Omega Point Theory – Redux!
Just when I thought I was done with talking about Tipler’s Omega Point theory it starts swinging back in anger! First for a little background I recommend you go back and read my first post on Omega Point Theory (if you haven’t already) which can be found here. I mentioned and quote in my opening paragraph from a question posted on the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe forum. As well as replying to the query on my blog I also shared my thoughts with the original poster back on the forum. He was appreciative of my summation and for a while it looked like the thread was going to sink into obscurity as all threads do eventually. That is until a brand new member signed up specifically to speak in defense of Omega Point theory!
James Redford (both his username and his real name) posted a 1,300 word reply to the original poster’s question followed by a 2,300 word specifically targeting each of my points! Quite honestly I was a little flattered to have caught the attention of such a die-hard Omega Point believer. It is quite obvious from Mr Redford’s writings that has studied Omega Point Theory in depth and I don’t doubt that he has a far deeper understanding of it’s inner workings than I do. I do not profess to be an expert on physics or quantum mechanics fortunately such expertise is not needed to point out the obvious flaws in the theory. Such flaws are covered in my earlier post on the subject with much help from Michael Shermer. Right now I will concentrate on Mr Redford’s defense of Omega Point Theory and will endeavor to write a blog post in the near future detailing some advice I have for other skeptics with how to deal with similar situations they might find themselves in.
Before I replied to Mr Redford I thought I’d take a look to see if I could find any of his footprints elsewhere online. The most obvious hit for the same James Redford came in the form of a paper published in the Social Science Network . The Social Science Network is not a scientific journal, nor is it peer-reviewed. Rather it a collection of papers written by interested individuals based not on their qualifications or expertise but on their association with others in the network. More about the way Social Networks operate can be found here. The paper that Mr Redford authored is titled “Jesus is an Anarchist” and the following abstract is given:
The teachings and actions of Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha’Mashiach) and the apostles recorded in the New Testament are analyzed in regard to their ethical and political philosophy, with analysis of context vis-a-vis the Old Testament (Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible) being given. From this analysis, it is shown that Jesus is a libertarian anarchist, i.e., a consistent voluntaryist. The implications this has for the world are profound, and the ramifications of Jesus’s anarchism to Christians’ attitudes toward government (the state) and its actions are explicated.
Mr Redford describes the implications his research have on the world as “profound”, a small slice of hyperbole if I’ve ever seen it! Mr Redford’s attempts at analysis of the story/myth of a 2000 year old pseudo-historical character are deeply flawed in premise. Whatever sliver of information regarding the life of a 2000 year old Jew named Jesus once existed has no doubt been stripped down, rebuilt and massaged to the point where no meaningful historical account remains. Whilst Mr Redford’s attempt at a scientific paper critically analyzing the exploits of a mythological figure do not invalidate any other argument he makes they do help us develop a picture of the ideology that may be driving his arguments. Based both on Mr Redford’s paper and our exchange on the message boards it is clear that he writes from a perspective that is firmly grounded in the Judeo-Christian myth of which he is a part.
Now comes the rundown of Mr Redford’s to the points I made against Omega Point Theory based on Michael Shermer’s arguments in his book Why People Believe Weird Things.
My First Point:
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.
Mr Redford’s Reply:
The evidence that Prof. Frank J. Tipler provided for the existence of the Omega Point in his book The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994) was the laws of physics themselves: i.e., that the known laws of physics allow for the Omega Point to exist.
What Prof. Tipler said in his 1994 book is that he didn’t have any experimental confirmation that the Omega Point Theory was correct. Hence, he said that he still regarded himself as an atheist, and that he would continue to regard himself as an atheist until the Omega Point Theory is confirmed. The Omega Point Theory has advanced since that time. Since that time it’s been shown that the only way to avoid the Omega Point cosmology is to violate the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics), of which have been confirmed by every experiment to date.
In the same book, Prof. Tipler correctly predicted the mass of the top quark, which contradicted the mass predicted by the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN). Indeed, a paper Tipler sent to Physical Review Letters in 1992 correctly predicting the mass of the top quark was turned down with the explanation from one referee that it was “clearly refuted by experiment. The estimate from CERN indicates it is going to be 150.” And so Europe’s (and indeed the world’s) most influential particle physicists were wrong and Prof. Tipler was right.
Mr Redford’s first point is that the evidence for Tipler’s Omega Point is “the laws of physics themselves”. Well I’m sorry Mr Redford but just because something is possible within the laws of physics does not constitute evidence! Astronomers aren’t allowed to invent new astral bodies simply because they could exist and Biologists are not entitled to invent animals just because the laws of physics would allow them to be.
