Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Quote: Frank Tipler on Cosmology

"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 straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics."

- Frank Tipler

(The Physics of Immortality, Doubleday, New York, 1994, Preface)

23 comments :

SteveC said...

I seem to recall a recent post on this site by a presupositionalist claiming that arguments from cosmology and fine tuning never bring any one to faith in Christ. This quote from Frank Tipler seems to suggest otherwise.

Ex N1hilo said...

I seem to recall someone who said that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. I'd rather believe what that man said.

Sergio said...

May I ask what part of the laws of physics accounts for a talking snake? Women created out of a man's rib? Jesus being resurrected, walking on water, turning water into wine, etc.? I'm pretty sure those things, and thousands of others in your bible, are contrary to all the known laws of physics.

May I also ask which law led to your deduction that it is the CHRISTIAN god, as opposed to Zeus, Vishnu, etc., that actually exists?

Or, if I may offer my own explanation, is this simply the result of you finding the universe magnificent beyond belief, with variables that are exact for our way of life and for which we do not have explanations, yet...and you, being raised in a Christian-majority culture, misunderstood the feeling of "I can't explain this" going through your mind and instead interpreted it as "the Christian god did it". Ignorance does not imply that it was therefore caused by magic.

Ex N1hilo said...

This quote from Dr Tipler illustrates the problem. Any fairly mature Christian should be able to see that, on the face of it, this man's claim is false. This is the nonsense that plagues much of what passes for apologetics today.

He is a physicist. He asserts that the central claims of Christianity can be deduced from the laws of physics. Isn't the gospel of Jesus Christ the central message of Christianity? If so, and if we can get it from a physics textbook, what do we need the Bible for?

Apparently, we do not need it. I have read the sample text from the book that is posted on Amazon, and it is Dr. Tipler's position (which, by the way, represents a testable scientific theory, and can be known without appeal to any sort of revelation!) that all the major religions proclaim the same central message – that there is a personal deity who will, in the far future (after “He/She” has developed sufficiently), bring back to life all sentient beings on all worlds to live forever with Him/Her. (God is either equivalent to the universe or is a part of it, and is probably not a Trinity.)

Dr. Tipler has determined from his studies that this will be made possible by the creation of immensely powerful supercomputers that will “emulate” all the details of each personal being who has ever lived, allowing a new and everlasting copy to me made, and bringing us back from the annihilation/cessation of existence that is death. (I'm not making this up. Please go read it.)

So THAT'S the central claim of Christianity! Who knew?

Aaron said...

It's too easy for atheists to pass of Frank Tipler as a crackpot.

SteveC said...

Ex N1hilo,
I assume the book you were critical of was “The Physics of Christianity”. This book seems like an attempt to show how physics is compatible with certain Christian beliefs, especially the miraculous. Are some of Tiplers ideas strange? Yes. Does this mean he isn’t a follower of Christ as he claims? No.

Sure, when Tipler says that “the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology … are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics”, this is an overstatement, not proof that he’s a false convert.


If he says that physics played a role in his coming to faith, why not take him at his word? Lee Strobel said that he has lost count of the number of people who reported coming to faith in Christ because of the “Case for Christ” series. This is not a case of choosing evidences over the Gospel. Biblical evangelism utilizes both. Presupositionalists need not create a false dichotomy.


I appreciate your zeal for the Gospel. Arguments and evidences are no substitute for it.
Apologetics, however, has been used to clear a pathway for multitudes of people to view the Gospel as credible and reasonable. If God can use some of these methods, then maybe you should be less critical of others who use them.

Ex N1hil0 said...

Steve,

I was refering to Dr. Tipler's 1994 book, “The Physics of Immortality” from which the quote given above comes. He actually states in this book that he is not a Christian. (As I recall one of the chapters is titled something like “Why I am not a Christian”.) Now, if he has since been converted since then, great.

