Omega Point(less?) Theory
After my somewhat silly blog post about the Unidentified Foreign Obstacle I feel everyone deserves a post with a bit more substance. To this end I wish to explore Frank J. Tipler’s “Omega Point Theory.”
A member of the “skeptics guide to the universe” forum recently posted the following in the religion/philosophy section.
I wonder if anyone is familiar with Dr. Tiplers’ theory of the Omega Point. It’s been dubbed a kind of scientific explanation of heaven. I am currently in the process of creating a graphic novel about the mythology of religion, in so far as it’s all myth. Anyway, I want to include this in the part about “heaven” but I want to include the criticism of the theory but I’m not a scientist. It seems preposterous and definitely gets my skeptic red flags out but I’d like to hear what’s wrong with the equation/theory in question.
Well I’m not a scientist (yet) either but thought I’d put some reading time in and tackle the question. I shall briefly summarize the idea behind Frank Tipler’s “Omega Point Theory” in as simple terms as I can. I am no expert (or even amateur) physicist and am myself only vaguely able to understand some of the physics behind Tipler’s theory. Despite my (and many readers) lack of physics background the logical principles and critical thinking involved in criticizing the theory are easily accessible and comprehensible to all:
The “Omega Point” is the term given by Tipler for the ultimate fate of the universe. Tipler argues that the universe will undergo a sort of “big crunch”, a hypothesis still circulated as a possibility by modern physicists. Some calculations have predicted that this big crunch might occur around 42 billion years from now. A big crunch involves the universe eventually contracting back on itself until it reaches a primordial state (perhaps initiating another big bang). For this to occur then the gravitational force of all the matter in the universe needs to be sufficient to counteract the energy with which the universe is expanding. Unfortunately for Tipler and other proponents of the big crunch it is now almost certain that rather than the expansion of the universe slowing and reversing it’s actually speeding up! This could instead result in a sort of big rip as the fabric of the universe tears itself apart.
Irregardless of scientific evidence Tipler’s Omega Point Theory proceeds under his specific notion of the end of the universe. To cut to the meatier part of his theory Tipler argues that as the universe contracts exponentially fast, so to the maximum computational capacity of the universe will increase (faster than time runs out). In essence he’s saying that a computer could theoretically use the contraction of the universe to power itself and operate at a speed which is faster than time, giving it infinite energy (apparently). How exactly this would be accomplished is beyond my understanding, but this theory gets even better! This ultimate computer with the infinite energy could then use it’s power to effectively resurrect every human that ever lived. This computer or “God” as Tipler refers to it as will then go about simulating a paradise reality for every human being. In case you haven’t figured out what this “simulated paradise” is yet I’ll give you a clue.
That’s right folks, this elaborate theory dressed up to look like it could be real physics is actually a scientific attempt at rationalizing heaven. To help me out with criticizing this theory using actual evidence and logic (rather than the ridicule it’s easy to rely on) I turned largely to Michael Shermer’s brilliant book “Why People Believe Weird Things In this book Shermer actually dedicated a chapter to dealing with Dr. Tipler’s Omega Point in why people believe weird things. I shall attempt to distill Shermer’s criticism’s into a few digestible chunks:
1) Tipler claims that Omega Point Theory is a ‘testable physical theory for an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God” and that “if any reader has lost a loved one … modern physics says you and they shall live again.” Tipler nevers does provide any evidence for his so called testable theory and throughout the book relies on what sounds nice and what gives people hope. Nothing resembling an actual scientific hypothesis or theory is presented.
2) Tipler argues away most major hurdles and criticisms with “science will find a way”. He claims that humans with not only colonize some galaxies but all galaxies using technologies he assumes will arrive because of his faith in science. Skeptics are often accused of having faith in science, Dr. Tipler demonstrates what that really looks like. He waves away all scientific hurdles including faster than light travel with unscientific wishful thinking.
3) Dr. Tipler’s theory seems to be based on nothing short of what he personally wants to happen, though he proposes it likes it’s destiny. From his and our limited perspective the concept of accurately predicted the history of the human race until the end of this universe is ludicrous. To demonstrate how improbable his ideas are Micheal Shermer sets up a brief casual link that would need to be followed:
if the density parameter is greater than 1 and thus the universe is closed and will collapse; if the Bekenstein bound is correct; if the Higgs boson is 220 20 Gev; if humans do not cause their own extinction before developed technology to leave the planet; if humans leave the planet; if human develop the technology to travel interstellar distances at required speeds; if humans find other habitable planets; if humans develop technology to slow down the collapse of the universe; if humans do not enoucnter forms of life hostile to their goals; if humans build a computer that approaches omniscience and omnipotence at the end of time; if this God wants to ressurect all previous life; if if if if!
So many of these steps might be wrong and there are so many others in between that this theory is nothing more than a highly flawed thought exercise in special pleading.
4) Tipler is manufacturing his ideas in the exact way as to validate his interpretation of Judeo-Christian philosophy. He is creating his own connections between physics and religion by re-defining both.
5) As memory is a product of neuronal connections how will the Omega/God reconstruct something that does not exist. The information within a human brain is truly lost at death, bringing them back is not a technological limitation. Tipler could then argue that the Omega recreates existence from the start using it’s apparently infinite energy and recreates all life through causality. The problem also exists of which memories will the Omega recreate and from what point in our lifes? It couldn’t truly be a continuation of my consciousness if the memories didn’t lead up to my death.
All in all there is no real science in Dr. Tipler’s theory. It is best described as an enormous case of special pleading. Here is a man who has stretched the limits of his reasoning to accommodate his own speculative belief system. For a more in-depth look grab “Why People Believe Weird Thing” by Micheal Shermer.”