Mr Redford then acknowledges that in 1994 Tipler didn’t have experimental confirmation of his theory but claims he does now. Not only does this contradict Mr Redford’s initial assertion that evidence lies in the laws of physics themselves but he fails to provide a link or description of this supposed experimental confirmation (which I failed to find myself). Mr Redford claims that the only way to avoid Omega Point is to violate the know laws of physics, this is just patently absurd. The destruction of the human race or our lack of ability (or willingness) to invent a supercomputer at the end of time that will in it’s infinite intelligence decide that resurrecting every human is a valuable use of its time is not only possible within the laws of physics but probable (and thus invalidates Mr Redford’s argument). Lastly Mr Redford constructs an argument from authority where he claims Tipler correctly predicted the mass of the top quark which even if true has no bearing on whether or not Omega Point Theory is fact.
My Second Point:
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.
Mr Redford’s Reply:
The quotation you provide of “science will find a way” comes not from Prof. Tipler, but from Michael Shermer in his book Why People Believe Weird Things (A. W. H. Freeman/Owl Book, 2002). Nor have I seen where Shermer has accused Tipler of supporting the idea of faster than lightspeed travel. Tipler has never endorsed such an idea. Tipler accepts all known physical laws. Indeed, Tipler, in addition to being a mathematician, is also a global general relativist (the same rarefied field of Profs. Steven Hawking and Roger Penrose).
When Michael Shermer wrote “science will find a way” he was fairly and accurately paraphrasing the elaborate special pleading that Tipler goes through to justify his arguments.
My Third Point:
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
Mr Redford’s Reply:
The Omega Point Theory has advanced since the publication of Prof. Tipler’s 1994 book. Since that time it’s been shown that the only way to avoid the Omega Point Cosmology is to violate the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics), of which have been confirmed by every experiment to date.
As stated above the argument that the only way to avoid Omega Point is to violate the known laws of physics is patently false. By invoking so many established foundations of science (thermodynamics, relativity etc.) I believe Mr Redford is attempting to intimidate me into thinking that in order to argue against him I will have to reject these established sciences. Sorry Mr Redford, no dice.
My Fourth Point:
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.
Mr Redford’s Reply:
Prof. Tipler didn’t set out to physically prove the existence of God. Tipler had been an atheist since the age of 16, yet only circa 1998 did he again become a theist due to advancements in the Omega Point Theory which occured after the publication of his 1994 book The Physics of Immortality (and Tipler even mentions in said book [pg. 305] that he is still an atheist because he didn’t at the time have confirmation for the Omega Point Theory).
Tipler’s first paper on the Omega Point Theory was in 1986 (Frank J. Tipler, “Cosmological Limits on Computation,” International Journal of Theoretical Physics, Vol. 25, No. 6 [June 1986], pp. 617-661). What motivated Tipler’s investigation as to how long life could go on was not religion (indeed, Tipler didn’t even set out to find God), but Prof. Freeman J. Dyson’s paper “Time without end: Physics and biology in an open universe” (Reviews of Modern Physics, Vol. 51, Issue 3 [July 1979], pp. 447-460 http://www.aleph.se/Trans/Global/Omega/dyson.txt ).
Further, in a section entitled “Why I Am Not a Christian” in The Physics of Immortality (pg. 310), Tipler wrote, “However, I emphasize again that I do not think Jesus really rose from the dead. I think his body rotted in some grave.” This book was written before Tipler realized what the resurrection mechanism is that Jesus could have used without violating any known laws of physics (and without existing on an emulated level of implementation–in that case the resurrection mechanism would be trivially easy to perform for the society running the emulation).
Whether or not Tipler set out to prove the existence of god when he developed Omega Point Theory has no impact on the fact that when he presents his arguments (in their most recent form) he argues from a Judeo-Christian standpoint. That is to say that the Omega Point Theory constructs a future where a single entity (mono-theistic god of Abraham) resurrects every human (Rapture). This idea runs counter to many of the other thousands of religions that have come on gone in human history and this deeply flawed scientific theory just happens to create a universe where the Judeo-Christian outcome is inevitable? Oh please Mr Redford, don’t patronize me by suggesting that Tipler’s Omega Point is anything but an attempt at proving the biblical end of days.
Mr Redford only serves to damage further his and Mr Tipler’s credibility when he argues in the third paragraph that not only has he discovered the mechanism that Jesus Christ may have used to rise from the dead but that it’s in any way “trivially easy”. This is about the point where I begin to feel insulted not just for all the non-believers out their but for all the Christians as well. How pathetic and insulting it is that this small group of fringe believers claims to have scientific proof of how the miracles of the bible could be (and were) performed.
My Fifth Point:
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.
Mr Redford’s Reply:
The foregoing comment contradicts the laws of physics, particularly quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, which require that quantum indistinguishability be true, i.e., that identical quantum states are in every way indistinguishable, even in principle. (For more on this, see The Physics of Immortality [New York: Doubleday, 1994], Chapter IX: “The Physics of Resurrection of the Dead to Eternal Life,” Section: “Quantum Mechanics Supports the Pattern Identity Theory,” pp. 230-233, and Appendix D: “The Law of Mass Action Requires Quantum Indistinguishability,” pp. 412-416.)