But the quote is still false – and could be dangerous if taken seriously. Cosmology is not central to the claims of Christianity. The gospel is. And the gospel cannot be deduced from physics. Can it? If so, how? The gospel has to be revealed by preaching, verbally. The gospel is not something people could ever arrive at by mathematics or by testing hypotheses. But that is what Tipler's statement implies, at least to my mind. If unbelievers embrace the claim that the gospel is something we can arrive at by scientific methods and by rational argumentation – apart from revelation, as Tipler claimed in the 1994 book – they will end up embracing a false gospel.

Again, I want to make clear that I understand that evidentialist apologists do present the gospel. I appreciate that they do. But, in my view, they have an unbiblical emphasis on proving certain other claims of Christianity (such as the existence of God) by empiricistic and rationalistic means, often as a pre-requisite to presenting the gospel.

Well, I suppose I have vented enough.

I thank you for recognizing that I have a zeal for the gospel. I can see that you do as well. We will have to simply disagree on some of these issues, brother. That appears to be unavoidable in this life, till we see Him as He is, in the next, and no longer see these things through a dark glass.

Ranger said...

Sergio,
You make a lot of assumptions about people in your comment; that they are ignorant, that they were raised in a Christian culture, etc. I'm not an evidentialist, but this is how the thinking goes.

I would hope you realize that your questions are theological in nature, not scientific, not even philosophical. Tipler is saying (as have plenty of other scientists), that physics point him toward belief in a Creator, who transcends the physical laws ('meta'physical).

Now your questions about Vishnu, Zeus, etc. are warranted, but not very rationally thought out. For instance, Zeus lived atop Mt. Olympus and was not the creator, but created himself. Therefore, he makes a pretty poor candidate for the job of metaphysical Creator. Of course, Vishnu is the sustainer God in Hinduism and not the creator of the physical laws...once again, not a good option for fullfilling the things Tipler is talking about.

Obviously, I'm joking with you, but it makes the point that I don't think many atheists understand. When you look at the beginning of the universe, the fine-tuning, the moral and ontological arguments, etc. they rule out many of the concepts that atheists throw on the table in response. FSM, pink unicorns, Zeus, Vishnu, etc. do not meet these criteria, and the Creator that these things point to is similar to the Creator God of the Abrahamic faiths.

So maybe you should ask, "How did you choose Christianity over Islam or Judaism?" because that would be a better question (and show that you had actually thought about what was being said). That's when we start talking about the case for/against the resurrection, etc.

Now, as for your claim that we are taking our current ignorance and inserting "magic," well...that's another comment altogether (that I don't have time to deal with right now), but once again it shows that you aren't thinking through what Tipler and others are actually saying. We're not arguing for a god of the gaps, nor any other 'hypotheses' with fine-tuning, but that's for someone else to answer for you.

Sergio said...

Ranger,

Judging by your reply, my assumptions were correct. There's a heck of a lot of hand waving going on, and the core of my questions was purposely avoided.

My questions are scientific in nature. Period. Dr. Tipler states that the laws of physics lead you to the Judeo-Christian god. I'm fairly sure that 99% of the other astrophysicists out there would disagree with that ridiculous assessment. He is making a scientific claim, not a theological or philosophical one. My question, since you didn't read it the first time, was HOW the laws of physics could possibly point to a single god, specifically a god that breaks the laws all over the place in his supposed holy book.

As for the comparison with Vishnu, Zeus, ETC., you have obviously missed the point, and aren't thinking about what is being said. Those two gods belong to polytheistic cultures with PLENTY of creator gods (Gaia and Oranos for the Greeks, Brahma for the Hindus), something you claim unique to the Abrahamic god (which shows a deep ignorance of every religion that is not your own). This is utter nonsense, practically every culture in history has had a creation myth of some sort, usually by the direct action of one or many gods. You hold strongly to the delusion that your religion is the only one that makes any sense, and all others are plain ridiculous and unworthy...when in reality, yours is no different than all the thousands of others that have come before.

