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Rebutting the Rebuttal

If you've ever spent any time on message boards or discussion groups, you're no doubt familiar with the peculiar format debates adopt on the internet: every poster but the very first quotes the previous message nearly in full, chops it down to chunks of one or two sentences, and inserts point-by-point rebuttals of everything the previous poster said. I don't like it very much. It encourages people to focus on minutiae, unfairly punishes the smallest mistakes, and most often leads to overly tedious, ridiculously long posts devoid of any substance. So I try to avoid being sucked in these kinds of debate most of the time.

Sometimes though, it is simply way too tempting. As when, for example, someone feels the need to insert the following in his "rebuttal" of one of my posts:

Warning: I’m going to wreck these arguments with cold, hard facts. If this offends you, please stop reading. It is not my intention to offend you, but as one would say: you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.

Setting aside the almost superhuman arrogance of someone who is so convinced he's right he feels the need to soften the blow for the poor souls who might be hurt by his razor-sharp logic, to me this kind of boastful "disclaimer" is a sign of weakness. It's just like when someone says at a party: "We're having so much fun!". That's the kind of thing people only say out loud when they're in serious doubt inside. 99% of the time, when someone feels obligated to say otherwise, the party sucks, and so does the logic.

Only one reaction to my previous post addressed the science/facts of the talks under dispute. […] most people find the actual science far to difficult to address directly. […] Looking at Tipler alone required me to go through endless papers […] Not many people will make time for something like that.

Indeed most people don't make time for that, but they're right not to do so. Thomas Goorden is no doubt aware of the vast difference in understanding between him and those who gave up physics after high school. The latter have vaguely heard of orbitals and they've seen Young's slit experiment and they think they know what quantum physics is all about, but compared to someone who has an undergraduate or master's degree in physics, they know nothing. Mr Goorden, on the other hand, seems to know a few things about theoretical physics, certainly more than most people, including me.

However, in my experience, an understanding gap just as wide exists between people who merely hold a master's degree, and the PhD students who are actually publishing papers in the field. Just like a master's degree teaches you that most of what you learned in high school is wrong, getting a PhD makes you realize that most of those master's level courses were incomplete, and what you thought you understood was wide off the mark. It seems to me the PhD is the first level of education where you can genuinely claim to know something scientifically. The scope of what you know is very, very small, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot on the sphere of knowledge, but for the first time you genuinely understand it. Everything you were taught in high school, and most of what you learned as an undergraduate, on the other hand, are mostly lies-to-childrens.

But the line doesn't even stop here: a third gap exists, again just as wide, between young researchers and seasoned professors, who have done research in their domains of interest for twenty years or more. Thusly they have gained a deep knowledge of a given scientific field, and its interconnections with surrounding disciplines, which is likely the bare minimum for having intelligent thoughts about something so mind-bogglingly complex as a Theory of Everything. Mr Goorden is right in saying that quantum mechanics is harder than most people think, but cutting edge research in cosmology is yet orders of magnitude more complex than even he seems to realize. His suggestion that the couple days he spent skimming papers is enough to have an intelligent discussion about the underlying science is frankly comical. That would take twenty years, and there are no shortcuts.

Even a casual reading of the "scientific" debate between Mr Goorden and James Redford confirms that this is indeed the case. It reads very much like a dialogue between two people who think they know what they're talking about. I can't really blame them for that: the physics of the current proposed theories of everything are some of the most intricate and unintuitive pieces of knowledge ever devised by mankind, and it is impossible for anyone but a seasoned expert in this field to even attempt to understand what is going on, never mind discuss it intelligently. And that is precisely my point: Mr Goorden, like everyone but a handful of humans on this planet, simply doesn't know enough to discuss the underlying physics.

To his credit, he seems somewhat aware of this fact. By his second reply in the aforementioned email exchange, he apparently realizes he can't win on physics, so he chooses to attack Omega point cosmology on the basis that Mr Tipler lives in the United States. (I swear that's what he's saying. Check for yourself if you don't believe me.) This is, of course, a complete non sequitur, but some people might find the underlying argument Mr Goorden is trying to set up superficially attractive:

  1. Frank Tipler's theory supports Christian theology
  2. Christian theology is false
  3. Therefore, Frank Tipler's theory is false

Well, I hate to be the one who has to break this to Mr Goorden, but you cannot do that. The argument uses a reductio ad absurdum, i.e.: if a proposition logically entails a contradiction (a statement known to be false), then it follows that the proposition itself is false as well. It is structurally sound (logicians use it all the time), but, in this case, using it against Mr Tipler theory requires that either:

  1. you prove, from first principles and observation only, that God doesn't exist, or at least that if He exists He cannot be described as a trinity. (Good luck with that.) Or,
  2. you accept the above as self-evident, i.e., on faith.

In short, as he realizes he cannot win the rational argument, Mr Goorden falls back on the exact sin he's accusing Mr Tipler of: letting personal beliefs (in this case, apparently, strong atheism) creep into what is supposed to be a scientific discussion.

