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The Gospel According to Frank Tipler: O’Leary’s review of The Physics of Christianity


When I asked a gifted Canadian physicist what he thought of Frank Tipler’s The Physics of Christianity, he said, “in one word: wacky”.

But readers will expect more than one word from me, and I think there is more than that to be said for Tipler’s book.

Frank Tipler is in an unusual position. He is a Christian physicist who is an exponent of “many worlds” theory. This theory, according to which new universes are constantly generated by each choice that we make, is typically shunned by Christian physicists (including my friend, mentioned above). Apart from its dizzying implications, many worlds theory seems to make life’s choices meaningless. (Tipler does not appear to see it that way.)

Now, one good thing about Tipler, he is no pussyfoot. He is NOT afraid to take on the implications of whatever he espouses. For example, he writes … (For the rest, click the link.)

Hi Sal: In a former incarnation I was a "Lecturer." Glad to see you like the idea of a 101 level series of articles forming a Wiki that takes in the range of issues that crop up and are relevant to ID discussions. [Some of them could be even gleaned and cleaned up from threads here; including in some cases dialogues.] LOTF: What BA is referring to is that for a lot of different cosmic level parameters, slight shifts yield a radically, shockingly different and non-life habitable universe. So striking is the result that one of the discoverers of the pattern, the late great Sir Fred Hoyle, was moved to observe that:
From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? Following the above argument, I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has "monkeyed" with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.]
[My always linked has a briefish discussion with links to more.] GEM of TKI kairosfocus
bornagain77 You say: '“happen” to be the exact numerical values they need to be in order for life, as we know it, to be possible at all' But doesn't that imply that slight changes in the constants might result in a different form of life, 'not as we know it'? So maybe we're not privileged just lucky? lotf
KairosFocus: Maybe we should think about doing what C S Lewis long ago suggested: do a sort of series of “in a nutshell guides for the layman” on a lot of the relvant sci and math. [Eng too . . .]. A Wiki on 101 type stuff tied to UD might be a good way to start?
Great idea! This would be the sort of thing for a college level ID course. Maybe it can be put online just to vet the material and test it on students. PS Are you a professor, by the way? scordova
Lotf, Since you respectfully disagree with me I will clarify, I'm referring to strictly the anthropic principle of universal constants, yet, as you may be alluding to, their is another level of complexity that is required to be fulfilled as pointed out in "The Privledged Planet" and "Rare Earth". But I am strictly addressing the anthropic principle. The numerical values of the universal constants in physics that are found for gravity which holds planets, stars and galaxies together; for the weak nuclear force which holds neutrons together; for electromagnetism which allows chemical bonds to form; for the strong nuclear force which holds protons together; for the cosmological constant of space/energy density which accounts for the universe’s expansion; and for several dozen other constants (a total of 77 as of 2005) which are universal in their scope, "happen" to be the exact numerical values they need to be in order for life, as we know it, to be possible at all. A more than slight variance in the value of any individual universal constant, over the entire age of the universe, would have undermined the ability of the entire universe to have life as we know it. On and on through each universal constant scientists analyze, they find such unchanging precision from the universe’s creation. There are many web sites that give the complete list, as well as explanations, of each universal constant. Search under anthropic principle. One of the best web sites for this is found on Dr. Hugh Ross's web site (reasonstobelieve.org). There are no apparent reasons why the value of each individual universal constant could not have been very different than what they actually are. In fact, the presumption of any naturalistic theory based on blind chance would have expected a fair amount of flexibility in any underlying natural laws for the universe. They "just so happen" to be at the precise unchanging values necessary to enable carbon-based life to exist in this universe. Some individual constants are of such a high degree of precision as to defy human comprehension. For example, the individual cosmological constant is balanced to 1 part in 10^60 and The individual gravity constant is balanced to 1 part to 10^40. Although 1 part in 10^60 and 1 part in 10^40 far exceeds any tolerances achieved in any man made machines, according to the esteemed British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose (1931-present), the odds of one particular individual constant, the “original phase-space volume” constant required such precision that the “Creator’s aim must have been to an accuracy of 1 part in 10^10^123”. If this number were written