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The Physics of Christianity

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The Physics of Christianity

The cover of The Physics of Christianity by Frank J. Tipler

Random House books

The Bottom Line

In The Physics of Christianity, Frank J. Tipler extends far beyond merely presenting a physical explanation of Christianity into presenting his own interpretation of reality. Though fascinating, the resulting worldview that Tipler proposes is one which likely does not match the preconceptions of either physicists or Christians (or both).

Only someone with a clear foundation in physics will be able to navigate the tangle of speculation and facts to determine which is which. Tipler himself at times does a very poor job of making that distinction, if not outright misleading the reader about the proof of his claims.

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Pros

  • Intriguing analysis of how modern physics applies to Christianity.
  • Author presents specific detail about both basic physics and Christian doctrine.
  • Fascinating scientific exploration of a controversial topic

Cons

  • Does not clearly distinguish theoretical proposal from scientific fact
  • Represents both Christianity & physics in uncommon ways, which adherents would not recognize
  • Tipler extends beyond merely the presentation of scientific fact into agenda-driven propaganda
  • Tipler is not considered reputable by most mainstream physicists due to previous writings

Description

  • Hardback, Random House Books, 291 pages
  • 12 chapters + Appendices: Christian Creeds, Notes, Bibliography, & Index
  • Recommended only for those with a strong foundation in physics, so they can separate the speculation from the facts.
  • Many of the concepts in this book are similar to those presented in Tipler's previous book, The Physics of Immortality

Guide Review - The Physics of Christianity

This is honestly the hardest book that I've ever had to review, because there are so many conflicting aspects to it. In some respects, the book is well worth recommending. In others, it is misleading, dogmatic, and agenda-driven.

It would be easy, though unfair, to dismiss this book out of hand, but it has much to its merit. Some aspecs covered include:

  • Richard P. Feynman's multiverse interpretation of quantum physics
  • God as the Initial, Final, and All-Presents Singularity: Holy Ghost, Father, and Son
  • Heaven will come when all people are fully replicated in a computer-like world (as explained in his previous The Physics of Immortality)
  • Believing in a distinct non-physical spiritual world is the Gnostic heresy
  • Miracles obey physical laws
  • Evil is a genetic trait in humans (except Jesus & Mary)
  • Various ways the Virgin Birth could take place
  • Proposals of potential experiments to test his proposals
In his view, life is fundamentally necessary to reach the Final Singularity (which he also calls The Omega Point), by manipulating matter and energy through a baryon-annihilation process - a process that Jesus could manipulate at will, and which a scientific analysis of Christian principles will ultimately reveal. He explains that this is necessary so that the Final Singularity can be reached without violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

This reaches my strongest problem with his argument - his definition of "consistent" is flawed. If life has to intervene in order to maintain the physical consistency of the universe, then the laws of physics are not inherently consistent. He utterly ignores this logical contradiction.

Part of me genuinely wants to recommend this book, but as the Physics Guide I cannot recommend it, because it presents a skewed viewpoint of modern physics and the author frequently confuses fact and speculation.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

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 5 out of 5
The Physics of God, Member JamesRedford

