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Lonergan, Emergent Evolution and the Cosmic Process

Author: Anthony Kelly
Quodlibet Journal: Volume 8 2009
ISSN: 1526-6575


God’s motive for Creation is the potential production of another entity similar to God.  While God can only create creatures, an intelligent created entity could possibly create additional aspects of its own being that could make it similar to God.  To open this possibility God initiates Time, Energy and a number of mathematical Cosmic Constants in the Big Bang.  These interact to produce both Matter and Life, each with appropriate laws of nature.  Matter freely self-organises and produces at least one life-friendly planet.  Life begins on Earth and evolves in complexity and intelligence.  Some members of an evolved intelligent life form – Homo sapiens – eventually begin to make themselves similar to God, in aspects of their being such as creativity and goodness. 


The search for God’s motive for creation begins with Aristotle, who almost solves the problem but considers he has developed an antinomy.  God’s motive becomes clear when Samuel Alexander’s and Bernard Lonergan’s understandings of the Cosmos as an Emergent process is applied to Aristotle’s original conclusions.  God’s motive appears to be to make possible the self-development of other entities to enable them to become similar to God. 

Samuel Alexander identifies the Emergent stages of the process of cosmic development.  Bernard Lonergan proposes a cosmic process that develops from stage to stage, with each stage of the process exhibiting greater freedom than the preceding stage, leading to the freedom of humanity to restructure both itself and the world. 

The complex form of the cosmic process, beginning with the Big Bang, is understandable once the purpose of the process is understood.  This purpose is to make possible the free self-creation of new aspects of the being of a created entity, to enable members of that entity to make themselves similar to God in creativity and goodness.

God cannot create an entity that is similar to the self-existent God, as God can only create creatures.  However God can provide the means, in the Big Bang, to initiate the self-organisation of a series of freely operating cosmic processes, which could lead to the evolution of intelligent animal species.  Members of such a species could eventually develop themselves in goodness and creativity, making some members of the species, such as Jesus, similar to God and an appropriate subject of God’s love.  Recognition of this purpose leads to the resolution of Aristotle’s antinomy. 

God is necessarily “hands-off’ the cosmic process once it has been initiated.  The Big Bang provides the Energy, the Time and the mathematical Cosmic Constants that make planet Earth, life and the process of evolution possible. The cosmic process is self-organising at the Emergent Stages of Matter and Life, and self-creating at the Emergent Stages of Mind and at the Human Moral-cultural Emergent Stage.  Humanity thus becomes the original “Do it yourself” kit.


Understanding God’s motive for Creation is important because God’s motive, once it is understood, provides a criterion against which doctrines that were formulated in a more primitive context can be tested and if necessary reconsidered.  This reconsideration could apply equally to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. 

One other possible way of approaching the question of God’s motive for Creation would be to consider the kind of God that is presupposed by some of the doctrines of some present belief systems.  Could God be an exponent of the mass killing of people of other races or faiths, of everlasting torture or insatiable carnality?  Thanks to Aristotle we do not need to continue with this form of thought-experiment.


In his “Christian Revelation and the Completion of the Aristotelian Revolution” (1988) Patrick Madigan outlines the discussion of God’s motive for Creation from Aristotle to Aquinas and beyond.  Aristotle initiates the discussion when he establishes two apparently contradictory conclusions.   (1) God is necessary, as first mover, to explain the existence of the world, and (2) God is not able to be the cause of an entity that is significantly different from God. 

As Madigan says:  “Aristotle establishes simultaneously two very strong points: first, that God must exist as a necessary first cause to explain the world, and secondly that God, if he exists, could not cause a world significantly distinct from himself.  Both conclusions are demonstrated as necessarily true, and the one contradicts the other”. (1988, 16)

The apparent contradiction between these two conclusions relies on the Cosmos being complete, as Aristotle understands it, and not in process, as Alexander and Lonergan understand it.  Aristotle’s only understanding of process is based on the circular, repetitive, biological process.  Aristotle does not possess the category of linear process, in which the outcome can differ radically from the inputs.  The lack of this category makes Aristotle think he has developed an antinomy.  I argue that there is no real contradiction between Aristotle’s conclusions. 

While God cannot directly create an entity that is not significantly distinct from God, God can open the possibility of the self-creation of additional aspects of the being of a created entity, which could eventually make that entity, or some of its members, similar to God.  God cannot intervene in such a process without frustrating its self-creating purpose.  This is why God is “hands-off” the process that follows the Big Bang.  The Big Bang provides everything necessary for the cosmos to develop by self-organisation until a series of intelligent animal species evolve.  Any further development can only be through a process of self-creation by members of such an intelligent species. 


The Big Bang is the initiation by God not only of Time and of Energy, but also of a number of mathematical “cosmic constants”.  Cosmologist Martin Rees, in “Just Six Numbers” (2000), shows that a series of mathematical “cosmic constants” are embedded in the Big Bang.   Rees states:  “Mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe, not just atoms, but galaxies, stars and people. And everything takes place in the arena of an expanding universe, whose properties were imprinted into it at the time of the initial Big Bang.” (2000, 1)   Rees identifies six of these mathematical cosmic constants as particularly relevant to the present state of the Cosmos, stating: “These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe.”  Subsequent development is sensitive to their values, as: “if any one of them was to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life.” (2000, 4) 

Rees does not accept the obvious implication that the cosmic constants are evidence of design.  Instead he postulates a multiplicity of universes with different cosmic constants. In adopting this position Rees multiplies entities beyond necessity, in defiance of Occam’s razor.  I consider and reject Rees’ argument in “The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos” (2006).

I argue in my Thesis “The Process of the Cosmos” (1998) that both matter and life develop by self-organisation.  I am indebted to Rees for showing that the Cosmic Constants are responsible for this self-organisation.  The Cosmic Constants provide the laws of nature that apply to most new Emergent Stages when the basis for a new Emergent Stage develops.  Thus Life emerges when an appropriate form of Matter, in a favourable environment, make it possible for the Cosmic Constants to initiate Life.


In “Space, Time and Deity” (1920), Samuel Alexander shows that the Cosmos develops through a series of Emergent Stages.  Each Emergent Stage introduces something completely new into the world, but the new Emergent Stage is still able to be affected by the laws of the Stage from which it has emerged.  This is the essence of any Emergent.  Thus when Life emerges from Matter it is completely new, has its own new laws and still affected by the laws of Matter. 

Most, but not all, Emergent Stages occur when an existing Stage provides the material and the environment that are necessary for the Cosmic Constants to initiate a new Stage. 

Alexander identifies four Emergent Stages:  Matter, Life, Mind, and Moral Personality.  Matter emerges first, then Life.  Alexander considers Mind constitutes an Emergent because it manifests consciousness.  I regard Mind as an Emergent because of its mode of origin.  The development of the human mind is not a function of the Cosmic Constants.   It is the first product of the process of human self-creation.  I identify Alexander’s fourth Emergent Stage, his “Moral Personality”, as the Human Moral-Cultural Stage.  This Stage only begins within the last 2,600 years, when some humans begin to think critically and begin to develop an awareness of the natural moral law.  


For Lonergan there is a cosmic process that develops from stage to stage, with each stage exhibiting greater freedom than the preceding stage, leading to the freedom of humanity to restructure both itself and the world.  At the root of this cosmic process Lonergan affirms a directed dynamism, parallel to the detached and disinterested human desire to know.  

This pure desire “heads for an objective that becomes known only through its own unfolding in understanding and judgement, and so the dynamism of universal process is directed, not to a generically, specifically or individually determinate goal, but to whatever becomes determinate through the process itself in its effectively probable realization of its own possibilities.” ([1958] 1983, 450)  

Lonergan draws a parallel between the incomplete human knowing that heads towards fuller knowing and an incomplete Cosmos that is heading towards fuller being.  While there is such a thing as finality, it is not “some pull exerted by the future on the present” but is an affirmation that the Cosmos “is not at rest, not static, not fixed in the present, but in process, in tension, fluid.” ([1958] 1983, 445) the principle of finality provides “an upwardly but indeterminately directed dynamism towards ever fuller realization of being.”  ([1958] 1983, 452) Lonergan does not explain what might constitute the ultimate end of this process of   “ever fuller realization of being”.  I suggest the only credible end of this process is the self-creation of entities similar to God.


The Big Bang provides the Time, the Energy and the Cosmic Constants which together provide the foundation of Matter and allow for its development.  Matter develops into a number of Galaxies, Solar systems and planets.  The extent of the Cosmos, the random interaction of laws of nature and the unlimited time available, ensure the eventual production of at least one life-friendly planet – Earth. 

Life emerges on Earth, where evolution produces a number of increasingly intelligent, but instinctive, animal species.  Members of one such species – Homo sapiens – eventually develop their cognitive capacities beyond the capacities provided by instinct.   They begin to recognise and utilise information other than that which they recognise instinctively.  This self-development initiates the human mind, and makes Homo sapiens human.   As Lonergan notes:  “Man’s development is a matter of getting beyond himself, of transcending himself, of ceasing to be an animal in a habitat and of becoming a genuine person in a community.”  (1974, 144) 

With the self-development of a mind Homo sapiens cease to be mere animals and become human. They are no longer simply bound by their instincts, but become free to develop other characteristics, such as creativity and goodness.  These characteristics, when sufficiently developed, could make them similar to God and appropriate for God to love.  To understand this self-development, from the animal level to the human level, we need to consider what it is that distinguishes the various levels of life. 


The difference between the various levels of life is closely related to the type of information that is able to be detected at each level.  Every living species recognises and reacts to the information that is essential to the species survival.   Different forms of life react to different information, in the sense of relevant detectable differences.  As Andrzej Chmielecki notes in “What is Information”:  “information – defined here as any detectable difference of physical states – (is) the determining principle of all animate systems, one which determines both their architecture and their operation.” (1998, 1)

Plants react to differences in soil temperatures and to other physical factors.  These provide the plant with information relevant to the survival of its species.  Animal species are not limited to detecting information that relates solely to the survival of the species.  Their instincts can enable them to detect and react to information that could relate to their individual survival.  This capacity to detect a wider range of information is the beginning of intelligence.   For some species this perception of information extends to the recognition of natural items that can be used as tools.  All Hominid species display this capacity. 


There are many Hominid species during the million years before Homo sapiens evolve, with their significant linguistic capability, some 160,000 years ago.  Initially Homo sapiens hunt and gather just as earlier Hominids had over the previous million years.  There appear to be no significant material differences between their activities and those of earlier Hominids during their first 100,000 years as a species.   However some time before the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution of 45,000 years ago, they begin to develop a mind, and thus to recognise and utilise a range of information beyond that which other Hominid species were able to recognise.  This development of a mind is demonstrated by the beginning of human cultures.

The development of the human mind does not appear to be a function of the size of Homo sapiens’ brain.  Neanderthals evolve some 230,000 years ago, well before Homo sapiens. They are physically stronger and have a larger brain, but they die out when Homo sapiens begin to form cultures.  With the development of a mind, Homo sapiens may have become able to out-compete the Neanderthals, just as the Dingo was to out-compete the stronger and fiercer, but less intelligent, Thylacine or “Tasmanian Tiger”, when the Dingo arrived in Australia some 4,000 years ago.

Some human hunter-gatherers eventually recognise that the regular annual die-off of edible plants that leave dormant seeds or tubers provides the information that enables them to begin agriculture.  This insight takes a further 35,000 years to develop, from the initial formation of human cultures in the Upper Palaeolithic Revolution to the beginning of the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution.  The human mind continues to develop in the process of making connections of this type.   The development of the mind constitutes the third Emergent Stage in the process of Emergent Evolution. 

The most recent Emergent stage, the Human Moral-Cultural Stage, only begins to develop within the last 2,600 years.  Only humans are able to be moral. Principled morality is still rare, as Lawrence Kohlberg has shown.  A person’s innate morality, as distinct from the moral criteria of their culture or religion, is a measure of their humanity.  The Human Moral-Cultural Emergent stage involves the perception and application of the natural moral law.


Both Bruno Snell in “The Discovery of Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought” (1953), and Julian Jaynes, in “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” (1976), show that the present form of human moral and critical consciousness, involving both logical reasoning and moral awareness, took Homo sapiens millennia to develop.  Snell and Jaynes offer quite different explanations of the present form of human consciousness, in which humans have insights into their own mental life and the mental life of others.  Jaynes proposes the prior existence of a bicameral mind, on the model of the bicameral brain, while Snell traces the development of the present form of human consciousness through Greek literature.  As Snell comments in his preface to “Scenes from Greek Drama” (1964): “the rapid development of Greek thought in the fifth century B.C. is a fascinating spectacle . . . And since these new ideas became a possession of Western Civilization, we can observe ourselves growing.”  (1964, 6)

Jaynes suggests that in the bicameral mind one part of the brain became aware of moral commands which were then “heard” by the individual human, and to hear was to obey.   Jaynes’ ideas are applied to the pre-logical Hebrews by Rabbi James Cohn in his:  “The Minds of the Bible: Speculations on the Cultural Evolution of Human Consciousness.” (2007)  Cohn regards the Biblical Abraham as pre-logical, saying: “Abraham is not a model of faith. . .  He is a product of his times.  He hears and obeys.  He cannot not obey the voice once he hears it.”  (2007, 21)  

Both Snell and Jaynes see the beginning of morality as linked to the beginning of the present form of human consciousness.  Snell’ s analysis of the gradual development of the present form of human consciousness over a considerable time appears more reasonable to me, but  Jaynes’ approach supports Plato’s idea that values constitute an objective realm of essences, which humans become aware of a priori.  The “voices” heard by bicameral minds appear to be intuitions of Plato’s realm of essences, particularly as the voices focus on moral behaviour.

