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Proving God?

Listener David Driscoll from Atlanta thought this video of Frank Tipler explaining his “proof” for the existence of God would make a good Name that Logical Fallacy. I agree. Tipler is a crank, plain and simple. That he is a professor at Tulane University must be somewhat of an embarrassment for Tulane.

Others have already dissected Tipler’s nonsense, such as this article in the Skeptical Inquirer. I want to focus on the core fallacy of Tipler’s logic.

He says that the math and the physics lead directly to the conclusion that God exists. In the ridiculous local news video, where we are assured the reporter asked the “tough questions” (cough, cough), they even show some mathematical-looking equations on a blackboard leading to the final conclusion – “God exists.”

Tipler’s main logical error is that he is confusing explanation for proof. He believes that since he can concoct a highly speculative explanation for God or for specific miracles in the Bible (amounting to nothing more than special pleading) that God and the miracles are proven.

For example, he argues that because physics can explain the conversion of matter to energy and back gain, this “proves” the Biblical account that Jesus vanished in the tomb and then later reappeared before the disciples.

His proof of God is too complex for him to summarize it in any meaningful way (according to him) so you better buy his book. But it distills down to some fanciful descriptions of cosmology leading to the dubious conclusion that the universe will end in a singularity without an event horizon requiring infinite information. This singularity (which Tipler dubbed the Omega Point) is God.

Concocting an obtuse scientific argument laden with jargon but not quite adding up logically, all to come to the absolute conviction that you have proven something that sounds like it should be outside the realm of science, is the hallmark of a supreme crank.

Similarly, Tipler “proves” the virgin birth by offering the explanation of parthogenesis (some species can fertilize their own eggs), and that Jesus walked on water by offering the explanation that he shot neutrino beams out of the bottom of his feet.

Similarly I can prove that the world of Star Trek is an accurate description of the future (obviously sent back in time to prepare the way) by offering sci-fi explanations for everything that happens. Trek fans, in fact, make a habit of this – in the form of Trek apologetics, weaving special-pleading type explanations for every apparent scientific gaffe in the series.

This is not proof before the ability to offer an explanation for something does not prove it is actually true. Just like the ability of Astrologers to explain events that have already happened does not lend any credibility to Astrology.

Proof, rather, derives from the ability to make predictions that later come true. These predictions have to be for knowledge that we do not already have. (I love it when cranks say their theory “predicts” something we already know.)

So what successful predictions flow from Tipler’s fanciful notions? Silence….crickets….

Tipler has been a crank for decades, and is apparently unredeemable. He falls into the category of those who desperately want to prove their faith, or at least reconcile their faith, with science. He claims the science led him to faith, but I suspect the true relationship is more complex.

That all of this was deemed newsworthy by 46News of Atlanta also says something about the sorry state of TV journalism these days.

22 comments to Proving God?

  • IPVlazy

    The only thing worse than a crank that tries to prove religion using illogical mathematic ideas is when a news reporter puts him on the air and supports his claims.

  • Paul Ganssle

    I agree. When someone stomps on a baby’s head it is not nearly as bad as a crank trying to prove religion with math.

  • GHcool

    I think Dr. Novella’s definition of “proof” might be too narrow. I can prove that I am an American citizen, however this proof does not give anybody the ability to predict anything. It is just evidence for a truth claim. Proof for the existence of God is also a truth claim. I have not seen any air-tight evidence for that truth claim, but if evidence were available, I doubt it would give us the ability to predict anything.

  • Proving “God’s” existence says nothing about his worthiness of worship or deviation. Prove “God” and one still must prove: they are the same as described in a(ny) holy text; how the deity is understood correct; etc.

    This all said, the search to prove “God” seems more for the physiological benefit of the searcher than any social revelation; not even selfish “I’m better than you are” but to prove to themselves their reality is valid.

  • GHcool – I think you missed my point. What he is offering is not any kind of evidence. It’s just shoe-horning in a completely fanciful explanation for a contrived interpretation of biblical passages. It’s retrofitting. That may be a way of generating a hypothesis, but it is not evidence.