Do not defend this man's claim of scientific evidence when he clearly has none. All he has is his widely dismissed (by other cosmologists) opinions that when he sees something amazing in the sky that he can't explain, a god must have done it somehow. This is no different than when ancient tribes looked up at the stars and thought that they were spirits or other similar nonsense, because they didn't know any better.

Oh, and no, no man has ever come back from the dead. Sorry, the resurrection never happened, there is no "for" evidence.

Ex N1hilo said...

Sergio,

Neither polytheism nor atheism can account for logic, rationality, or the fact that a physical universe exists. Only trinitarian theism can. It is no mere coincidence that modern science arose from a theistic world view. The pioneers of science sought to illuminate the created order in order to "think God's thoughts after Him."

In the non-theistic view, rationality arose from the impersonal and irrational by undirected processes over billions of years. Occam's razor cuts that right off. The biblical view that rational creatures recieved reason from a rational creator is the only view that can account for our thinking minds.

Sergio said...

"Neither polytheism nor atheism can account for logic, rationality, or the fact that a physical universe exists."

What in the world are you talking about? This sentence makes absolutely ZERO sense. How about some actual evidence to back up that sentence? The only explanation for logic and reason is the moon being made out of cheese. See? I can say nonsense and make it sound like it's an absolute fact too, without the burden of providing any proof.

Occam's razor is not a law, it is not a fact written in stone. The simplest solution is not always true. Even if it was, who says your Christian god is the answer? That is your opinion, and it goes against everything that science knows, all which points to normal, measurable physical processes. An infinitely complex god creating everything is far more complicated than the Earth and everything else we know coming together out of simple chemical and physical laws. Evolution, abiogenesis, the big bang, etc., are not complicated, they only seem as such to those who are willfully ignorant and unwilling to learn basic science.

Ex N1hilo said...

Sergio,

You know very well that God exists. That God is your creator and judge; since He has reveled these things to you through the things that He has made.

You cannot wish God away. You cannot wish away His just judgment against you for your sins.

Hebrews 10:26 (KJV) For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

Sergio said...

Ex N1hilo,

You know very well that Vishnu exists. He is your creator and judge; since He has revealed these things to you through the things that He has made.

See why your argument is absolutely dismal? When you understand why you are an atheist about all the other thousands of gods humanity has invented, you will see why I take it just one god further. Your deep desire and obvious brainwashing is not proof of a god, the Abrahamic one or any others. Honestly, you know that this is why you completely ignore every single rational argument I have used in my posts...literally, you have not responded to a single scientific or logical claim that I have made. Your only counterpoint is "God exists because I believe he does", followed by a meaningless bible quote.

The existence of a book, written by men who believed that the Earth was the center of the universe, is not proof of anything. That is an utterly pathetic excuse to believe in something, and until you can come at me with evidence that doesn't boil down to "I don't understand science, and have not taken the time to learn it, so therefore, God did it", you will not be taken seriously.

Ex N1hilo said...

Sergio,

Where is the evidence that your senses and your reason are trustworthy? Until you can furnish that, why should anyone take you seriously?

SteveC said...

Sergio,
I missed the part where you explained how atheism accounts for “logic, rationality, or the fact that a physical universe exists”. Could clarify your answer? Thanks

Ranger said...

Sergio,
It doesn't appear that you understand what is being written by me and others. I will take the blame and say that we are being unclear. Thus, let me attempt to present more clearly the discussion at hand, and hopefully you will be able to follow. I'm also somewhat troubled by your inability to remember what you have already said (or go back and read it). This has caused clear misunderstandings in your response to me, and I hope I will make that clear in what follows.