Homo sapiens’ mind may have begun to develop as a by-product of sapiens’ linguistic capability.  Individual words would have initially had a limited application but most words have an inherent flexibility.  As Phil Eklund notes in “The Jaynesian”:  “A word is a communication that can be stored in memory in a versatile verbal format, which allows learning in one area to be metaphorically applied in other areas.”  (Summer 2007, 3)  This potential for language to lead to an increase in understanding appears to first become a reality some 30,000 years ago when: “As suddenly as a light switch being turned on, people were leaving grave goods, making idols, painting cave walls, the full gamut of bicameral authorisations.” (ibid) 


Humans are thus products of a continuing process of self-creation, through which they cease to be just another animal in a habitat and begin to make themselves fully human.   The first step in this process is the self-development of the human mind.  The Upper Palaeolithic Revolution is generally accepted as evidence of this initial development.  The physical evidence of further development is traceable through technology, but if the purpose of he cosmic process is the production of a communal entity similar to God, the most important human changes will be cultural, both intellectual and moral.  These would constitute the human process of self-creation towards divinity. 

As an eminently moral product of the moral context of Judaism, Jesus can be understood as a proleptic success of this process of human self-creation.   The phenomenon of Jesus provides support for the argument that the motive for Creation is the potential production of other entities similar to God, as does the intellectual and moral creativity of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in the Classical Greek context. 

While Jesus provides the clearest example of the success of the cosmic process, other members of various intellectual and moral cultures who have been recognised as Saints, will have created aspects of their own being that make them similar to God in goodness


Some intelligent created entities can create additional aspects of their own being that can make them similar to God.  To open this possibility God initiates Time, Energy and a number of mathematical Cosmic Constants in the Big Bang.  These interact to produce both Matter and Life, with appropriate laws of nature.  Matter freely self-organises and produces our life-friendly planet.  Life begins on Earth and evolves in complexity and intelligence.  Members of an intelligent life form – Homo sapiens – can make themselves similar to God in creativity and goodness.  Jesus and Socrates appear to be proleptic products of this process of human self-creation.


Alexander, Samuel      (1920)   Space, Time and Deity

Chmielecki, Andrzej      (1998)   What is Information?  Web, Paideia Archive

Cohn, James                (2007)   The Minds of the Bible   Web.

Jaynes, Julian              (1982)   The Origin of Consciousness,  Pelican, 1982

Kelly A.B.                    (1999)  The Process of the Cosmos

                                   (2006)  The Intelligent Design of the Cosmos   

                   PHILICA.COM Article No.50


Lonergan, Bernard        ([1958] 1983)  Insight

                                   (1974)  A Second Collection


Madigan, Patrick          (1988)   Christian Revelation and the Completion of the

                    Aristotelian Revolution

Rees, Martin                (2000)   Just Six Numbers

Snell, Bruno                 (1953)   The Discovery of the Mind

    (1964)     Scenes from Greek Drama

Omega Point Theory


The Omega Point Theory by Tulane University professor of physics and mathematics Frank J. Tipler is what he maintains is a proof of God‘s existence according to the known laws of physics. The theory is an integral part of the Feynman–Weinberg–DeWitt quantum gravity/Standard Model Theory of Everything (TOE) which Tipler also holds is required by the known physical laws.[1][2]

The Omega Point is a term used by Tipler to designate the final cosmological singularity, which he contends is a physically-necessary cosmological state in the far future of the universe. According to his Omega Point Theory, as the universe comes to an end at this singularity in a particular form of the Big Crunch, the computational capacity of the universe (in terms of both its processor speed and memory storage) increases unlimitedly with a hyperbolic growth rate as the radius of the universe goes to zero, allowing an infinite number of bits to be processed and stored before the end of spacetime. Via this supertask, a simulation run on this universal computer can thereby continue forever in its own terms (i.e., in “experiential time”), even though the universe lasts only a finite amount of proper time.

Tipler states that the known laws of physics require there be intelligent civilizations in existence at the appropriate time in order to force the collapse of the universe and then manipulate its collapse so that the computational capacity of the universe can diverge to infinity. Due to the increasing temperature of the universe during the collapse phase (wherein the temperature diverges to infinity), Tipler says that life will have to transfer its information processes to higher energy states, eventually using elementary particles to directly compute on via traveling waves and standing waves.

Tipler identifies this Omega Point final singularity and its state of infinite informational capacity as God. According to Tipler, this final singularity is actually just a different aspect of the Big Bang initial singularity, i.e., the uncaused first cause, a definition of God held by all the Abrahamic religions. The implication of this theory for present-day humans is that Tipler maintains this ultimate cosmic computer will be able to run computer emulations which are perfectly accurate down to thequantum level of every physically-possible universe, and any life contained in them, from the start of the Big Bang (which Tipler states starts at zero informational capacity and diverges to infinite informational capacity as the universe progresses in time, thereby allowing sufficiently later states of the universe to perfectly render earlier states). According to Tipler, from the perspective of the recreated inhabitants, the states near the Omega Point would represent their resurrection in an infinite-duration afterlife, which could take any imaginable form due to its virtual nature.

Tipler says that the interstellar colonization phase required for achieving the Omega Point will be accomplished by human consciousness uploaded onto quantum computers in tiny starships that could exponentially explore space, many times faster than biological human beings. Tipler argues that the incredible expense of keeping humans alive in space implies that flesh-and-blood humans will never personally travel to other stars. Instead, highly efficient uploads of human minds and artificial intelligences will spread civilization throughout space. According to Tipler, this should likely start before 2100. Small spaceships under heavy acceleration up to relativistic speeds could then reach nearby stars in less than a decade. In one million years, these intelligent self-replicating spacecraft would have completely colonized the Milky Way galaxy. In 100 million years, the Virgo Supercluster would be colonized. From that point on, the entire visible universe would be engulfed by these sapient spacecraft as it approaches the point of maximum expansion. Per this cosmological model, the final singularity of the Omega Point itself will be reached between 1018 and 1019 years.[3]




Tipler has published his Omega Point Theory in a number of peer-reviewed scientific journals since 1986.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][1][13] The first book wherein the Omega Point Theory was described was 1986′s The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, written by astrophysicist John D. Barrow and Tipler, wherein they concluded the book by writing that[14]

if life evolves in all of the many universes in a quantum cosmology, and if life continues to exist in all of these universes, thenall of these universes, which include all possible histories among them, will approach the Omega Point. At the instant the Omega Point is reached, life will have gained control of all matter and forces not only in a single universe, but in all universes whose existence is logically possible; life will have spread into all spatial regions in all universes which could logically exist, and will have stored an infinite amount of information, including all bits of knowledge which it is logically possible to know. And this is the end.

In an endnote to the above paragraph, Barrow and Tipler added that “A modern-day theologian might wish to say that the totality of life at the Omega Point is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient!”[15] The first book solely concentrating on the Omega Point Theory was Tipler’s The Physics of Immortality in 1994.[16]

Physicist David Deutsch (who in 1985 founded the field of quantum computation by being the first person to mathematically formulate how a quantum computer operates[17]) in his 1997 book The Fabric of Reality defends the physics of Tipler’s Omega Point Theory in Chapter 14: “The Ends of the Universe” (of which chapter concentrates mainly on the Omega Point Theory):[18]

I believe that the omega-point theory deserves to become the prevailing theory of the future of spacetime until and unless it is experimentally (or otherwise) refuted. (Experimental refutation is possible because the existence of an omega point in our future places certain constraints on the condition of the universe today.)

Deutsch later comments within a concluding paragraph of the same chapter regarding the synthesis of his “four strands” of fundamental reality, which includes the strengthened version of mathematician Alan Turing‘s theory of universal computation in the form of the Omega Point Theory:

It seems to me that at the current state of our scientific knowledge, this is the ‘natural’ view to hold. It is the conservative view, the one that does not propose any startling change in our best fundamental explanations. Therefore it ought to be the prevailing view, the one against which proposed innovations are judged. That is the role I am advocating for it. I am not hoping to create a new orthodoxy; far from it. As I have said, I think it is time to move on. But we can move to better theories only if we take our best existing theories seriously, as explanations of the world.

In 2007 Tipler’s book The Physics of Christianity was published, which gives an update to the latest findings of the Omega Point Theory and also analyzes its pertinence to Christian theology.[2] In the book Tipler identifies the Omega Point as being the Judeo-Christian God, particularly as described by Christian theological tradition, e.g., that the Omega Point cosmology when formulated in multiversal terms (of which multiverse conception isn’t necessary for the physics upon which the Omega Point itself is based) is fundamentally triune in its structure: the Final Singularity (i.e., the Omega Point), the All-Presents Singularity (which Tipler states exists at all times at the edge of the multiverse), and the Initial Singularity (i.e., the beginning of the Big Bang), which Tipler identifies with the Fatherthe Son and the Holy Spirit, respectively (successively, the First, Second and Third Persons of the Trinity).

In this book Tipler also analyzes how Jesus Christ could have performed the miracles attributed to him in the New Testamentwithout violating any known laws of physics, even if one were to assume that we currently don’t exist on a level of implementation in a computer simulation (in the case that we did, then according to Tipler such miracles would be trivially easy to perform for the society which was running the simulation, even though it would seem amazing from our perspective). This proposed process uses baryon annihilation by way of electroweak quantum tunneling, and the inverse of this process, caused via the principle of least action by the requirement of the existence of the final Omega Point cosmological singularity. Tipler also proposes that the virgin birth of Jesus by Mary could be possible via Jesus being a special type of XX male who obtained all of his genetic material from Mary (i.e., an instance of parthenogenesis). If the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the miracles attributed to him in the New Testament were necessary in order to lead to the formation of the Omega Point—and if the Omega Point is a physical necessity—then according to Tipler the probability of these events occuring is certain. Furthermore, Tipler proposes tests on particular relics associated with Jesus which, if the relics are genuine, could verify whether in fact said miracles took place via the aforementioned mechanisms. Tipler writes in this book that miracles, if they indeed exist, do not violate physical law, but instead are events which are so improbable that they would only be likely to occur within human history via the least-action principle if the universe is required to evolve into the Omega Point.

The Physics of Christianity shows a change from Tipler’s earlier position within The Physics of Immortality regarding theismand Christianity. In the opening paragraph of Chapter XII: “The Omega Point and Christianity” of The Physics of Immortality, Tipler wrote the following:

To emphasize the scientific nature of the Omega Point Theory, let me state here that I am at present forced to consider myself an atheist, in the literal sense that I am not a theist. (A-theist means “not theist.”) I do not yet even believe in the Omega Point. The Omega Point Theory is a viable scientific theory of the future of the physical universe, but the only evidence in its favor at the moment is theoretical beauty, for there is as yet no confirming experimental evidence for it. Thus scientifically one is not compelled to accept it at the time of my writing these words. So I do not. Flew, among others, has in my opinion made a convincing case for the presumption of atheism. If the Omega Point Theory and all possible variations of it are disconfirmed, then I think atheism in the sense of Flew, HumeRussell, and the other self-described atheists is the only rational alternative. But of course I also think the Omega Point Theory has a very good chance of being right, otherwise I would never have troubled to write this book. If the Omega Point Theory is confirmed, I shall then consider myself a theist.

Tipler now regards himself as a theist due to what he states have been advancements in his Omega Point Theory which occurred after the publication of The Physics of Immortality.[19][20] Namely, Tipler now says the known laws of physics—specifically, quantum mechanicsgeneral relativity, the second law of thermodynamics, and the Standard Model of particle physics—require the existence of the Omega Point singularity in order to avoid their violation;[10][11][12][1] whereas in The Physics of Immortality Tipler investigated what would be necessary from the postulate that life continues forever while still keeping the analysis confined to the known laws of physics. Tipler states that these physical laws have been repeatedly confirmed by every experiment to date. According to Tipler, this constitutes a massive body of empirical evidence for the Omega Point Theory’s correctness. And as indicated above, Tipler also now considers himself a Christian due to his identification of the Omega Point with the God of Christian theological tradition.