  • mat alford

    S.N. – ‘What he is offering is not any kind of evidence. It’s just shoe-horning in a completely fanciful explanation for a contrived interpretation of biblical passages. It’s retrofitting.’

    Isn’t that just all of theology?

  • Tenorino

    This is a minor point, but if Jesus had been conceived by parthenogenesis, wouldn’t he have been a woman?

  • Jim Shaver

    Steve – I don’t think GHcool is defending Tipler’s rantings as anything close to compelling evidence. I think he’s saying, and I agree with this statement, that if there were any compelling evidence for the existence of a god, it would still likely fall short of your strict definition of “proof”. This point is, of course, moot in the reality that there is no compelling evidence whatsoever.

    mat alford – Amen, Brother.

  • irishjazz

    Isn’t this just a recasting of the God of the Gaps argument- find the most abstruse scientific construct and point at it as the deity?

    Speaking from personal experience, the flux of neutrinos required to be shot from the feet in order to stay on the surface of the water makes it impractical for any more than a few seconds. There are also tremendous problems of balance, and the beams play havoc with the surface tension.

    It is more likely that Jesus shrank himself down to the size of a water insect, and, like many UFO sightings, was a lot closer than the disciples thought.

  • larry coon

    “Confusing explanation for proof” can also be applied to Anselm’s ontological argument, can’t it? It goes something like:

    1. God is that which nothing greater can be conceived.
    2. A god that exists in reality and the imagination is greater than a god that exists in the imagination only.
    3. Therefore, God must exist in reality.

  • [...] READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT THE “ROGUES GALLERY” Posted in The Rogues Gallery. Tags: God. [...]

  • GHcool

    Yes, Jim Shaver summarized my point accurately. Sorry for the misunderstanding, Steve.

  • A fallacy that is contained in all previous posters’ comments on this page is that they’re commenting out of emmotionalism without knowing what it is that they’re criticizing.

    Prof. Frank J. Tipler was a convinced atheist since his youth who only came to the theist position in latter life because he could not scientifically avoid it.

    Also keep in mind that with Prof. Tipler, whatever one’s feelings about him, we’re quite conservatively talking about the most elite physicist who has ever lived. His Ph.D. is in the field of global general relativity (the same rarefied field that Profs. Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking developed), and additionally he is also an expert in particle physics (i.e., the Standard Model), computer science (e.g., computational complexity theory), and quantum cosmology. Not even Profs. Penrose and Hawking have all those qualifications, let alone Einstein or Newton.

    Tipler is Professor of Mathematics and Physics (joint appointment) at Tulane University. His Omega Point Theory has been published in a number of prestigious peer-reviewed physics and science journals such as Reports on Progress in Physics (one of the world’s leading physics journals), Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (one of the world’s leading astrophysics journals), Physics Letters B, the International Journal of Theoretical Physics, etc.

    Prof. John A. Wheeler (the father of most relativity research in the U.S.) wrote that “Frank Tipler is widely known for important concepts and theorems in general relativity and gravitation physics” on pg. viii in the “Foreword” to The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986) by cosmologist Prof. John D. Barrow and Tipler, which was the first book wherein Tipler’s Omega Point Theory was described. On pg. ix of said book, Prof. Wheeler wrote that Chapter 10 of the book, which concerns the Omega Point Theory, “rivals in thought-provoking power any of the [other chapters].”

    God has been proven to exist based upon the most reserved view of the known laws of physics. For much more on that, see Prof. Frank J. Tipler’s below paper, which among other things demonstrates that the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics) require that the universe end in the Omega Point (the final cosmological singularity and state of infinite informational capacity identified as being God):

    F. J. Tipler, “The structure of the world from pure numbers,” Reports on Progress in Physics, Vol. 68, No. 4 (April 2005), pp. 897-964. Also released as “Feynman-Weinberg Quantum Gravity and the Extended Standard Model as a Theory of Everything,” arXiv:0704.3276, April 24, 2007.

