Physics of the Antichrist,
a Theory of Everything, IV of VI:
In Essence, God
What We Must Believe
Obviously, anybody who is
comfortable with a worldview that derives entirely from faith does not
require a theory that integrates religion with science. Next, at the basic
level of integration of faith and rationality, it is only necessary to
believe that humankind has some purpose that is crucial to reality —
even if it is only to be loved by God, or perhaps if it is to progress
toward the Omega Point. Whatever one’s beliefs and conclusions,
the truth of these statements ought to be capable of broad acknowledgement.
Moving to more-specific endeavors,
the larger claims that this series of essays is meant to introduce require
only that the spiritual side of experienced reality be significant, that
technological and ethical imperatives ultimately conflict, and that a
modified Many Worlds model might resolve this conflict. In other words,
although his ideas are interesting, it isn’t necessary that
Frank Tipler’s vision of the future be proven true — or even,
really, be proven possible. Similarly, it isn’t necessary that Christ’s
coming had the scientific implications that Tipler has suggested.
Even taking the most skeptical
view of Tipler’s ideas, they can be seen as enabling a scenario
within which to apply real ontological conclusions. An extraordinary proposal
about what could happen in the future contrasts with the everyday world
in such a way as to enable the development of a model capturing something
essential about the universe. This something is what applies to both the
extraordinary reality and the reality that we currently experience. Once
developed, the model can still be true — or at least useful —
even if the proposal that acted as its catalyst proves to have been a
The Miracle Marionette
Of course, in some respects,
the theories expressed through these essays are, as atheists like to say,
“non-falsifiable,” but that is what makes them useful. What
I am seeking to capture is the socket at which the measurable, physical
world plugs into the unseen (which is not to be confused with the “unsensed”).
This point of connection may be approached from two directions, and all
arguments between believers and unbelievers seem ultimately to come down
to their contrary paths.
In his paper, “The
Omega Point and Christianity,” Tipler proves himself to have
become much more credulous of Christian assertions than he had been when
he published The Physics of Immortality. He now suspects that
Christ’s Resurrection could have been real and has come up with
an interesting idea — which would have far-reaching implications
if true — about how the event could have accorded with the laws
To reach his conclusion, Tipler
defines miracles as improbable — but possible — events that
happen at significant times. It is not necessarily a miracle when a poor
person finds a winning lottery ticket in the gutter, but it might be a
miracle if he had been just about to kill himself over his debt or if
he saves a local shelter that was just about to lose its funding. Thus,
the two relevant measures are long odds and miraculous timing.
A person’s response
to this definition of miracles is likely to correspond to that person’s
approach to life, specifically to knowledge and conclusions about the
world. The empirically minded could trace God’s hand all the way
to the point at which a miracle begins to occur in reality — whether
it involves the action of quarks, a mysterious temperature change, or
any other physical mechanism — and then conclude that the measurement
itself proves that God isn’t necessary to have wrought the occurrence.
Such people will believe only in that which is “proven” to
A marionette appears to move,
even though it is obviously not alive. First we notice the strings and
then the handles, showing how the movement is accomplished. We look further
and discover the puppeteer’s hand and then the whole puppeteer.
Further, we can investigate the muscles and bones and cells and nerves
and synapse patterns that ultimately result in the moving wooden doll.
However, this form of investigation, no matter how thoroughly it manages
to describe the mechanics involved, will never fully explain what it is
that the puppeteer is doing.
In contrast, those who move
toward their worldviews in the opposing direction need not even know that
rehearsed finger movements move the puppet in order to understand the
show. The danger for them is that, if they take insufficient interest
in the mechanism, they might miss significant changes in the production
that imply different meaning. Another danger is that they will extend
their credulity far beyond the limited sphere of the amusement.
These approaches to thinking
— to life — are contrary only because they head toward each
other, and it has been a major failing for those on both ends that they
dread the connection. Those who seek merely to be entertained by the puppets
fear that too much knowledge will drain the performance of its pleasant
mystery. Those who amass explanations fear that the mystery will always
exist, or else that their investigations might prove to have been but
so much inconsequential puzzle solving.