out in its entirety, 1 with 10^123 zeros to the right, it could not be written on a piece of paper the size of the entire visible universe, EVEN IF a number were written down on each atomic particle in the entire universe, since the universe only has 10^80 atomic particles in it. This staggering level of precision is exactly why many theoretical physicists have suggested the existence of a “super-calculating intellect” to account for this fine-tuning. This is precisely why the anthropic hypothesis has gained such a strong foothold in many scientific circles. American geneticist Robert Griffiths jokingly remarked about these recent developments "If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn't much use anymore." The only other theory possible for the universe’s creation, other than a God-centered hypothesis, is a naturalistic theory based on blind chance. Naturalistic blind chance only escapes being completely crushed, by the overwhelming evidence for design, by appealing to an infinite number of other "un-testable” universes in which all other possibilities have been played out. Naturalism also tries to find a place for blind chance to hide by proposing a universe that expands and contracts (recycles) infinitely. Yet there is no hard physical evidence to support either of these blind chance conjectures. In fact, the “infinite universes” conjecture suffers from some serious flaws of logic. For instance, exactly which laws of physics are telling all the other natural laws in physics what, how and when to do the many precise unchanging things they do in these other universes? Plus, if an infinite number of other possible universes exist then why is it not also infinitely possible for God to exist? As well, the “recycling universe” conjecture suffers so many questions from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy) as to render it effectively implausible as a serious theory. The only hard evidence there is, the stunning precision found in the universal constants, points overwhelmingly to intelligent design by an infinitely powerful and transcendent Creator who originally established what the unchanging universal constants of physics could and would do at the creation of the universe. The hard evidence left no room for the blind chance of natural laws in this universe. Thus, naturalism was forced into appealing to an infinity of other â€%9 - estable” universes for it was left with no footing in this universe. These developments in science make it seem like naturalism was cast into the abyss of nothingness so far as explaining the fine-tuning of the universe. So as I hope I have made clear Lotfthe evidence overwhelming supports Theism. bornagain77
bornagain77, thanks for your reply I understand your point though I will have to disagree, but now have another question. You say - "this universe is exceedingly finely tuned for carbon-based life to exist." I would have to disagree with that as it seems most objects in the universe aren't capable of supporting life. lotf
lotf, In dealing with materialists on the origin of the universe, Theists have the upper hand for a valid explanation. Materialists must allude to an infinite number of other universe's that have tried every other possible combination of universal constants in order to account for the fact that this universe is exceedingly finely tuned for carbon-based life to exist. Yet the materialist loses in logic for if he must concede the need for an infinite number of other possible universes then he must also concede the fact that it is infinitely possible for God to exist. By strict logic if it is infinitely possible for God to exist then God certainly does exist. So to answer your question yes there must be a source for the infinities that are required for explanations in origins' science, Yet as I posted earlier, and illustrated here, physical infinities are logically absurd so this leaves us only the Theistic solution to our needed source for an infinity to satisfy the logic of origin of the universe as well as the origin of the stunning complexity we find in biology, as well as the infinite possibilities dealt with in quantum mechanics. I would like point out the, though I'm not that well versed in Quantum mechanics, that Richard Feynman stated his diagrams were successful for they "did away with the infinities" in quantum mechanics. Maybe one of you guys could clarify this one Quantum mechanic point more clearly for it is beyond my grasp presently. bornagain77
Sal, Dr Dan and BA77: Very nice popular level summaries of some really nasty math when one has to actually do it the hard way! Maybe we should think about doing what C S Lewis long ago suggested: do a sort of series of "in a nutshell guides for the layman" on a lot of the relvant sci and math. [Eng too . . .]