For instance, you say in response to me, "My questions are scientific in nature. Period." If you look at what you actually asked in your original comment, you will see that this is incorrect. You asked how certain things from the Bible comport with the laws of physics. This is a fair question, but the nature of the question is not scientific. Questions about the ability of physical laws to allow/disallow certain events are metaphysical questions, because they transcend the laws themselves. Studying, measuring and analyzing a repeated pattern in nature (i.e. science) cannot tell us whether or not the event will continue to be repeated in the future, or whether or not it has always been this way in the past, etc. The things that we call physical laws cannot be scientifically proven through research, collection, analysis, etc. Thus, even to speak of them means that we are not merely talking about science. Thus, when we speak about physical laws at all, we are not speaking about science, but about metascience or metaphysics. Therefore, questions about the potential for violation of the physical laws are metaphysical questions, because they necessarily transcend the physical data itself. Therefore, your first paragraph is not "scientific in nature," but about the nature of science. Period.

I clearly wasn't discussing your first paragraph though, but your second paragraph where you asked which law lead's Frank Tipler to the Christian God and not Zeus or Vishnu. Let's think about this rationally. If there is any god who is responsible for the physical laws, then the laws must be actual things and this god must transcend them. I responded that Zeus was a bad candidate (actually an impossible candidate) because in Greek mythology he is a creature in the world and thus bound by the physical laws (and thus incapable of transcending or creating them). I responded that Vishnu was a bad candidate because nobody claims Vishnu was a creator, but a sustainer god. Of course, in the mainstream Hindu worldview (which I have studied) there are no set physical laws, because what we perceive as physical laws are simply the result of events on a different plane of existence. Thus, neither of your options are good choices for a God that is capable of transcending and creating the physical laws as we experience them. I went on to show that objects in creation or fictional creations such as invisible pink unicorns, FSM, etc. metaphysically cannot meet these criteria since they too are bound by the physical laws which they must transcend. I'm glad that you are aware that many cultures have creation myths, so am I, but that's not what anyone is talking about in this particular discussion. You asked (specifically) why those other gods are not live options, and I explained that neither are capable of fulfilling the criteria. I then suggested that the Creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who transcends the physical laws is a better candidate.

Most of your comment was a rant about what I supposedly believe, how I'm deluded and ignorant of other faiths, etc. Neither of us mentioned these things and your ranting about them doesn't provide for a rational conversation. Please refrain from this in future conversations for the sake of conversation.

Ranger said...

Sergio,
I will take up one more thing that you said. You say, "My question, since you didn't read it the first time, was HOW the laws of physics could possibly point to a single god, specifically a god that breaks the laws all over the place in his supposed holy book." Of course, this wasn't your question since you never mentioned anything about polytheism or the question of why Tipler believes in a single god instead of a plethora of gods. Nothing in your original comment even implies that this is what you were thinking, much less asking. Your actual question was more similar to the second half of this statement. Still, it shows that you don't understand what Tipler is arguing, and makes me think you should read more of his argument in order to understand him better. To address your actual question, if the physical laws point to a need for a transcendent god (one who isn't bound by the physical laws themselves since he accounts for them), then we need to ask if this type of god is able to interrupt them. Once again though, this is clearly a metaphysical question and not one that physics in and of itself cannot answer.

I won't respond anymore, due to a lack of time, but please consider what is actually being said and discussed and do not merely fall back again into insults. If you believe that your position is much more rational, then please demonstrate that to us through reason and civil discourse. It is much more charitable to deal with what people are actually saying instead of presupposing what you think they are saying and insulting them for what you think they believe. It also helps us to move along in rational, meaningful conversation.

Sergio said...

Wow, really, now I fully understand why you are all as religious as you are. You are absolutely incapable of attaining and processing any sort of information that does not fit into your presupposed ideal of a world created by your specific god. Ranger, again, you have shown such an extreme lack of reading comprehension that I'm beginning to think that you're doing it on purpose. I'm going to make this as brief as I can.

N1hilo:

Again, you have no argument, you ignore everything I said, and fall back on the nonsense that our human senses and every piece of scientific equipment we have is untrustworthy. There is no reason, nor evidence, to believe that our senses are inaccurate. The things we can't sense, such as the large portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is out of the reach of our eyes, we can VERY accurately measure with equipment. But wait...men wrote your bible, so this untrustworthiness applies to all modern day scientists, but not to a bunch of uneducated writers from two thousand years ago? Right. Makes perfect sense.

