Monday, February 09, 2009

For Neeks and Gerds: Battlestar Edition


We have figured out how the series ends, if anybody cares.  (Apart from Father and Mrs. Annonymous who -- choking up here -- maybe care a little too much, okay?). Not a spoiler, just a guess.

Arguably the best space opera of all time, and certainly the only television program we have ever seen which attempts to address both religion and politics without dumbing either one down, Battlestar Galactica is drawing swift to its close.  Humans and robots seem, at last, more interested in shared survival than in mutual assured destruction.  Their fragile alliance, almost destroyed last week, now seems secure.  Or secure-ish.   And oh, yeah, they found Earth but it was a radioactive wasteland.  So what's left?

Only one thing:  the Omega Point.

For those who have missed the fun, Frank J. Tipler is a mathematician at Tulane who has been slowly building a truly wacky hypothesis:  that he can prove mathematically the existence, in this order, of eternal life, God, and the other truths of Christian dogma, including Incarnation and Virgin Birth. 

His theory is that, someday, as the universe contracts toward its eventual "Omega Point," a moment will occur at which Life, broadly defined, occupies the entirety of space, and the universe itself becomes a vast living computer.  At this point, the computer will have the capacity to obtain and store virtual records of everything, and everyone, who has ever existed.  To the cybernetic constructs themselves, it will seem as though they are alive, and that they remain alive forever.

This is pretty much useless as theology, despite -- or perhaps because of -- its family connection to Teilhard de Chardin (near whose gravesite, incidentally, we have eaten several fine meals at the Culinary Institute of America).  Mathematical certainty leaves no room for faith, and the contributions of science to doctrine require a high level of scientific consensus.  There is, and we stress this, none whatsoever about Tipler's theories.  If there were, it would be a consensus that he's a silly mathematician, playing silly head games.  Sort of like the Joyce character who proves by logic (and, n.b., theology) that "Hamlet was himself his own father."

But as science fiction, this is an awesome tool.  Among our teen favorites was Philip Jose Farmer's To Your Scattered Bodies Go, in which every human being who had ever lived (along with one alien) was resurrected along the banks of a vast river.  Eventually, you had weird connections -- between Mark Twain and King John Lackland, or Sir Richard Francis Burton and Cyrano de Bergerac.  It was, as we said in those days, trippy.

Anyhoo, Farmer never gave a workable explanation, that we can recall, for how this miracle occurred.  Tipler does, and his explanation has been snapped up by a few writers.  We don't read much fiction anymore, and what we do tends to involve the bone-crunching adventures of Jack Reacher.  But we did enjoy Darwinia, by Robert Charles Wilson, because it explained how a World War I doughboy could encounter dinosaurs in Brazil.  And yes, the explanation was the Omega Point.

So, Battlestar Galactica.  Well, the robots -- Cylons, they're called, which we thought was one of the postwar miracle fibers -- already have the ability to "resurrect" themselves, by transferring memories from one body to another.  And one of the running arguments of the show has been whether Cylons are alive, and if so, what relationship their "life" bears to human life.  This question was sharpened considerably by the revelation that a significant number of human beings were actually Cylons -- and at least one of them, dead for some time, has already been resurrected. 

So the plot device is already there, in the form of this marvelous technology and of the fungibility of "natural" and "artificial" forms of life.  It is a comparatively small step, and a dramatically logical one, for the remnants of the human race to discover that they are in effect all Cylons, in the sense that none of them exists anymore except as an Omega Point construct, a tiny subroutine within a vast celestial computer.  Their real task was never to find Earth, but only to discover the truth about their own existence.

That's our prediction, for what it's worth.

5 comments:

James Redford said...

Hi, Father. You err when you write that "[Prof. Frank J. Tipler claims] he can prove mathematically the existence ... [of the] Incarnation and Virgin Birth." Prof. Tipler doesn't claim that the miracles recorded in the Bible 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, if they are genuine, could verify whether Yeshua Ha'Mashiach's birth was the result of parthenogenesis and whether His resurrection mechanism occured via the process proposed in Tipler's book The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007). Such incorrect statements by you have the effect of poisoning the well.

You also write that "the contributions of science to doctrine require a high level of scientific consensus," which is the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum, as well as being anti-historical vis-á-vis the Roman Catholic Church (for more on the latter, see farther below).

