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.