According to Tipler from a 2005 paper[1] in the journal Reports on Progress in Physics, he outlines the following reasons why he maintains the universe must end in the Omega Point in order for the known laws of physics (i.e., the second law of thermodynamicsgeneral relativity, and quantum mechanics) to be mutually consistent at all times:

Astrophysical black holes almost certainly exist, but Hawking[q 1] and Wald[q 2] have shown that if black holes are allowed to exist for unlimited proper time, then they will completely evaporate, and unitarity will be violated. Thus, unitarity requires that the universe must cease to exist after finite proper time, which implies that the universe has spatial topology S3.[q 3] TheSecond Law of Thermodynamics says the amount of entropy in the universe cannot decrease, but Ellis and Coule[q 4] and I[q 5] have shown that the amount of entropy already in the CMBR will eventually contradict the Bekenstein Bound near the final singularity unless there are no event horizons, since in the presence of horizons the Bekenstein Bound implies the universal entropy S ≤ constant × R2, where R is the radius of the universe, and general relativity requires R → 0 at the final singularity. If there are no horizons then the (shear) energy density can grow as R−6 which means that the total available energy grows as (R−6 ) R3 ~ R−3, and so the Bekenstein Bound yields E R ~ (R−3)R ~ R−2 which diverges as R−2 as R → 0 at the final singularity.[q 6][q 5] The absence of event horizons by definition means that the universe’s future c-boundary is a single point,[q 7] call it the Omega Point. MacCallum[q 8] has shown that an S3 closed universe with a single point future c-boundary is of measure zero in initial data space. Barrow,[q 9][q 10] Cornish and Levin[q 11] and Motter[q 12] have shown that the evolution of anS3 closed universe into its final singularity is chaotic. Yorke et al.[q 13][q 14] have shown that a chaotic physical system is likely to evolve into a measure zero state if and only if its control parameters are intelligently manipulated. Thus life (≡intelligent computers) almost certainly must be present arbitrarily close to the final singularity in order for the known laws of physics to be mutually consistent at all times. Misner[q 15][q 16][q 17] has shown in effect that event horizon elimination requires an infinite number of distinct manipulations, so an infinite amount of information must be processed between now and the final singularity. The amount of information stored at any time diverges to infinity as the Omega Point is approached, sinceS → +∞ there, implying divergence of the complexity of the system that must be understood to be controlled.

According to Tipler,[16] during the collapse phase of the universe, life uses gravitational shear energy by forcing a Taub universe collapse (named after physicist Abraham Haskel Taub), whereby the universe collapses along one axis into the shape of an oblate spheroid by life directing trajectories of mass, thereby creating greater heating along the axis of collapse and hence a temperature differential whereby usable energy can be obtained. The Taublike collapse in one direction, and then another direction (i.e., Mixmaster oscillations) is also used to eliminate event horizons by allowing communication across the universe along the axis of collapse, which is necessary for information processing (and hence life) to continue. This mode of collapse ends (in proper time, as in computer clock time it never ends) in a single c-boundary (i.e., causal boundary) point: the Omega Point. The gravitational shear energy thereby available to life diverges to infinity as the Omega Point is approached. That is, by making the negative gravitational energy go to minus infinity, the positive energy available to life goes to plus infinity, as the total energy of the universe at all times sums to exactly zero, as physicist Stephen Hawking has pointed out.[21]

Some have pointed out that the current acceleration of the universe’s expansion due to the positive cosmological constant would appear to obviate the Omega Point. Although physicists Lawrence M. Krauss and Michael S. Turner state that “there is no set of cosmological observations we can perform that will unambiguously allow us to determine what the ultimate destiny of the Universe will be.”[22] On this matter Tipler maintains[23] (see also references [1] and [12]) that baryon annihilation—which he says would be the ideal form of energy resource and rocket propulsion during the colonization of the universe—will force the Higgs field to its absolute vacuum state, resulting in the universe’s collapse:

The SM provides such a mechanism, which I actually discussed in the last section of the Appendix for Scientists in ([q 18], p. 515). This mechanism is the creation/destruction of baryon number by electroweak quantum tunneling. (Baryons are the heavy particles made up of quarks. Examples are neutrons and protons.) In my book, I pointed out that this mechanism would be ideal for propelling interstellar spacecraft, but I did not discuss its implications for the Higgs vacuum, a serious oversight on my part. (An oversight which invalidates the second part of my Fifth Prediction on page 149 of [q 18].) If the SM is true—ALL experiments conducted to date indicate that it is (e.g.[q 19] and [q 20], last full paragraph on p. 35)—then the net baryon number observed in the universe must have been created in the early universe by this mechanism of electroweak quantum tunneling. If the baryons were so created, then this process necessarily forces the Higgs field to be in a vacuum state that is not its absolute vacuum. But if the baryons in the universe were to be annihilated by this process, say by the action of intelligent life, then this would force the Higgs field toward its absolute vacuum, canceling the positive cosmological constant, stopping the acceleration, and allowing the universe to collapse into the Omega Point. Conversely, if enough baryons are not annihilated by this process, the positive cosmological constant will never be canceled, the universe will expand forever, unitarity will be violated, and the Omega Point will never come into existence. Only if life makes use of this process to annihilate baryons will the Omega Point come into existence.

The Omega Point and the quantum gravity Theory of Everything

In his 2005 paper[1] in the journal Reports on Progress in Physics, Tipler maintains that the correct quantum gravity theory has existed since 1962, first discovered by Richard Feynman in that year,[24] and independently discovered by Steven Weinberg and Bryce DeWitt, among others. But, according to Tipler, because these physicists were looking for equations with a finite number of terms (i.e., differential equations with 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.[25] ”They also did not realize that the correct quantum gravity theory is consistent only if a certain set of boundary conditions are imposed …”, writes Tipler (which includes the initial Big Bang, and the final Omega Point, cosmological singularities).[1] Tipler says that 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[26]). Tipler writes that “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.”[27]

From the aforesaid Reports on Progress in Physics paper,[1] Tipler elaborates on the mathematics and physics of this issue, in part explained below:

So basic quantum field theory quickly forces upon us the general invariant action

This is the qualitatively unique gravitational Lagrangian picked out by quantum mechanics. Physicists do not like it because (1) it has an infinite number of (renormalizable) constants , all of which must be determined by experiment and (2) it will not yield second order differential equations which all physicists know and love. But the countable number of constants are in effect axioms of the theory, and I pointed out in an earlier section that the Löwenheim–Skolem theorem suggests there is no real difference between a theory with a countable number of axioms and a theory with a finite number of axioms. The finite case is just easier for humans to deal with, provided the ‘finite’ number is a small number. Further, as Weinberg[q 21] has emphasized, this Lagrangian generates a quantum theory of gravity that is just as renormalizable as QED and the SM.

Since quantum field theory itself is forcing the Lagrangian (3) on us, I propose that we accept the judgement of quantum mechanics and accept (3) (and the countable number of additional terms involving the non-gravitational fields interacting with the hμν) as the actual Lagrangian of reality.

Donoghue[q 22] and Donoghue and Torma[q 23] have shown that Lagrangian (3) will not contradict experiment provided the (renormalized) values of the infinite number of new coupling constants are sufficiently small. …

One consequence of the above Lagrangian being the true description of quantum gravity, explains Tipler, would be that so long as one is within spacetime, then one can never obtain a complete description of quantum gravity and hence of physics: there will always be infinitely more to learn and discover in the field of physics, including by requiring the use of experiment.[25] He says that physics will be able to become ever-more refined, knowledgeable and precise, but never complete (i.e., within spacetime). Only at the final singularity of the Omega Point (which is not in spacetime[28]) will the full description of physics be obtained, states Tipler.

In the same aforestated journal article, Tipler combines the above theory of quantum gravity with an extended Standard Modelin order to form what he maintains is the correct Theory of Everything (TOE) describing and unifying all the forces in physics.[1][2]

Out of 50 articles, Tipler’s said paper[1] 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.”[29] Reports on Progress in Physics is the leading journal of the Institute of Physics (based on its impact factor, according to Journal Citation Reports[30][31]), Britain’s main professional body for physicists.

Implications from string theory

If string theory is valid, it would seem to contradict the Omega Point Theory, since the Omega Point Theory requires the existence of a cosmological singularity at the end of time. Whereas, according to string theory, singularities do not actually exist because no material object can be compressed below the Planck length.[32]

Stephen Hawking has proposed a solution to the black hole information issue in order to preserve unitarity but without the universe collapsing which is dependent on the conjectured string theory-based anti-de Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence (AdS/CFT correspondence).[33]

Tipler himself argues against the validity of string theory.[1]


To date the only peer-reviewed paper in a physics journal that has criticized Tipler’s Omega Point Theory has been in 1994 by physicists George Ellis and David Coule in the journal General Relativity and Gravitation.[34] In the paper, Ellis and Coule gave an argument that the Bekenstein bound violates the second law of thermodynamics if the universe collapses without havingevent horizons eliminated. Tipler argues that in order to bring about the Omega Point that event horizons must be eliminated, and Tipler cites this paper in favor of his contention that the known laws of physics require the Omega Point to exist.[1]

There have also been a number of non-refereed book reviews appearing in science journals and popular science magazines which have been critical of Tipler’s Omega Point Theory. Writing in the “Book Reviews” section of the journal Nature, Ellis described Tipler’s book The Physics of Immortality as “a masterpiece of pseudoscience. … the product of a fertile and creative imagination unhampered by the normal constraints of scientific or philosophical discipline.”[35] In the magazine New Scientist, physicist Lawrence M. Krauss referred to Tipler’s book The Physics of Christianity as “a collection of half-truths and exaggerations, I am tempted to describe Tipler’s new book as nonsense—but that would be unfair to the concept of nonsense.”[36]

See also

Physics books dealing with the Omega Point Theory


  1. ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 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, doi:10.1088/0034-4885/68/4/R04bibcode: 2005RPPh…68..897TMirror link. (Note: citation formatting in the above-quoted passages have been modified for clarity. Typographical errors in the third quoted passage have been corrected, again for clarity.) Also released as“Feynman-Weinberg Quantum Gravity and the Extended Standard Model as a Theory of Everything”arXiv:0704.3276, April 24, 2007.
  2. ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007), ISBN 0385514247LCCN 2006039028Chapter I and excerpt from Chapter II. Chapter I also available here.
  3.  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, doi:10.1088/0034-4885/68/4/R04bibcode: 2005RPPh…68..897T, pp. 915-916. Mirror link. Also released as “Feynman-Weinberg Quantum Gravity and the Extended Standard Model as a Theory of Everything”,arXiv:0704.3276, April 24, 2007, pp. 28-29.
  4.  Frank J. Tipler, “Cosmological Limits on Computation”International Journal of Theoretical Physics, Vol. 25, No. 6 (June 1986), pp. 617-661, doi:10.1007/BF00670475bibcode: 1986IJTP…25..617T. (First paper on the Omega Point Theory.)
  5.  Frank J. Tipler, “Achieved spacetime infinity”Nature, Vol. 325, No. 6101 (January 15, 1987), pp. 201-202,doi:10.1038/325201c0bibcode: 1987Natur.325..201T.
  6.  Frank J. Tipler, “The Anthropic Principle: A Primer for Philosophers”PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Vol. 1988, Volume Two: Symposia and Invited Papers (1988), pp. 27-48; published by University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Philosophy of Science Association.
  7.  Frank J. Tipler, “The Omega Point as Eschaton: Answers to Pannenberg’s Questions for Scientists”Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science, Vol. 24, Issue 2 (June 1989), pp. 217-253, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9744.1989.tb01112.xMirror link. Republished as Chapter 7: “The Omega Point as Eschaton: Answers to Pannenberg’s Questions to Scientists” in Carol Rausch Albright and Joel Haugen (editors), Beginning with the End: God, Science, and Wolfhart Pannenberg(Chicago, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Company, 1997), pp. 156-194, ISBN 0812693256LCCN 97000114.
  8.  Frank J. Tipler, “The ultimate fate of life in universes which undergo inflation”Physics Letters B, Vol. 286, Issues 1-2 (July 23, 1992), pp. 36-43, doi:10.1016/0370-2693(92)90155-Wbibcode: 1992PhLB..286…36T.
  9.  Frank J. Tipler, “A New Condition Implying the Existence of a Constant Mean Curvature Foliation”bibcode: 1993dgr2.conf..306T, in B. L. Hu and T. A. Jacobson (editors), Directions in General Relativity: Proceedings of the 1993 International Symposium, Maryland, Volume 2: Papers in Honor of Dieter Brill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 306-315, ISBN 0521452678bibcode: 1993dgr2.conf…..HMirror link.
  10. ↑ 10.0 10.1 Frank J. Tipler, “Ultrarelativistic Rockets and the Ultimate Future of the Universe”NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Workshop ProceedingsNational Aeronautics and Space Administration, January 1999, pp. 111-119 (mirror link); an invited paper in the proceedings of a conference held at and sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, August 12–14, 1998; doi:2060/19990023204Document ID: 19990023204. Report Number: E-11429; NAS 1.55:208694; NASA/CP-1999-208694. Mirror link.
  11. ↑ 11.0 11.1 Frank J. Tipler, “The Ultimate Future of the Universe, Black Hole Event Horizon Topologies, Holography, and the Value of the Cosmological Constant”arXiv:astro-ph/0104011, April 1, 2001. Published in J. Craig Wheeler and Hugo Martel (editors), Relativistic Astrophysics: 20th Texas Symposium, Austin, TX, 10-15 December 2000 (Melville, N.Y.: American Institute of Physics, 2001), pp. 769-772, ISBN 0735400261LCCN 2001094694, which is AIP Conference Proceedings, Vol. 586 (October 15, 2001)doi:10.1063/1.1419654bibcode: 2001AIPC..586…..W.
  12. ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 Frank J. Tipler, “Intelligent life in cosmology”International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 2, Issue 2 (April 2003), pp. 141-148, doi:10.1017/S1473550403001526bibcode: 2003IJAsB…2..141T. Mirror links here and here; also available here. Also at arXiv:0704.0058, March 31, 2007.
  13.  Frank J. Tipler, Jessica Graber, Matthew McGinley, Joshua Nichols-Barrer and Christopher Staecker, “Closed Universes With Black Holes But No Event Horizons As a Solution to the Black Hole Information Problem”arXiv:gr-qc/0003082, March 20, 2000. Published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 379, Issue 2 (August 2007), pp. 629-640, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2007.11895.xbibcode: 2007MNRAS.379..629T.
  14.  John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, “Foreword” by John A. Wheeler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 676-677, ISBN 0198519494LCCN 85004824bibcode:…..B.Excerpt from Chapter 1.
  15.  John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, “Foreword” by John A. Wheeler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 682, ISBN 0198519494LCCN 85004824bibcode:…..BExcerpt from Chapter 1.
  16. ↑ 16.0 16.1 Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994), ISBN 0385467982LCCN 93045046bibcode:…..T.
  17.  D. Deutsch, “Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer”Proceedings of the Royal Society of London; Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Vol. 400, No. 1818 (July 1985), pp. 97-117,doi:10.1098/rspa.1985.0070bibcode: 1985RSPSA.400…97DMirror link.
  18.  David Deutsch, The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes—and Its Implications (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1997), ISBN 0713990619LCCN 97006171. Extracts from Chapter 14: “The Ends of the Universe”, with additional comments by Tipler; also available herehere and here.
  19.  Sam Vincent Meddis, “Computers of the distant future”, USA Today, four parts, August 3–31, 1998. Part 1: “Machines evolve” (August 3), Part 2: “A quantum leap” (August 10), Part 3: “Universal truths” (August 17), and Part 4: “Web of thought” (August 31). See Part 1 concerning Tipler no longer being an atheist.
  20.  Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007), ISBN 0385514247LCCN 2006039028, Chapter III: “Life and the Ultimate Future of the Universe”, p. 62.
  21.  Stephen HawkingThe Illustrated A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam Books, 1996), ISBN 0553103741,LCCN 96019732bibcode:…..H, Chapter 8: “The Origin and Fate of the Universe”, pp. 166-167. Hawking writes:

The answer [to where the univere's energy came from] is that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero. The matter in the universe is made out of positive energy. However, the matter is all attracting itself by gravity. Two pieces of matter that are close to each other have less energy than the same two pieces a long way apart, because you have to expend energy to separate them against the gravitational force that is pulling them together. Thus, in a sense, the gravitational field has negative energy. In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero.

Now twice zero is also zero. Thus the universe can double the amount of positive matter energy and also double the negative gravitational energy without violation of the conservation of energy. … As [physicist Alan] Guth has remarked, “It is said that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But the universe is the ultimate free lunch.”

  1.  Lawrence M. Krauss and Michael S. Turner, “Geometry and Destiny”General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 31, No. 10 (October 1999), pp. 1453-1459, doi:10.1023/A:1026757718530bibcode: 1999GReGr..31.1453K. Also at arXiv:astro-ph/9904020, April 1, 1999.
  2.  Frank Tipler, “The Omega Point and Christianity”Gamma, Vol. 10, No. 2 (April 2003), pp. 14-23 (mirror link); note that the foregoing version corrects character formatting errors of the versions available herehere and here. (Note: citation formatting in the above-quoted passage has been modified for clarity.) For the version in Dutch, see “Het Punt Omega en het christendom”Gamma, Jrg. 10, Nr. 2 (April 2003), pp. 14-23; also available here and here.
  3.  Richard P. Feynman, notes taken by Fernando B. Morinigo and William G. Wagner, edited by Brian Hatfield,“Foreword” by John Preskill and Kip S. Thorne, Feynman Lectures on Gravitation (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1995), ISBN 0201627345LCCN 95011076bibcode:…..F“Foreword” mirror link; also available here.
  4. ↑ 25.0 25.1 Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007), ISBN 0385514247LCCN 2006039028, pp. 34-35. Chapter I and excerpt from Chapter II. Chapter I also available here.
  5.  On this matter, in addition to Tipler’s 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper and his 2007 book, see John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, “Action principles in nature”Nature, Vol. 331, No. 6151 (January 7, 1988), pp. 31-34,doi:10.1038/331031a0bibcode: 1988Natur.331…31B. Also released as “The Finite Action Principle; or, Singularities without Singularities” in the Gravity Research Foundation’s 1987 essay competition. Mirror link.
  6.  Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007), ISBN 0385514247LCCN 2006039028, pp. 49 and 279. Chapter I and excerpt from Chapter II. Chapter I also available here.
  7.  S. W. Hawking and G. F. R. Ellis, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (London: Cambridge University Press, 1973), ISBN 0521200164LCCN 72093671bibcode:…..H, pp. 217-221.
  8.  Richard Palmer, Publisher, “Highlights of 2005″Reports on Progress in PhysicsMirror link. See also “Editorial board”Reports on Progress in PhysicsMirror link.
  9.  “Journal Citation Reports (JCR) Year 2006—Science Edition”, September 2007. Mirror link.
  10.  “Journals Catalogue 2008″, IOP Publishing (Institute of Physics), Section: “IOP Impact Factors”, p. 37. Mirror link.
  11.  Brian GreeneThe Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton, 1999), ISBN 0393046885LCCN 98025695bibcode: 1999eush.conf…..G, pp. 252-253.
  12.  S. W. Hawking“Information loss in black holes”Physical Review D, Vol. 72, No. 8 (October 2005), Art. No. 084013, 4 pages, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.72.084013bibcode: 2005PhRvD..72h4013HMirror link. Also at arXiv:hep-th/0507171, July 18, 2005.
  13.  G. F. R. Ellis and D. H. Coule, “Life at the end of the universe?”General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 26, No. 7 (July 1994), pp. 731-739, doi:10.1007/BF02116959bibcode: 1994GReGr..26..731E.
  14.  George Ellis, “Piety in the sky”Nature, Vol. 371, No. 6493 (September 8, 1994), p. 115, doi:10.1038/371115a0.Mirror link. A review of Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994), ISBN 0385467982LCCN 93045046bibcode:…..T.
  15.  Lawrence Krauss, “More dangerous than nonsense”New Scientist, Vol. 194, Issue 2603 (May 12, 2007), p. 53,doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(07)61199-3Mirror link. A review of Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Christianity (New York: Doubleday, 2007), ISBN 0385514247LCCN 2006039028.

References originally in quoted passages

  1.  S. W. Hawking“Breakdown of predictability in gravitational collapse”Physical Review D, Vol. 14, Issue 10 (November 1976), pp. 2460-2473, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.14.2460bibcode: 1976PhRvD..14.2460HMirror link.
  2.  Robert M. Wald, Quantum Field Theory in Curved Spacetime and Black Hole Thermodynamics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), ISBN 0226870251LCCN 94011065, Section 7.3, pp. 182-185.
  3.  John D. Barrow, Gregory J. Galloway and Frank J. Tipler, “The closed-universe recollapse conjecture”Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 223, No. 4 (December 1986), pp. 835-844, bibcode: 1986MNRAS.223..835B, CAT.INIST No. 8251334. On p. 926 of the same 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper, Tipler writes that “A dynamical proof for S3 can be found in Barrow (1986)”, with “Barrow (1986)” being this reference.
  4.  G. F. R. Ellis and D. H. Coule, “Life at the end of the universe?”General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 26, No. 7 (July 1994), pp. 731-739, doi:10.1007/BF02116959bibcode: 1994GReGr..26..731E.
  5. ↑ 5.0 5.1 Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994), ISBN 0385467982LCCN 93045046bibcode:…..T, Appendix C: “The Bekenstein Bound”, p. 410. Said Appendix is reproduced in Frank J. Tipler, “Genesis: How the Universe Began According to Standard Model Particle Physics”arXiv:astro-ph/0111520, November 28, 2001, Section 2: “Apparent Inconsistences in the Physical Laws in the Early Universe”, Subsection a: “Bekenstein Bound Inconsistent with Second Law of Thermodynamics”.
  6.  Frank J. Tipler, “Intelligent life in cosmology”International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 2, Issue 2 (April 2003), pp. 141-148, doi:10.1017/S1473550403001526bibcode: 2003IJAsB…2..141T. Mirror links here and here; also availablehere. Also at arXiv:0704.0058, March 31, 2007.
  7.  S. W. Hawking and G. F. R. Ellis, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time (London: Cambridge University Press, 1973), ISBN 0521200164LCCN 72093671bibcode:…..H, pp. 217-221.
  8.  Malcolm A. H. MacCallum, “Mixmaster universe problem”, Nature—Physical Science, Vol. 230 (March 1971), pp. 112-113, bibcode: 1971Natur.230..112MOSTI ID: 4048469. See also here.
  9.  John D. Barrow, “Chaotic behaviour in general relativity”, Physics Reports, Vol. 85, Issue 1 (May 1982), pp. 1-49,doi:10.1016/0370-1573(82)90171-5bibcode: 1982PhR….85….1B.
  10.  John D. Barrow and Janna Levin, “Chaos in the Einstein-Yang-Mills Equations”Physical Review Letters, Vol. 80, Issue 4 (January 1998), pp. 656-659, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.80.656bibcode: 1998PhRvL..80..656B. Also at arXiv:gr-qc/9706065, June 20, 1997.
  11.  Neil J. Cornish and Janna J. Levin, “Mixmaster universe: A chaotic Farey tale”Physical Review D, Vol. 55, Issue 12 (June 1997), pp. 7489-7510, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.55.7489bibcode: 1997PhRvD..55.7489C. Also at arXiv:gr-qc/9612066, December 30, 1996.
  12.  Adilson E. Motter, “Relativistic Chaos is Coordinate Invariant”Physical Review Letters, Vol. 91, Issue 23 (December 2003), Art. No. 231101, 4 pages, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.91.231101bibcode: 2003PhRvL..91w1101MMirror link. Also at arXiv:gr-qc/0305020, May 5, 2003.
  13.  Troy Shinbrot, Edward Ott, Celso Grebogi and James A. Yorke, “Using chaos to direct trajectories to targets”,Physical Review Letters, Vol. 65, Issue 26 (December 1990), pp. 3215-3218, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.65.3215,bibcode: 1990PhRvL..65.3215S.
  14.  Troy Shinbrot, William Ditto, Celso Grebogi, Edward Ott, Mark Spano and James A. Yorke, “Using the sensitive dependence of chaos (the ‘butterfly effect’) to direct trajectories in an experimental chaotic system”Physical Review Letters, Vol. 68, Issue 19 (May 1992), pp. 2863-2866, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.68.2863bibcode: 1992PhRvL..68.2863S.
  15.  Charles W. Misner, “The Isotropy of the Universe”Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 151 (February 1968), pp. 431-457,doi:10.1086/149448bibcode: 1968ApJ…151..431M.
  16.  Charles W. Misner, “Quantum Cosmology. I”Physical Review, Vol. 186, Issue 5 (October 1969), pp. 1319-1327,doi:10.1103/PhysRev.186.1319bibcode: 1969PhRv..186.1319M.
  17.  Charles W. Misner, “Mixmaster Universe”Physical Review Letters, Vol. 22, Issue 20 (May 1969), pp. 1071-1074,doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.22.1071bibcode: 1969PhRvL..22.1071MMirror link. Also available as an entry in the Gravity Research Foundation’s 1969 essay competition. Mirror link.
  18. ↑ 18.0 18.1 Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994), ISBN 0385467982LCCN 93045046bibcode:…..T.
  19.  Frank Wilczek, “Scaling Mount Planck III: Is That All There Is?”Physics Today, Vol. 55, Issue 8 (August 2002), pp. 10-11, doi:10.1063/1.1510264bibcode: 2002PhT….55h..10WMirror link; also available here.
  20.  Helen R. Quinn, “The Asymmetry Between Matter and Antimatter”Physics Today, Vol. 56, Issue 2 (February 2003), pp. 30-35, doi:10.1063/1.1564346bibcode: 2003PhT….56b..30QMirror link; also available here.
  21.  Steven Weinberg, The Quantum Theory of Fields, Volume I: Foundations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), ISBN 0521550017LCCN 95002782 bibcode:…..W, pp. 499 and 518-519.
  22.  John F. Donoghue, “General relativity as an effective field theory: The leading quantum corrections”Physical Review D, Vol. 50, Issue 6 (September 1994), pp. 3874-3888, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.50.3874bibcode: 1994PhRvD..50.3874D. Also at arXiv:gr-qc/9405057, May 25, 1994.
  23.  John F. Donoghue and Tibor Torma, “Power counting of loop diagrams in general relativity”Physical Review D, Vol. 54, Issue 8 (October 1996), pp. 4963-4972, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.54.4963bibcode: 1996PhRvD..54.4963D. Also released as “On the power counting of loop diagrams in general relativity”arXiv:hep-th/9602121, February 22, 1996.

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God and resurrection – a reply to Sjoerd L. Bonting

Wolfhart Pannenberg

In his article “Resurrection and hereafter”, S. L. Bonting presented a critique of Frank Tipler’s book “The Physics of Immortality” and of my appreciative reaction to it. Prof. Tipler will response himself to the depiction of his Omega Point Theory, a depiction which he rejects as inaccurate in several points. I do not consider it my task to comment on the scientific issues involved, but I want to clarify some points, where mispresentations can and should be avoided, so that a less prejudiced discussion of Tipler’s project might become possible.