Let's move on to what Mr Goorden says more directly to me:

[R]oughly 3 separate arguments rose up in favor of Tipler and Hameroff[…]:
  1. They have published papers.
  2. Smart and famous people have said something positive about it.
  3. One should have an open mind about science and at the very least consider the alternatives.

Hoping you don't mind me starting at the end, number 3 is actually the exact opposite of what I've written. I never said science should be distrusted or that other practices can also provide good answers. What I argued for was the importance of keeping an open mind within the framework of science. I apologize for any misunderstanding, although I tried my best to make the next-to-last paragraph of my post as clear as possible on this point.

Let's move on to the other two:

The first two arguments can actually be taken together. They are so called “arguments from authority”, which is a very well known logical fallacy. It is, simply put, a rhetorical technique to be avoided, especially in this variant.

These are, again, the words of someone who almost knows what he's talking about. The argument from authority is a rhetorical fallacy, more precisely an informational fallacy. (It cannot be a logical fallacy in the mathematical sense because most formal logics have no concept of "authority".) What it means is: the fact that an authority figure endorses a given statement does not prove the truth of that statement, because even authority figures can sometimes be wrong. Had I said that Roger Penrose's endorsement (or the fact that Mr Hameroff has published peer-reviewed papers) proves his theory is right, Mr Goorden's point would have been a devastating blow.

But of course I said no such thing. I used the "authorities" only to support the idea that Mr Hameroff's theory might be worthy of attention. I didn't say the theory was entirely right. I don't think it is entirely right. However, the fact that it is deemed of interest by at least part of the scientific community suggests that it might be, at the very least, interesting. This is not fallacious. What the "argument from authority" fallacy means is that you cannot end a debate with "Superman says A is true, therefore it is." It is however perfectly OK to start a discussion with "Hey, that superman chap thinks this guy's crazy theory might be right, whaddya make of that?". Again I tried my best to make this distinction clear in my original article, by saying for example: "[Roger Penrose's endorsement] does not make Mr Hameroff's theory right, or even scientific", but in case I wasn't clear enough, I apologize for the misunderstanding.

And so Mr Goorden writes eight paragraphs giving reasons why Mr Hameroff's theory is likely to be wrong. I cannot fathom how this serves a rebuttal to my post, where I never claimed the theory to be right. My next-to-last sentence reads: "I'd say [Mr Hameroff's theory is] likely to be wrong." (Again, I humbly apologize if that sentence seems unclear to anyone.) Since Mr Goorden apparently likes to point out rhetorical fallacies, even where, as in the above, no such fallacy is present, he'll be happy to learn that what he's doing here is called a "straw man argument".

Anyway, ferreting out all the logical errors and biases in Mr Goorden's article is clearly impossible in a post of reasonable size, so I will stop here and try to weave the various strands into some kind of conclusion.

Much of this claimed rebuttal of my last post addresses Lynne McTaggart, even though I have never, to put it mildly, rushed to her defense. Mr Goorden asserts all three talks can have negative consequences, a claim he's only able to support in the case of Lynne McTaggart's. He's not above crass dishonesty, as evidenced by his pimping of one of his sources as "a co-author of Stephen Hawking" while simultaneously dismissing the opinion of another of the über-physicists's co-authors, Roger Penrose, as absolutely worthless. He expends quite a lot of copy on long digressions on climate change, intelligent design and vaccines, all completely unrelated to the subject at hand. Only in passing does he mention Stuart Hameroff, who's the only one of the trio I explicitly defended. All in all, it isn't clear what Mr Goorden's post is a rebuttal of, but clearly it's nothing I have written.

Getting down to substance, most of Mr Goorden's criticism boils down to attacks on religion, where, by the way, "religion" has an unusually broad definition. Yes indeed, Frank Tipler is a born-again Christian, but so what ? Is Mr Goorden really saying only atheists can do good science ? Lynne McTaggart can hardly be described as religious: new-agers hold many meta-physical beliefs, but they don't belong to any organized cult or religion. I could find no source for Stuart Hameroff's religious beliefs, possibly because most people don't think a scientist's religion is relevant when discussing his science. (Yeah, I know, crazy idea.) Roger Penrose is an atheist.

In the end, when you comb through Mr Goorden's arguments, getting rid of the unspoken biases and the shoddy logic, his position seems to be:

  • TEDx should be a forum for accepted, validated and consensual science, not the cutting-edge stuff that is necessarily controversial and likely to be at least partially false
  • TEDx should refrain from inviting any speaker who might say anything that conflicts with a purely materialistic and atheistic worldview

There is nothing wrong with holding any or both of these opinions, but one has to recognize them for what they are: expressions of taste. Write them, share them, shout them, but don't try to build up a scientific-looking argument that says everyone has to agree with you. Anyway, I doubt it's even possible to defend such personal preferences on purely objective, scientific grounds. Mr Goorden has certainly tried very hard and, as I have argued in this post and the preceding one, failed. I, for one, hopes dearly that TEDxBrussels will not follow his advice.