Few men could be more qualified than Tipler, Professor of Mathematics and Physics (joint appointment), to explain the physics of God. Tipler's Ph.D. is in the field of global general relativity (the same rarefied field of Penrose and Hawking). John Wheeler wrote that ""Frank Tipler is widely known for important concepts and theorems in general relativity and gravitation physics"" in the Foreword to The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986) by cosmologist Prof. John D. Barrow and Tipler, which was the first book wherein Tipler's Omega Point Theory (OPT) was described. An atheist since the age of 16, Tipler only again became a theist circa 1998 due to advancements in the OPT that came after his book The Physics of Immortality (1994; PoI), which concentrates on the OPT. Physicist Prof. David Deutsch (inventor of the quantum computer and winner of the Institute of Physics' Paul Dirac Prize for his work) defends the physics of the OPT in his excellent book The Fabric of Reality (1997). Tipler's present book (PoC) is a simplified exposition of his OPT, while giving an update to the latest findings of the OPT since Tipler's previous book, PoI. PoC is very much intended for a popular audience, and far less technical details are given than in PoI (which is quite technically advanced, particularly in the Appendix for Scientists, and is quite an intellectually rigorous treasure-trove in everything from the physics of Artificial Intelligence, perfect emulations of humans via computer, the inherent multiverse nature of quantum mechanics, and much more). Instead, for PoC, Tipler confines the rigorous technical details of the OPT to his papers in the science journals and his previous book PoI, while giving endnotes in PoC to them (many of which papers are available online for free). Where that can be a problem is that some people (especially ones wanting the technical exposition) may think that Tipler is out of his league by asserting fantastic ideas without presenting proof if they don't follow up with the endnoted references. In PoC, Tipler especially analyzes the OPT's pertinence to Christian theology. Tipler therein identifies the Omega Point (OP) as being the Judeo-Christian God, particularly as described by Christian theology, due to the fundamentally triune structure of the OP cosmology when formulated in multiversal terms (of which many-worlds formulation isn't necessary for the physics upon which the OP itself is based): the Final Singularity (i.e., the OP), the All-Presents Singularity (which exists at all times at the edge of the multiverse), and the Initial Singularity (i.e., the beginning of the Big Bang), which Tipler identifies with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, respectively. Tipler also analyzes how Jesus Christ could have performed the miracles recorded in the New Testament without violating any known laws of physics, even if one were to assume that we currently don't exist as an emulation (in that case, then such miracles would be trivially easy to perform for the society running the simulation, even though it would seem amazing from our perspective). This process uses baryon annihilation, and its inverse, via electroweak quantum tunneling controlled by the cosmological end state of the OP (since in physics it's just as accurate to say that causation goes from future to past events: viz., the principle of least action; and unitarity). Tipler proposes that the virgin birth of Jesus could be possible via Jesus being a special type of XX male who obtained all of his genetic material from Mary. Tipler is not claiming that the above miracles in the previous two paragraphs are proven to have taken place by physics, simply that they need not have violated any known laws of physics. Tipler proposes tests that can be performed on certain relics which could verify whether in fact said miracles did take place via the described processes. Although I'll point out that if such tests are performed and the results are negative, that would not disprove the miracles of Jesus, since the provenience of the relics are themselves in question. Tipler discusses the Feynman-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model Theory of Everything in PoC, but for the technical details see Tipler's paper ""The structure of the world from pure numbers,"" Rep Prog Phys, available on Tipler's website (and with a different title at arXiv:0704.3276), which also gives the technical details on how the known laws of physics (i.e., general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model) requires that the universe end in the OP. The only way to avoid the OP cosmology is to invent tenuous physical theories which have no experimental support and which violate the known laws of physics, such as with Prof. Stephen Hawking's paper ""Information loss in black holes"" hep-th/0507171 on the black hole information issue (BHII) which is dependant on the conjectured AdS/CFT correspondence. That is, Hawking's paper is based upon proposed, unconfirmed physics. It's an impressive testament to the OPT's correctness, as Hawking implicitly confirms that the known laws of physics require the universe to collapse in finite time. Hawking realizes that the BHII must be resolved without violating unitarity, yet he's forced to abandon the known laws of physics in order to avoid unitarity violation without the universe collapsing. Some have suggested that the universe's current accelerating expansion obviates the OP. But as Profs. Lawrence Krauss and Michael Turner point out in ""Geometry and Destiny"" astro-ph/9904020, cosmological observations cannot tell us whether the universe will expand forever or eventually collapse. The reason for that is because that is dependant on the actions of intelligent life. The known laws of physics provide the mechanism for the universe's collapse, as discussed in PoC (again, by baryon annihilation via electroweak quantum tunneling). Moreover, this process would provide the ideal energy resource and rocket propulsion during the universe's colonization.

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