Bonting’s introductory remark that “science is by definition limited to this world” seems to involve that our Christian hope is concerned for a completely different world, which is not true: When we await “a new heaven and a new earth”, it is rather the transformation of the present heaven and earth that we expect, just as Paul speaks in 1. Cor 15,51ff. of a transformation of our bodily existence (cf. also Phil 3,21). According to Rom 8,18ff. this hope implicates all of creation. If there is a positive relationship between the first creation and its future transformation, however, one should be cautious to deny in principle the possibility of any positive contribution of science in this area, especially in view of the fact that in Jesus’ resurrection the eschatological future has had an impact already in our present world. We should always remember, of course, that “our knowledge is imperfect”, as Paul reminds us (1. Cor 13,9) with regard to theological knowledge, a remark that also applies to all other forms of knowledge.

Secondly, Bonting said that our Christian belief is in resurrection, not in immortality. That is correct in the sense that nothing in our present life is exempt from perishing. But on the other hand, the new life of the future, which Christians expect, is said to be imperishable (1. Cor 15,42.50ff.). Tipler uses the idea of immortality in this more general way, not opposed to resurrection.

Concerning the “final” anthropic principle, I express reservations myself in my Systematic Theology (vol. II). But I do not consider it a “mystical thought”, though it certainly is “a form of a teleology”. As such it convenes with the theological language about God’s purpose with humanity and with his creation, though this is a transcendent, not an immanent telos. It is nonsense to say that “Tipler has removed God” from the origin of the universe. He rather considered the eschatological future to be the place, from which God, the power of the future, created the entire course of the universe from its beginnings. This view is not a contradiction with some of the things Bonting says on creation, though in theological language “chaos” should not refer to an uncreated origin before the act of creation, because the theological doctrine of creatio ex nihilo has its point in asserting that nothing exists that was not created by God. I agree with Bonting in what he says on the contingent nature of the universe. And I should add that all events in the history of creation are also contingent, notwithstanding elements of uniformity in their sequence that allow for the application of formulas of natural law. The contingency of events, however, points to their origin from God as the power of the future, and it is in this perspective that creation and eschatology belong together. I do not think that in this matter “cosmological prediction” and biblical expectation must be “in flagrant conflict”, as Bonting asserts, because causation from the past, the basis of scientific prediction, and causation from the future (from God as source of contingency) are not necessarily in contradiction: since the creator wanted to have creatures of an enduring existence, the emergence of enduring patterns and the reliability of natural law was a necessary condition. The causation moving from the past to present and future also corresponds to the finite point of view of human experience, because as finite beings we are looking from our present and past to the future. On the other hand, the example of Tipler shows that this does not exclude the idea that on a deeper level causation works from the future of God to the presence and past of his creatures.

Concerning the resurrection of the dead it amounts to a distortion of Tipler’s view to assert, as Bonting does, that “Tipler has humans make themselves immortal through the transformation into information”. Rather, it seems that God, at the Omega Point of the cosmological process, has the power for restoring the life of his creatures, who were already created from his final future. Tipler thinks that the information responsible for our individual existence now will be at the disposal of God so that he may decide to provide a new existence for his creatures. The identity with their former lives then is secured by the information that remains at God’s disposal even where the bodily existence of the creature has passed away. This reminded me of St. Thomas’ idea that the programme of our bodily existence is contained in our soul and secures personal identity when it becomes the basis for a new form of bodily existence (ScT II, 58). The similarity with Tipler’s idea is surprising at this point, and this induced my judgment that here Tipler comes close to the Christian doctrine. Bonting indicates his disagreement, but does not comment on the similarity with Thomas Aquinas. Instead, he supposes that Tipler deviates from the Christian teaching on the bodily resurrection, because that involves the transformation to “a heavenly body, which is not identical with the earthly body”. Perhaps Bonting’s misunderstanding of Tipler’s conception at this point was occasioned by the image of a computer simulation that Tipler used to illustrate his point that the creature can be restored by God to his/her former individual identity. This does not exclude, however, profound transformation to another form of bodily existence. In his recent restatement of his position, Tipler makes this point abundantly clear.

In my earlier article on his thought I mentioned that there was indeed one important point of deviation from the Christian concept of resurrection in Tipler’s argument, – the relation of the Christian hope for resurrection to the event of the resurrection of Jesus. In his recent restatement of his position, however, he found arguments that make the occurrence of a case of eschatological resurrection in the midst of history acceptable. I consider this a very interesting argument in a situation where usually the Christian proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection is rejected as scientifically impossible, even by theologians, although purely historical considerations would rather suggest a positive judgment. In his book Tipler said that he would reconsider his position, if the appearance of such a person (Jesus as Son of God and the risen Lord of a redeemed humanity) would be necessary as a condition for the Omega Point to result in the end of the cosmic process. He has now convinced himself of arguments that indeed require such a revision, arguments that induce him to accept a Trinitarian conception of God and the incarnation of one of the singularities of the Trinity, the Son, in the person of Jesus. This also induces him now to revise his earlier judgment on the historical occurrence of Jesus’ resurrection.

As a Christian theologian, I can only feel deeply satisfied by this development in Frank Tipler’s thought, though I cannot concur with all the details of his discussion. Concerning the Lucan story of the Virgin Birth of Jesus, I am for purely historical reasons unable to claim the historicity of such an event. It is not the miraculous character of such an event that prevents from accepting it as a historical fact, but rather particularities in the Lucan text itself that indicate its literary form to be that of a legend. That Jesus was and is (on the basis of his resurrection) the Son of God, is a Christian affirmation that is older than the story of his Virgin Birth and quite independent from it in the New Testament tradition, where we have the idea of the Virgin Birth only in Luke and Matthew (1,18). Tipler actually would not need it for the assertion that the appearance of Jesus as Son of God was a necessary condition for the Omega Point to occur at the end of the history of the cosmos.

I also have problems with Tipler’s adoption of the multiple-worlds interpretation of quantum theory. As my treatment of the doctrine of creation in my Systematic Theology (vol. II) shows, I rather follow a version of the old Copenhagen interpretation in a form now pronounced by Hans Peter Dürr in his statement that the world is created anew with each new event. But there are many noted scientists who accept the multiple-worlds interpretation. On the other hand, not all of them accept the inflation theory of Alan Guth, which Bonting favors. Wouldn’t it be better to speak of different theoretical options rather than to judge other options as “pseudo-physics” as Bonting does, even with regard to a physicist whose profession it is to teach relativity theory?

Even if one does not follow all of Tipler’s arguments, Christian theologians should be grateful for Frank Tipler’s work and admire the intellectual courage of his attempt to bridge over the gulf between physics and the Christian faith in a future resurrection of the dead and in the resurrection of Jesus as a fact of history. There are so strong prejudices in this matter on both sides that suggest such a connection to be impossible, and therefore intellectual courage is indeed required for any attempt at restoring it. For the Christian faith, the sheer possibility of such a connection can be of enormous importance in order to change the public climate in our culture regarding the plausibility structure of the Christian proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus as a real event in human history, as well as of the corresponding Christian hope for the future. At the beginning of his article, Bonting expresses his concern with this situation, and thus he should be more open and sympathetic towards a contribution like Tipler’s.

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Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – Toward a Science Charged with Faith

Charles P. Henderson

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) stands among the very few leaders of thought in this century to integrate pure scientific research with a religious vocation. At an early point in his career this paleontologist and Jesuit priest made it his personal mission to reconstruct the most basic Christian doctrines from the perspectives of science and, at the same time, to reconstruct science from the perspectives of faith. He would do this by overthrowing all the barriers that had been erected between science and religion in the past one hundred years. He would take the lessons learned from the study of nature as the foundation on which to reconstruct the Christian faith. He would single-handedly remake all the dogmas of his own Catholic Church, and he would at the same time remake the world of modern science on the model suggested by his personal experience of God.

Teilhard was seen by the Vatican as a threat to the integrity of the faith. Rome insisted that his religious writings should not be published; he was forbidden to teach or even to speak publicly on religious subjects; he was banished from his native country. Yet his ideas were disseminated informally and sometimes secretly by friends and colleagues in the church. He became a hero and a role model for a whole generation of younger priests and theologians. He set the stage for the renewal movements which finally came to flower in the era of Vatican II.

At the same time he also suggested a program for the reconstruction of science. He put forward a systematic critique of traditional science which was just as radical and just as provocative as his criticism of traditional religion, and he provoked equally extreme reactions in the scientific community. A small number of world-class scientists have taken his ideas seriously enough to structure their own work on Teilhard’s model, but the majority of scientists have reacted as defensively as the Vatican theologians.

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It is perhaps not surprising that a leading advocate of Darwinism, Stephen Jay Gould, has gone to work on Teilhard. Writing vehemently and dogmatically, like the guardian of an established religion, Gould asserts that Teilhard’s whole enterprise is illegitimate: Teilhard’s essential insights are incompatible with science. In addition to that, Gould has made it his personal mission to expose Teilhard as being guilty of the most outrageous scientific fraud of modern times.

Partly as a result of these defensive and dogmatic reactions to Teilhard, he is today tragically underestimated in both the religious and scientific communities. While many of his ideas have worked their way anonymously into currency and have been widely accepted, still Teilhard’s innovative thinking has been taken seriously only by a minority of thinkers who see science and religion entering into a new era of cross-fertilization and creativity. For the vast majority, Teilhard’s thought seems marginal at best, and his insights are not studied in the depth they deserve. This is partially explained by the active suppression of his ideas by the church and the suspicion of his ideas within the scientific community. Teilhard’s obscurity is also to be explained, however, by his own style of writing and his tendency to wander into the realm of pure speculation. His fertile imagination sometimes led him into a fantasy world foreign to scientists and theologians alike. Yet even in the face of Teilhard’s most serious mistakes I believe his initiatives should be pursued. When one cuts through his sometimes lurid prose, one encounters a series of highly imaginative and suggestive proposals for the reunion of research and religion. The questions raised by his work cannot be avoided. Anyone interested in extending the search for truth beyond the traditional frontiers of knowledge must wrestle with his basic affirmations.

Can science and religion be successfully remarried? Can a reunion of these old lovers infuse new vitality to the whole of western culture, as Teilhard passionately asserted it would, or, as his critics suggest, does Teilhard accomplish the reconciliation of science and religion at the expense of both partners to the marriage? Does he fatally compromise both sides in forcing an alliance which should never have been attempted in the first place?

It was at the height of his career in paleontology while he was studying bones and fossils in northern China (in 1927) that Teilhard wrote what he called “a little book on piety” designed to convey both the sincerity and the orthodoxy of his faith to his superiors in Rome. In this book Teilhard speaks of The Divine Milieu and by its very title suggests his theme: the whole material world as the setting for a profound, mystical vision of God. It is in the world itself, as it is seen through the eyes of science, that the workings of God are most apparent. Teilhard’s writing is graphic and unrestrained:

All around us, to right and left, in front and behind, above and below, we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through. But it is not only close to us, in front of us, that the divine presence has revealed itself. It has sprung up universally, and we find ourselves so surrounded and transfixed by it, that there is no room left to fall down and adore it, even within ourselves.

By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us and moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus. As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. Venite, adoremus.(1)

Needless to say writing like this did not reassure the religious authorities in Rome, for Teilhard affirmed the material world as a source of mystical illumination. Though Teilhard did not directly criticize any specific doctrines of the church in his little book of piety, this work constitutes an assault upon the skeletal supports of traditional theology. Teilhard was just as provocative when he was trying to reassure as when he was trying to stir up debate. Early on, he describes his book in two sentences which were intended to convey the modesty of his position but in reality contained a theological time bomb:

This little book does no more than recapitulate the eternal lesson of the Church in the words of a man who, because he believes himself to feel deeply in tune with his own times, has sought to teach how to see God everywhere, to see him in all that is most hidden, most solid, and most ultimate in the world. These pages put forward no more than a practical attitude – or, more exactly perhaps, a way of teaching how to see.(2)

Teilhard says that he intends no more than to “recapitulate the eternal lessons of the Church,” but he goes on to assert that he is actually teaching the church how to see! As a scientist and an individual thinker, he is suggesting that the primary source of religious truth is to be found in the material world rather than in the magisterium of the church. In a real sense, it shall be science which shows theology how to see; it shall be the personal experience of a single priest which will indicate to the highest ecclesiastical authorities what is essential in Catholic teaching (as, by implication, he will show what is not essential).

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As Karl Marx turned the world of philosophy upside down by revealing the foundations in society for every human theory, Teilhard tried to accomplish the even more difficult task of turning theology downside up. He tried to demonstrate that the material world, the world of rocks and trees, stars and planets, plants and animals, rather than being the neutral subject of scientific investigation, was in fact the soil from which would spring a new vision of the holy. The very subject matter of pure science was nothing less than a mirror in which one could see reflected the face of God. Hence Teilhard did not succeed in calming the anxious theologians at the Vatican, and they were rightly worried. He had raised the material world to a level of importance it had seldom held for theologians, Catholic or Protestant. In a more candid statement of faith written at the request of his confidant and colleague, Bruno de Solages, rector of the Institut Catholique in Toulouse, Teilhard put the issue on a personal, even confessional plane:

If, as the result of some interior revolution, I were to lose in succession my faith in Christ, my faith in a personal God, and my faith in spirit, I feel that I should continue tobelieve invincibly in the world. The world (its value, its infallibility and its goodness)- that, when all is said and done, is the first, the last, and the only thing in which I believe. It is by this faith that I live. And it is to this faith, I feel, that at the moment of death, rising above all doubts, I shall surrender myself.(3)

We must now ask what led Teilhard to believe so deeply in the world, or , putting it another way and reflecting the deep skepticism of our own era, what in the world is worthy of belief in the first place? For the vast majority of us, the material world provides the raw material for scientific research, not mystical illumination. Yet here is a professional scientist working at the frontiers of research, part of an international team of geologists, paleontologists, and anthropologists, and writing from an outpost of science in northern China, who boldly asserts:

If we Christians wish to retain in Christ the very qualities on which his power and our worship are based, we have no better way – no other way, even – of doing so than fully to accept the most modern concepts of evolution. . . . Surely the solution for which modern mankind is seeking must essentially be exactly the solution which I have come upon.(4)

One can easily see why Teilhard raised cries of alarm within the hierarchies of both the church and the academies.