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Reader Comments (6)


First of all, I wish you hadn't taken things so personally. My blog post was a reaction to quite a wide range of reactions, not just yours. "Rebuttal" (only referenced in my tweet, for the sake of 140 char simplicity) was a misnomer in this sense, but I think the post itself clearly references other reactions than yours. Other than that, I must say you are quite ad hominem in this post, which is not necessary at all. In this view it is ironic that you misconstrued my disclaimer as arrogance. I simply wanted to bring the debate down to facts, which it is sadly lacking.

First things first: an argument from authority IS a fallacy of deductive reasoning (in essence a logical fallacy all the way). This can be verified easily by simply reading wikipedia or a textbook on this topic. You've simply got things backwards here and it would do you well to tone down a bit just for this alone. An argument from authority is however permissible as a rhetorical technique simply because we humans lend credibility to authority. However, if you had read my argument correctly, you would have seen that even this informal reasoning does not hold in the case at hand because even there, the argument from authority is very contentious at best! To sum up: it is a logical fallacy and as a rhetorical technique it actually argues AGAINST your case because there are "more and bigger authorities" that disagree with Tipler and Hameroff than they agree.

Secondly, I really do appreciate you reading through my exchange regarding Tipler, but I would ask you to not misrepresent what I wrote there. My point was not that Tipler is wrong because he's a Christian, that would be ridiculous. I actually asked a question regarding the odd coincidence that Tipler became a new-born Christian and proved the existence of a Judeo-Christian god, while making the remark that new-born christianity is pretty much exclusive to the US. Please note the specific qualifiers in this argument: American + new-born christian = proof of Judeo-Christian god. It is an argument from statistical odds, not an argument on "being wrong because of belief". The rhetorical question then was: would he have gotten to the same proof if he was Chinese (but it would work with Hindu as well). This is infinitely more subtle than you make it out to be.

Then I would like to point out that I actually have no objections to religion on stage. It can be quite instructive. However. First of all, the TEDx rules expressly forbid this. It says specifically: "TEDx events may not be used to promote spiritual or religious beliefs, commercial products or political agendas." This rule is however often bent, so we might be able to give people a pass on this one. More importantly however, I absolutely oppose religious belief disguised as science because it lies about its true nature. I have provided plenty of examples where this has directly or indirectly been the case with very negative results. If there would be overwhelming evidence that a scientist had proven a religious idea, then fine, but this has so far never been the case and it certainly wasn't the case for Tipler, Hameroff and McTaggart. (I know you agree with the assessment of McTaggart, but I think her case is just more obvious.) You might not think that scientific claims with a religious outcome do not require more proof than other scientifically states claims, but that's where we disagree: I think they are absolutely dangerous.

Let's look at some other hyperbole here. OK, so it appears you are saying professor trump PhD students trump undergraduate students and none of them can assess the work of people "above them"? You do realize that papers by tenured professors are often enough invalidated by "mere" PhD students or even - gasp - mere graduates? More than one professor has in fact reached tenure by such a stunt. Worse still, it is usually applauded by all parties involved. Your statement just doesn't match the real world, however romantic the idea of "perfect professors". Worse still, parts of your argumentation work against both Tipler and Hameroff. As you correctly state, it takes an entire life-time to become an expert in just one field and it is almost impossible to be an expert in more than one. However, for Tipler to be right and for him to be "more of an expert" than the people that rebut him, he would have to be a top expert in the fields of mathematics, astrophysics, quantum mechanics AND biology (genetic specifically), better than ALL of the other experts that merely understand one of those parts and disagree with him. It would make him some sort of eminently misunderstood super-genius. I wouldn't bet on that. And let met remind you that Hameroff has made no indication of having studied quantum beyond "mere undergraduate level", but the center of his theory (a massive coherent quantum field) is a distinctly unique and unproven claim in the field of quantum mechanics. There is no indication that it is even possible and nowhere else to be found in QM literature. So, what are the chances - in your opinion - that he would come up with a ground-shattering theory that none of the actual QM experts deem possible?

You've completely missed my basic point: It is perfectly possible for someone with a "lesser degree" to validate or invalidate a theory made by an expert in the field. In fact, it happens all the time! However, it is very (very) unlikely that someone will come up with a truly original and groundbreaking theory in a field that is actually not their expertise at all or where they have a less-than-expert level.

Sure, I could not write the papers that Tipler and Hameroff produce with my current level of knowledge. It would also be very difficult to check Tipler's mathematical development of a specific type of cosmological field theory, which (as I pointed out) we should probably assume to be correct. However, anyone, including you, could very easily see from the paper that his grand theory of "proof of god" is not made in the mathematical parts of his famous published paper. It is in fact only developed (in writing, without any further comment) in a sort of extra chapter slapped on at the end and it introduces reasoning that is addressed nowhere in the math. (Chapter 11, if you would like to look it up.) There are plenty of similar discrepancies I would gladly point out for which you do not need to be an expert in math, astrophysics or QM at all to see that there are at the very least "problems" with the theory. If you can read English and you have the patience for it, I would definitely recommend it.

