The ultimate tough question

Jennifer Mayerle, WGCL

In too deep: Jennifer Mayerle, WGCL

Last week, WGCL produced what may be the oddest November sweeps piece of the month:  Jennifer Mayerle’s report on whether God exists.  She traveled to Tulane University, where a professor says that he can scientifically prove the existence of God.

Mayerle’s piece was stylish and interesting.  It was stylish because of its editing, juxtaposing the professor’s chalkboard scrawl of mathematical formulas with religious images.  It was interesting because of the buildup.  The professor was a non-believer turned Christian because, he said, he had found the proof he’d sought.  “Physics just says, God exists,” Frank Tipler tells Mayerle.  “God is the singularity,” he says, as if that explains it.

But what was the proof?  Mayerle’s piece utterly failed to answer the central question, and did so with the professor’s ultimate cop-out:  “I can’t explain in five minutes something that took me twenty years to learn.”  Mayerle’s piece concludes with that soundbite.  It leaves the viewer feeling a bit cheated.  Not that any viewer would actually turn to local TV news for validation of faith.

WGCL does deserve some credit for giving a little thoughtful attention to a tough TV subject.  It’s not a typical sweeps product.  Mayerle’s piece still had some depth, attained by her interviews with other theologians who told her that it was kinda silly to try to prove God’s existence through science.

But if the TV station says it’s going to “ask the tough question” — and then build an entire story around it — then it’s obligated to at least try to get an answer from the one guy who claims to have it and can prove it.  No such luck here. Grade: C

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

14 thoughts on “The ultimate tough question

  1. atlbigear

    I think it is funny that for a community that is deep-rooted in religious beliefs, the media around here rarely do stories on religion or faith. I give WGCL an A for effort when it comes to having religion being the focus of the story, rather than a footnote. Although, I agree that the piece was not as good as it could have been.

  2. Chuckity

    Wow. Does anyone realize that this story aired 1-2 years ago?!?!? Talk about recycled!!! A shame it did as Jennifer is on most days a hell of a reporter and an even better person.

  3. rptrcub

    Well, asking the tough, philosophical questions which have racked the brains of humankind since the dawn of humanity just makes CBS 46 just all the more awesome. Insert Dagmar reference here.

  4. James Redford

    Hi, Doug Richards. Prof. Frank J. Tipler’s statement that you quoted was definitely no evasion. It was simply a statement of fact. Indeed, located on the page of the news article that you link to is a 1 hour 9 minute “Raw Video” of a lecture that Prof. Tipler gave for Jennifer Mayerle in part explaining the Omega Point Theory. So obviously Tipler wasn’t attempting to avoid giving an explanation.

    For much more on the Omega Point Theory, see Prof. Tipler’s below paper, which among other things demonstrates that the known laws of physics (i.e., the Second Law of Thermodynamics, general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Standard Model of particle physics) require that the universe end in the Omega Point (the final cosmological singularity and state of infinite informational capacity identified as being God):

    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; located on Prof. Tipler’s website. Also released as “Feynman-Weinberg Quantum Gravity and the Extended Standard Model as a Theory of Everything,” arXiv:0704.3276, April 24, 2007.

    Out of 50 articles, Prof. Tipler’s above paper 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.” (See Richard Palmer, Publisher, “Highlights of 2005,” Reports on Progress in Physics website.) Reports on Progress in Physics is the leading journal of the Institute of Physics, Britain’s main professional body for physicists.

    Further, Reports on Progress in Physics has a higher impact factor (according to Journal Citation Reports) than Physical Review Letters, which is the most prestigious American physics journal (one, incidently, which Prof. Tipler has been published in more than once). A journal’s impact factor reflects the importance the science community places in that journal in the sense of actually citing its papers in their own papers. (And just to point out, Tipler’s 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper could not have been published in Physical Review Letters since said paper is nearly book-length, and hence not a “letter” as defined by the latter journal.)

    See also the below resources for further information on the Omega Point Theory:

    Theophysics: God is the Ultimate Physicist (a website).

    “Omega Point (Tipler),” Wikipedia, April 16, 2008.

    “Frank J. Tipler,” Wikipedia, April 16, 2008.

    Tipler is Professor of Mathematics and Physics (joint appointment) at Tulane University. His Ph.D. is in the field of global general relativity (the same rarefied field that Profs. Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking developed), and he is also an expert in particle physics and computer science. His Omega Point Theory has been published in a number of prestigious peer-reviewed physics and science journals in addition to Reports on Progress in Physics, such as Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (one of the world’s leading astrophysics journals), Physics Letters B, the International Journal of Theoretical Physics, etc.

    Prof. John A. Wheeler (the father of most relativity research in the U.S.) wrote that “Frank Tipler is widely known for important concepts and theorems in general relativity and gravitation physics” on pg. viii in the “Foreword” to The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (1986) by cosmologist Prof. John D. Barrow and Tipler, which was the first book wherein Tipler’s Omega Point Theory was described. On pg. ix of said book, Prof. Wheeler wrote that Chapter 10 of the book, which concerns the Omega Point Theory, “rivals in thought-provoking power any of the [other chapters].”

