I confess the caveat that there is a certain degree of arbitrariness to any probability calculation exercise addressing human behaviour, stemming from the actual irrelevance in a universal sense of just about anything that happens anywhere, ever.

This reflection is not about the proposition posted as a write-up eleven months ago this day -- December 18, 2009 -- in an open letter to Frank J. Tipler. That "open letter," posted here and then broadly replicated on social networking websites and in dozens of forums on faith and on physics across the Internet, challenged the Tulane professor so named to either account for or discount the theological model of pandeism in relation to his Omega Point Theory, and other theological proposals in his works. Instead, this reflection is about the response to it, or more accurately, the lack thereof, and how this might be analyzed and calculated as a mathematical matter. You see, the first great question is whether Professor Tipler -- himself a mathematician (as well as physicist) has even actually been made aware of the challenge posed to him. I posit that, as with all things, there is a calculable mathematical probability that circumstances have brought that posting to the attention of our dear Professor Tipler.

And I will add to this that in addition to the textual E2 posting, a companion piece in video form was contemporaneously uploaded to the YouTube PanDeism Channel, and therefrom has now topped 850 hits. The E2 piece has surpassed 1300 hits, though there is no telling (is there ever?) how many unique and original individual views either has. None of hte other places where either piece was posted provides page-view counts, though posting of links to the YouTube Vid and the E2 node, respectively, would be reflected in the hits recorded on those pages. And, it is enough to humbly assume, I think, that the average reader/viewer of either such item would not have felt compelled to make repeated revisitations. Excesses of repetitive views would require a seriously devoted fan of the piece, which is just silly, and so ought to be discounted. While I can claim with confidence that the outer limit of the number of human brains to have taken in this proposition lies shortly above 2150, the lower limit is a more precarious consideration. Without delving too deeply into the coarse question of eyes on the prize, it is certainly probabilistically safe to presume that not fewer than a thousand individual persons have either read the node or watched the vid.

Grouping and Googling

We're not dealing with straight interpretations of the law of averages here, but let us turn to Dunbar's number -- that is, the number calculated by anthropologist Robin Dunbar in the early 1990s, that humans typically occupy a maximum "mean group size" of 150 and an "intimate circle size" of 12. In modern heavily populated urbanity, individuals are less likely to share exact bounds for either their "group" or their "intimates," and indeed it is the very tendency of individuals to have different circles of acquaintances which makes it possible to contend that all mankind diverges by only six degrees of separation. This means of measuring human connectivity has, naturally, been all shot to hell by the Internet and its social networks like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter (all of which were used as distribution points for the challenge made here); and by the swift and massive communicative capacity of email, and by the relatively random chance inherent in posting things across mutiple Internet forums.

Now, let us take the extremely conservative estimate of 1000 people who have read or watched the challenge to Tipler. Let us multiply that by a restricted average cohort of a 100 people surrounding each viewer, leaves more than 74 billion paths at just four degrees of separation (out of the six degrees of separation between all mankind) in the Universe of people who might make Tipler aware of this vid. That is, if a thousand people saw either work, and informed everyone in their group, there are 74 billion different lines of communication by which someone in Professor Tipler's own group would have informed the good Professor of their encounter with the challenge. It is unlikely in the extreme that every person to become aware of this challenge would bother the whole (or even 2/3) of their social circle with it. And so, what we need to calculate is whether there is better than a one-in-74 billion chance that any such route was followed.

One consideration in making such a calculation is whether persons in Professor Tipler's own social circle And, as well, in a YouTube or Google vid search for "Frank J. Tipler," and guess what vid comes up on top? Surveys have shown a rising trend of people Googling themselves and people they know (2007, January 2010, May 2010). It is possible that the professor never searches for himself, and knows no one who does. Certainly the surveys show that self-searching correlates with age: the older a subject, the less likely that he will make such a self search -- and Professor Tipler was born in 1947, putting him near the age group with the least-likelihood of self searching. But intangibles arise. Professor Tipler is not the average cusp-of-senior citizen. He is a professional scientist in a heavily compuational field, and it would be surprising if he were not deeply familiar with computers and the Internet, more deeply at least than the average farmer or plumber or factory worker of the same age. And, he is something of a celebrity, a multiply-published author who shows up on talk shows, and so might expect to be talked about on the world wide web. Add to this the characteristics of his cohort -- as an active University Professor, he has a steady state of new students trickling into his life each semester, while old ones with whom he might not seek to maintain contact might nonetheless be willing to contact their former professor with the information of such a challenge being made. And, really, who is more likely to take an interest, to Google Professor Tipler, and at the same time be in a position to inform him of this challenge, than any among his students?

Taking all of these factors into account, it becomes implausible to suppose that not a single person who has searched for and come across the challenge posted to Professor Tipler is, as well, a person in a social position to bring such challenge to the attention of the Professor. But then there is the question of lack of response. For either Professor Tipler has been made aware of the challenge, or he is not. That a lack of response itself suggests that he is unaware is a significant possibility. But, if he is aware, the question as to the lack of response remains, and is further susceptible to either of two solutions: he is unable to respond; he is unwilling to respond. This alights the much more profound issue -- the theological theory of pandeism has been expressed in various forms from the days of the first philosophers, the Milesians; in the theological circles wherein Professor Tipler has sought to tread, and in light of the theories he has put forth within those circles, we hold this truth to be self evident, that the pandeistic model is one which ought to be addressed. It is, after all, not an invented proposition which he is being tasked to answer, but a theological theory of substantial pedigree which accounts for his own!!


Naturally, it may be that the Professor has too many demands upon his time and mind to address this, one of a broad Universe of possible challenges which might be made against his works. And it even may be that the response is underway, in draft, forthcoming. For surely weighty questions are deserving of thoroughly researched answers, and these things take time to write. So we may resolve ourselves to the following result: it is highly plausible that the 2150 combined node and vid views signify that someone has made Professor Tipler aware of the challenge posed; and that if such is the case then the good Professor is even at this very moment slaving away toward publication of a richly researched response. "Just a little more time," the Professor declares, "I need just a little more time to get it right!!"

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.