Now, please, pretty please: Try to look at the naked facts. And if you're going to be insulting, at the very least be funny about it.

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Goorden

Hi, Thomas Goorden.

You're making incorrect statements in your above post that we've already been over before. Which is strange why you would do that since you ought to know better by now.

As far as anyone knows, the Omega Point cosmology is correct. If anyone knows otherwise, they've kept the refutation a secret. Since the Omega Point cosmology is now a mathematical theorem per the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics), the only way it could be wrong is if those said laws of physics are wrong--yet they have been confirmed by every experiment to date.

As I already told you, to date the only peer-reviewed paper in a physics journal that has criticized Prof. Frank J. Tipler's Omega Point Theory has been in 1994 by physicists George Ellis and Dr. David Coule in the journal General Relativity and Gravitation ("Life at the end of the universe?", Vol. 26, No. 7 [July 1994], pp. 731-739). In the paper, Ellis and Coule gave an argument that the Bekenstein Bound violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics if the universe collapses without having event horizons eliminated. Yet in order to bring about the Omega Point, event horizons must be eliminated, and Tipler cites this paper in his 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper in support of the proof that the known laws of physics require the Omega Point to exist.

So your talk about "the people that rebut him [i.e., Tipler]" is pure phantasy which you've already been corrected on. To date the only peer-reviewed physics paper that tried ended up making Tipler's case stronger. Nor does there exist any other physicist upon the globe who has all the physics background and expertise that Tipler does (i.e., in global general relativity, quantum field theory, and computation theory), and of those who come close (such as Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, and Steven Weinberg), they're not attempting to perform a consistent global analysis of the future of spacetime within the framework of the known laws of physics.

I also informed you how Prof. Tipler's current Christianity is a result of his work in physics. Tipler had been an atheist since the age of 16, yet only circa 1998 did he again become a theist due to advancements in the Omega Point cosmology which occured after the publication of his 1994 book The Physics of Immortality (and Tipler even mentions in said book [pg. 305] that he is still an atheist because he didn't at the time have confirmation for the Omega Point Theory).

Christian theology is preferentially selected by the known laws of physics due to the fundamentally triune structure of the cosmological singularity, which is deselective of all other major religions.

For the conversations where we've been over the above matters, see:

James Redford, "Reply to Thomas Goorden",, Message-ID: , 27 Dec 2010 15:40:52 -0800 (PST)

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Redford

Hey Serge,

I hope you're following this, because James here just very nicely supported my point that this whole "let's have an open mind" leaves a hole that religious people will drive a truck through.

Let's summarize his arguments:
- Tipler is correct, because he has not been refuted. Also, because the math works! Isn't that proof?
- Tipler is at such a mega-genius that none of the "great scientists" can even comment on his work, let alone mere experts. (Note that this is exactly the argument you're allowing people to make.)
- Event horizons are not a problem, because - hand-waving - they will cease to exist! Maxwell's demon? Gone!
- There is absolute nothing statistically remarkable about Tipler converting to christianity while living in the "bible belt" of the world. Also: all other religions are false!

I guess we should all just convert to christianity now? (Again, it's quite odd that scientists haven't done so en masse, considering how established, proven and irrefutable this science apparently is. Unless of course only James understands it apart from Tipler.) I'm sorry for the sarcastic tone, but this display of bad logic is just too much for me.

James is dishonest about the experiments that supposedly confirm the Omega Point theory. Unless he can point out where the proposed tests from the 2005 paper have been confirmed, it is absolutely an untrue statement. (No James, you can't point to some other, non-predicted measurement, that is not the same thing.) Also note how important it is to actually read the 2005 paper to understand how little it actually says about this whole matter and how dangerous it is to allow people to use a published paper as an argument.

But all of this discussion won't matter. We're not dealing with "open debate about scientific theory" here, this is just old dogma wrapped in sparkling pseudo-science. And any religious person will tell you that they have an idea worth spreading.

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Goorden

Thomas Goorden, from the start of your attack on Prof. Frank J. Tipler you've been exceedingly adverse to facts, knowledge, truth and coherent reasoning. You make up things as you go along: phantasms of your own mind.

You began your bizarre attack upon Prof. Tipler by acting as if you knew something about the physics of his Omega Point cosmology, when you obviously didn't. This resulted in you making up out of whole cloth the nonsense claim of the Omega Point cosmology violating the laws of thermodynamics, which you quickly in dropped in our discussion, since it was clear that you had no idea as to what you were talking about, but simply made an assumption.

And so it has continued with you. You imagine goblins and then attack them, as if you were actually addressing something to do with the subject at hand.

You state, "Tipler is correct, because he has not been refuted. Also, because the math works! Isn't that proof?"

Since the Omega Point cosmology is now a mathematical theorem per the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, General Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics), the only way it could be wrong is if those said laws of physics are wrong--yet they have been confirmed by every experiment to date.

The statement you make on this is highly irrational, because what would you have us do, throw out mathematics and empirical science just because they lead to results that you dislike?