. A Wiki on 101 type stuff tied to UD might be a good way to start? That way when anyone needs to figure it out fast, he is talking with us . . . (That gets up to an idea I have about doing an online college . . .) The point on MWI of the Q-mech numbers and observations i interesting, and also ties to some work by Feynmann and his infamous sets of diagrams that were summed to give a result. Such models may work but just because a model works does not mean it is "true" in any metaphysical sense. GEM of TKI PS: On Transfer Functions, I rather liked the "poles and nails under a stretchy rubber sheet" model of Laplace Transform based TFs. (My College level engg technology students loved it and it helped them visualise where the frequency and transient responses were coming from. Years later they were telling me about how they were still looking at cars with bad suspension systems -- common on Jamaica's roads -- and figuring out where the poles were in the s-space from what happened when they hit a bump or pothole! BTW, we once did a push and spring-back game on a nice little Toyota hotrod, and it was critically damped, unlike a lot of the nearby cars in the student car-park circa 8 pm that night . . . my idea of a class demonstration; make sure the cars don't have electronic alarms first.) Z transform space versions too, can be useful. PPS: the s-variable is of course a complex number: s = sigma + j* omega The sigma part is useful on assessing damping behaviour, and the w part is related to the frequency and thus the frequency response. kairosfocus
Thanks all for the exaplanations. Bornagain77 - can I ask why you think infinity requires a 'source'? Do all numbers require a source? lotf
As a sidelight to this, I think, logically, all infinities of math should ultimately reside in "God". To clarify this, It seems to me in battling materialists, Theists have always taken away the materialists source for infinities in defeating their particular theories, with the result being that the resultant need for an infinity is always fullfilled by God. Thus mathematically speaking, it seems simple to me that all problems encountered in math with infinities will only be "truthfully" satisfied when alluding to God as the source of the needed infinity in the math problem. bornagain77
Since we are dealing with infinities I thought this portion of the following article I recieved from "reasons to believe" might be of interest: An article in Scientific American gives more details of the relevant science, but the point pertinent to this discussion involves a transformation of the infinite future expansion of our bubble into an actual spatially infinite universe. Craig argues that actual infinities of the type invoked here cannot exist because they lead to absurdities. He outlines a few examples of absurdities arising in dynamical infinities in this article published in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy: Consider an infinite hotel full of guests. Now suppose another infinite group arrives and asks for rooms. If the owner has each guest move to the room twice their current value (1 to 2, 2 to 4, 3 to 6,…), this leaves open the infinite number of odd-numbered rooms. So a completely full hotel can accommodate an infinite number of new guests. Consider two planets where one orbits twice as fast as the other. After an infinite time, each planet has accumulated an identical number (the infinite value aleph-null, ) of orbits. However, during every possible finite time interval, the faster planet accumulates twice as many orbits as the slower. In the previous example, one could ask the question of whether the number of completed orbits is even or odd. After an infinite time the number of orbits is a value referred to as aleph-null. An even number is a multiple of two; an odd number is one more than a multiple of 2. But, = (2 x ) = (2 x 1). So the number of orbits after infinite time is both odd and even. These examples highlight that basic rules which we take for granted cannot apply in physically existing infinites. Either we must rewrite basic arithmetic rules (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and comparison) or such infinities do not exist. I have glossed over many details, but the objections Craig raises are worth a serious look as a response to infinite, dynamic universes. Additionally, scientists typically regard infinities as a sign that they have entered a region where their theories are no longer valid. bornagain77
Perhaps another example can help Scordova's example of how imaginary numbers can be taken too far. Imaginary numbers are used everywhere in QM. Generally, instead of using sin and cos, we use complex exponentials for mathematical simplicity. Subatomic particles do not have definite known position and velocity, therefore, often a particles position is represented by a complex valued wave function. Where scientists differ is on how the wave function should be interpreted. I take the squared absolute value of the wave function to mean the probility that a particle is at a certain point in space, which should be between 0 and 1. By taking the squared absolute value, the imaginary numbers disappear and we are left with real numbers. This interpretion of QM is called the Copenhagen interpretion. There are other interpretions such as the mutli-world interpretion. The MWI works like this: I solve my set of differential equations and I come up with a number of possible outcomes. Instead of just one happening, with a certain probility (like what the copenhagen interpretion says), they all happen. However, I want to point out that these are all INTERPRETIONS and NOT based on imperical experiments. MWI people must interpret their complex valued wave functions differently than Copenhagen people DrDan
