The Physics Of
This nOde last updated September 18th, 2002 and is permanently morphing...
(1 Ben (Reed) / 6 Ch'en (Black) - 53/260 - 220.127.116.11.13)
Paperback (September 1995)
Anchor Books/Doubleday; ISBN: 0385467990 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.23 x 7.97 x 5.10
From Booklist , September 15, 1994
What to make of a book that postulates mathematical proof of the existence of god, guarantees the resurrection of the dead, and promises that, for those who so desire, there will be sex in heaven? Tipler certainly has all the credentials of a bona fide physicist. He's a professor of mathematical physics at Tulane University and specializes in global general relativity, the branch of physics pioneered by Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking, but his study of the cosmos has led him to some rather extreme and disconcerting ideas based on an uneasy mix of science, theology, and fantasy. While some of his discussions about time, space, and life, which he defines as "information preserved by natural selection," are challenging and alluring, his conclusions are simply wild. For instance, Tipler rather blithely tells us that after leaving the doomed earth to colonize other planets, our species will eventually become extinct, but life itself will survive in our "machine descendants," who will, in turn, ensure the resurrection of each and every person who ever lived. When will this occur? "The dead will be resurrected when the computer capacity of the universe is so large that the amount of capacity required to store all possible human simulations is an insignificant fraction of the entire capacity." Apparently, Tipler takes great comfort in this thought, as will, perhaps, some of his readers. The rest may just experience an overwhelming sense of dismay. Donna Seaman
From Kirkus Reviews , July
A scientific argument that foresees the evolution of computer intelligence into an equivalent of god is likely to be greeted with skepticism by the majority of readers, and those who wade through this densely argued text are likely to emerge more puzzled than enlightened. Tipler (Mathematical Physics/Tulane) offers a cosmological theory he calls the Omega Point, based on the expansion of intelligent life to fill the known universe. Since the distances between habitable planets are so great, only spacegoing computers can ever hope to colonize the universe, he argues. The constant increase of computer intelligence will allow future computers not only to equal human accomplishments, but to recreate in exact detail all human beings who have ever lived. Tipler's insistence on calling this recreation a "resurrection" seems to be overstating his case. Similarly, a universal computer intelligence may be the sort of deity suitable to science fiction, but not one that many church-goers would find satisfactory. As tests of his theory, Tipler makes several predictions, one of which, involving the mass of the top quark, is in agreement with recently obtained experimental data, but most of which the average reader has no way to evaluate. He devotes the concluding chapters to consideration of such traditional theological questions as the problem of evil, the nature of heaven and hell, and a comparison of the Omega Point theory to the views of the world's great religions. An ``Appendix for Scientists'' provides more rigorous presentation of his arguments for those capable of following advanced mathematics. Tipler is wrestling with issues of enormous importance, but in the end his answers seem highly idiosyncratic and unlikely either to convert the skeptics or to satisfy the religious. (20 line drawings)
A professor of physics explains how he used a mathematical model of the universe to confirm the existence of god and the likelihood that every human who ever lived will be resurrected from the dead.
Tipler and John Barrow's earlier book _The Anthropic Cosmological Principle_ (1986) dared to explore a future where intelligent life colonised the universe using von Neumann probes and evolved to Become the ultimate arbiters of the space-time continuum. _The Physics of Immortality_ explored even further realms of possibility. If our universe is closed, Tipler had earlier suggested, it will collapse into a final Omega Point or Singularity (not to be confused with Terence McKenna's2012 Singularity, based upon Mayan calendrics). Intelligent life might be able to 'engineer' this collapse at a specific rate in order to survive (a 'Taub'-like collapse).
'The Physics of God' contains several theoretical variations. As evolving intelligence reaches greater complexity, the Omega Point approaches the Judeo-Christian concept of an omniscient God. Drawing upon games theory and 'The Prisoner's Dilemma', Tipler claims that this God would be altruistic, as this is a superior evolutionary longterm strategy.
Tipler's book and Omega-Point Theory generated
much controversy and ridicule. Some critics interpreted it as the arrival
of Postmodernism within the citadels of Science, cloaking questionable
theoretical assumptions extended far beyond their limits and theology with
of serious scientific scholarship. Others pointed to the difference between
postulating a theory and believing in it. Some theologians found Tipler's
conceptualisation of God to be distant and unacceptable. The existence
holes; the nature of future intelligent life; the harsh conditions
required for life to survive during a collapsing universe; and the inability
to test the hypothetical process
of ressurection have all been points for heated debate.
_The Physics Of Immortality_ is an early sign of an emerging post-millennial Renaissance (dubbed 'The Third Culture' by author John Brockman) in which the findings of Quantum Physics, Artificial Intelligence and Genetic Engineering are generating new cosmologies, philosophies (Extropian and Trans-humanism) and designer religions. Tipler has attracted much flak for boldly breaking the Science/Theology taboo, and for his use of scientific language. His audacious ideas are in danger of being simplified for the general public - like those of Hans Moravec and Stephen Hawking - without the detail for supporting arguments.
Although its Omega-Point hypothesis is ultimately unproveable, _The Physics of Immortality_ is a mind-bending and important book. Its cosmology is timely for a science fiction age. It conveys how deeply entrenched Judeo-Christian perspectives on 'Life in the Cosmos' and God are. Lastly, when too few scientists offer eschatalogical speculations of possible futures to be dynamically generated by our species into reality, Tipler offers us a compelling Vision of possible survival. But who will have the defiant Voice to bring such a Vision into being?
by Alex Burns