You state, "Tipler is at such a mega-genius that none of the 'great scientists' can even comment on his work, let alone mere experts." I didn't say or even suggest that they couldn't comment, rather I point out that the issue of the ultimate fate of the universe and life's role in it isn't a subject that they've attempted to tackle in a systematic way, i.e., bringing to bear Global General Relativity, quantum field theory, and computation theory, because none are experts in all three areas like Prof. Tipler is.

You state, "Event horizons are not a problem, because - hand-waving - they will cease to exist! Maxwell's demon? Gone!" Prof. Tipler addresses in detail how event horizons are eliminated by life using Taublike collapses of the universe, i.e., Mixmaster oscillations (a Mixmaster universe is also called a Bianchi Type IX universe). Again, I've already been over this with you.

The Omega Point cosmology doesn't invoke Maxwell's demon in any form in an attempt to get around the laws of thermodynamics. So you're again throwing out nihil ad rem things due to your own lack of knowledge as to what you're attempting to argue against. In the Omega Point cosmology, entropy diverges to infinity. Heat death is avoided due to the Taublike collapses creating a temperature differential across the universe, as greater heating occurs along the axis of collapse. Energy available to life diverges to infinity due to the gravitational shear diverges to infinity going into the final singularity, since gravitational energy is negative energy, and hence the positive energy of matter goes to positive infinity (as the total energy of the universe at all times sums to exactly zero).

You state, "There is absolute nothing statistically remarkable about Tipler converting to christianity while living in the 'bible belt' of the world. Also: all other religions are false!"

Christian theology is preferentially selected by the known laws of physics due to the fundamentally triune structure of the cosmological singularity, which is deselective of all other major religions. Anyone who was aware that there is a major world religion which claims that God exists as a Trinity and who took this physical result seriously would have to take seriously that what physics is describing is the same God described by Christian theology.

And it's not that all other religions are altogether false in all their claims. After all, most of the major ones got right that God exists. But some are more correct than others.

You state, "I guess we should all just convert to christianity now? (Again, it's quite odd that scientists haven't done so en masse, considering how established, proven and irrefutable this science apparently is. Unless of course only James understands it apart from Tipler.) I'm sorry for the sarcastic tone, but this display of bad logic is just too much for me."

Unfortunately, most modern physicists have been all too willing to abandon the laws of physics if it produces results that they're uncomfortable with, i.e., in reference to religion. It's the antagonism for religion on the part of the scientific community which greatly held up the acceptance of the Big Bang (for some 40 years), due to said scientific community's displeasure with it confirming the traditional theological position of creatio ex nihilo, and also because no laws of physics can apply to the singularity itself (i.e., quite literally, the singularity is supernatural, in the sense that no form of physics can apply to it, since physical values are at infinity at the singularity, and so it is not possible to perform the arithmetical operations of addition or subtraction on them; and in the sense that the singularity is beyond creation, as it is not a part of spacetime, but rather is the boundary of space and time).

The originator of the Big Bang theory, circa 1930, was Roman Catholic priest and physicist Prof. Georges Lemaître; and it was enthusiastically endorsed by Pope Pius XII in 1951, long before the scientific community finally came to accept it.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides and Saint Thomas Aquinas, from their readings of biblical scripture, had both defined God as the Uncaused First Cause (which is equivalent to Aristotle's conception of God as the Unmoved Mover), and so the physics community was quite reluctant to confirm with the Big Bang that God exists per this traditional definition of God.

As regards physicists abandoning physical law due to their theological discomfort with the Big Bang, in an article by physicist and mathematician Prof. Frank J. Tipler he gives the following example involving no less than physicist Prof. Steven Weinberg:

The most radical ideas are those that are perceived to support religion, specifically Judaism and Christianity. When I was a student at MIT in the late 1960s, I audited a course in cosmology from the physics Nobelist Steven Weinberg. He told his class that of the theories of cosmology, he preferred the Steady State Theory because "it *least* resembled the account in Genesis" (my emphasis). In his book *The First Three Minutes* (chapter 6), Weinberg explains his earlier rejection of the Big Bang Theory: "Our mistake is not that we take our theories too seriously, but that we do not take them seriously enough. It is always hard to realize that these numbers and equations we play with at our desks have something to do with the real world. *Even worse, there often seems to be a general agreement that certain phenomena are just not fit subjects for respectable theoretical and experimental effort.*" [My emphasis--J. R.]

... But as [Weinberg] himself points out in his book, the Big Bang Theory was an automatic consequence of standard thermodynamics, standard gravity theory, and standard nuclear physics. All of the basic physics one needs for the Big Bang Theory was well established in the 1930s, some two decades before the theory was worked out. Weinberg rejected this standard physics not because he didn't take the equations of physics seriously, but because he did not like the religious implications of the laws of physics. ...

For that and a number of other such examples, see:

Frank J. Tipler, "Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?", Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design (PCID), Vols. 2.1 and 2.2 (January-June 2003); available at the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID) website. Also published as Chapter 7 in Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, edited by William A. Dembski, "Foreword" by John Wilson (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2004).

