Articles From the May 1995 Unification News
God as "The Omega Point" - Book Review
Reviewed by Charles Kannal-Columbus, OH
The Physics of Immortality by Frank J. Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University) Doubleday 1994, $24.95, ISBM: 0-38-546798-2
In 339 pages (supported by 54 pages of notes), Professor Frank J. Tipler shatters the conventional boundaries of science and religion. Intended for popular distribution, Dr. Tipler insulates the general reader by placing the most technical descriptions in a 120+ page Appendix for scientists. Nonetheless, the book will be a challenge and an eye-opener for most college graduates.
Professor Tipler is not a man of faith. A convinced atheist, he began work on a mathematical model for the end of the universe. What he found turned his frame of reference upside down. Using well-accepted scientific evidence from particle physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, economics, computer science, and sociobiology, he now asserts "that physicists can infer by calculation the existence of God and the likelihood of the resurrection of the dead to eternal life in exactly the same way as physicists calculate the properties of the electron."
Physicists universally agree that the expanding nature of the physical universe points to its origin as an explosion or "Big Bang" beginning from one point billions of years ago. Dr. Tipler (and others) sought to answer the question, "What would the end of the universe be like as an eventual recollapse into one point?" This gave rise to their Omega Point Theory.
Dr. Tipler came to realize that this Omega Point possesses many of the characteristics traditionally attributed to God: omniscience, omnipotence, goodness, omnipresence, transcendence, immanence, etceteras.
I approach Dr. Tipler's work not as a scientist, but with a profound interest in its philosophical and theological implications.
During the autumn term 1994 at Unification Theological Seminary, Professor Sebastian Matczak taught a course entitled "Unificationism and Western Thought." Dr. Matczak, a renowned Catholic theologian and philosopher, holds deep respect for Reverend Moon, Divine Principle, and the thought behind it. His book Unificationism, A New Philosophy and Worldview (2nd edition, New York, Learned Publications, 1986) is generating an impact in scholarly circles.
One point brought out in Dr. Matczak's course regards the Unification use of "spiritual body" and "spiritual senses." Though acceptable in common parlance, such terminology grates upon scholarly ears. "Body" and "sense" should be reserved for the physical realm to maintain a clear distinction with the incorporeal, immaterial spiritual realm. It is okay to say "spiritual hyung-sang" but not "spiritual body."
Ironically, the use of "substantial" to describe the invisible world is acceptable because it coincides with the philosophical meaning of "substance" (i.e., "the irreducible, essential nature of something existing as itself"). This is very different from the common usage of "substance" in referring to material.
Such a discordance state of affairs seemed unacceptable to me. The Divine Principle explanation of spirit world and physical world offers new, insightful perspective. How could it be easily discounted as a popular but inaccurate description?
To address this matter, I examined some current trends which overlap physics with theology. Of particular interest were the works of highly respected physicists David Bohm and Paul Davies. (Davies recently received an award for his contributions to theology.) The conclusion of my term paper for the course states:
"The physical sciences now challenge us daily with revolutionary ideas about the nature of reality. The implications for Western philosophy are enormous. Matter, in essence, is perhaps another form of thought, not its own discrete substance. The need to separate mind and matter thus disintegrates. Spirit and body become congruous, interrelated aspects of existence, not mutually exclusive concepts. And this meshes nicely with the Divine Principle, where everything is expressed as harmonious relationship. Within this context, even "spiritual body" makes sense."
Upon returning to Columbus at the end of the term, Greg Carter shared with me his copy of The Physics of Immortality.
Of note to Unificationsts is that Tipler attributes the ultimate source of his ideas to Marxist thinkers. Thus, the Omega Point Theory expressly emerges from Cain-type ideologue.
A crucial point revolves around the Eternal Life Postulate: that the universe can support life indefinitely. Tipler turns the necessary physical existence of the universe into a proof for the Eternal Life Postulate.
