A Review of Frank J. Tipler's Book, The Physics of Immorality, Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead
by Danny C. Rich

Editor's Note: Because of the technical nature of this book, we are using a review by one of our consultants. Dr. Rich has his Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Diffuse Spectroscopy and Color Science. His master's degree was from Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and he is currently the Manager of Research for Applied Color Systems in New Jersey. --JNC

I was in one of the public bookstores in Princeton last fall when I chanced upon this book. Since the borough of Princeton contains both a famous Ivy-League university and a Presbyterian theological seminary, the title immediately caught my attention. When I read the dust jacket and scanned the preface, I was even more compelled to invest the $25.00 to buy a hard copy edition to read and study it as soon as possible. -

Those who may be active in following the current arguments within the physics community on evidences for the existence of God may recognize Professor Tipler's name. He, along with John D. Barrow, have been credited with developing and authoring The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. You see, Professor Frank Tipler, like Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, is a member of that elite group of physicists known as global general relativitists. Like Hawking, Tipler is interested in the time variable of global general relativity. Whereas, Hawking has made his mark tracing the arrow of time backward to the time of the Big Bang,Tipler has chosen to follow the arrow of time to its logical end. The term for this study, in both physics and theology, is eschatology--the study of last things or end times. This book has raised a lot of interest in both the secular and religious press. The book was reviewed and Dr. Tipler interviewed on one of the national morning news programs. His physics has been challenged and deemed improbable by popularists like Carl Sagan. The book is not an easy one to digest. It has 339 pages of text, 34 pages of notes on the text, 18 pages of bibliographic citations, and 122 pages of mathematical proofs and references for those who can follow the symbology of algebra, calculus, and quantum mechanics.

Tipler was not a religious man, at least by his own admission. In his preface he states, "When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straight-forward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them." Whether this book fulfills this statement is of course the center of the arena in which the current debate is occurring and in which this review must focus. It is not possible in this or any other news letter to adequately review Tipler's book. There is too much in it, too many concepts, and too much physics and theology mixed together. I have seen one or two written reviews and those illustrated only the reviewer's bias, not the quality nor the quantity of the writing in the book. I should think that an adequate review might constitute a good doctoral dissertation or, at the very least, a tome of equal volume to this one.

There are thirteen chapters, the notes, the bibliography, and the appendix for scientists. As is common in writings on global general relativity and cosmology, each chapter touches on nearly every branch of science. To that is added a generous sprinkling of state of the art theology, philosophy, ethics, politics, and speculation. There is even one point where the laws of theoretical macro-economics are invoked to prove a point. Having already admitted that I cannot write an adequate review of the book, I am now at liberty to highlight some of the more salient or basic features of the book and comment on the interpretation or application of those features.

The primary feature of this book is Tipler's Omega Point theory. The Omega Point is the singularity in space-time that marks the end of the universe. Tipler and Barrow's eschatology predicts That the universe will not expand forever, but will eventually collapse back onto itself. If the collapse can be induced to occur non-uniformly, then the information content of the universe will be preserved and that information content includes the quantum phase-space of every atom that has existed since the Big Bang. This then infers that every intelligent being that has ever existed will have the potential to be reassembled, and hence resurrected. To accomplish this induced nonuniform collapse requires that a "human-like" intelligence must exist in all parts of the universe and that this "being" must have a working knowledge of the requirements of the Omega Point collapse. Tipler demonstrates that it will be impossible for human beings to occupy the entire universe but hypothesizes it will be possible to create a new life form based on miniature, possibly microscopic, self-replicating Turing machines. These "living computers" will carry with them all of the knowledge of the known universe, including the requirements for inducing the non-uniform collapse of the universe as they colonize each section, traveling at speeds that approach the speed of light. Given the existence of this universal intelligence, the rest of the Omega Point theory follows quite logically--well, almost. It seems that the physics required for the non-uniform collapse requires that the mass of the as yet undiscovered, Higgs boson must be within a certain range, 220 +-20 GeV, the mass of the top quark must be 185 +- 20GeV, and the ratio of the width for the Higgs boson decay into transversely polarized Z bosons and longitudinally polarized Z bosons must be 0.55. Thus, the Omega Point theory has real experimentally verifiable parameters. One section of Chapter 4 is dedicated to listing the testable predictions of the theory.