Prof. Stephen Hawking reinforces what Weinberg and Tipler wrote about concerning the antagonism of the scientific community for religion, resulting in them abandoning good physics. In his book The Illustrated A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam Books, 1996), p. 62, Hawking wrote:

Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention. (The Catholic Church, on the other hand, seized on the big bang model and in 1951 officially pronounced it to be in accordance with the Bible). There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a big bang.

On p. 179 of the same book, Hawking wrote "In real time, the universe has a beginning and an end at singularities that form a boundary to spacetime and at which the laws of science break down."

Agnostic and physicist Dr. Robert Jastrow, founding director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in his book God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1978), p. 113:

This religious faith of the scientist [that there is no First Cause] is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized.

For more quotes by Robert Jastrow on this, see:

"Science and Discomfiting Discoveries" in John Ross Schroeder, Bill Bradford and Mario Seiglie, Life's Ultimate Question: Does God Exist? (United Church of God, 2000). A free book on the Good News magazine website.

For more quotes by scientists along the above lines, see the below article:

Mariano, "In the Beginning ... Cosmology, Part I", Atheism is Dead, February 11, 2009; a Blogspot post.

Again, the only way to avoid the Omega Point cosmology is to resort to 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 dependent 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 (October 2005), Art. No. 084013; also at arXiv:hep-th/0507171, July 18, 2005.

That is, Prof. Hawking's paper is based upon empirically unconfirmed physics which violate the known laws of physics. It's an impressive testament to the Omega Point Theorem'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.

Contrast that ad libitum approach to doing physics with that of Prof. Frank J. Tipler, who bases his Omega Point/Feynman-DeWitt-Weinberg quantum gravity/Standard Model Theory of Everything (TOE) strictly on the known laws of physics. Tipler believes we have to take the known laws of physics seriously as true explanations of how the world works, unless said physics are experimentally, or otherwise, refuted.

You state, "James is dishonest about the experiments that supposedly confirm the Omega Point theory. Unless he can point out where the proposed tests from the 2005 paper have been confirmed, it is absolutely an untrue statement. (No James, you can't point to some other, non-predicted measurement, that is not the same thing.) Also note how important it is to actually read the 2005 paper to understand how little it actually says about this whole matter and how dangerous it is to allow people to use a published paper as an argument."

That's really rich, calling me "dishonest". You're the one who has been talking out of your fundament ever since you began your ignorance-fueled attack upon Prof. Tipler. You came into this with prejudice and ignorance, making up nonsensical attacks as you go along.

Regarding Prof. Tipler's 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper, you're hardly one to be lecturing anyone as to what supposedly is or is not in it, as you repeatedly claimed in our usenet discussion that Tipler didn't give a proof of the Omega Point cosmology (which is on pp. 925 and 904-905), while mistaking Section 11 of the paper as being his argument for it, despite me repeatedly telling you where you could find the proof. The Richard Lieu, et al. paper is a confirmation of the Omega Point TOE, because Tipler repeatedly mentions in his 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper that if the CMBR is an SU(2)_L gauge field then right-handed electrons will not couple to it. Tipler proposes his own experimental set-ups to test it, but any experimental set-up which showed this effect would be confirmation of the SU(2)_L gauge field.

In that same usenet discussion, you repeatedly asserted that baryon annihilation was something speculative that Prof. Tipler was writing about in his 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper, and I again had to repeatedly correct you, being that it's a mechanism of the Standard Model discovered by Prof. Gerardus 't Hooft in 1976, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1999.

In these discussions, on any of the technical points, you have no clue as you what in the world you're talking about. The nontechnical argument you make consist of non sequiturs and red herrings.

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Redford

Luckily, there are some easily verifiable facts:

1. The 2005 paper makes three testable predictions regarding the detectable presence of a SU(2)_L gauge field in the cosmic background radiation. As far as I can tell, none of these predictive tests have been successfully executed and it looks like James confirms this as well.
2. The Richard Lieu, et al. paper indicates an "unexpected" measurement in the CBR, which Tipler has post-facto linked to his theory. This is not a fraction as impressive as actually predicting the outcome of an experiment. It certainly smells of hindsight bias.

The way James handles these facts is dishonest, because you are trying to imply that the Omega Point theory has a strong experimental basis. While I certainly would applaud and encourage actually executing the proposed experiments, going for a quick win like this is to be frowned upon. Also, please note that I can't possible verify the math for Tipler's SU(2)_L gauge field, but we can assume it's written correctly. However, even if it would get stronger experimental proof (which would be cool), it is only the first part of the Omega Point theory. There are a series of other conjectures that are also being made within the Omega Point theory that - as far as I can tell - have very little published material, no proposed tests, let alone experimental evidence.