    Out of 50 articles, Prof. Tipler’s above paper was selected as one of 12 for the “Highlights of 2005″ accolade as “the very best articles published in Reports on Progress in Physics in 2005 [Vol. 68]. Articles were selected by the Editorial Board for their outstanding reviews of the field. They all received the highest praise from our international referees and a high number of downloads from the journal Website.” (See Richard Palmer, Publisher, “Highlights of 2005,” Reports on Progress in Physics. ) Reports on Progress in Physics is the leading journal of the Institute of Physics, Britain’s main professional body for physicists.

    Further, Reports on Progress in Physics has a higher impact factor (according to Journal Citation Reports) than Physical Review Letters, which is the most prestigious American physics journal (one, incidently, which Prof. Tipler has been published in more than once). A journal’s impact factor reflects the importance the science community places in that journal in the sense of actually citing its papers in their own papers. (And just to point out, Tipler’s 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper could not have been published in Physical Review Letters since said paper is nearly book-length, and hence not a “letter” as defined by the latter journal.)

    See also the below resources for further information on the Omega Point Theory:


    “Omega Point (Tipler),” Wikipedia, April 16, 2008

    “Frank J. Tipler,” Wikipedia, April 16, 2008

    The leading quantum physicist in the world, Prof. David Deutsch (inventor of the quantum computer, being the first person to mathematically describe the workings of such a device, and winner of the Institute of Physics’ 1998 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize for his work), endorses the physics of the Omega Point Theory in his book The Fabric of Reality (1997). For that, see:

    David Deutsch, extracts from Chapter 14: “The Ends of the Universe” of The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes–and Its Implications (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1997), ISBN: 0713990619; with additional comments by Frank J. Tipler.

    The only way to avoid the Omega Point cosmology is to invent tenuous physical theories which have no experimental support and which violate the known laws of physics, such as with Prof. Stephen Hawking’s paper on the black hole information issue which is dependant on the conjectured string theory-based anti-de Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence (AdS/CFT correspondence). See S. W. Hawking, “Information loss in black holes,” Physical Review D, Vol. 72, No. 8, 084013 (October 2005); also at arXiv:hep-th/0507171, July 18, 2005.

    That is, Prof. Hawking’s paper is based upon proposed, unconfirmed physics. It’s an impressive testament to the Omega Point Theory’s correctness, as Hawking implicitly confirms that the known laws of physics require the universe to collapse in finite time. Hawking realizes that the black hole information issue must be resolved without violating unitarity, yet he’s forced to abandon the known laws of physics in order to avoid unitarity violation without the universe collapsing.

    Some have suggested that the universe’s current acceleration of its expansion obviates the universe collapsing (and therefore obviates the Omega Point). But as Profs. Lawrence M. Krauss and Michael S. Turner point out in “Geometry and Destiny” (General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 31, No. 10 [October 1999], pp. 1453-1459; also at arXiv:astro-ph/9904020, April 1, 1999 ), there is no set of cosmological observations which can tell us whether the universe will expand forever or eventually collapse.

    There’s a very good reason for that, because that is dependant on the actions of intelligent life. The known laws of physics provide the mechanism for the universe’s collapse. As required by the Standard Model, the net baryon number was created in the early universe by baryogenesis via electroweak quantum tunneling. This necessarily forces the Higgs field to be in a vacuum state that is not its absolute vacuum, which is the cause of the positive cosmological constant. But if the baryons in the universe were to be annihilated by the inverse of baryogenesis, again via electroweak quantum tunneling (which is allowed in the Standard Model, as B – L is conserved), then this would force the Higgs field toward its absolute vacuum, cancelling the positive cosmological constant and thereby forcing the universe to collapse. Moreover, this process would provide the ideal form of energy resource and rocket propulsion during the colonization phase of the universe.

