop supersymmetry, String theory, Loop quantum gravity and so forth? Tipler, perhaps rightly, condemns all those theories as baseless theorising because they have no experimental backing (yet!)
But theoretical work surely precedes experimental work when we’re talking about such extremes of energy. Yet Tipler claims that physicists have religious issues with the idea of real Singularities in General Relativity and quantum cosmology – how can eliminating singularities in one area of physics be a successful method, yet be a manifestation of ‘the Gnostic heresy’ (as Tipler puts it) when it’s applied to cosmology?
Now I believe in Tipler’s Omega Point Theory and that means I have to accept a Singularity at the end of time, and the beginning, and All presents too. He could be right, but to excoriate modern physics as ‘Gnostic heresy’ because it seeks understanding beyond those cosmological singularities is a bit much.
And if the Large Hadron Collider produces supersymmetric particles? What happens then? Will Tipler abandon his faith in physics as he understands it?
I see a rather strong parallel with Aristotelian physics. Aristotle placed God, the Prime Mover, at the Cosmological boundary of the World – the outermost sphere of the heavens was propelled by the eternal, self-contemplating Spirit/Soul. Tipler’s Trinity is the cosmic boundary of the quantum Multiverse and governs its evolution, just like the Prime Mover’s perfect motion ‘governed’ the spheres below. Modern physics evolved because people were willing to think outside of the conceptual cage that Aristotelian beliefs created. Cosmological Singularities might be pointers to similar conceptual cages.
There are so many unanswered questions in the physics that Tipler wants us to adopt as proof of Christianity’s Trinity – why the particle masses of the Standard Model? What is mass? What is charge? What is information? What is consciousness?
None of these important questions even remotely gets an answer. No Christian should ever say that their belief gives them all the answers, and in light of that it shouldn’t condemn thinking outside what is known with certainty as ‘Gnostic heresy’ either. That’s the ‘kiss of death’ for meaningful scientific endeavour, which Christianity – in its worst moments – has been condemned for.
Tipler also discusses Darwinism and the idea of ‘randomness’ in mutation, applying similar terms of abuse. Personally I think he utterly misses the point of the word’s use in biology, which is no surprise coming from a ‘physics fundamentalist’. Biologists mean that ‘random’ variation/mutation is random because it doesn’t produce genetic changes that are perfectly adapted to the environmental pressure that is acting as the ‘selecting force’ on a population of genes. Genes change because of basic physics and chemistry NOT because an animal has to run faster, nor because a plant has to grow quicker on less light. Mutation occurs all the time in genomes and is assumed to be non-directed towards useful changes.
But that picture is inaccurate too because modern genomics research is showing that genes themselves can be deliberately mutated by a body when an organism is facing an environmental stress. Thus there are regions of ‘hypermutation’ which produce new antibodies when we have an infection, and hypermutation in microbes when they’re facing starvation. This doesn’t mean the mutations themselves are perfectly fit – they are, as far as human science can tell – random. But a population of genomes that are hypermutating dramatically increases the odds for a perfect adaptation to be found to an environmental stress.
So in the end I have so much to agree with Tipler on about cosmology and physics, but so much I disagree with about his personal struggles with modern physics. And as he freely admits that’s the real source of his personal career problems and – as I see it – personal bile-spitting that mars what would be a working theory of Christianity’s truths otherwise.