My opinion on other matters:
1. James completely ignores my observation that it is statistically very remarkable that a proof of the Judeo-Christian trinity is discovered in the Bible Belt.
2. James is constantly arguing with "arguments from authority", which is ironic considering neither James nor Serge can claim any serious expertise. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a world renowned expert either. But, going by your own argumentation (which is silly), wouldn't I still be more capable to judge these things considering I studied physics to a "higher" degree than both of you? In other words, if I am incapable of judging these theories, you certainly are. It would be a boring world if argument from authority actually mattered, wouldn't it?
3. The "Maxwell's daemon paradox" (for people that are interested) gave rise to a specific form/interpretation of the second law of thermodynamics within information theory. I think it is perfectly applicable to the Omega Point theory (not in a good way), but obviously James disagrees. It takes quite a bit of math and logic to argue the finer points of this and I am fairly certain nobody here really cares much for going there. Or do you guys feel like busting out some math instead of going by what "he said, she said"?

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Goorden

Aaaaaalright… It seems like I need a disclaimer of my own: I am currently traveling through Indonesia, and internet is not always easy to come by. The following is a reply to Thomas' first comment, which was also the only one last time I checked. I'll read the others in the next few days and if I can come up with something constructive (or distracting) to add on them, I'll do so as soon as I can.


Thank you for adding your thoughts on this. I'd like to begin by repeating something I said before: I have absolutely nothing against you as a person. I think you're a good guy, you have the best of intentions, and I'd be very happy to meet you and have a drink if we ever cross path at TEDx or elsewhere. I think we agree much more than we disagree, which is exactly why this post is so frank: this debate is challenging and interesting, in a way that debating a creationist couldn't ever be. So I'd like to thank you for this debate, and insist that I want it to produce a better mutual understanding of the issues at hand, not hard feelings.

Having said that, I can go back to being insulting.

I do understand that your post addressed more reactions than mine alone. However, except for the email exchange with James Redford, my reaction was, as far as I know, the only one that was both lengthy and public. Moreover, save for a few thoughts on the email exchange, your entire post is an attack on the three main points I originally made (with some misrepresentations, as I've said above). Lastly, you did advertise your post as a rebuttal to mine. I, for one, have never felt compelled by the 140-character limit to describe as a "rebuttal" something that wasn't, or to insert names of people I wasn't specifically addressing. Contrary to what you say, I didn't take it personally, but I did understand it as an attack on my arguments, and I replied in kind. If you're going to boast about wrecking other people's positions, don't cry foul when you see the demolition crews converge on yours.

The same goes for your disclaimer. In case you've forgotten, it reads: "I’m going to wreck these arguments with cold, hard facts. If this offends you, please stop reading." Maybe there is a little-known dialect in which this is a modest and dispassionate appeal to get the debate back to the facts, but in English, it means: "I'm right and perfectly objective. If you can't accept that, go away." I'll take you at your word that you didn't intend to show arrogance, but if the words you wrote didn't match your intent, that's your mistake, not mine.

Regarding the argument from authority debate, I stand by what I said: my words in the original "Open Minds" post don't qualify as an argument from authority fallacy. But let's take a step back from that piece of contention for a minute and simply look at the sequence of arguments we both put forth:

Thomas: Tipler’s ideas run counter of the second law of thermodynamics, violate computational theory and contain several straightforward logical errors. Stuart Hameroff has incredibly incorrect notions of Quantum Mechanics
Serge: S.H.'s work was done in collaboration with a world-class mathematician and co-author of Stephen Hawking. Are you so sure the science is wrong?
Thomas: arguments from authority are worthless. Besides, this other co-author of Stephen Hawking says Frank Tipler's theory is false. I win.

In what possible world is this not blatant intellectual dishonesty? Besides the double standards regarding authority, you're changing the debate to suit your purpose: your answer attacks Frank Tipler's theory and not Hameroff's, and argues that it is likely wrong. I never said otherwise. I only said it seemed a scientifically valid working hypothesis and that I liked hearing about it. Since you're suggesting I read Wikipedia's article on the argument from authority (like I've never done that), how far along are you on the straw man one ?

Or, for that matter, on the ad hominem article? Last time I checked, an ad hominem was an attempt to attack a premise by discrediting the person advocating it. Can you please show me where I've done that in this post? I have been very frank, even confrontational, possibly borderline aggressive at some points, but that has nothing to do with ad hominem fallacies. The only thing I've said that can be construed as a personal attack is my doubting your background in physics is adequate to discuss the science behind Frank Tipler's claims — which, as personal as it might be, seems to me perfectly relevant to your ability to discuss the science behind Frank Tipler's claims.

How am I misrepresenting what you wrote to James Redford is also unclear. You claimed the physics of Frank Tipler's theory violated the second law of thermodynamics, Mr Redford challenged you on that, and your answer was to point out that Frank Tipler is a new-born christian — and isn't that interesting? If that's not a textbook ad hominem, I don't know what is. It's perfectly fine to bring out Mr Tipler's beliefs when he discusses what he sees as the philosophical and religious implications of his theory, but mentioning them while you're pretending to discuss the physics is dishonest and fallacious.