It is true that God has been proven to exist based upon the most reserved view of the known laws of physics. For much more on that, see Prof. Frank J. Tipler's below paper, which among other things demonstrates that the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics) require that the universe end in the Omega Point (the final cosmological singularity and state of infinite informational capacity identified as being God):

F. J. Tipler, "The structure of the world from pure numbers," Reports on Progress in Physics, Vol. 68, No. 4 (April 2005), pp. 897-964. http://math.tulane.edu/~tipler/theoryofeverything.pdf Also released as "Feynman-Weinberg Quantum Gravity and the Extended Standard Model as a Theory of Everything," arXiv:0704.3276, April 24, 2007. http://arxiv.org/abs/0704.3276

Out of 50 articles, Prof. Tipler's above paper was selected as one of 12 for the "Highlights of 2005" accolade as "the very best articles published in Reports on Progress in Physics in 2005 [Vol. 68]. Articles were selected by the Editorial Board for their outstanding reviews of the field. They all received the highest praise from our international referees and a high number of downloads from the journal Website." (See Richard Palmer, Publisher, "Highlights of 2005," Reports on Progress in Physics. http://www.iop.org/EJ/journal/-page=extra.highlights/0034-4885 )

Reports on Progress in Physics is the leading journal of the Institute of Physics, Britain's main professional body for physicists. Further, Reports on Progress in Physics has a higher impact factor (according to Journal Citation Reports) than Physical Review Letters, which is the most prestigious American physics journal (one, incidently, which Prof. Tipler has been published in more than once). A journal's impact factor reflects the importance the science community places in that journal in the sense of actually citing its papers in their own papers. (And just to point out, Tipler's 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper could not have been published in Physical Review Letters since said paper is nearly book-length, and hence not a "letter" as defined by the latter journal.)

See also the below resources for further information on the Omega Point Theory:

Theophysics: God Is the Ultimate Physicist http://geocities.com/theophysics/

"Omega Point (Tipler)," Wikipedia, April 16, 2008 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Omega_Point_%28Tipler%29&oldid=206077125

"Frank J. Tipler," Wikipedia, February 9, 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Frank_J._Tipler&oldid=269587875

Tipler is Professor of Mathematics and Physics (joint appointment) at Tulane University. His Ph.D. is in the field of global general relativity (the same rarefied field that Profs. Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking developed), and he is also an expert in particle physics and computer science. His Omega Point Theory has been published in a number of prestigious peer-reviewed physics and science journals in addition to Reports on Progress in Physics, such as Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (one of the world's leading astrophysics journals), Physics Letters B, the International Journal of Theoretical Physics, etc.

Prof. John A. Wheeler (the father of most relativity research in the U.S.) wrote that "Frank Tipler is widely known for important concepts and theorems in general relativity and gravitation physics" on pg. viii 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 was described. On pg. ix of said book, Prof. Wheeler wrote that Chapter 10 of the book, which concerns the Omega Point Theory, "rivals in thought-provoking power any of the [other chapters]."

The leading quantum physicist in the world, Prof. David Deutsch (inventor of the quantum computer, being the first person to mathematically describe the workings of such a device, and winner of the Institute of Physics' 1998 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize for his work), endorses the physics of the Omega Point Theory in his book The Fabric of Reality (1997). For that, see:

David Deutsch, extracts from Chapter 14: "The Ends of the Universe" of The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1997), ISBN: 0713990619; with additional comments by Frank J. Tipler. http://geocities.com/theophysics/deutsch-ends-of-the-universe.html

The only way to avoid the Omega Point cosmology is to resort to physical theories which have no experimental support and which violate the known laws of physics, such as with Prof. Stephen Hawking's paper on the black hole information issue which is dependent on the conjectured string theory-based anti-de Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence (AdS/CFT correspondence). See S. W. Hawking, "Information loss in black holes," Physical Review D, Vol. 72, No. 8, 084013 (October 2005); also at arXiv:hep-th/0507171, July 18, 2005. http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0507171

That is, Prof. Hawking's paper is based upon empirically unconfirmed physics which violate the known laws of physics. It's an impressive testament to the Omega Point Theory's correctness, as Hawking implicitly confirms that the known laws of physics require the universe to collapse in finite time. Hawking realizes that the black hole information issue 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 acceleration of its expansion obviates the universe collapsing (and therefore obviates the Omega Point). But as Profs. Lawrence M. Krauss and Michael S. Turner point out in "Geometry and Destiny" (General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 31, No. 10 [October 1999], pp. 1453-1459; also at arXiv:astro-ph/9904020, April 1, 1999 http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9904020 ), there is no set of cosmological observations which can tell us whether the universe will expand forever or eventually collapse.

