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Physically Impossible?

Posted by spritzophrenia on August 19, 2010

Here, as promised, is Hugh Ross’ rebuttal of the ideas in Frank Tipler’s “The Physics of Immortality”. You might want to check the first post to refresh yourself.

It is hard to treat these FAP [Final Anthropic Principle] and Omega Point hypotheses seriously. In The New York Review of Books, noted critic Martin Gardner offerred this evaluation of Barrow and Tipler’s work:

“What should we make of this quartet of WAP, SAP, PAP, and FAP? In my not so humble opinion I think the last principle is best called CRAP, the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle.”

Ross goes on to criticise the theory in two scientific areas:

Warning: Journalist does not understand what they are writing about.

Insufficient Memory

Tipler grossly overestimates the role of human memory and the future capability of computers. Just as computers cannot function with memory banks only, so, too, the human mind and human consciousness do not operate by memory alone. While remarkable advances in computer technology are taking place now, the laws of physics impose predictable finite limits on future computer hardware. As Roger Penrose has documented rigorously in The Emperor’s New Mind and Shadows of the Mind, these limits do not even permit the duplication of human consciousness let alone the fantastic capabilities Tipler Suggests.

Let me butt in here, by wondering what those currently engaged in AI research would think of that last statement? I’ve just read an intriguing book about the MIT research with Cog and Kismet, and what implications this has for human consciousness and God.

Expansion of the Universe

Tipler’s cosmic model on which his whole premise rests is now out of date. It depends on the universe possessing enough matter to force the universe into a future stage of collapse. But … measurements in 1999 and 2000 establish that only three-tenths of the mass necessary to force a future collapse of the universe exists. Moreover, the measured value for the space energy density term guarantees that the universe not only will expand forever, it will expand at an exponentially increasing rate.

Science aside, i’ll also note Ross’s objections to

Moral Perfectablity of Humans

Apparently according to Tipler, future computers will give everyone perfect morality by exposing them to game theory. “Consider, however, that if Tipler’s proposal were true, the better people comprehend game theory, the less propensity they would exhibit to commit evil. Unfortunately for Tipler, no such correlation is in evidence”. [Ross]

Relational Bliss

[Tipler] produces an equation to “prove” that this computer generated cosmic utopia will bring a woman to every man and a man to every woman capable of delivering 100,000 times the impact and satisfaction of the most fulfilling partner each can imagine in life as we know it. … Evidently, many people have never tasted any greater delight than what sexual experience can bring.

In an article for the Skeptical Inquirer, Gardner again brandished his satiric knives:

“I leave it to the reader to decide whether they should opt for OPT (Omega Point Theology) as a new scientific religion superior to Scientology – one destined to elevate Tipler to the rank of a prophet greater than L.Ron Hubbard – or opt for the view that OPT is a wild fantasy generated by too much reading of science fiction.”

~ Hugh Ross The Creator and the Cosmos pp 166,167

Tipler’s not the only one to make mileage out of quantum physics, but at least he’s a qualified scientist. I like this comment from Amazon so much, I’m going to repeat it:

Quantum Physics is the new magic. I’ve noticed from hanging out on philosophy forums online, that Quantum Physics is the new magic. There’s a quantum theory of consciousness, quantum this, quantum that. Everything can be proven with Quantum Physics. So some places have a sort of Godwin’s Law that you can’t use Quantum Physics as proof of anything — unless you yourself have a strong background in the subject. Of course, this doesn’t quite apply, as Tipler is a mathematical physicist, but his writings certainly remind me of all the Quantum Physics-as-magic posts I’ve seen written online.

Interestingly, some early quantum physicists speculated on how their theories might speak to our ideas about consciousness, but others in the same period (eg Einstein and Bohr) were equally opposed to these suggestions. Here’s some articles that helped me understand some of the ways people get quantum physics wrong:
* Chopra Mangles Quantum Mechanics – Again
* Wikipedia on Quantum Mysticism
* Quantum Quackery
* Far Out, Man. But Is it Quantum Physics?
* Thinking About Quantum Mysticism

I see at least two interesting things from Ross’s rebuttal. I’m not qualified to comment on the physics, but maybe the full range of human life can’t be modelled in a computer? And what about Ross’s contention that even with better education, we still display far too much evil in our lives?




? What do you think?

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12 Responses to “Physically Impossible?”

  1. It reminds me of Ray Kurzweil’s ideas about Singularity.

    I don’t agree with him because he has a very limp understanding of how the neural pathways function. He tries to equate the human mind to a simple computer whose program can be written on a few million lines of code, but speak to any neuroscientist and you’ll see that what he speaks of is from our understanding of the brain from 20 years ago, and a LOT has changed since then.

    Anyway it’s a good topic worth pondering.

    • Yeah, it has similar ideas to ‘Singularity’ a bit, from what I understand. Was it Kurtzweil who stimulated the ideas that turned into the Transhumanism movement?


  2. Jonathan,

    You’ve done the research. While it is opposite to your sensibility, would you consider reviewing my book AGAIN? Blends Quantum Physics and reincarnation.

    • Sure Romy, after I’ve reviewed “Who Knew” 🙂 I haven’t read a sensible position on reincarnation, and i have a few questions about it. Caveat emptor, and all that 🙂

      The title reminds me of the creature in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who keeps being reincarnated only to be killed by Arthur Dent, who is completely unaware of this.

  3. […] Physically Impossible? […]

  4. Lydia said

    I’ve read a little about reincarnation, but not enough to make up my mind either way. It’s an alluring idea to be sure – I’d love to have the chance to live another life and try other options. Being alluring (or being dull and drab) doesn’t make anything more or less true, though.

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