The solution is similar for
all groups: they must admit that there will always be mystery. For believers,
this admission ought to be proof against despair about progress. For unbelievers,
it ought to be taken as indication of an infinity of challenges. And those
who enjoy the questions, or are driven to ask and answer them, ought to
go forward only after acknowledging to themselves that they will never
find any knowledge that makes them better than people who are satisfied
with less specificity.
Bread and the Body
The questioners, nonetheless,
can fill a crucial role in assisting the thinking of others, and religion
suffers when it seeks to bar inquiry. There is no worse answer to doubt
than “don’t ask,” particularly when it is so obviously
true that there will always be room for God in reality for those with
real faith. Those who require codification take a different approach to
topics of interest and ought not be discouraged from applying their type
of thinking to matters of religion.
Although he had just been
emerging from his skepticism when he wrote it, even in his book, Tipler
thought it important to explore how certain miracles could be
true. A particularly meaningful example is transubstantiation of the Eucharist,
whereby a priest transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of
Tipler phrases this process
in the same language of computer science that he uses for his discussion
of our high-tech resurrection. As he puts it, the universal resurrection
of mankind will actually occur at a “higher” level of reality
— a “virtual” reality. The lowest level is ultimate
reality, which Tipler takes to be the one in which we currently live and
the one in which the Omega Point computer will run. In this hierarchy,
one can observe activity on all higher levels than that inhabited by one’s
self, but on no lower levels.
In summarizing the Catholic
view of transubstantiation, Tipler quotes Jacques Maritain that, “an
accident is a nature or essence whose property is to exist in
something else… substance is a thing or nature whose property is
to exist by itself (per se) not in another thing… substance
is invisible, imperceptible by the senses” (318, emphasis
in original). Tipler translates this into his more scientific language
...it is possible
that the portion of our universe which corresponds to the bread and
wine of the Mass ceases to be run on the same computer as the rest of
the universe at the instant the priest says the magic words. (320, emphasis
What this description adds
is the way of envisioning the accident and the substance
as existing on two different levels of reality. Where that shift goes
too far is in presenting the two levels as significantly similar. To simplify,
a computer processes information as ones and zeros (on and off). A virtual
computer utilizes the same strategy, but as a self-contained program.
In the case of the Eucharist, the Body and Blood could be represented
by another program embedded in reality at the location of the bread and
wine. Picture a Microsoft Excel chart embedded in a Word document or a
picture embedded on a Web page that is actually stored on a separate server.
However, the computer analogy
is a model, not reality. There is no reason that the “lower level
computer” couldn’t be constitutionally different. Such a perspective
would fall between Tipler and Maritain. There are two aspects to the Eucharist
that we can tease apart in an abstract analysis, but both essentially
exist in ultimate reality. The lower level is the essence of God —
the Body and Blood of the Risen Jesus. In the computer analogy, perhaps
it could be taken as the hardware components, which don’t, of themselves,
represent the programs or the computations, but which are, in the most
tangible sense, the computer.
This quality of having two
aspects in one person is exactly parallel to our own experience of having
body and soul, while being both. Indeed, perhaps our souls are
“written” in the ultimate reality of God’s essence.
In this construction, the world that we experience as ultimate reality
is in fact a manifestation of God. Perhaps it can be said that we exist
“in God” spiritually on one level and physically on another.
If the Omega Point Theory
is true, it could be argued that reality is just the process of spiritual
God creating Himself on the physical level of implementation. In this
case, Tipler would be wrong to suggest that “the problem of evil
reappears” (320) on the grounds that the existence of a lower level
removes the logical necessity of evil on our level. Evil must exist as
a component of what God seeks to create. Indeed, Tipler believes that
the purpose of our implementation is to create the Omega Point, which
I’ve already suggested could be taken to be the Antichrist.
It is important to note that
the “problem of evil” is almost a non sequitur if reality
consists of every step that could logically exist between the beginning
and end of time. On a playing board of possible realities across which
our souls move, evil components would be pure accident, only
acquiring substance when we choose those spaces.