Some conclusions of the Omega Point Theory parallel Unification theology. The relationship between human responsibility and the predetermined end of the universe coincides with the Divine Principle view of predestination. Contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine, but more in line with the Unification understanding, Dr. Tipler concludes that the Omega Point is (probably) not a Triune Deity. Very appealing, and in accordance with God's Providence of Restoration, is Professor Tipler's advocacy of ultimate universal salvation.
But not all aspects of the Omega Point Theory are easily embraced. The mathematics of the Omega Point Theory adopts the "Many-Worlds Interpretation" of contingency in quantum mechanics. (The MWI treats the numerous possibilities described by quantum mechanics as all actually existing in parallel worlds.) Although most quantum cosmologists agree with some sort of many-worlds interpretation, most physicists are not ready to.
Other difficulties involve: Tipler's definition of life as information processing (which will progressively engulf the whole universe): and the resurrection of the dead as a virtual reality in the far distant (living) computers of the future. For this, Tipler invokes the "Identity of Indiscernibles" wherein a perfect emulation of the entire physical universe within the Omega Point cannot be distinguished from the "real" universe. Though I balk at some implications of these points (see below), they are compatible with the observation that reality cannot ultimately be distinguished from the Thought of God.
Tipler's potential explanation for spiritual phenomena, including miracles and the appearance of holy men, is inadequate even in his own eyes. He prefers to dismiss such occurrences as psychological. This aspect of his theory is incompatible with the Unification view of spirit world. However, Tipler allows the possibility of human brains accessing "the data recorded in far future arbitrarily close to the Omega Point in His/Her transcendence." Expanded versions of the theory (perhaps integrated with parapsychology) might bridge this gap. However, I think the work of other scientists dabbling in theories of multiple dimensions to the universe offers better prospects for reconciling physics with the spiritual realm.
Theology and physics
The most powerful element of the Omega Point Theory is its reductionism (simple explanations are superior to complex ones). In fact, this is such a strong scientific argument that Dr. Tipler abandons any pretense of modesty and confidently asserts that theology will become a branch of physics. The Omega Point Theory is powerful because if it can succinctly explain all of reality (including God, spiritual phenomena, heaven and hell, etc.), through known physical laws, then what need have we for any other theory, or irrational belief in unexplainable worlds?
But can the theory actually do so? Not to my satisfaction. There is an inherent weakness in attributing knowledge, logic and intelligence the power to exhaustively describe reality. According to Divine Principle (p. 81) love takes priority over the Principle. Tipler's reductionism eliminates consideration of the mystical aspects to God's heart and purpose in creating.
Thus, one wonders at the wisdom of scientists like Tipler who discount the value of religion until it becomes proven scientifically. For instance, in discussing human relationships of the future, he relies on economists who have proven the utility of "cheap" altruism. Must the Golden Rule require scientific proof before it is taken seriously?
Rather shocking to me, was Professor Tipler's declaration in the penultimate chapter that he will not believe in his own theory until there is more evidence. Acceptance of an ultimately collapsing universe relies upon evidence that the universe will not continue expanding indefinitely. This critical point involves the mass of the universe in ratio to the force of gravity. Nuclear particle physicists are awaiting the detection of the "Higg's boson" which as yet exists only in theory. If the mass of the Higg's boson, and the mass of the "top quark" are found to exist within a certain range, the eventual collapse of the universe can be mathematically proven. Tipler prefers to wait for such evidence before committing himself. As I said, Dr. Tipler is not a man of faith.
The haughty dominance of atheism in the halls of scientific thought is at an end. The Physics of Immortality represents a quantum leap for physical science into the realm of religion. It provides a framework for the scientific apprehension of God and how He governs the universe. However, it is less thorough concerning why God does what He does, and is not a convincing explanation for the whole of reality. Tipler's claim that physics will ultimately engulf theology is premature. He has not yet learned: science by itself is blind for it limits itself to what it can perceive and comprehend.
For the man of faith, The Physics of Immortality can be startling and challenging. For it lives up to its boast on the cover jacket: No reader, whether skeptic or believer, will look at the universe in the same way after encountering this remarkable work.
Charles Kannal is currently a student at Unification Theological Seminary.
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