Teilhard was born and reared in an eighteenth-century manor house located in the barony of Sarcenat near the provincial capital, Auvergne, France. The windows and terraces of the manor house look out upon the plain of Clermont, the rounded hillsides, and sleeping volcanoes that form the foothills of the Puy mountains. Growing up in a family of eleven children, Teilhard was reared in an atmosphere of discipline and devotion. In this highly structured family setting, Teilhard learned from his father, Emmanuel Teilhard de Chardin, the love of nature and natural history which later became so important to his spiritual life as well as to his science. The countryside was rich in rocks and minerals, animal life, and flowers, and Teilhard spent many hours with his father exploring, climbing the mountains, riding, fishing, hunting, and collecting outstanding examples of the local mineral, animal, and vegetable stock. Most of all he was attracted to the minerals, to the rocks, and to items of metal. He began a collection of shell casings and other metal objects. He seemed to be attracted to these objects because of their durability. He even called them his “idols.” In his autobiography he records this memory of the earlier years:

You should have seen me as in profound secrecy and silence I withdrew into the contemplation of my “God of Iron”. . . . A God, note, of iron; and why iron? Because in all my childish experience there was nothing in the world harder, tougher, more durable than this wonderful substance. . . . But I can never forget the pathetic depths of a child’s despair when I realized one day that iron can be scratched and can rust. . . . I had to look elsewhere for substitutes that would console me.(5)

From that moment forward, Teilhard did not stop looking, searching, and exploring every corner and dimension of the natural world for his consolation.

Pierre’s mother, Berthe Adele, seemed to have more immediate influence upon the child’s religious life. “I was an affectionate child,” he writes, “good, and even pious.” Teilhard lovingly attributes to his mother, whom he referred to as my “dear, sainted maman,” all that was “best in his soul.” It was the influence of his mother which he looked upon to “rouse the fire into a blaze.” The fire of which he speaks here is that of a mystical illumination from within. “And the spark by which my own universe . . . was to succeed in centering on its own fullness, undoubtedly came through my mother.”(6)Teilhard’s life spins itself around these two poles of thought and feeling: his sense of fascination and wonder about the natural world and his sense of God’s presence welling up from within the world. As he told the story much later:

Throughout my whole life, during every moment I have lived, the world has gradually been taking on light and fire for me, until it has come to envelop me in one mass of luminosity, glowing from within. . . . The purple flush of matter fading imperceptibly into the gold of spirit, to be lost finally in the incandescence of a personal universe.(7)

At the age of twelve Pierre was sent as a boarder to the Jesuit school ofNotre Dame de Mongre at Villefranche. He was popular among his peers and was eventually elected president of the student body. He achieved a respectable academic record in religious studies and a superior record in science. At eighteen he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Aix-on-Provence, and, when the religious orders were expelled from France in 1902, he traveled with the community to their refuge on the Isle of Jersey. While studying with the Jesuits, he was introduced to the rigors of a scholastic theology which he later so violently rejected, and he had the opportunity to pursue his primary interest in geology and the natural sciences. Physics, in particular, opened a new dimension in his thinking. In the laws of physics he saw a verifiable basis for the unity that he had sensed in the natural world. In this “world of electrons, waves, and ions” he felt “strangely at home.” The “mysterious” laws of motion and the electromagnetic forces of the physical world seemed to suggest a secret, “that at twenty-two,” he vowed to himself, “I’d one day force.”(8)

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In 1905 Teilhard was sent to do his teaching internship at the Jesuit college in Egypt and then in 1908 to England to finish his theological training at Hastings in Sussex on England’s southeast coast. It was here that Teilhard’s own thinking began to develop in its full originality. Critical to his intellectual development was a reading of Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution,which raised the theory of evolution to the level of a cornerstone in a fully developed philosophical system. Teilhard found in Bergson a theoretical basis for his personal feeling of intimacy with nature and the material world. For Bergson saw a force at work across the whole face of this planet as life evolved from the most simple and original forms to the most complex. More important still, Bergson’s work suggested to Teilhard that the theory of evolution might be the precise theoretical tool that was necessary to bring together the world of modern science and the ancient teachings of the church. 

Meanwhile Giuseppe Sarto was elevated to the papacy as Pius X. Both devout and reactionary, the new Pope was committed lo lead Christ’s church away from the corrupting influence of such “modernist” opinions. An elaborate spy system, complete with underground periodicals and secret codes, was devised in the process of seeking out and eventually bringing under discipline the church’s errant, younger priests and scholars. The Pope set up committees of censorship in every diocese, and reports of heretical thought were sent directly to Rome. Catholic scholars and teachers were required to sign an antimodernist loyalty oath.

Had Teilhard believed his primary calling to be a theologian, he might have seen in these developments a direct threat to his own future, but at Hastings his creative energy was moving still deeper into the realm of science. A chance meeting with the lawyer and amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson led to an association which was much later to present as great a threat to Teilhard’s reputation as immediate events at the Vatican. At the time, though, Teilhard’s association with Dawson contributed immensely to his progress within a scientific profession. Dawson introduced him to the prominent Arthur Smith Woodward, keeper of paleontology at the British Museum. Smith Woodward opened doors to the scientific establishment that would otherwise have been closed to the young Jesuit seminarian. In fact, Dawson and Smith Woodward were to become collaborators in one of the great events of paleontology, the “discovery” of the famous Piltdown Man, which they presented as an important missing link in the evolution of the human species. Teilhard participated with the two Englishmen in their excavations at Piltdown, and in the process his own standing as a promising young paleontologist was established in scientific circles far beyond the precincts of the church. When Teilhard left England to begin his doctoral work, he was to become a student and eventually a colleague of Marcellin Boule, the greatest physical anthropologist in France. Thus were the foundations laid for Teilhard’s long and successful career as a paleontologist.

In 1953, however, Piltdown Man was exposed as a deliberate hoax, perhaps the most astounding fraud in the history of modern science. Until recently Charles Dawson was believed to have acted alone in the Piltdown affair, but in August 1980, a quarter-century after Teilhard’s death, Stephen Jay Gould put forward his own view that Teilhard was a coconspirator in the original fraud. Gould first published his accusations in Natural Historymagazine and repeated his case with additional argument and discussion in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes. Though his “evidence” is entirely circumstantial, Gould accusations are tightly reasoned, as are the arguments of Teilhard’s defenders who have written and published their own views in reply to Gould. The briefs for and against Teilhard are too complex to review here. Suffice it to say that the reconstruction of events that originally took place in the years 1908 -1914 is difficult in itself. To draw firm conclusions based upon circumstantial references in letters and remembrances stretching across seventy years is almost impossible. Gould speculates wildly as to why Teilhard might have been drawn into the conspiracy. His tentative conclusion is that Teilhard thought he was involved in little more than a practical joke.

Why not play a joke to see how far a gullible professional [Smith Woodward] could be taken? And what a wonderful joke for a Frenchman, for England at the time boasted no human fossils at all, while France, with Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, stood proudly as the queen of anthropology. What an irresistible idea – to salt English soil with this preposterous combination of a human skull and an ape’s jaw and see what the pros could make of it. But the joke quickly went sour.(9)

The great Smith Woodward took the forgery and unwittingly presented it as a major event in paleontology, but then World War I erupted and Dawson died in 1916, leaving, as Gould argues, Teilhard as the lonely keeper of the conspiracy. By war’s end Teilhard was irrevocably committed to his own career as a paleontologist; he had seen his own mentor Marcellin Boule openly praise the Piltdown “discoveries.”  If he now confessed, his own future might be ruined. In these circumstances, what is a guilty coconspirator to do? Either he would confess his guilt and place his scientific career in jeopardy or he would keep silent on the whole subject and move on to build his career upon a more legitimate foundation.

In fact, Teilhard took a most implausible course of action were he in fact guilty as Gould charged. In 1920 Teilhard published his own scholarly article on the Piltdown findings. Thus Gould would have us believe that Teilhard drew himself still more deeply into the web of lies, implicating himself far beyond the scope of a practical joke in a premeditated crime against the very scientific profession to which he was in the process of committing his life. Was the same man who made it his personal mission to show scientific endeavor to be a sacred calling capable of such duplicity? With such a serious potential for self-destruction? I doubt it.

The question which this entire episode raises in my own mind are Gould’smotives in acting as accuser, prosecuting attorney, and presiding judge in the case of Teilhard vs. the truth. One suspects that there is more to Gould’s motivation than a straightforward desire to solve a crime against science committed more than seventy years ago. Does Gould have an animus against Teilhard? Obviously he has, for Gould is a leading advocate of scientific atheism. Gould has made it his avowed intention to keep God, together with all superstition, racism, chauvinism, and other lies, out of science. Gould’s books and articles argue eloquently for the integrity of science. Gould insists that real science can only operate with integrity if God remains shut out of it completely. In marking out the course of natural history one must look at the actual processes of nature, not impose upon nature any grand theory or design. Gould recounts horror story after horror story from the history of science showing how the preconceptions of scientists have meant in effect that their research was being put in service to a lie. He shows scientist after scientist fabricating results in support of the most pernicious superstition and simple prejudice. Gould is rightly concerned and angered by scientific creationists who lift his own words out of context to show that Darwinism is in a state of disarray or that the science of evolution is about to self-destruct. Gould is so rightly angered by such false science and has suffered so many examples of religious superstition and stupidity that he can imagine no positive role for religion whatsoever. Since it has done and is still doing so much damage to science, it seems only prudent to separate science from religion completely. Given that conclusion, however, what does one do with the work of Teilhard de Chardin? Teilhard argues that the sciences of nature validate the fundamental affirmations of the Christian faith. While Gould is committed to shutting God out of science completely, Teilhard asserts that the only way to save science from self-destruction is to place God back in, at the very heart and center of  scientific endeavor. To scientists as well as to theologians Teilhard said, in words that hang fire, “Surely the solution for which modern mankind is seeking must essentially be exactly the solution which I have come upon”(10)

In a highly suggestive essay written in 1939, Teilhard traces the development of science from its earliest beginnings as a mere hobby to its present state as “the solemn, prime and vital occupation of man.”(11)Teilhard follows science from its origins in the cultures of the ancient world through its period of expansiveness in the nineteenth century when it began to take on all the aspects of a substitute religion. Crucial in this period was the theory of evolution. Teilhard argues that the greatest single consequence of Darwinism was the “discovery of time.”

The perspectives of unbounded time with which we fill our lungs have become so natural that we forget how recently and at what cost they were conquered. And yet nothing is more certain: less than two hundred years ago, the world’s leading thinkers did not imagine a past and would not have dared to promise themselves a future of more than six or eight thousand years. An incredibly short time; and what is even more disturbing to our minds, a span of simple repetition during which things were conserved or reintroduced on a single plane, and were always of the same kind.(12)

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Teilhard points out that Darwin changed our understanding of time in much the same degree that Galileo transformed our sense of space. In both cases the boundaries of the universe were extended to infinity. As astronomy has exploded the geocentric universe in which earth sits in its fixed place at the center of all things, with the heavens above and hell below, so geology and biology have pushed the horizons of time backwards into the remote past and forwards into the far distant future. Also, as life came to be seen as evolving across the millennia in a gradual succession of living forms, suddenly a notion of progress was born. With this new sense of moving forward in time from the simplest life forms to the most complex, from the animal to the human species, from the most basic colonies of bacteria to the highest civilizations, science became much more than a method of collecting and classifying the facts of life. Increasingly science was seen as the specific means by which humanity would move forward into the future. Teilhard writes:

Henceforth science recognized itself as a means of extending and completing in man a world still incompletely formed. It assumed the shape and grandeur of a sacred duty. It became charged with futurity. In the great body, already coming to birth, of a humanity grouped by the act of discovery, a soul was at last released: a mysticism of discovery.(13)

In the nineteenth century science enjoyed such success at explaining so many of the mysteries of life that it appeared to many as if all the mystery could one day be explained away. In physics one could penetrate to the heart of matter and develop a clear understanding of that fundamental building block, the atom. In biology, the evolution of life forms could ultimately be explained through competition of the various species across vast distances of time. By the same token, intelligence could be understood as a function of the circuitry in the brain and consciousness could be reduced to a complex series of chemical reactions, etc., etc. In other words, argues Teilhard, the mysticism of discovery was fast deteriorating into the mere “worship of matter.”(14) The religious corollary of this trend was the death of God. For, if all the important processes of life could be understood through the tools of analysis just recently developed by science, what further need remained for faith in God?