Communion of Essences
I propose that the importance
of the Eucharist and the doctrine of transubstantiation is to highlight
this subtle lesson of two-natured reality, even if it does not represent
an explicit conclusion for most who take communion. In a very limited
sense it is symbolic, but it cannot be thought of as merely symbolic
because, on the level of God and soul, symbolism and faith in the symbols
are real. Moreover, one needn’t understand the mechanics
of the representation in order to capture the essential knowledge; the
essence of God has more to do with feeling than with deduction.
and “sensing” are two different forms of knowledge shouldn’t
be a controversial statement. The suggestion that they are equally valid
might require some qualifications, specifying that validity be determined
from the perspective of the individual. However, if the actions of humankind
matter in a cosmic sense, toward some purpose, then what we feel
to be true matters as much as what we comprehend.
this sense, can be more specific than vague emotionality. In fact, the
specificity of felt knowledge could theoretically be as detailed as that
of the most intricate scientific understanding, the distinction being
that the former represents something that we “just know.”
This knowledge, in my schemata, derives from the “essence of God”
level of reality, from our souls. Revelation, inspiration, and intuition
tap into that source.
It is important to note that
the idea that revelation comes directly from emotion rooted in God’s
ultimate nature does not necessarily give specific claims made on the
basis of revelation any more weight than those made on the basis of empirical
data. Translating intuitive knowledge into comprehensible language is
a much more difficult process, because it must, by its nature, be accomplished
indirectly, through inference.
In the other direction, it
ought to be obvious that how human beings feel about an issue generally
tends to overrule what they think about it. This truth is somewhat
blurred in our times, for the reason that large swaths of people are far
along in an effort to align what they feel entirely with what they think.
Rather, it might be more accurate to say that they have disconnected the
two forms of knowledge, such that they begin with the assumption that
our deep technical understanding has proven that emotion is an illusion,
and thus the emotions may be indulged in ways benign and, increasingly,
A realization that can unite
these two forms of knowledge is that both are “divine,” respective
to their levels of reality. Tipler’s assessment of the Holy Spirit
as the person of God who defined the parameters of the universe at the
beginning of time and the Father as the ultimate outcome of the universe
provides a useful framework for considering the two ways of understanding
reality. Intuition is accomplished through the Holy Spirit, involving
a natural understanding of the larger tendencies of the universe and having
a sense of its direction. Rational comprehension involves the contemplation
of those tendencies and their significance — of the physical nature
of God, which is to say, of the Father.
In my view, each of these
forms of thinking represents a type of prayer. Academic contemplation
about matters of reality is prayer of the Father. Meditation evoking images
and the sense of God is prayer of the Holy Spirit. One would expect there
to be a third form of prayer to align with the Son, and indeed there is.
Once again, reference to the last component of Tipler’s model of
the Trinity proves helpful.
Tipler realized after publishing
his book that the Son appears in his figures as the line that connects
the Holy Spirit and the Father — the line representing the life
span of the universe. Similarly, prayer of the Son would be prayer for
action, whether involving requests for something to happen or guidance
concerning how we should act. Either way, we are praying that we will
find the path that brings us to the world — in the mesh model of
Many Worlds — in which the desired thing happens. In other words,
prayer of the Son would be that form of internal dialogue that the general
public often refers to as “prayer.
Learning to Follow
Given two forms of knowledge
deriving from different sources, it follows that there would be two forms
of learning. At bottom, people who are “naturals,” or prodigies,
at a given skill intuit the underlying truths of that skill — what
it means, how it should feel — and merely extend that intuition
over the mechanical processes. Those who are not naturals must learn in
the reverse direction, dissecting and rehearsing the steps.
Music involves a high degree
of feel, but requires dedicated practice and technical understanding,
so it makes for a good example. The hardest single skill that I’ve
learned as a pianist has been to play, essentially, different meters in
each hand — for example, three notes in the right hand and two or
four notes in the left hand. In order to play such passages fluently,
it is necessary to get the rhythm “in the ear,” which entails
figuring out the mathematical distribution of the beats and playing the
notes slowly. At some point, the feel of the rhythm “clicks,”
and the best strategy to improve its performance is “to stop thinking
about it.” One way to think of this transfer of one type of knowledge
to another is to consider it the process of writing the rhythm into our
souls. Or we can see it as figuring out the skill as it exists in the
“essence of God” and then applying that piece to intuit the
Once again, “essential
knowledge” is something that can truly exist even if humanity discovers
the point at which it manifests as technical knowledge. This is a difficult
point to convey across the divide between people who privilege different
types of knowledge. The conclusion relates directly to the assumptions,
as reactions to the Turing Test illustrate. To argue that artificial intelligence
will never enable a computer to “know” anything, philosopher
John Searle proposed the Chinese Room Experiment, which Tipler spends
six pages rebutting, without really responding to the fundamental point
As mentioned in the discussion
of soul and personhood, the Turing Test is premised on the suggestion
that, if a computer could interact with a person in such a way that the
person could not tell that it was a computer, then that computer is “intelligent.”