LOTF: Certain differential equations (when certain boundary conditions are known) can be solved by gimmicks. But let's bring this down to Earth a bit. When you put light through a prism, you break it down into the various components. Each of the color components has different strengths of intensity. We're specifying a "multiverse" of components of the lightwave by putting it through a prism (figuratively speaking).... Surprisingly, most any arbitrary wave form (well technically wave-forms that obey Dirichelet criteria) can be put through a "prism". We can do this physically with prism crystals, or the wonderful corti-organ in your ears, or spectral analyzers or something as crude as an audio graphic equalizer for your fancy stereo. Mathematically, the "prism" is known as the Fourier Transform or Fourier Series. There is a related "prism" known as the Laplace Transform...... Electrial Engineers realized that many times they simply wanted to know if they pumped a wave form into a circuit, what would be the output? One could solve it with quite a great deal of headaches the old-fashioned way by solving differenctial equations, or they could come up with a generic and realatively easy method. [This only works for certain kinds of diff-eqs...] If the system (like a stereo) receives a sinewave and the only transformation it applies to it is an amplitude and phase change to the sinewave, then VOILA, no matter how complicated the differential equation is that describes the circuit( perhaps 30th order equations!!!), the nice thing is "sine wave in, sine wave out". So if we can tell that a particular system is "sinewave in, sinewave out" for all sinewaves or all possible sums of sinewaves, we're good to go to solve all possible differential equations relating to the input or ouput of the system! We have a nice number cranking method, versus having to think through every possible special case... With this fact, it turns out there is a nice way to predict how even such complicated diffeqs will affect any given input sinewave. We call such things Transfer Functions Now, it turns out since we can decompose arbitrary waves through a prism (your ear is one such "prism"), we can mathematically predict what will happen to just about any given waveform of practical value going through a system without the agony of solving a differential equation in the old fashioned way. All we have to do is apply a Fourier Transform (the "prism") and we can see how each "color" component will behave at the output end. This is nice, because when building an audio system, Electrical Engineers don't have to ponder every possible audio wave form possible and model it, they can summarize the behavior for every possible wave form succinctly. For example, when you crank up the bass on your CD player it doesn't matter whether Mariah Carey or Johnny Cash are singing, you expect a certain gernal change in the audio quality. Cranking up the bass on your CD involves changes to the differential equation of the audio system, but this change can be described without an insane amount of pain because of these gimmicks. What you experience as the simple act of hear cranked up bass also has a simple and elegant mathematical inperpretation through these gimmicks. For that matter, even the simple act of putting on colored sunglasses approximates how this mathematical gimmick works. We basically describe the compelex differential systems as filters like colored lenses [ok, that's a pretty gross simplification, but it should hopefully suffice]. The point remains, we might do well to be careful to take our gimmickery too far and believe things exists which really don't because we were dazzled by the math. 3 = 8 + (-5) does not imply when there are 3 people in the room that it's because there are actually 8 positive people and 5 negative people in the room!!!! That's taking our math wizardry a bit too far. Multiverses could be the same artifacts of taking things too far... scordova
LOTF: Diff eqns are equations that use rates of change of certain variables as terms. Speed is actually such a variable: V = dx/dt, the rate of change of distance, miles per hour or whatever. If something is moving with steady speed, its position X = [dx/dt] *t. or in more familiar terms, X = v.t. 55 mph * 10 hr = 550 miles. [MPH is the giveaway -- miles per hour. So would be gallons per minute for a flow rate . . .] The "d" in the expression dx/dt, is a shorthand for tiny jump in distance divided by tiny jump in time, taken to the limit. Hope that helps. GEM of TKI PS: Imaginary numbers are based on assuming that -1 has a square root, j or i depending on your field. I usually taught 4th form classes, to draw up x-y axes, and imagine J* 1 rotates 90 degrees anticlockwise -- puts it up the Y axis. j* j* 1 then puts us to -1 along ther negative x axis. Voila, j^2 = -1. J is sq root -1. [We then make the vectors into rotating vectors and therein lies all that stuff on using complex numbers in engineering and science. Fascinating stuff -- the shortest route between two real number results is often through doing a complex number solution.] Finally, negative numbers were discoverd by borrowers> if you have $5 and buy what costs $ 13, you OWE $ 8, i.e it would take $ 8 to clear your debt. Thence, negative numbers. And so forth . . . How about the Euler eqn: e^ [j*pi] + 1 = 0, believe it or not, duly connecting the five most important numbers in Mathematics in one expression. Astonishing. (Sometimes, I sign off at that point, QED, God didit!) kairosfocus