There are several philosophical premises in this theory as well. The first and most fundamental is the philosophy of eternal progress in place of the eternal return. This is the first place where the author acknowledges that Judeo-Christian theology is more acceptable than many other world religions. The eternal return is the basis of the majority of religions and philosophy which describe life as a neverending cycle, doomed to repeat the same sequence of events, albeit with some random or systematic variations. Thus, reincarnation develops from the eternal return. The oscillating universe is based on this philosophy and so on. Eternal progress describes a philosophy in which there is a beginning and an end to life, but information gathering and processing, and bus progress, goes on without end.

The second philosophy that is critical is a rather broad definition of the concepts of "life," "person," and "soul." To accept the transfer of all human knowledge to a "race" of computers requires that one define life to be "a form of information processing;" the human soul as a very complex computer program," and a person as "a computer program that can pass the Turing test." A human being is a very special form of life, based on the carbon atom complex organic chemical processes whose soul is the most complex naturally occurring information processing algorithm in the universe and can easily pass the Turing test. This philosophy leads directly to an operant definition of eternal life. This is a life that continues to process information at all space-time coordinates along its word-line all the way across the universe to the relativistic c-point boundary. In addition, an eternal life must accumulate and communicate an infinite amount of information along the path of the world-line so the c-point boundary. General relativity predicts that the world lines of all events will converge to the same point. If this point is the result of a nonuniform collapse of the universe, this then becomes the Omega Point and it contains all of the information and all of the algorithms of all of the events of all time. The Omega Point is thus a person, eternal, omniscient, and due to the reversibility of the Einstein field equations, omnipresent, and if one accepts that this "person" contains all of the algorithms of all natural processes, omnipotent. Tippler wisely refuses to identify the Omega Point as the Judeo-Christian God, but does refer to it with a gender in a specific personal pronoun.

The third philosophy that one must accept is the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics as opposed to the Copenhagen interpretation. The need for this philosophy arises out of the statistical binary nature of quantum mechanics. The classic thought experiment to demonstrate the philosophical dilemma was first postulated by Schrodinger. Place a cat in a sealed chamber along with a Geiger counter and a tiny bit of radioactive material. Assume that the probability that the Geiger counter will sense radioactive decay from the material is 1/2. If the Geiger counter senses a radioactive decay, ten it triggers a device which kills the cat (not very humane but necessary here). After an hour or so, we open the chamber and we know that what we will find is either a dead cat (very unfortunate) or a live cat (very serendipitous). According to the mathematics of quantum mechanics, the cat is neither alive nor dead. This is a very disturbing prediction. The wave function of the cat is neither that of a live cat or a dead cat, but the sum of the two. Quantum mechanics predicts that the cat will be both alive and dead at the same time. In the Copenhagen Interpretation, a random process known as wave function reduction is applied. This process selects or assigns a wave function to the cat from two possible outcomes with random probability of 1/2, thus resolving the dilemma. The many worlds interpretation accepts the wave function derived by quantum mechanics by assuming that there are, in fact, two simultaneous parallel worlds, one in which the cat is dead and one in which the cat is alive. The existence of all living things is a continuous sequence of random events. If we assume that quantum mechanics, especially relativistic quantum mechanics, applies to all living objects, human beings included, we must adopt a many worlds interpretation. This means the Omega Point contains all of the world lines of every life that actually occurred and all of the world lines of all of the lives and events that might have occurred. This then seems to me to be the fullest definition of omniscience. The Omega Point would thus "know" not only everything a person does or did, but also everything that would have happened as a result of every decision that was not accepted by a person. One consequence of the many worlds interpretation is that a person can have "free will" and yet his actions and thoughts be known by an omniscient God. The author delves very deeply into chaotic topology, including Godel's incompleteness theorem to prove that the Omega Point boundary conditions are ontologically indeterminate.