In Teilhard’s view the situation has changed dramatically in the twentieth century. In physics, the atoms themselves were broken up and broken down into innumerable subparticles infinitely more mysterious than the alchemists ever imagined. In Teilhard’s own words:

The stuff of the universe, examined as a close texture, resolved itself into a mist in which reason could no longer possibly grasp, in what remained of phenomena, anything but the forms that it had itself imposed on them. In the final issue, mind found itself once again face to face with its own reflexion.(15)

Similarly, in biology, chemistry, and sociology the important phenomena could not be reduced to the simple mechanisms that were once thought to lie at the heart of all things. Far from continuing to explain away the remaining mysteries, science in this century has exposed still deeper mysteries at the very heart of matter itself. At a more mundane level science did not prove to be the unmitigated blessing it was once believed to be. Teilhard lived long enough to witness the explosion of the world’s first atomic weapons, and with these weapons the fatal blow was delivered against the nineteenth century idea of progress. If the science of Darwin, Marx, and Freud seemed to make certain the death of God, the nuclear arms race secured the death of science as a substitute religion.

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In reaction against a naive, anthropomorphic religion, science, in its century of triumph, had turned increasingly against any theory which cast nature into a human mold. Paradoxically, in this century, scientists have recognized that no clean line of demarcation can be drawn between the observer and the observed. The scientist, like the theologian, cannot take a completely “objective” position separate and apart from the phenomenon being studied. One inevitably sees the world through human eyes and conceives of the world in human images. Even when one makes every effort to avoid doing so, one still tends to make the world into a mirror.

A majority of scientists have dealt with this situation (as does Stephen Jay Gould) by opting for a militant skepticism. Not only has God been shut out of science but also any attempt to see in nature evidence of a final plan, purpose, or design is rejected out of hand. As Gould puts it succinctly in specific reference to Teilhard, “Perhaps the problem with all these visions . . . is our penchant for building comprehensive and all-encompassing systems in the first place. Maybe they just don’t work.”(16) This criticism completely misses the mark. Teilhard does not attempt to build an “all-encompassing system” and impose it upon nature. Teilhard looks to the natural world for signals of its inherent purpose, and he sharply criticizes Gould’s brand of skepticism as narrow and debilitating. Writing much earlier than Gould, Teilhard anticipates his criticisms and answers his challenge:

Asked whether life is going anywhere . . . nine biologists out of ten will today say no, even passionately. They will say: “It is abundantly clear to every eye that organic matter is in a state of continual metamorphosis, and even that this metamorphosis brings it with time towards more and more improbable forms. But what scale can we find to assess the absolute or even relative value of these fragile constructions? By what right, for instance, can we say that a mammal, even in the case of man, is more advanced, more perfect, than a bee or a rose? . . . we can no longer find any scientific grounds for preferring one of these laborious products of nature to another. They are different solutions – but each equivalent to the next. One spoke on the wheel is as good as any other; no one of the lines appears to lead anywhere in particular.”

Science in its development – and even, as I shall show, mankind in its march – is marking time at this moment, because men’s minds are reluctant to recognise that evolution has a precise orientation and a privileged axis.Weakened by this fundamental doubt, the forces of research are scattered and there is no determination to build the earth.

Leaving aside all anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism, I believe I can see a direction and a line of progress for life, a line and a direction which are in fact so well marked that I am convinced their reality will be universally admitted by the science of tomorrow.(17)

Teilhard asserts that nature is moving, erratically and haltingly perhaps, but nonetheless moving, towards higher and higher forms of consciousness. This movement is most apparent in the evolution of the human species. It is humanity in particular which has a clear concept of nature and nature’sinner workings. Teilhard quotes Julian Huxley approvingly: humanity is “nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself.”(18)

The specific insights that come into the foreground of awareness as one reflects upon the ascent of this species are both its uniqueness and its relatedness to the whole of the natural world. For Teilhard the most sublime product of evolution is the human person, the individual uniquely aware of itself as a person, yet also aware of its interdependence with the whole. Teilhard would agree with Gould to a point. One cannot talk scientifically about the superiority of the human race; one cannot separate the creation of humanity from the creation of other life forms. Humanity did not emerge by fiat of an all-powerful God. On the contrary, our origin and ascent follow the same path taken by all the creatures of the natural world. Human consciousness (including a consciousness of God) is the culmination of nature’s own movement through time. Far from being imposed upon the formless face of the natural world, God emerges from nature as its final goal and purpose. Thus, science and religion are brought together in a direct, dialectical relationship. Teilhard states his argument most succinctly in the closing chapter of The Phenomenon of Man.

To outward appearance, the modern world was born of an antireligious movement: man becoming self-sufficient and reason supplanting belief. Our generation and the two that preceded it have heard little of but talk of the conflict between science and faith; indeed it seemed at one moment a foregone conclusion that the former was destined to take the place of the latter. … After close on two centuries of passionate struggles, neither science nor faith has succeeded in discrediting its adversary. On the contrary, it becomes obvious that neither can develop normally without the other. And the reason is simple: the same life animates both. Neither in its impetus nor its achievements can science go to its limits without becoming tinged with mysticism and charged with faith.(19)

A science “tinged with mysticism and charged with faith.” Are these words simply rhapsodic and metaphorical? Not for Teilhard. As a practicing scientist he saw the evolution of human personhood, not as an exception to the general rules of nature nor as a freak occurrence without relevance to other living things. He saw the “phenomenon of man” as an “arrow” pointing to the final goal and purpose of the universe itself.(20)

As science in this century has emphasized the interrelationship and interdependence of all things, religion affirms that the unity of all things is itself the most solid evidence of a God who embraces all. Growing from the same soil that has given rise to all other phenomena of life, human consciousness and the human personality appear to stand at the very top of the tree of life. If one were to project the forward edge of evolution into the future, especially as it falls increasingly under human direction and control, then it makes increasing sense to talk of a higher consciousness as being the inherent end and purpose of evolution. If evolution itself points toward a form of conscious life which has personality, perhaps God is the goal toward which this universe is moving after all. Hence the deep affinity which Teilhard felt between science and religion. “There is less difference than people think between research and adoration.”(21) ”Religion and science are the two conjugated faces or phases of one and the same act of complete knowledge “(22) Teilhard illustrates these concepts in the clean and simple image of the cone:(23)

When human beings turn their powers of analysis upon the diversity and multiplicity of life (at the base of the cone), that is pure science. However, when humanity turns its powers of synthesis towards the summit, towards the totality and the future (at the pinnacle of the cone), that is theology. Yet science finds its fulfillment only as it turns from investigation and analysis towards synthesis: that is to say, seeing the totality of life and weighing its character, testing the relationship of the part to the whole. Likewise, those who engage in the search for God find their fulfillment only as they see the God who is available in the material world. A faith which is cut loose from the world is likely to be illusory and unreal. Conversely, the faith that truly counts is the faith which takes science as a fellow traveler in the final search for God.

In the past, Teilhard argues, theologians tended to see God as a supreme being standing over and apart from the material world. In this view God dwelt upon the high and remote plane of pure spirit, and therefore the way to salvation was to be lifted above the contradictions of the material realm onto a high spiritual plane. Teilhard writes, “Since Aristotle there have been almost continual attempts to construct ‘models’ of God on the lines of an outside Prime Mover.”(24) The high and all-powerful God of traditional theology can influence the world only by intervening in its natural processes and contradicting its natural laws. In fact, many theologians delineate a crystal-clear line of demarcation between the natural and the supernatural. The chief signs of God’s action in the world are taken to be those otherwise inexplicable events, apparently contradicting all reasonable explanation. Obviously this concept of God is still very much with us. In popular conception the most sure and certain sign of God’s presence is to be found in those startling and unusual occurrences that seem to defy all understanding. A cancer victim suddenly goes into remission despite a clear indication from the medical authorities that death is imminent. The popular imagination has been trained through centuries of religious instruction to see God’s appearance in the world as, by definition, a most un-natural and unusual event. Correspondingly, all hope for full and complete communion with God lies in the escape from the world which is possible only at death.

Thus one looks for a closer understanding of God by moving in a vertical dimension. One does not progress in life by moving forward in time but by escaping the contradictions of time and history in the eternal. It is precisely such a notion of salvation which has been seen as completely antithetical to science. A supernatural God can only be understood, in scientific terms, as arbitrary and capricious. It is not so much that scientists have locked God out of history; the breach has resulted as much from the sincere attempt of religious people to see God as perfect both in power and in love. Yet only a God who is removed from the ambiguities of life, as we know it, can be perfect. As Stephen Jay Gould rightly insists, such a perfect God could not have created an imperfect world. Such an act would have been completely out of character!

In the meantime, as theologians tended to define God more and more in terms of the supernatural, science has taken its stand in nature. In the years since Darwin scientists have seen human life evolving in a linear march through time. As the theologians defended God by building walls around the domain of the spirit, so science dug its trenches in the world of matter. Marx’s dialectical materialism and his atheism are together the logical consequences of supernaturalism in religion. Scientific atheism is in fact the inevitable consequence of a theology which insists that knowledge of God must defy human understanding. When theologians insist that knowledge of God can only come through a miraculous act of divine revelation, rather than being discovered by reason, or that sinful humanity has no hope of salvation except by fiat of an all-powerful and all-loving God, then the dialogue between science and religion is interrupted prematurely. Moreover, religion has no role to play in a world which is committed finally and forever to science. That, Teilhard argues, is the greatest theological tragedy of our modern age.

Teilhard’s modest proposal for the resolution of this dilemma is to chart a new course for both theology and science. If religion has seen its purpose as raising human life to higher consciousness in a vertical dimension and if science has seen its purpose in moving humanity forward on a horizontal plane within the boundaries of the material world, the obvious frontier of consciousness involves a movement both upwards and forwards. Again Teilhard offers a simple image to depict his agenda for the evolution of human consciousness.(25)

Teilhard’s whole work can be considered as an open invitation. He extends an invitation to his fellow scientists, asking, imploring, cajoling them to consider both the theological assumptions hidden in their work and the theological consequences of their work. What is the character of the universe which emerges as reality is tested according to the scientific method? Conversely, what kind of God is consistent with the character of the world as it is seen through science?

Likewise, Teilhard extends an invitation to theologians and all people of faith, reasoning, exhorting, and provoking them to take the insights that come from science with a far greater degree of seriousness. In summary, he argues in an article written in 1939:

In order to sustain and extend the huge, invincible and legitimate effort of research in which the vital weight of human activity is at present engaged, a faith, a mysticism is necessary. Whether it is a question of preserving the sacred hunger that impels man’s efforts, or of giving him the altruism he needs for his increasingly indispensable collaboration with his fellows, religion is the soul biologically necessary for the future of science. Humanity is no longer imaginable without science. But no more is science possible without some religion to animate it.(26)

As Teilhard envisions the future, the greatest need is for a new type of seeker, or rather the rebirth of the original type once known to the world before the divorce of science from religion.

This is a seeker who devotes himself, ultimately through love, to the labours of discovery. No longer a worshipper of the world but of something greater than the world, through and beyond the world in progress. Not the proud and cold Titan (Prometheus), but Jacob passionately wrestling with God.(27)

Thus, in the final analysis, Teilhard returns to the Bible and finds in the sacred Scriptures of his own tradition a God who is most compatible with a world in continual evolution. Not the static and unchanging God of the philosophers, the unmoved mover who stands over and against creation, but rather the same God who is so intimately related to the world as to enter into its deepest tragedies and struggles. The relevant texts of Scripture suggest that both the science and the theology of the future shall require not the detached and bespectacled observer but the passionate seeker who finds within the world of matter a supremely attractive center. The future of western culture may depend on whether enough of us have the courage to move with Teilhard from research towards adoration.

How does one evaluate Teilhard’s diagnosis of the contemporary situation and his prescription for the future? Clearly his most controversial conclusion (that science finds its fulfillment in God) is not the product of logic and is not open to logical verification or falsification. It is in the nature of a character judgment about the cosmos. Teilhard devoted his life to exploring the mysteries of the material world, and he found that the world revealed a deep congruity with the character of the Christian God. Teilhard’s daring affirmation that at the heart of all things one encounters “a supremely attractive center that has personality” can be taken in several degrees of seriousness. It can be taken lightly as an expression of enthusiasm for scientific research and of the feeling that the pursuit of truth in the natural world is analogous to the search for truth in the realm of the spirit. To the extent that Teilhard’s work is treated as an expansive analogy, most scientists would resonate with his conclusions. At a deeper level, however, Teilhard is making an important observation about scientific endeavor and all serious searching for the truth.

Teilhard saw what is often ignored, forgotten, or repressed; namely, the element of faith which lies at the very heart of science. It is unlikely that anyone would become a scientist if there were not in nature some supremely attractive center and some assurance that scientific inquiry would lead one towards the truth. In setting out upon the adventure of science, one has to believe that the one who seeks will find. The health and vitality of science itself bespeaks of a universe which invites both our study and our adoration.