    The leading quantum physicist in the world, Prof. David Deutsch (inventor of the quantum computer, being the first person to mathematically describe the workings of such a device, and winner of the Institute of Physics’ 1998 Paul Dirac Medal and Prize for his work), endorses the physics of the Omega Point Theory in his book The Fabric of Reality (1997). For that, see:

    David Deutsch, extracts from Chapter 14: “The Ends of the Universe” of The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes–and Its Implications (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1997), ISBN: 0713990619; with additional comments by Frank J. Tipler. Located on the Theophysics website.

    The only way to avoid the Omega Point cosmology is to invent tenuous physical theories which have no experimental support and which violate the known laws of physics, such as with Prof. Stephen Hawking’s paper on the black hole information issue which is dependent on the conjectured string theory-based anti-de Sitter space/conformal field theory correspondence (AdS/CFT correspondence). See S. W. Hawking, “Information loss in black holes,” Physical Review D, Vol. 72, No. 8, 084013 (October 2005); also at arXiv:hep-th/0507171, July 18, 2005.

    That is, Prof. Hawking’s paper is based upon proposed, unconfirmed physics. It’s an impressive testament to the Omega Point Theory’s correctness, as Hawking implicitly confirms that the known laws of physics require the universe to collapse in finite time. Hawking realizes that the black hole information issue must be resolved without violating unitarity, yet he’s forced to abandon the known laws of physics in order to avoid unitarity violation without the universe collapsing.

    Some have suggested that the universe’s current acceleration of its expansion obviates the universe collapsing (and therefore obviates the Omega Point). But as Profs. Lawrence M. Krauss and Michael S. Turner point out in “Geometry and Destiny” (General Relativity and Gravitation, Vol. 31, No. 10 [October 1999], pp. 1453-1459; also at arXiv:astro-ph/9904020, April 1, 1999), there is no set of cosmological observations which can tell us whether the universe will expand forever or eventually collapse.

    There’s a very good reason for that, because that is dependant on the actions of intelligent life. The known laws of physics provide the mechanism for the universe’s collapse. As required by the Standard Model, the net baryon number was created in the early universe by baryogenesis via electroweak quantum tunneling. This necessarily forces the Higgs field to be in a vacuum state that is not its absolute vacuum, which is the cause of the positive cosmological constant. But if the baryons in the universe were to be annihilated by the inverse of baryogenesis, again via electroweak quantum tunneling (which is allowed in the Standard Model, as B – L is conserved), then this would force the Higgs field toward its absolute vacuum, cancelling the positive cosmological constant and thereby forcing the universe to collapse. Moreover, this process would provide the ideal form of energy resource and rocket propulsion during the colonization phase of the universe.

    Prof. Tipler’s above 2005 Reports on Progress in Physics paper also demonstrates that the correct quantum gravity theory has existed since 1962, first discovered by Richard Feynman in that year, and independently discovered by Steven Weinberg and Bryce DeWitt, among others. But because these physicists were looking for equations with a finite number of terms (i.e., 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. Further, they didn’t realize that this proper theory of quantum gravity is consistent only with a certain set of boundary conditions imposed (which includes the initial Big Bang, and the final Omega Point, cosmological singularities). 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). As Tipler notes in his 2007 book The Physics of Christianity (pp. 49 and 279), “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.”

    When combined with the Standard Model, the result is the Theory of Everything (TOE) correctly describing and unifying all the forces in physics.

  5. scott hedeen

    hey… whoa… this guy isn’t a tv news person! cut that above comment down so it fits in a 40 second VO! jeez.

    as for God, tv news made me a believer. i made slot a couple times that the only way to describe it was divine intervention.

    GOD: “scott… stop hitting preview edit… ”
    SCOTT: “but but God… what happens if it’s a jump cut?”
    GOD: “Screw it… get the SOB done…and feed it back you moron!”

  6. 666

    You TV people don’t have to worry about Heaven…all of you are headed someplace much warmer to spend eternity together.

  7. newzfinland

    The bottom line is LAF’s point that this story didn’t meet many of the local affiliate news criteria. First and foremost, could Ma and Pa Kettle watching with their “rabbit ears” make heads or tails of the story? Heavens to Betsy… H-E-Double Hockey Sticks, NO! (That was meant to be ironic, by the way.) It is refreshing to see religion addressed in something other than a Natural sound Voiceover around High Holidays. It’s also refreshing to see a reporter attempt to explain something “a little” over most of our heads, even though this one fell well short of delivering the goods. Another interesting point is the marketing/promotion of this story. When its precursor ran a couple years ago, it was entitled “Proof of God”. Because of voluminous viewer response in its previous iteration, the story was attacked in a slightly more aggressive and expansive manner and given the moniker “Does God Exist?”. Subtle difference, but telling. IMHO, I think too much time was spent on the “stylish juxtapositioning” of the chalkboard formulas, religious imagery, and music. Cut that down and more time could have been spent on his Dr. Tipler’s explanation, which none of us smart people, let alone average viewers, would understand. This sort of story and Genius deserves a 30-minute or hour-long special, but who’s going to sponsor that? Maybe the World Changers (Creflo Dollar) or New Birth Missionary Baptist Church (Eddie Long)? Christ the King or any of the other local Mega Churches?
    Sorry… that’s just me, speaking Right from the Heart. ;-P


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