Even accepting that fallacy for the moment, the only way your argument from statistical odds makes sense is if you decide a priori that Judeo-Christian theology is wrong. If it turns out that it's right, or even wrong but partially supportable by science, then it is to be expected that a scientist from a christian-majority country will be the one to confirm it. Granted, if it initially came from a Chinese scientist it would probably appear less self-interested, (although not by much: China has nearly half as many christians as the United States) but that wouldn't make it any more or less true.

There is yet another fallacy at work here: the world has many religions, and they can't all be right, so they must be all wrong. Sorry, no. One of them could be right. Or, some of them could be partially right. Or, they could all be different projections of the same underlying truth. There is simply no rational way to tell, which is why all religious opinions should be put aside while discussing science. They never help.

Moving on, I didn't know TEDx rules forbade promoting religions or spirituality, so thank you for that info. That could be a reason against inviting Mr Tipler, and possibly Lynne McTaggart, but certainly not Stuart Hameroff. By the way, Mr Hameroff is our only serious point of contention, (We both think Ms McTaggart is a hack, and as I know little of Mr Tipler I'm only defending him pro bono, not really because I like what he says but mostly because I think your arguments against him are weak.) and yet your case against Mr Hameroff is consistently weaker than that against the other two. I still don't get how his talk is religiously motivated. Your description of his theory as "wishful" would apply much more strongly to every futurist who ever spoke at TED(x), including Marc Millis' at this year's TEDxBrussels.

Anyway, I suspect the rule is there to forbid branding as TEDx a forum exclusively about Christianity or Islam or New Age, not to ban all talks with religious or philosophical implications. There has been quite a few talks on belief at TED. Anyway, as you say, this might really be the crux of our disagreement: I don't want special scrutiny for talks about science with religious implications. I am a strong believer in free speech. There is no denying that religious ideas can sometimes be dangerous, but shutting them up is worse.

I have absolutely not said that junior scientists cannot challenge their senior's ideas. I said getting good enough to discuss something like cutting-edge quantum cosmology takes a lot of time, and on average professors in astronomy have spent more time at it than PhDs or you and me. I never said professors were perfect, and I am fully aware that young researchers occasionally challenge tenured professors and win, although I have every reason to believe that is the exception rather than the rule, especially in a field as complex as the Theories of Everything. In any case, when it happens that a tenured professor gets put down by a twenty-something, invariably it turns out the latter has worked on the problem a lot. I am not denying that some graduate or even undergraduate students can achieve great things when they work very hard on a subject for a couple of years. I am just saying that for people like you, or even worse, me, to attempt to discuss the scientific merit of something as complex as omega-point cosmology, while we only have a rather basic training in physics, are not researchers in the field, and have only a couple of hours or days to "catch up", is nothing more than an exercise in futility.

Regarding the likelihood of Frank Tipler being a better expert in mathematics, astrophysics, QM and biology than all the people who contest his results, you seem to be once again confusing "interesting" and "true". Mr Tipler is an expert on cosmology, and his main achievement is omega-point cosmology, which has been peer-reviewed and published multiple times. I have never claimed that this makes the theory true. (That would indeed be committing a fallacy of argument from authority.) However, these publications make it a fact that some scientists with some knowledge in the relevant fields of cosmology find the theory interesting and thus worthy of publication.

But that's only the scientific part of Mr Tipler's views. You lament that the "proof of god" part of his writings is treated in an end-chapter and not in the mathematical discussion of Omega-point cosmology, but that's good. As I've argued in the Open Minds post, there is nothing pseudo-scientific in a scientist discussing philosophical implications of his theories, as long as he makes it clear this is what he's doing. I knew Mr Hameroff respected that rule, I now hear you confirm that Mr Tipler does as well. Since you also recently reversed your position on Omega-point cosmology and declared the math behind it sound, rather than trivially false because it ran counter to the second law of thermodynamics, (not that I'm complaining) I'm finding it harder and harder to comprehend how you can lump Frank Tipler in the same pseudoscience bucket as Lynne McTaggart.

For his part, Mr Hameroff would indeed have to be quite a genius to come up with a QM model for consciousness with no formal training in physics, but he didn't have to: the physics parts of the model came from Roger Penrose. Are you saying Mr Penrose is not an expert on quantum mechanics ? Indeed the model is controversial, but so are all interesting theories in cutting-edge science. I doubt you'd have objected to a talk on string theory, and yet it's not hard to find leading cosmologists and theoretical physicists who are highly critical of it.

Finally, I want to thank you for one part of your comment that did make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside: your pronouncement that I might be capable of locating Mr Tipler's "proof of god" argument in his own paper. I have rarely been so flattered. I can barely believe it, but you have apparently decided that, despite my obvious cluelessness on logical fallacies, my inadequate command of the English language and my total and utter inability to look at the naked facts, my cognitive abilities might just be up to such an arduous task. To be deemed worthy of such a complex and intricate endeavor by an intellect as grand as yours is truly the greatest accolade I have ever earned in my pitiful ordinary life, and I now walk with an erstwhile unbeknownst spring in my step, on grass softer and greener than it ever was before. My liege, I'm truly honored.

Still not funny? No? Really? Oh well…

January 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterSerge Boucher

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