It also contradicts mathematics and logic, since a bit sequence that is exactly identical to another is tautologically identical. Mathematics, logic and computing wouldn’t be possible if this were not true.
Further, it asserts something that no one actually believes, i.e., as it pertains to situations that people actually have firsthand practical experience with. When someone loses an important computer file, we all realize that if they have a bit-identical copy of the file that it is in every way identical to the one they lost.
Let’s contemplate the absurdity that would arise if someone believed contrarily. Take the example of a man who comes home to find that his hard drive has crashed, irretrievably corrupting all his files. The man is an author, and his hard drive contained all of the chapters to his forthcoming thousand-page magnum opus which he had spent many years of painstaking labor on. He becomes distraught upon realizing that all his years of diligent effort have been wiped out. Whereupon his wife informs him that she made a bit-identical backup copy of the entire hard drive earlier that day. The husband, hearing this, responds thusly:
O’, my pulchritudinous wife, you have brought me very low–lower than before! For in this, my great moment of need, you, rather than provide me succor, instead have chosen to mock me with your offer of an ersatz simulacrum of my œuvre. Forsooth, what Fate hath wrought asunder upon the Plutonian shore cannot be undone by means of a spurious effigy.
O’, why must you mock me so, thou taunting temptress?! Depart from my presence so that I can mourn alone, and take with you that counterfeit mimature of my opus! I must resign myself to the fact that my great work is forever lost!
Anyone knowledgeable with computers would realize that this husband has a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation: that two bit-identical files aren’t merely an imitation of each other, but that they are mathematically, logically, and computationally exactly identical in every way, even in principle. They aren’t merely very similar: they are indeed exactly the same file.
This reply by Mr Redford is perhaps the greatest example of the level of sophistry that he is able to stoop to. For those who aren’t aware of what sophistry is it is best described as “a specious argument used for deceiving someone. It might be crafted to seem logical while actually being wrong, or it might use difficult words and complicated sentences to intimidate the audience into agreeing”. Mr Redford laces his replies with irrelevant or factually incorrect physics arguments that are linguistically constructed to seem irrefutable and intimidating. For example in defense of the Omega Point resurrection he argues that “a bit sequence that is exactly identical to another is tautologically identical”. What he fails to realize (or chooses not to) is that two pieces of information that are identical can be functionally indistinguishable but are still separate sequences.
In reference to Omega Point this means that even if the super computer is able to reconstruct a brain that is functionally identical to my brain, continuity between my consciousness as it is now and this re-created consciousness is unlikely as we would be two different entities. Mr Redford’s continued argument that replicating a human mind would result in “resurrection” is fundamentally flawed. Yes the recreation might think it’s “me” but I won’t know anything about it because the copy of the information that is currently me will be dead. Instead of resurrecting every human the Omega Point computer would instead be recreating copies.
Mr Redford finishes this reply with a patronizing and condescending attempt at humour designed to illustrate how apparently absurd my arguments are. Nowhere does he extend his own argument beyond false analogy, argument from authority, non sequitur and more importantly factually incorrect assertions.
My Final Point:
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.
Mr Redford’s Reply:
Michael Shermer isn’t a mathematician or a physicist, unlike Prof. Tipler (who holds a joint professorship appointment in both the departments of Mathematics and of Physics); nor has Shermer ever published his criticisms of Tipler’s Omega Point Theory in any peer-reviewed science journal (let alone physics journal), which is the standard process of the scientific method.
Whereas Prof. Tipler’s Omega Point Theory has been published in a number of the world’s leading peer-reviewed physics and science journals. Even NASA itself has peer-reviewed his Omega Point Theory and found it correct according to the known laws of physics (see below). No refutation of it exists within the peer-reviewed scientific literature, or anywhere else for that matter.
Below are some of the peer-reviewed science and physics journals in which Prof. Tipler’s Omega Point Theory has been published:
The fact that Michael Shermer isn’t a mathematician or a physicist does not mean that he isn’t a world class critical thinker and intellectual. Michael Shermer’s arguments against Omega Point Theory stand on their own merits, rather than their authors credentials. No such thing can be said for Mr Tipler, who Mr Redford feels the need to defend with a long-winded recounting of every single book, paper and article he has ever written. I have omitted from my quotation of Mr Redford the last part of his reply which was a many hundred word listing of such references, adding nothing to the argument at hand but an extension of the already established argument from authority.
Nice try Mr Redford.
P.S. Mr Redford’s arguments didn’t end there. As well as repeatedly beating the same drums as above he went on to argue that other biblical myths are provable with physics including Jesus walking on water. More can be found here.