Victor J. Stenger
A review of The Physics of Christianity by Frank J. Tipler. New York: Doubleday, 2007.
Draft of Friday, May 25, 2007 8:28 AM. Draft for comment only. Do not copy, distribute, or quote.
Since the beginning of the scientific revolution, believers have had to reconcile their beliefs with science. This has always proved difficult. If an all-perfect God created the universe and its physical laws, why would he have to step in to perform miracles and answer prayers? If, as all the evidence indicates, the universe, including humans and their brains, is matter and nothing more, how can we possibly live forever? Theologians try hard, but never come up with satisfactory answers.
Well, Christians can rest easy. In his new book The Physics of Christianity, which builds on his earlier work, The Physics of Immortality (Doubleday 1994), physicist Frank Tipler has tried to provide them with a rational basis for their faith based solely on physics.
Tipler rejects the definition of a miracle as an event that violates natural law. He asserts that miracles are perfectly natural phenomena, just highly improbable or unexpected. He then provides physical mechanisms for all the important miracles associated with the life of Jesus, from his virgin birth to resurrection.
But before I get to that, let me explain as best I can Tipler's description of the nature of the triune God. In The Physics of Immortality, Tipler provided the mechanism by which we will all live forever. In a billion-billion years or so, life in the form of highly advanced and supremely intelligent robots, evolved from those that we humans invented and sent into space before destroying ourselves as a species, will have spread throughout the universe. At that point the robots will control the collapse of the universe down to a final singularity called the Omega Point. Following the teaching of the famous Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who died in 1955, Tipler associates the Omega Point with God, in particular, God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity. This also follows from God's message to Moses in Exodus 3:14, "I SHALL BE WHAT I SHALL BE."
The collapse to the final singularity takes an infinite time as viewed from inside the universe. During that time the robots recreate all the humans and life forms that ever existed in a computer simulation. Not only do we all live our lives over again in that simulation, but over and over and over again. And not just our lives, but also all the possible lives we ever might have had, good and bad. That's the immortality Tipler says we can look forward to.
Going back to the beginning of time, the universe also started as a singularity. That singularity Tipler associates with the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity.
The initial and final singularities are outside space and time, but they are connected by worldlines within space-time associated with the histories of all the universes in the "multiverse" that is implied by quantum mechanics. (Do not confuse these universes with the Omega Point simulations). The Father and Holy Spirit singularities are also connected by a line outside of space-time called the "All Presents Singularity." This singularity Tipler associates with the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. A Cauchy sequence, constructed from the person of Jesus across all the universes in the multiverse, goes all the way to the All Presents Singularity and is thus identical to it. While there are analogues of all of us in many universes, only Jesus is found in all.
The fact that we individuals all exist in many other universes in the quantum mechanical multiverse is Tipler's solution to the Problem of Evil. Referring to the Asian Tsunami of 2004, he notes that thousands of lives would have been saved with an adequate warning system. In another universe, that warning system would exist and those lives would be saved. So no one really died.
Let is now move to the miraculous stuff (all natural, remember). Tipler points out that that virginal conceptions occur in nature and result in perhaps one in thirty human births. He notes that it is easy to induce egg cell division in the laboratory, so why not in a female body? It is thought that virgin births should always result in a female child since all the genes are from the mother and females have two X chromosomes while males generally have the combination XY. However, Tipler notes that 1 in 20,000 males have two X chromosomes where their maleness comes from a key gene that has been inserted into an X chromosome. That gene may have been present in one of Mary's X chromosomes but inactivated in her case, becoming activated with Jesus.
Tipler claims that a DNA analysis of the blood on the Shroud of Turin is XX, thus providing empirical verification for the virgin birth of the body that was covered with that cloth.
The miracles performed by Jesus during his lifetime, such as walking on water and raising the dead, were produced by basically a single mechanism—the annihilation of protons an electrons into neutrinos or the reverse. This is a process that is forbidden by the current standard model of elementary particle physics, but must have taken place early in the universe to provide the current excess of matter over antimatter. The universe began with equal amount of matter and antimatter, but antiprotons must have annihilated with antielectrons (positrons) in greater number than the protons and electrons in normal matter, leaving a universe of mostly matter.
In the case of Jesus walking on water, protons and electrons in the normal matter in a layer of water under his feet are annihilated. The neutrinos produced go off invisibly downward with high momentum, the upward recoil enabling Jesus to keep from sinking.
As for the resurrection, the whole body of Jesus is converted to invisible neutrinos, with some heat also released to burn the burial cloth. To reappear before his disciples, Jesus reverses the process, as he does to raise the dead.
Getting back to the collapse of the universe to the Omega Point, Tipler has to contend with the observed fact that the expansion of the universe is currently accelerating (a fact that was unknown when he wrote The Physics of Immortality). Furthermore, the acceleration seems to be caused by a cosmological constant, which implies that the acceleration will increase with time making collapse impossible. But, once again the matter annihilation mechanism comes to the rescue.
The universe is currently filled with a field called the Higgs field that is responsible, according to the standard model, for the mass of matter. But, because of the imbalance between matter and antimatter, the Higgs field is not in its absolute vacuum state. By annihilating all the matter of the universe, the future robots can enable the Higgs field to reach its absolute vacuum, thus providing sufficient gravitational attraction to cancel the gravitational repulsion of the cosmological constant and allowing the universe to collapse.
Now, a final loose end needs to be tied up. Recall that miracles are events of very low probability and this includes those in the life of Jesus. However, Tipler points out that the unitarity of quantum mechanics implies that time and causality can point in either direction. Thus the Omega Point singularity, God the Father, is not only the final purpose of existence but the initial cause. You can look at this teleologically. Since the Final Purpose must be achieved, those events that are necessary for that final purpose must take place. So the miracles of Jesus life were not low probability. They were one hundred percent likely.
Also necessary is the discovery by humanity of the means to control the matter annihilation process. That process will provide a highly efficient form of propulsion for the robotic rockets we will send into space. It will also provide each of us with a tabletop weapon more powerful than thousands of hydrogen bombs. Since the control of such a weapon would be impossible, we are doomed to destroy ourselves. Tipler estimates this will happen in the next fifty years.
Of course, this will be just the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. Jesus will come down and teach us the matter annihilation process, so that the Final Purpose is achieved. Indeed, we might have learned how to use this process had we studied the Shroud of Turin more carefully. Apparently, in order for this not to happen too soon, Jesus deliberately discouraged us from studying the Shroud by manipulating its carbon. so carbon dating places it in the Middle Ages rather than at the time of Christ.
So, believers, you now have what you have waited 400 years for: a complete scientific justification for your faith.
Vic Stenger's latest book, God The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist, has made an appearance on the New York Times bestseller list.