    Prof. Tipler’s above 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper also demonstrates that the correct quantum gravity theory has existed since 1962, first discovered by Richard Feynman in that year, and independently discovered by Steven Weinberg and Bryce DeWitt, among others. But because these physicists were looking for equations with a finite number of terms (i.e., derivatives no higher than second order), they abandoned this qualitatively unique quantum gravity theory since in order for it to be consistent it requires an arbitrarily higher number of terms. Further, they didn’t realize that this proper theory of quantum gravity is consistent only with a certain set of boundary conditions imposed (which includes the initial Big Bang, and the final Omega Point, cosmological singularities). The equations for this theory of quantum gravity are term-by-term finite, but the same mechanism that forces each term in the series to be finite also forces the entire series to be infinite (i.e., infinities that would otherwise occur in spacetime, consequently destabilizing it, are transferred to the cosmological singularities, thereby preventing the universe from immediately collapsing into nonexistence). As Tipler notes in his 2007 book The Physics of Christianity (pp. 49 and 279), “It is a fundamental mathematical fact that this [infinite series] is the best that we can do. … This is somewhat analogous to Liouville’s theorem in complex analysis, which says that all analytic functions other than constants have singularities either a finite distance from the origin of coordinates or at infinity.”

    When combined with the Standard Model, the result is the Theory of Everything (TOE) correctly describing and unifying all the forces in physics.

  • The Blind Watchmaker

    X^2 = X+X+X+X….X times

    Take the derivative of both sides with respect to X. You get…

    2X = 1+1+1+1….X times, or 2X = X.

    Divide by X. You get…


    Now, let X = 1. Take derivative of both sides… You get 0=1

    If 2=1 and 0=1, then everything is nothing.

    If there is 0 proof that God exists, then he must exist!

    So there.

  • James – none of that stops Tipler from being a crank. Linus Pauling became a crank later in life with his vitamin C nonsense. What you just gave is a long argument from authority. He’s still a crank. He believes that the Shroud of Turin is the real deal, when it is a proven fake. It seems that, no matter how smart Tipler is, he has become focused on an idea and it has consumed him.

  • GHcool and Jim – You still misunderstand. I think the problem is the word “proof”. I am not using it to mean an arbitrarily high standard of proven beyond doubt. I am meaning it only as scientific evidence for something.

    My point is that the ability to retrofit something to an explanation is not even evidence. This is because you can retrofit an explanation for anything, if you are willing to speculate wildly, as Tipler does.

  • Steven Novella, there do exist good reasons for thinking that the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo could be genuine. One reason is the history of the Turin Shroud, which goes back to the persecution of the Knights Templar for, in part, worshipping the image of a bearded man. The person who is reliably recorded as first having displayed the Turin Shroud was Geoffroi de Charny in 1355, who was the nephew of Geoffrey de Charney, Preceptor of Normandy for the Knights Templar, burned alive along with Jacques de Molay in 1314.

    The Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium of Oviedo are both known to have quite divergent histories and different carbon-14 datings, and yet they both display the same XX male blood samples, results for which the world-renowned DNA scientists who collected the samples on both artifacts had no explanation for (see Lucia Casarino, et al., “Ricerca dei polimorfismi del DNA sulla Sindone e sul Sudario di Oviedo,” Sindon Nuova Serie, Quaderno n. 8, dicembre 1995, pp. 39-47). Such was this research group’s confusion that they simply published the raw data without any attempt to provide analysis in an obscure Italian journal (which is quite remarkable, since Shroud of Turin and Sudarium of Oviedo research typically gets published in leading journals such as Nature and Science). Yet this is precisely the result to be expected from a virgin birth.

    Prof. Tipler explains the different radiocarbon dating of the two artifact as due to bioplastic coatings on them, with the bioplastic coating being greater on the Turin Shroud, hence giving a later date.

    At any rate, Prof. Tipler doesn’t base the Omega Point cosmology on any of the above. Rather, the Omega Point is an unavoidable result purely of the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics). For the details on that, see my above post.

  • Jim Shaver


    You and I are in complete agreement with respect to the (lack of) scientific validity of Tipler’s claims, and indeed in the overall meaning and tone of your article. Regarding my presumed distinction between evidence and proof in this context, I think an example might be constructive.

