Immortality: Tipler vs Staume

In this final installment of our series on immortality, we will compare the theories of Tipler and Staume. Though both seek to develop a concept of life after death not based on belief or wishfulthinking but grounded in science and physiscs in particular, their respective theories are, however, as complete opposites as is logically possible. As far as I could see, there is no way to merge these two into a single theory of immortality.

This installment assumes the reader has read the previous installments and is, at least minimally, aware of the essential features of the theories of Tipler and Staume. If you have not read those parts, please read them before continuing.

The most fundamental difference between Tipler’s Omega Point Theory (OPT) and Staume’s Inside Out Theory (IOT) is that the former is a monist theory and the latter is dualist. The way Tipler understands the minds is as a kind of computer program, albeit a special one, which requires a suitable hardware to function. This hardware is (initially) our body and later, at the end of times, the Omega Point “Super Computer”. Either way, without this hardware the mind cannot exist at all. Once we die, we cease to exist – until resurrection, of course.

Staume, however, sees this quite differently. He argues that it is reasonable that our mind is a distinct entity from our body and hence can actually exist independently from our body. Once we die, our mind and body are separated but our mind continue to exist in some state.

Tipler on his turn pays quite some attention on the difference between resurrection and immortal souls/minds. He agrees with Staume that in the latter case the existence of a god is not required for immortality. However, resurrection does require the existence of some god, who is able to resurrect the dead. After all the dead cannot resurrect themselves, as they have ceased to exist at the time of their death.

An important consequence of their different concepts is the following. According to Staume’s IOT immortality is a basic fact of life and a necessary consequence of the laws of physics and consequently existence is inevitable. All living beings will enter the afterlife, regardless of the question whether they have deserved it or not. Annihilation, which is subscribed by certain religious denominations, is physically impossible if the IOT is true.

On the other hand, if Tipler is right only the Omega Point is required by the laws of physics, but not our resurrection. Tipler argues that the OP has full discretion in its decision to resurrect people or not. Although he believes the OP will resurrect all people, it still has the power to “delete” people after their resurrection. Also there is no way to force the OP to resurrect individuals and we cannot do anything to earn “the right to be resurrected”, our resurrection is purely by the grace of the OP. He equates this with the Christian concept of grace.

A second major difference between both theories, is their understanding of time. The OPT implies a linear concept of time, whereas the IOT requires a cyclical concept of time. In fact Tipler is highly opposed to the idea of an endless cycle of repeating events, which he considers immoral. This is curious point. When I read The Physics of Immortality for the first time at the age of eighteen, I felt Tipler’s argument was wrong, or at least unconvincing.

In fact, Tipler commits here the so-called moralistic fallacy, i.e. he rejects a certain possibility solely on moral grounds. However, we cannot derive conclusions of reality on whether we like it or not. Virtually no one would like natural disasters, but they obviously exist.

Another difference between Tipler and Staume, is that the former follows an empirical approach while the latter follows a rationalist one. Tipler builds his OPT on established concepts such as modern physical cosmology and computer science. Staume, however, starts with a few assumptions – though plausible ones – from which he made some logical deductions.

Though Tipler wraps his theory of immortality in sound physics and could be, at least in principle, falsified, the OPT relies upon multiple pillars, many of which are quite speculative. On the other hand, Staume’s theory requires less assumptions. And with the present state of affairs I find the IOT more likely than the OPT.

Of course, there are many more possible non-religious and science-based concepts of immortality and the after-life, but Tipler and Staume each represent one end of the spectrum of possibilities. Hence secular discussion of the after-life could not and should not avoid either of them, regardless of the (supposed) flaws of either theory – or rather hypotheses.


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