Remarks on Tipler

Remarks on F. J. Tipler

Recently, we have witnessed a wide discussion of Frank J. Tipler's conception of life in a collapsing universe, near the Omega Point. Putting aside the fantasies about gods and resurrection, one could just wonder if there were any real problems that might stand behind all that noise, with something worth consideration still requiring a more appropriate expression.

As far as I can see, most speculations of that kind grow from the uncritical physicalism in the treatment of matter, energy, space and time, evolution and development, life and reason. Of course, a scientist may play with theoretical models, and apply any special concept to almost anything. However, if, in this way, we come to obviously absurd conclusions, the first thing to do is to adjust the unreasonable model, rather than to put on airs and sell these absurdities as the final truth. Most people are aware of the fact that physics is not well suited for studying psychological phenomena and life; it even fails to provide a complete description of chemical processes. The very existence of different sciences is an evidence of some difference in their object areas. Consequently, a comprehensive scenario of universal evolution based on yet another physical analogy can only be useful as an illustration of the formalism, or as an attempt to get across the limits of the theory's applicability in a deliberately inadequate extrapolation.

Many bright scientists were fascinated by their profession to the degree of losing the view of the difference between a formal model of reality and reality thus approximated. This disease is most frequent in fundamental research, like general relativity or quantum field theory. I admit that mathematical tricks can be a most exciting entertainment; still, such formal manipulation will remain entirely meaningless until we discover its true sense in practical activity. Mathematicians like talking about "rigor" and "proof"; some philosophers uncritically joined in with the tales like "verification" and "falsification". In real life, nothing can be "proved" beyond doubt, since any proof needs some preliminary assumptions and a kind of traditional logic; the both premises are disputable and subject to historical development. The products of formal deduction do not need to be true, and conversely, some truths come from practical acts beyond formal reasoning; in the XX century, this circumstance has come to the public awareness in a limited way, through the mathematics of computability.

Well, assuming that far extrapolations of Tipler's (or Dyson's) kind illuminate the limitations of the contemporary science and thus express the necessity of a new conceptual basis, let us list a few open questions that might inspire Tipler, regardless of the level of awareness.

  1. Insufficiency of the physical description of space and time. The ideas of space and time refer to the development of the world, while modern physics is largely based on the traditional "coordinate frame" paradigm, picturing space-time as an entity existing before any physical events to be put in. General relativity pretended to bind the structure of space-time to matter, but from the very beginning, this good intention was compromised by geometric reductionism; modern physics generally follows the inverse logic, trying to deduce matter from geometry, which is a sure way to a dead end.

  2. Too vague awareness of the hierarchical organization of the world. Most people admit that life is a little more than mere physical motion, and that conscious activity is somewhat different from mere organic life. However, the nature of this difference remains unclear. This provokes stubborn attempts to reduce one level of complexity to another, deriving higher forms from the most primitive, or conversely, bringing all kinds of motion under conscious control. However, life can never be explained by physics and chemistry, though it is impossible without certain physical and chemical processes; on the contrary, life tends to modify the physical environment in a way that can drastically change the character of physical motion. Similarly, subjectivity is accompanied with biological or physical events, but they do not explain it. A conscious action can interconnect natural phenomena of any kind, rearranging physical and biological processes to adapt them to cultural needs.

  3. No clear recognition of the place of subjectivity in the world. Modern science and most philosophies have not yet come to comprehending the necessity of reason as an objective stage of natural development. This drives scientists either to rejecting the very idea of subjectivity, or to reducing it to vulgar arbitrariness, or sometimes, to declaring it to be something beyond human comprehension and virtually beyond the physical world (that is, a kind of god). Tipler's approach is a mixture of these trends, replacing conscious beings with mere computers deciding between many random destinies under the rule of their Omega-god.


[Physics] [Science] [Unism]