There's a very good reason for that, because that is dependant on the actions of intelligent life. The known laws of physics provide the mechanism for the universe's collapse. As required by the Standard Model, the net baryon number was created in the early universe by baryogenesis via electroweak quantum tunneling. This necessarily forces the Higgs field to be in a vacuum state that is not its absolute vacuum, which is the cause of the positive cosmological constant. But if the baryons in the universe were to be annihilated by the inverse of baryogenesis, again via electroweak quantum tunneling (which is allowed in the Standard Model, as B - L is conserved), then this would force the Higgs field toward its absolute vacuum, cancelling the positive cosmological constant and thereby forcing the universe to collapse. Moreover, this process would provide the ideal form of energy resource and rocket propulsion during the colonization phase of the universe.

Prof. Tipler's above 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper also demonstrates that the correct quantum gravity theory has existed since 1962, first discovered by Richard Feynman in that year, and independently discovered by Steven Weinberg and Bryce DeWitt, among others. But because these physicists were looking for equations with a finite number of terms (i.e., derivatives no higher than second order), they abandoned this qualitatively unique quantum gravity theory since in order for it to be consistent it requires an arbitrarily higher number of terms. Further, they didn't realize that this proper theory of quantum gravity is consistent only with a certain set of boundary conditions imposed (which includes the initial Big Bang, and the final Omega Point, cosmological singularities). The equations for this theory of quantum gravity are term-by-term finite, but the same mechanism that forces each term in the series to be finite also forces the entire series to be infinite (i.e., infinities that would otherwise occur in spacetime, consequently destabilizing it, are transferred to the cosmological singularities, thereby preventing the universe from immediately collapsing into nonexistence). As Tipler notes in his 2007 book The Physics of Christianity (pp. 49 and 279), "It is a fundamental mathematical fact that this [infinite series] is the best that we can do. ... This is somewhat analogous to Liouville's theorem in complex analysis, which says that all analytic functions other than constants have singularities either a finite distance from the origin of coordinates or at infinity."

When combined with the Standard Model, the result is the Theory of Everything (TOE) correctly describing and unifying all the forces in physics.

Nor does the fact that God has been proven to exist according to the known laws of physics leave no room for faith. Recall that Jesus Christ in part defined Himself as the truth (John 14:6). Hence, truth, particularly scientific truth, confirms the existence of God and Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity.

Faith in the Christian sense is trust in the truth (i.e., equivalently, trust in Jesus Christ), even when things seem hopeless. It does not mean a lack of rationality in coming to belief in Jesus Christ. Indeed, Paul appealed to reason when he wrote in Romans 1:19,20 that an understanding of the natural world leads to knowledge of God:

""
because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, ...
""

After all, some form of reason must be used in order for a person to convert in belief from one religion to another; or from any belief to another belief, for that matter. It can either be veridical reason, or false reason--but some process of reasoning must be involved.

Having faith in God is having trust in the truth, since the Godhead in all its fullness is the highest obtainment of truth: said state is the perfection of all knowledge.

Picking back up on your comment regarding scientific consensus, unfortunately, most modern physicists have been all too willing to abandon the laws of physics if it produces results that they're uncomfortable with, i.e., in reference to religion. It's the antagonism for religion on the part of the scientific community which greatly held up the acceptance of the Big Bang (for some 40 years), due to said scientific community regarding it as lending credence to the traditional theological position of creatio ex nihilo, and also because no laws of physics can apply to a singularity itself. The originator of the Big Bang theory, circa 1930, was Roman Catholic priest and physicist Prof. Georges Lemaître; and it was enthusiastically endorsed by Pope Pius XII in 1951, long before the scientific community finally came to accept it. As regards physicists abandoning physical law due to their theological discomfort with the Big Bang, in an article by Prof. Frank J. Tipler he gives the following example involving no less than physicist Prof. Steven Weinberg:

""
The most radical ideas are those that are perceived to support religion, specifically Judaism and Christianity. When I was a student at MIT in the late 1960s, I audited a course in cosmology from the physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg. He told his class that of the theories of cosmology, he preferred the Steady State Theory because "it *least* resembled the account in Genesis" (my emphasis). In his book *The First Three Minutes* (chapter 6), Weinberg explains his earlier rejection of the Big Bang Theory: "Our mistake is not that we take our theories too seriously, but that we do not take them seriously enough. It is always hard to realize that these numbers and equations we play with at our desks have something to do with the real world. Even worse, there often seems to be a general agreement that certain phenomena are just not fit subjects for respectable theoretical and experimental effort." [My emphasis--J. R.]