Steve, atheism can't account for any of that, because atheism simply means the lack of a belief in any gods. Science, on the other hand, can easily account for all of it. Logic and rationality are the products of our 3.5 billion years of evolution, and the physical universe is the product of the big bang. More than that, we don't yet know, but just because we don't have ALL the answers yet does not therefore make your god any more real.

Sergio said...

Ranger,

To be honest, I'm having a hard time replying to you. Extracting any actual points from your post is fairly difficult. I would like to know what you are talking about when you say that I'm forgetting what I already said, since you skipped the simple step of copying and pasting so I would know what you were talking about. And yes, as much as you argue otherwise, my questions are scientific in nature. Dr. Tipler says that the laws of physics lead to the Abrahamic god. He does NOT SAY that these laws were BROKEN or suspended by the Abrahamic god, but rather that he can be derived from them. This is NOT metaphysics, it is physics. Period, once again. At no point does he say that we must suspend the laws to find god, he says the complete opposite. Look, this way you don't have to try so hard:

"the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them"

Honestly, if you think this is a metaphysical question, you are wrong. If he WAS somehow saying this was outside the realm of physics, then I never would have made my original post. Also, just to point out, you can't "suspend" the laws of physics, they are concrete physical laws that cannot be altered. Of course, if you have a verifiable example of a single law of physics being broken, I'd love to see it, as would the Nobel prize committee I'm sure. You can claim all you'd like that your god can transcend them, but unless you have proof, those words are empty.

Also, just to clear up what seems like an unclear sentence on my part and confusion on yours, I was not talking about polytheism when I said "...how the laws of physics could possibly point to a single god, specifically a god that breaks the laws...". When I used the word single there, I meant a specific god, I did not mean it as a monotheistic god. What I was trying to ask is how the laws point to a specific religion, whether it is poly or monotheistic.

Just to make something else abundantly clear, your opinion that your god is the only one that "transcends physical laws" is ridiculous, and your entire paragraph devoted to saying that Zeus and Vishnu are not capable of this is a waste of space. The point was, and I just wrote this on one of my last posts, that almost every culture has had a creation myth, and many of those have had specific gods that created the world and all the physical laws that control it. Just like Christianity. I honestly don't understand how you could say that this is a domain belonging to the Christian god, when both of the examples I gave, Greek mythology and Hinduism, HAVE creator gods...Brahma and Gaia, as does pretty much every other religion. This was not a hard concept that I was trying to get across.

Ex N1hilo said...

Sergio,

Again, you have presented no evidence to back up the trustworthiness of the facilities of reason and the senses on which your claims are founded.

Don't claims require evidence to validate them?

Now, why should anyone even consider your claims when you fail to bring any evidence?

Lee said...

”that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them.”

Wow... physicist fails to find answers, gives up doing science and asserts God... amazing - Newton did the same.

I blame the parents :-)

SteveC wrote I seem to recall a recent post on this site by a presupositionalist claiming that arguments from cosmology and fine tuning never bring any one to faith in Christ.

Well, that is obviously wrong – Christians are often failing to understand the universe and assert their Christian God - it happens all the time. The key word is ‘assert’

The first cause and fine tuning argument are (at best) only arguments for the deistic god.

If you don’t believe me, assume I accept the deistic god – now use these arguments to get to the Christian God.

I would like to see it.

Lee

Ex N1hilo said...

Lee,

You say the claim that arguments from cosmology and fine tuning never bring anyone to faith in Christ is "obviously wrong." Then, you put forth a challenge to the reader to show how such arguments could be used to do so.

Have you not thought this through yourself? After all, it is your own stated position that you are asking us to demonstrate.

Anonymous said...

You must know better than these scientists to ask for such things outside of their expertise.Or are you just arrogant and self righteous.w/c is w/c.

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