This implies that the level of indeterminism is not just a result of our limited knowledge but is an irreducible part of nature itself. In effect, this derivation shows that it is an impossibility for any algorithm to exist which can classify all possible compact, four dimensional (topological or differentiable) manifolds without boundary. In fact, it can be shown that there does not exist any general algorithm which can show whether two arbitrary, given manifolds are different or the same.

After many more pages of explanations, proofs and speculation, the author is finally able to show that the Omega Point, as a person, can consistently be equated with the human concept of God and that the universal wave function that describes the entire four dimensional universe, constrained by the Omega Point boundary conditions can be identified with the Holy Spirit. In the words of the author, "Thus the universal wave function, constrained by the Omega Point Boundary Conditions, is an omnipresent invisible field, guiding and creating all being and is ultimately Personal these are the traditional defining properties of the Holy Spirit." This also allows Tipler to postulate that the human soul is not intrinsically immortal. That immortality occurs only as a result of the information contained in the Omega Point. He cites passages from the writings of Mohammed and Sir Isaac Newton, indicating that the thousands of years that must pass between the death of the first human and the Omega Point seems to the being but a moment. It is interesting that, while Tipler freely extracts quotes and comments from both secular and religious writers, he has no explanation for the insights that these writers possessed.

Tipler also dedicates much of the book describing to the consequences of the Omega Point resurrection. Since there are no human beings around after the final collapse of the universe (the ambient temperature would be far too high to sustain carbon-based life forms), the resurrection must he in terms of what the Omega Point can create. The Omega Point is a person in the sense that it is a computer program that can pass the Turing test and so what the Omega Point resurrects are the quantum mechanical wave functions of every sentient creature that has ever lived. The intelligence requirement is necessary because of the premise that the Omega Point's boundary conditions and universal wave function are rooted in the philosophy of eternal progress. This means that any living thing that does not contribute to the advancement of the total knowledge of the Omega Point does not deserve to he recreated. This is a somewhat broader definition of the resurrection than typical Judeo-Christian view. Under this view, humans have a well recognized uniqueness in the animal kingdom, but other animals such as elephants, which have been observed to caress and bury the bones of dead elephants but not other animals, may have enough intelligence to be able to pass the Turing test and thus be eligible for resurrection. Tipler also argues that the best-loved pets of humans will be resurrected because their human masters will want them to be, but not because of their intelligence

With all of this objective evidence, one might assume that Tipler has become a deeply religious man. In fact, just the opposite is true. Tipler develops a theology of the Omega Point which is totally devoid of all spirituality. This is so because, in the words of Tipler, "...science shows that there are no such beings as evil spirits...." In fact, a sub-thesis of Tipler's book might be that religion should have no metaphysical foundations at all. In his concluding chapter, he states, "Now science is based on reason, and on reason alone. It has no use for revelation in any way, shape or form. Consequently, any theological claim to truth based on revelation has to be taken with a grain of salt." Thus religions based on strong spiritual events, such as the miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ, are attributed the status of mythology and are the justification for Tipler not accepting or becoming a Christian. He believes that the Judeo-Christian philosophers have a more accurate concept of eschatology but that, at the same time, they have introduced too much significance to human beings and to spirit-based exceptions to the laws of physics. Tipler wants the laws of physics to be inviolate and this must also accept, quite willingly, that all species (including man) have evolved from earlier species. The creation of a class of self-replicating micro-robots by man is just another example of the evolution of species. The micro-robots will spread the knowledge and memories of man throughout the universe while making new memories and preparing for the Omega Point.

