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Friday, 11 December 2009
2+2= Anything at All

Frank Tipler is an interesting and original thinker who has been published at NER (see Updike and Me).  Whatever you may think of his thesis that science proves the existence of an uncaused cause, or the original source of reality - with or without the science, I think his thesis is sound philosophically - you have to wonder at the response he received:

Last week I was on a university panel formed to debate the issue of science and religion. My argument was the same one I’ve been making for years: given the known laws of physics — in particular, general relativity (Einstein’s theory of gravity) and quantum mechanics — we have no choice but to conclude that God exists.

I defined “God” as the “uncaused first cause,” which is the definition used by St. Thomas Aquinas in his “second way” (Aquinas’ second of five proofs of God’s existence). Aquinas took his proof from Moses Maimonides, who in turn took it from the Kalam Muslim theologians. That is, these leading theologians of the three leading monotheist religions all defined “God” the same way, so I thought this would be an acceptable definition. Knowing what is meant by the word “God,” we can now use physics to see if there is indeed “God” out there.

There is. The laws of physics tell us that the universe began about 14 billion years ago at the initial (or big bang) singularity. What is this “singularity”? Looking at its properties, one sees that it is the uncaused first cause. Something that is the cause of all causes, but Himself without a cause. Given the laws of physics, the existence of the initial singularity follows necessarily from the mathematics. Now of course we cannot be certain that the laws of physics are correct. We learn about nature via experiment, and new experiments may tell us tomorrow that general relativity and quantum mechanics are just limits of more fundamental laws, which do not possess an initial singularity.

I doubt this, since general relativity and quantum mechanics can themselves be shown mathematically to be special cases of the classical mechanics as developed in the nineteenth century. So there is no evidence, experimental or theoretical, that there are any laws of physics more fundamental than general relativity or quantum mechanics. But I can’t rule it out. In science we can only say that the truth of these two theories is highly probable, not certain.

But given these laws of physics, the singularity is certain. It is certain because His existence follows of necessity, from the mathematical analysis of the equations of relativity and quantum mechanics. Given the laws of physics, the existence of the singularity is as certain as 2 + 2 = 4.

I made this point on the panel. No one challenged the laws. No one challenged my calculations. What they challenged was my statement that 2 + 2 = 4!

I was told that 2 + 2 = 4 is merely a matter of opinion. I was told that Gödel showed mathematics could be inconsistent, so anything goes. (Actually, 2 + 2 = 4 is a theorem of Presburger arithmetic, which is arithmetic with addition and subtraction only, and Presburger arithmetic is, and has been proven to be, decidable, complete, and consistent.)

I’ve had this experience several times now. University faculties now teach that truth is whatever the consensus of the faculty says it is (this was made explicit is the Berkeley faculty handbook a few years ago). This idea that the ruling group of faculty can establish truth by authority, even over the truths of mathematics like 2 + 2 = 4, has a chilling Orwellian flavor...

The modern secular creed may be summed up as follows: Truth is a fraud, Beauty an illusion and Goodness a cover for hypocrisy.  Is it any wonder our civilization is coming apart at the seams?

Posted on 12/11/2009 9:19 AM by Rebecca Bynum
14 Dec 2009
Send an emailTL winslow

 The past crystallizes from the future? Hence I hold my breath, but starts with G knows the future because he's outside of time?

11 Dec 2009
Send an emailRebecca Bynum

del - I agree. I don't think he has a hard case here scientifically, however to philosophy, God is the uncaused cause while to religion, he is a Father. Tipler seems to be on the right track philosophically, but not necessarily scientifically.

11 Dec 2009

 Mr. Tipler has something garbled. Classical mechanics is a special case of  general relativity, not the other way 'round.  Also, physicists don't expect that relativity and quantum mechanics are the most fundamental theories for all time. More general Unified theories have been proposed, but have some flaws. Eventually, general relativity and quantum mechanics will become special cases of some sorts of Unified theories.

A singularity does seem to imply an uncaused cause, but there is an implicit assumption of the directional flow of time in there.  Also an assumption that the known physical laws apply everywhere at all times.

Groundhog day all over again?

I have a feeling that at least a few of those on some of the panels he describes were afraid to betray a public lack of expertise and so did not discuss the physical laws nor his calculations.  But yes, the big bang concept does result from the theories of modern physics.

Nevertheless, the definition of "God" as the uncaused cause is not exactly equivalent to the God worshipped as the arbiter of cosmic justice, or as the beneficent savior.