    Let’s say that someone were able to actively demonstrate the parting of a sea by means of prayer. Such a demonstration would clearly be evidence of a force far outside what is known to human science, and god would be at the top of the list of hypotheses. This event, however miraculous, would nonetheless still be short of proof of a god, much less proof of a Christian god (even given the obvious biblical inspiration).

    Oh, and Mr. Redford’s analysis and apologetics are every bit as ridiculous as the Blind Watchmaker’s, just more arcane.

  • irishjazz

    Leaving aside the multiple and perhaps ultimately irresolvable Shroud controversies…

    The Omega point is simply the place where knowledge of physics breaks down. That is as good a place to hide God as any, but it is still a just a gap.

  • alexjbutterfield

    It’s so frustrating to me when people redefine god, but still call it ‘god’.

    Is this simply a god of the gaps argument? or is there another name for this?

    My friend says she believes in god, she doesnt pray or go to church or nothing, god to her is just some force in the universe. At least her god is abstract. Tipler is hypothesizing/proving a physical end of the universe, a singularity, and then calling it god.

    Just call it a singularity. Call it an omega point if you must, but dont call it god.

    It’s like me saying:

    ‘look i’ve proved god.’
    ‘but thats just a can of coke.’
    ‘but i call that can of coke ‘god’, therefore god exists.’

    how do people justify this dishonesty to themselves?

  • alexjbutterfield

    whoa, forgot to point out, what an idiot that journalist is in the video. (i thought about putting journalist in quotes, but i think journalist without quotes is accurate enough)

    my favourite worst bit is when he says, this proves god exists. and she goes “god exists” and points at where he’s written it on the board and the camera pans to the board, like that is irrefutable proof.

    if the camera panned to a little jar with god all squashed in like a genie then okay. but a black board?

    it is so retarded.

    “i can prove god exists”
    “you just said ‘god exists’ that proves god exists”

    i hope one day that the world is so rich and efficient that no one has to work, and then idiots like her can just sit at home playing video games, without even a thought of maybe ill be a hack journalist to pay the bills.

  • Since the only way to avoid the conclusion that the Omega Point exists is to reject the known laws of physics (of which have been confirmed by every experiment to date), and hence to reject empirical science, there exists no rational reason for thinking that the Omega Point Theory is incorrect. Indeed, one must engage in extreme irrationality in order to argue against the Omega Point Theory.

    Regarding the identification of the Omega Point as being God:

    The Omega Point is omniscient, having an infinite amount of information and knowing all that is logically possible to be known; it is omnipotent, having an infinite amount of energy and power; and it is omnipresent, consisting of all that exists. As well, as Stephen Hawking proved, the singularity is not in spacetime, but rather is the boundary of space and time. So the Omega Point is transcendent to, yet immanent in, space and time.

    Additionally, the cosmological singularity consists of a three-part structure: the final singularity (i.e., the Omega Point), the all-presents singularity (which exists at all times at the edge of the multiverse), and the initial singularity (i.e., the beginning of the Big Bang). These three distinct parts which perform different physical functions in bringing about and sustaining existence are actually one singularity which connects the entirety of the multiverse.

    Those are all the physical properties that have been claimed for God in traditional Christian theology. As well, Christian theology has maintained that there is only one achieved (actually existing) infinity, and that infinity is God. The cosmological singularity of the Omega Point is an achieved infinity.

    And given an infinite amount of computational resources, recreating the exact quantum state of our present universe is trivial, requiring at most a mere 10^123 bits (the number which Roger Penrose calculated), or at most a mere 2^10^123 bits for every different quantum configuration of the universe logically possible (i.e., the multiverse in its entirety up to this point in universal history). So the Omega Point will be able to resurrect us using merely an infinitesimally small amount of total computational resources: indeed, the multiversal resurrection will occur between 10^-10^10 and 10^-10^123 seconds before the Omega Point is reached, as the computational capacity of the universe at that stage will be great enough that doing so will require only a trivial amount of total computational resources.

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