Could you explain this a bit further? By scordova "gimmick to make the math of solving differential equations easier" Differential equations I found difficult. Thanks lotf
Many Worlds Interpretation could be an artifact of the math we use. Tipler is perhaps making a forgivable error. Electrical Engineers like myself describe our circuits with imaginary currents and voltages. Do such imaginary things really exist? The number 3 = 8 + (-5) 3 people in a room are actually +8 people and -5 people in the room [only in our imagination, but it's correct mathematically] We often describe electrical voltages as the sum of several components, in fact as an infite series. So a voltage of 3 volts could be modeled as the sum of +8 volts and -5 volts [just like we did for 3 people in a room being modeled as +8 people and -5 people]. In fact Electrical Engineerings go several steps farther, rather than +8 and -5 to describe the number 3, they make it an infinite series of numbers (amplitudes). To top it off it's an infinite series of both real and imaginary numbers (WHOA!). We call such monstrosities Fourier series and Fourier Transforms, which strangely enough we can use to help us describe quantum mechanics.... Thus with mathematical wizardry we can show that 3 people are really and infinite summation of posivite negative people and positively imaginary and negatively imaginary people..... Divergent series combined in away to make them convergent. Wonderful! My point, MWI may only be something of an artifact of the mathematical gimmickry we use to solve difficult problems. Unless of course when you see 3 people in a room you presume there are actually +8 and -3 people in the room..... Tipler's book, by the way is fabulous except for MWI, which is tolerable if read in the light of the math considerations I gave. I don't believe I've met an Electrical Engineer who, although injects imaginary numbers and measurements into his calculation, who really believes these entities really exist, any more than his Fourier Inifinte Series interpretation of everything in his world suggest that 3 people in a room are really +8 people combined with -5 people. Yet we Electrical Engineers pump these make believe entitities through our make believe mathematical worlds to solve real world problems. But at some point we have to draw the line between make believe and reality. Upon finishing our calculations for predicted voltage we have a real part and then an imaginary part. The professors admonish there students then, when they go to the lab to make measurements, they throw out the imaginary part, since it can't be measured. Maybe these imaginary parts were never there to begin with, just a gimmick to make the math of solving differential equations easier. scordova
There is another option - God is unable to have complete control. As one of the few non Christian but theists here this can make sense to me. lotf
What atheists of old would have thought that in the years to come their standard bearers would be talking about there being an infinite number of (unfalsifiable?) universes as a means to explain things. Not only unfalsifiable, but inherently unobservable, sort of like, er, you know...God. avocationist
"If God ultimately controlls each particle/wave then free will does not exist" I meant to include this on my previous post but hit the wrong button and I dont know how to edit. I guess my question to you bfast is why would free choice not exist if God ultimatey controls every particle and wave? Vivid vividblue
"A calvinist friend of mine however asserts that God controls what we do AND we have free will. There was a time I would have laughed at him," Hi Collin, I would bet your friend is a compatibilist. Like your friend I too think that God controls all and at the same time we have free choice. Hi bfast "I seriously question your perspective. The first error I see is when you say “The” As you get to know theists you will discover that there is by no means only one theistic perspective. I, for instanct, am quite convinced that man truly has free will. If God ultimately controlls each particle/wave then free will does not exist. My theistic perspective, therefore, is that there is something truly outside of God’s control within the universe, something that God chose to give up control of." This theistic perspective is known as "open theism". Vivid vividblue
Hello everyone, Long time lurker and my first post. Some background on myself since I know this site is very tightly moderated. I am ID friendly and admire very much Dembski, Phil Johnson and all those who are standing up to the Darwinian fundamentalists even though it has cost them much in academia as well the assaults they have had to endure by the ruling academic priesthood. I used to post over at ARN and from time to time post at telic thoughts. I thought I might offer my thoughts on free will. I have given this subject a lot of thought and I confess I have been heavily influenced by Edwards. The problem is that the term "free will" can mean so many things so we really need to drill down and become more precise in our definitions. To me free will cannot exist if we mean by this that nothing determines the will. But that is not what most people mean when they bandy about this term they usually mean "free choice" For myself I deny that man has a free will but assert we do have free choice. It seems to me they are entirely two different things. In all cases something always "determines" the will so from that standpoint the will is never free from that which determines it. This is why I deny the existence of free will. Free choice on the other hand can exist even if the will is not free. To have free choice is the capacity to choose what we want within the constraints of the choces we are able to make. I want to comment more but I want to see if this gets posted before I write more extensively on the subject. Vivid vividblue