In closing, I think that there are a few comments that can be made from a scientist with a Christian perspective on Tipler's writings. First, Tipler and the majority of his theological sources equate immortality with resurrection and are thus able to discount the intrinsic immortality of the human soul. I do not see where there is either a necessary or sufficient justification for this. In the writings of the New Testament, the Greek word zoe is most often used in reference to eternal life as opposed to the more common aionia. The difference between the two words is both subtle and great. Both words carry with them the notion of life without end, but zoe adds the additional connotation of a better quality of life. This was one of the things that Jesus emphasized in his teachings. He claimed that His mission was to bring us eternal life and that more abundantly. Other writers in the New Testament add that some of the quality of this eternal life is passed to us when we accept the challenge of following the teachings of Jesus. To cast off all spirituality as mythology is to accept the problem of human suffering as quantum mechanically inevitable within the Many Worlds interpretation. Tipler goes so far as to imply that the Omega Point may be able to decide whether to resurrect certain unsavory characters on logical decisions alone. For example, he discusses the fate of Adolph Hitler. The Omega Point could refuse to resurrect the world line of Hitler, reasoning that his destruction of so many innocent people actually served to reduce or hinder the information content of the human species. Here, Hitler might he considered irretrievably evil, the evil arising from the "improper" treatment of other individuals. He also speculates that the Omega Point could somehow guide a "flawed human" in such a way as to lead him to perfection or at least eliminate the really serious evils in his nature before resurrecting that individual's memory. Tipler equates this with the the theological of Purgatory. Purgatory then becomes a clash between the information content of the individual and that of the Omega Point. In mathematical terms, Tipler claims that this is a zero-sum, finite dual game with perfect information. A common example of such a game for two persons is chess. Hell, if it exists, would be the situation where the Omega Point and the individual play to a draw. In this case, the individual remains in Purgatory forever. If the Omega Point wins, then the evil is eliminated and the individual is resurrected to join the rest of the resurrected beings. If the individual appears to be winning, not likely since the individual has only his own knowledge (about 10 to the 15th bits), while the Omega Point is fully omniscient, then his world line will simply not be resurrected. In fact, Tipler even speculates that the Omega Point could apply something known as the Rotten Kid theorem from economics, which implies that even the most self-centered individual can become truly and wholly giving if the rewards are great enough. Thus, a resurrected Jew who perished with his entire family in Auschwitz would be able to forgive Hitler. This philosophy contrasts very strongly with the promises described in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and in the book of Revelation where true anti-social and anti-Christian behaviors are to be punished.

Christians can find some positive things in Tipler's work. First, his work shows that there is a physical way that the knowledge of the universe could be retrieved after death. It also shows how the "pattern" of an individual could be recreated after death to regenerate the personality that originally existed. For all of this to happen, what is needed is an omniscient, omnipotent being who can fill all of the known universe simultaneously. This is a good description of a spiritual form of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Bible, major departures from the normal laws of life and behavior were always accompanied by the action of the Spirit. In the Genesis account, it is the Spirit that moves upon the face of the dark to begin the creation process. Moses needed an encounter with the power of God at the Burning Bush. God sent his Spirit upon the craftsmen who were to construct the tabernacle and its contents. Most of the Judges were filled with the Spirit before they began to judge Israel. Samson drew his great strength from the presence of the Spirit which left him when he allowed his hair to be cut. Saul was filled with the Spirit when he acted for God, including the time in 1 Samuel 10:10 when he prophesied with the other prophets in Israel. Throughout the Prophets, we observe the same trend. Jesus does not begin His ministry until the Spirit descends on Him. John the Baptist is described as being full of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary at the time of the conception of Jesus. Nearly every' time a miracle occurs, the Spirit of God is involved. Probably the most significant contribution of the Spirit is the inspiration of the Scriptures. Tipler seems to assume that the writings are the result of the wisdom of the writers and not the exceptional wisdom provided by the Spirit. Tipler, in general, rejects the miraculous and spiritual. His reason for rejecting Christianity is the need to accept the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. That cannot, he concludes, be a real historical event. After all, it occurred without the help of the Omega Point. Of course, the resurrection is central to the plan of salvation. Thus, one of the major limitations of the Omega Point theory is that it makes man the originator of his own salvation.

Tipler seems to feel free to pick and choose among the writings of major world religions to build a theology that fits his Omega Point theory. His hermeneutics borrow strongly from the most liberal religious thinking. As a result, conservative Christians will find little of value in the book's sections on theology and the recombining of physics and theology. In the opening paragraphs, I quoted from Tipler's preface that this book would prove that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are, in fact, true. By centering his arguments on the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of man and not on the supernatural transcending power of God (the Omega Point), I believe that the book does not fulfill this claim. One review of the book by a liberal theologian even questioned the assertion that physics and religion could ever be judged on an equal basis.

                      by Danny C. Rich

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, January/February 1996