Yet many scientists balk at using the language of religion in defining their quest. Still more balk at Teilhard’s identification of God as the goal and end of evolution. Like Gould, the majority of scientists simply refuse tosee a distinction between a god who is arbitrarily inserted into science and a concept of God which grows organically out of science itself. Like Gould, the advocates of scientific atheism often insist on taking the most crude and simplistic notions of God as representative. On that basis, neither Teilhard nor any theologian has a chance of being heard within the scientific establishment. Likewise, I am afraid to say, too few theologians are willing to enter into dialogue with science. While science is exploring vast new frontiers of understanding and has opened up entirely new vistas upon the world of nature, theologians have been reluctant to search for the fresh signs and signals of the Creator in creation. Therefore, our assessment of Teilhard cannot be complete at this writing. Teilhard can be evaluated fairly only by those who answer his invitation in the affirmative. Only as scientists listen to what is being said at the forward edge of faith and as theologians look into the world that is emerging under the scrutiny of science can true dialogue and deeper understanding prevail. The issue is far more important than the standing and reputation of Teilhard de Chardin. The real question is whether western culture can find its center and its sense of direction once more.

Shall the rallying cry at the forward edge of change be that of Prometheus, “I hate all gods!”; or shall we follow Jacob who found the courage not lo defy but to wrestle with the God he found on the banks of the river Jabbok? Jacob wrestled and even fought with God until he emerged the morning after with a clearer sense of his own destiny, a better understanding of the world, and a closer relationship to his Creator.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life (New York:

Harper and Row, 1968), p. 112.

Ibid., p. 46.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution(New York:

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971), p. 99.

Ibid., pp. 127, 130.

The Divine Milieu, p. 18.

Ibid., p. 17.

Ibid., p. 13.

Mary and Ellen Lukas, Teilhard (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977), pp. 31-32.

Stephen Jay Gould, Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes(New York: Norton,

1983), p. 225.

Christianity and Evolution, p. 130.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy (New York: Harcourt

Brace Jovanovich, 1971), p. 163.

Ibid., pp. 168-69.

Ibid., p. 171.

Ibid., p. 172.

Ibid., p. 174.

Gould, Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, p. 250.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man(New York:

Harper and Row, 1961), pp. 141-42.

Ibid., p. 220.

Ibid., p. 283.

Ibid., p. 224.

Ibid., p. 250.

Ibid., pp. 284-85.

Christianity and Evolution, p. 194.

Ibid., p. 240.

Figure adapted from diagram appearing in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Future of Man (New York: Harper and Row. 1969), p. 269.

Human Energy, p. 180.

Ibid., p. 181.

The Ressurection of the Dead at the Omega Point

Modern Cosmology: God and the Resurrection of the Dead

Professor Wolfhart Pannenberg, D.D., D.D., D.D.


The Omega-Point-Theory in Frank Tipler’s scientific cosmology starts from three presuppositions. The first and most important one is the anthropic principle in its sharpest form as final anthropic principle claiming that life and intelligent life are not only necessary within our universe, but can also no more disappear after their first emergence. Rather they are destined to pervade and dominate the entire universe.

The second presupposition is the assumption that the expansion of the universe, the history of which according to the cosmological standard theory began with a Big Bang about 15 billion years ago, will not continue indefinitely, but enter into a phase of contraction under the influence of gravitation, until this will finally end in a Big Crunch, a collapse of the matter of the universe within small space–in analogy with the “Black Holes” that originate even in the present phase of the universe by collapse of matter. The expansion of the universe, then, neither continues in “open” form into a steadily growing space, nor “flat”–according to the opinion of most contemporary cosmologists–in the state of an equilibrium of expansion and gravitation, but “closed” with a collapse of matter at its end. It is only in this model of the universe that there is a final point of its history, the Omega point.

Tipler’s third presupposition is that the energy available in the universe is unlimited. Therefore, our universe will not end in a state of maximal entropy, but possibly in a state of eternal life, which means maximal information processing. According to Tipler life is essentially accumulation of information. On its path towards the Omega point life has to pervade and finally dominate the entire material universe. The Omega point itself, however, will be a place of maximal accumulation of information, and therefore it will be immanent as well as transcendent with relation to each point in spacetime. Therefore, the Omega point will have the properties of personality, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence and eternity.

These properties of the Omega point provide the final future of the universe with the capacity of creating the whole universe. At this point of the argument, the time perspective of the description of the universe given so far by Tipler himself gets reverted: God in his capacity as final future of the universe is really its creator, who draws his creatures into communion with himself by way of the history of the universe. While we act from our present into the future, because we look forward to a future outside ourselves, God who is himself the absolute future places his creatures into an existence that precedes that future and moves towards it.

Tipler is justified in claiming that his statements on the properties of the Omega point correspond to Biblical assertions on God [my emphasis (FJT)]. The God of the Bible is not only related to the future by his promises, but he is himself the saving future that constitutes the core of the promises: “I shall be who I shall be” (Exodus 3:14). He is the God of the coming kingdom. In hidden ways he is already now the Lord of the universe which is his creation, but it is only in the future of the completion of this universe, in the arrival of his kingdom that he will be fully revealed in his kingship over the universe and thus in his divinity. Therefore, the future of the kingdom of God formed the core of Jesus’ message as well as the objective of his prayer: “Thy kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).

With this, Tipler combines the fundamental assertations of the traditional Christian doctrine on God: omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence are closely related to the idea of an ultimate future as a place of maximum information. In his argument, Tipler correctly takes exemption from a conception of God as mind according to the model of our human mind, because “a mind similar to our human mind is a manifestation of an extremely low level of information processing”. God’s omniscience surpasses the forms of our knowledge and is to be connected, rather, with his omnipresence. In speaking of God’s omniscience, the meaning is, that everything is and remains present to God. For the Omega point in its capacity as ultimate limit of timespace is immanent in each point of timespace, but also transcending it. That was emphasized in classical Christian theology in the idea of God’s omnipresence. But also the ideas of omnipotence and eternity of God imply the unity of immanence and transcendence. Tipler is justified to consider God’s eternity not as atemporal in contrast to all forms of time, which would be to conceive it in terms of a one-sided transcendence, but following Boethius he conceives of eternity as unlimited possession of everything that is temporally distinct in our human experience, but is perceived by God within one encompassing presence.

Since the God of point Omega is characterized by maximal accumulation of information, the idea of God as a person offers no difficulties for Tipler. Since he conceives the notion of person in terms of ability for communication, he recurs upon the Greek concept of prosopon in the sense of countenance or “mask” and considers in this connection the idea of a plurality of persons in the one God. This indicates at least an openness towards the Christian doctrine on the Trinity, although Tipler offers a rather critical discussion on the Trinity because of its idea of the second person as incarnate. Tipler’s relationship with the doctrine on the Trinity depends, therefore, on his position with regard to christology. In will be necessary to come back to this point. In any event, however, there is a broad agreement between Tipler’s affirmations on the properties of the Omega point and the Christian doctrine on God.

Does that imply, as Tipler occasionally claims, an absorption of theology into physics? With regard to his Omega point theory I would rather speak of an approximation of physics towards theology. As the theory starts from the anthropic principle and continues with its assumptions on the future of our universe in terms of a closed universe and with the description of a definite increase of accumulating information on the way towards the Omega point, it seems to be conducive to the idea of God in terms of the ultimate future of the universe. Only when the Omega point is reached, the description turns around: the last result becomes the first principle, the end becomes the creator of the universe. But this term seems to remain, provisionally at least, more theology than physics, though Tipler certainly succeeds in developing a coherent argument that allows for connecting the idea of creation as well as the eschatological hope for the resurrection of the dead with the properties of point Omega as final future of the universe.

When Christian theology conceives of the universe in terms of creation, the universe gets described from the point of view of God, not reversely God by extrapolation from the universe. The fundamental assertion of the doctrine of creation is, that its every existence–from God’s point of view–is “contingent”. That means: neither existence nor essence of our universe are “necessary” from God’s point of view. The universe could be different or not exist at all. It is an implication of the idea of God that he himself cannot be non-existent: That is to say, when God exists, he does so by himself. The universe, by contrast, is contingent. Its existence is a manifestation of God’s free decision and its existence continues to depend upon him. In that sense it is created. If the universe would exist “necessarily” as God does, then it would be a correlate of God from eternity and the existence of the universe could not be a manifestation of the freedom and love of God the creator, but it would be a condition of God’s own identity, a condition, that would not be within his power.

According to Christian doctrine, by the way, there is only one universe, not a plurality of worlds in the sense of that specific interpretation of quantum mechanics that has come to be known under the name of many-worlds-hypothesis (Hugh Everett 1957). In my view, but also according to the judgment of many physicists, this many-worlds-hypothesis is suspect of a problematic reification of the plurality of alternative states that according to quantum theory each given particle may occupy the next moment. Tipler writes in his book that he was convinced of the possibility of the many-worlds-hypothesis when reading the description of the concept of capital by Friedrich von Hayek. According to Hayek “the only correct definition of the capital, which a society owns,” is provided by “a complete list of the alternative revenues, which one could gain from its resources in the course of time”. The point here, however, is the idea of possiblealternative forms of investment, which cannot be realized all at the same time. In the same sense the quantum theory seems to conceive of alternative possibilities, which are not realized simultaneously. The plurality of alternative possibilities, however, does not legitimate the assumption of an actual multitude of many worlds.

In the Christian doctrine the uniqueness of our universe is connected with its origin in the creative love of God, who decided for the creation of this one universe out of many possible worlds. The idea of God’s love as motivating the act of creation also connects in the perspective of the Christian doctrine the eschatological completion of the world with its creation, because the resurrection of the dead, which is the object of Christian hope, expresses the fidelity of the eternal God towards his creation, which he does not let go to be finally the victim of death. Human beings especially are destined to eternal communion with God, and therefore God will resurrect them from death and transform them through judgment in order to make them capable of participating his light.

In the subject of the resurrection of the dead Tipler comes close again to the Christian doctrine [my emphasis (FJT)]. The indefinite accumulation of information that is characteristic of the Omega point allows, since it is connected with God’s omnipotence, the identical simulation of the past according to the model of computer simulation. It does not involve material continuity or identity with the earlier physical existence. But such an identity is not required in the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body either. The material elements of our body are continuously exchanged in the course of this life already. The decisive point concerning the identity of the risen ones with their former life is, as Saint Thomas already emphasized in the line of Origen, the programme of our bodily existence that is contained in our soul (Summa Contra Gentiles. II, 58). At the same time it is necessary to consider that communion with the eternal God requires a transformation of our present form of existence, according to the words of Paul: “… this mortal nature must put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:23). This transformation is already implied in the idea of participation in eternal life, and the transformation into participation God’s eternal life implies the element of judgment, a purification that burns out everything that cannot persist in the presence of the eternal God.

Tipler also finds the motivation of an eschatological resurrection of the dead in God’s selfless love. This means according to his argument as well as in Christian eschatology: there is no “compelling” necessity for the resurrection of the dead, but only an appropriateness with regard to the fact that the Omega point is the creator of the universe. This argument could be strengthened by the further consideration that the act of creation itself was already an expression of God’s free love in granting the creatures their proper existence. The creation of the universe and its eschatological completion in the resurrection of the dead are reducible to the same motivation of divine action.

In concluding these remarks on Tipler’s eschatology it is necessary to comment on the relationship between the Christian hope for a resurrection of the dead and the resurrection of Jesus. According to the Christian faith, communion with Jesus, the crucified and risen one, guarantees participation in the future of the resurrection of the dead. Tipler did not comment on this issue in his presentation at Innsbruck, but he did so in a section of his book entitled “Why I Am Not a Christian”. There he said that for historical reasons he was not able to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. It is peculiar, however, that those historians and exegetes who do not accept the resurrection of Jesus as historical fact call upon natural science which supposedly excludes the very possibility of such an event. This does not apply to Tipler, since he to the contrary justifies the possibility of an eschatological resurrection of the dead. Should that not suggest to resume the discussion concerning the possibility of such an event even within the course of history? According to Tipler, what happens at the end of the universe is not only opposed to the present reality of life, but also somehow present in it. Should it not be possible, then, that corresponding to the immanence of the transcendent God the eschatological reality could become effective even within the course of history already? With regard to the historical question, the judgment of many exegetes affirms that the Christian Easter tradition is not legendary in its core, and if the content of the tradition would not be so extraordinary, there would be little doubt concerning its historicity. The point of offence is in the supposed physical impossibility, and it is for this reason that alternative reconstructions of the tradition are developed which are historically more improbable than the central affirmations of the early Christian tradition itself.

Tipler himself suggests that he would judge the issue differently, if the appearance of such a person at a certain point in human history were necessary for the Omega point to result in the end. According to Christian doctrine this is indeed the case, because human beings as alienated from God need to be restored to communion with God in order that the light of God’s eternity will not confront them in the eschatological future as a consuming fire. Jesus’ mission served just such a restoration of communion with God, which Jesus as “Son” of the Father embodies in his own person, and that mission was confirmed, according to the Christian message, by his resurrection.

Because according to Christian teaching the risen Christ already participates in God’s rule over the universe, because of his resurrection, Christian believers and their resurrection hope need not the difficult path towards resurrection via a change of the basis of intellectual life from old-fashioned organic life to a computer-based life that might finally dominate in the universe. Communion with the crucified and risen Christ, who according to the Christian faith at present already participates in God’s rule of the universe, is sufficient for the Christian as basis of the hope in their future participation in the resurrection of the dead. That does not exclude that the development of life in the universe may indeed take the course which Tipler describes. The christological considerations, however, offered here show that Christian theology cannot yet see itself to be completely absorbed into Tipler’s cosmological model, but will consider this model rather in terms of an approximation of scientific theory to the subject matter of Christian theology, even though the fact remains important enough that such an approximation could be produced.

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