The Physics of Christianity

The cover of The Physics of Christianity by Frank J. Tipler. Random House books

In The Physics of Christianity, Frank J. Tipler extends far beyond merely presenting a physical explanation of Christianity into presenting his own interpretation of reality. Though fascinating, the resulting worldview that Tipler proposes is one which likely does not match the preconceptions of either physicists or Christians (or both).

Only someone with a clear foundation in physics will be able to navigate the tangle of speculation and facts to determine which is which.

Tipler himself at times does a very poor job of making that distinction, if not outright misleading the reader about the proof of his claims.

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Pros

  • Intriguing analysis of how modern physics applies to Christianity.
  • Author presents specific detail about both basic physics and Christian doctrine.
  • Fascinating scientific exploration of a controversial topic

Cons

  • Does not clearly distinguish theoretical proposal from scientific fact
  • Represents both Christianity & physics in uncommon ways, which adherents would not recognize
  • Tipler extends beyond merely the presentation of scientific fact into agenda-driven propaganda
  • Tipler is not considered reputable by most mainstream physicists due to previous writings

Description

  • Hardback, Random House Books, 291 pages
  • 12 chapters + Appendices: Christian Creeds, Notes, Bibliography, & Index
  • Recommended only for those with a strong foundation in physics, so they can separate the speculation from the facts.
  • Many of the concepts in this book are similar to those presented in Tipler's previous book, The Physics of Immortality

Detailed Review

This is honestly the hardest book that I've ever had to review, because there are so many conflicting aspects to it. In some respects, the book is well worth recommending.

In others, it is misleading, dogmatic, and agenda-driven. 

It would be easy, though unfair, to dismiss this book out of hand, but it has much to its merit, at least as a mental exercise. The concepts are often more out of science fiction than science fact, as indicated by the following list of some of the more intriguing discussions and proposals from the book:

  • Richard P. Feynman's multiverse interpretation of quantum physics
  • God as the Initial, Final, and All-Present Singularity: Holy Ghost, Father, and Son
  • Heaven will come when all people are fully replicated in a computer-like world (as explained in his previous )
  • Believing in a distinct non-physical spiritual world is the Gnostic heresy
  • Miracles obey physical laws
  • Evil as a genetic trait in humans (except Jesus & Mary)
  • Various ways the Virgin Birth could take place
  • Proposals of potential experiments to test his proposals

In his view, life is fundamentally necessary to reach the Final Singularity (which he also calls The Omega Point), by manipulating matter and energy through a baryon-annihilation process - a process that Tipler believes Jesus could manipulate at will, and which he says a scientific analysis of Christian principles will ultimately reveal.

He explains that this is necessary so that the Final Singularity can be reached without violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

This reaches my strongest problem with his argument - his definition of "consistent" is flawed. If life has to intervene in order to maintain the physical consistency of the universe, then the laws of physics are not inherently consistent. He utterly ignores this logical contradiction.

Part of me genuinely wants to recommend this book, but I cannot except to readers who are already extremely well-read in the field of theoretical physics. Even then, I can think of a number of science fiction novels that tackle related concepts at least as well.

There are fascinating ideas presented throughout the book, but the author frequently blurs the line between well-established scientific theory and his own speculation.

The result is a skewed viewpoint of modern physics (and a skewed viewpoint of Christianity, for that matter), which does a disservice to readers who are not able to distinguish the true science from the wishful thinking.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.