Free will is the great puzzle for us and as I stated earlier I can see where the Theistic presumption can and will be refined further. Yet, none the less, the starting Theistic presumption is that God ultimately controls each and every particle/wave in his infinite power and sovereignty, whereas the materialistic presumption is forced into alluding to an infinite "array" of universe's that have the same foundational universal constants as the one we find ourselves in. I find the Theistic presumption more coherent since the personal miracles I've seen in my life testify to the fact that God has ultimate control of each and every particle/wave in the universe. To reconcile the starting presumption of Theism in quantum mechanics to the apparent free will we exercise would require that one say that free will is either an illusion or that God allows the universe to operate under His "permissive will" in which He allows us the freedom to choose our own course of action. The latter "somewhat detached" sovereignty of control seems, from our present limited perspective, to be the most logically coherent view. bornagain77
bfast, I agree with you, that God has given us free will. A calvinist friend of mine however asserts that God controls what we do AND we have free will. There was a time I would have laughed at him, but there was a time I would have laughed at the idea of something being a particle and a wave at the same time. Collin
bornagain77, "The Theistic presumption would be that each particle/wave is ultimately controlled by the infinite mind and power of God in His sovereignty." I seriously question your perspective. The first error I see is when you say "The" As you get to know theists you will discover that there is by no means only one theistic perspective. I, for instanct, am quite convinced that man truly has free will. If God ultimately controlls each particle/wave then free will does not exist. My theistic perspective, therefore, is that there is something truly outside of God's control within the universe, something that God chose to give up control of. Does this mean that God is not soverign? If by God's choice, He gave man free will, then God remains soverign. As God is clearly outside of time, even though we have free will and free choice, He has the right of divine intervention, and He has the privelage of knowing the end from the beginning. So God is able to give us true free choice without in any way loosing control of the system. bFast
Though I'm not really convinced by MWI, I do agree with Tipler on one point - even though it's wielded by materialists, I hardly think it does much to the idea of God, even as traditionally conceived. That said, I do enjoy how desperately many atheists now cling to MWI. What atheists of old would have thought that in the years to come their standard bearers would be talking about there being an infinite number of (unfalsifiable?) universes as a means to explain things. nullasalus
He does indeed sound very nutty. Also, jumping to premature conclusions. I don't think we yet understand the data well enough to come to the conclusions he does, accepting some but rejecting other miracles, for example. Seems to me the acceptance of Big Bang is similarly premature, and equally silly for anyone to worry that Big Bang is a stronger argument for the existence of God than some other system. The Hindus believe in God, and they think universes are cyclic, with one lasting 311 trillion years. What TOE is referred to here?: "Contrary to what many physicists have claimed in the popular press, we have had a Theory of Everything for about thirty years. Most physicists dislike this Theory of Everything because it requires the universe to begin in a singularity. That is, they dislike it because the theory is consistent only if God exists, and most contemporary scientists are atheists." avocationist
The many worlds interpretation in quantum mechanics, that Tipler relies on, is a materialistic presumption. The Theistic presumption would be that each particle/wave is ultimately controlled by the infinite mind and power of God in His sovereignty. As with everything else in science, those are the only two options we have from the two prevailing philosophies. Though I think the Theistic presumption can and will be refined further, I see no way to refine the materialistic position any further. The % " analysis of the Shroud that Tipler alludes too to substantiate the virgin birth of Jesus, though he may not agree, in fact relies on the Theistic presumption of quantum mechanics to be true in order for the probabilistic hurdles he proposes to be satisfied in logic. bornagain77

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