... But as [Weinberg] himself points out in his book, the Big Bang Theory was an automatic consequence of standard thermodynamics, standard gravity theory, and standard nuclear physics. All of the basic physics one needs for the Big Bang Theory was well established in the 1930s, some two decades before the theory was worked out. Weinberg rejected this standard physics not because he didn't take the equations of physics seriously, but because he did not like the religious implications of the laws of physics. ...
""

For that and a number of other such examples, see:

Frank J. Tipler, "Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?," Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design (PCID), Vols. 2.1 and 2.2 (January-June 2003). http://www.iscid.org/papers/Tipler_PeerReview_070103.pdf Also published as Chapter 7 in Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, edited by William A. Dembski, "Foreword" by John Wilson (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2004).

Prof. Stephen Hawking reinforces what Weinberg and Tipler wrote about concerning the antagonism of the scientific community for religion, resulting in them abandoning good physics. In his book The Illustrated A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam Books, 1996), pg. 62, Hawking wrote:

""
Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention. (The Catholic Church, on the other hand, seized on the big bang model and in 1951 officially pronounced it to be in accordance with the Bible). There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a big bang.
""

On pg. 179 of the same book, Hawking wrote "In real time, the universe has a beginning and an end at singularities that form a boundary to spacetime and at which the laws of science break down."

Agnostic and physicist Dr. Robert Jastrow, founding director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in his book God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1978), pg. 113:

""
This religious faith of the scientist [that there is no First Cause] is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized.
""

For more quotes by Robert Jastrow on this, see:

John Ross Schroeder and Bill Bradford, "Science and Discomfiting Discoveries" in Life's Ultimate Question: Does God Exist? (United Church of God, 2000) http://www.gnmagazine.org/booklets/GE/discomfitingdiscoveries.htm
http://www.gnmagazine.org/booklets/GE/GE.pdf

For more quotes by scientists along the above lines, see the below article:

Mariano, "In the Beginning ... Cosmology, Part I," Atheism's Assertions, February 20, 2007 http://lifeanddoctrineatheism.blogspot.com/2007/02/in-beginning-cosmology-part-i-see.html

Again, the only way to avoid the Omega Point cosmology is to resort to physical theories which have no experimental support and which violate the known laws of physics, such as with Prof. Stephen Hawking's paper on the black hole information issue which is dependent on the conjectured string theory-based anti-de Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence (AdS/CFT correspondence). See S. W. Hawking, "Information loss in black holes," Physical Review D, Vol. 72, No. 8, 084013 (October 2005); also at arXiv:hep-th/0507171, July 18, 2005. http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0507171

That is, Prof. Hawking's paper is based upon empirically unconfirmed physics which violate the known laws of physics. It's an impressive testament to the Omega Point Theory's correctness, as Hawking implicitly confirms that the known laws of physics require the universe to collapse in finite time. Hawking realizes that the black hole information issue 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.

Contrast that ad libitum approach to doing physics with that of Prof. Frank J. Tipler, who bases his Omega Point Theory and the Feynman-Weinberg quantum gravity/extended Standard Model Theory of Everything (TOE) strictly on the known laws of physics, and that of Prof. David Deutsch (inventor of the quantum computer, being the first person to mathematically describe the workings of such a device, and winner of the Institute of Physics' 1998 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize for his work). They both believe we have to take the known laws of physics seriously as true explanations of how the world works, unless said physics are experimentally, or otherwise, refuted.

Father said...

Er, um, of course. A little obsessive, are we?

James Redford said...

Hi, Father. In answer to your question, no, I'm just exceedingly intelligent. Writing the above was no bother for me.

Although I do thank you for your unintended compliment, as those are among the most genuine of compliments.

Father said...

You're quite welcome in that case. Nor was the compliment entirely unintentional, just back-handed. Still, we can't help murmuring that old saw about brevity being the soul of wit.

James Redford said...

Hi, Father. I do think that brevity is one of the more prominent features to be regularly found among witticisms. But my intention with my original post in the above was not wittiness, but edification; and with that, attempting to reduce the length down to the level of a jape could only do damage to the information.