Searle attempts to convey the idea of soul and essential, felt knowledge
by inserting a human being into the computer. Imagine that you are in
a room full of reference books that contain all of the calculations that
would enable a computer to pass a Turing Test in the Chinese language.
Somebody passes a note under the door and, using the reference books,
you compute and write the appropriate response. Without having any idea
what the marks mean, you have passed the Turing Test.
Tipler responds with calculations
showing that a human being couldn’t physically or mentally perform
this task based on the sheer amount of data and, in turn, number of books
required. Searle expands his image to posit a large number of people working
together to solve the problem, but that unnecessarily opens him up to
further technical arguments from Tipler. The important element over which
Tipler glosses is that there is something different in the type
of knowledge. As with soul, an expansion of the test for this something
would be creativity. If you were put in a room with a computer that could
pass the Chinese Turing Test, you could pass the test without
knowing Chinese, but you couldn’t compose a meaningful poem or even
just a meaningful statement that isn’t a response to something else.
With language, we are accessing
God in the way that the dual nature of the Eucharist suggests. As metaphorically
suggested in Ben Franklin’s epitaph, our words are both the accident
created in letters and the substance of the ideas that they convey.
What this means is that knowledge is a palpable force in the universe.
The knowledge that we gain in life is not some action-enabling illusion;
it exists of itself — at another level of implementation.
All of these components come
into play in the miracle of the Eucharist. In a meaningful sense, perhaps
it is the learning and frequent prayer that enables a priest to transubstantiate
by leading him to internalize the process and its meaning. For the laity,
Tradition and faith lead those who receive communion to receive the Body
of Christ because they believe it to be so. The priest sings certain lines
in the ceremony, and music is played as the parishioners approach him,
to reinforce the level of sense.
Objection could be made that,
according to doctrine, the Eucharist is the Body of God regardless of
the recipient’s faith, and that is certainly a complication. However,
if we acknowledge that the purpose of the Mass is to bring a person closer
to God, then we can put it in terms of distance rather than acceptance
or rejection. In the mesh of the many worlds, the Eucharist pulls the
recipient closer to the path that aligns with God, and the more removed
that path is, the less the pull will seem to be. Nonetheless, it works
some change in the recipient’s psyche and in his or her un-measurable
With similar emphasis to that
granted Tipler’s more-specific claims, it is possible, but not necessary,
that when we eat the Eucharist, we absorb actual particles that are linked
to God's essence. However, just as science cannot test for the lower level
implementation of the Eucharist, it cannot measure bodily attachment to
the lower level. Nonetheless, a material component to transubstantiation
would offer room for further thought when put in the context of Tipler’s
argument that a person is his pattern, specifically with reference to
the suggestion that our bodies are continually replacing cells without
our becoming different people.
Whether it is partly physical
or entirely spiritual, religious traditions that lack the doctrine of
transubstantiation therefore lack the reminder of this aspect of reality.
If knowledge and understanding matter in reality, then those adhering
to the other traditions literally do not receive Christ’s
body, while Catholics do. Catholic Tradition fundamentally remembers that
words and ideas are as real as things.
Before the world was created,
the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God.
From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made
all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The
Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been put
out. (John 1:1-5)
Divine Word is more than human
words. Divine Expression is the totality of experience, and reality is
like a poem: It can only be analyzed at the expense of feeling and felt
at the expense of useful analysis. But as the lesson of the Eucharist
shows, there are ways to bridge the gap. The Bible is another bridge.
Go to part V: The Word of God and a
Commandment of Contradiction
Tipler, Frank J. The Physics
of Immortality (Anchor Books, 1994)