Monday, July 7, 2008

David Warren -further on Frank Tipler ...

Fellow Toronto-based hack, David Warren, comments on Frank Tipler,

Tipler, of course, is dismissed as a madman in the academy, & goes out of his way to play the part, but I think the science types would find his recently-published Physics of Christianity (& his preceding Physics of Immortality, & the Anthropic Cosmological Principle before that) worth reading. He has a very sound & earthy grasp of the logical framework, in everything he is saying, & is remarkably well-informed about a number of scientific & sub-scientific issues, in fields beyond his own.

Moreover, stripped of the glitz of "proving the gospels through science," he is making a very interesting &, I now think, plausible assertion. Namely, that in quantizing Einstein's gravity theory in 1962(?), Richard Feynman & Steven Weinberg unknowingly solved the problem of quantum gravity. They themselves dismissed the possibility they had done so only because the implications of their discoveries included singularities. As Tipler argues, the singularities are real, & the implications are rejected only because they point to a direct, physical, proof of the existence of God.

His general approach is, to my mind, pretty Catholic. He holds that God's will is immutable & consistent, & must be, or we have no assurance He might change His Mind about the resurrection of the dead. Miracles Tipler accepts, but insists that while they may be surprising, they can in no case contradict God's own physical laws. God wouldn't do that. A large part of Tipler's Physics of Christianity buke is in fact devoted to showing how various Christian miracles could have been performed -- by God -- WITHIN the parameters of immutable physical laws. Needless to say the very attempt to do so drives his colleagues in the physics departments round the twist. And yet they do still acknowledge he is a very great physicist.

Tipler insists that demonstrating this is necessary to upholding the consistency of Faith with Reason. Eccentric, but very earnest, & in his methods, extremely clever. No one has, to my knowledge, yet caught him out in a physics error.
Well, I know of physics colleagues who are Christians who consider Tipler a whackjob, but like Warren and Bryan Appleyard, I view him sympathetically, in this sense: I almost understand why his quest feels important to him. I just can't get my head around the aesthetics of his universe.