The less problematic part of the book presents some ideas about cosmology and string theory that the readers have seen elsewhere. The more problematic part of the book promotes the idea of the anthropic principle in such a way that makes it clear that the basic belief in a huge number of other Universes is as religious as any other religion, although Susskind himself denies this correspondence.
After having explained that the arguments based on fine-tuning are essentially identical to those that have been used by the promoters of Intelligent Design, he also argues that this equivalence does not exist either although the explanation is not quite transparent.
Lawrence Krauss has made a comparable and possibly even more serious "sin" by having written his own book. He advocates the idea that all models and theories that require some thinking, explanations based on mathematics, or new concepts such as extra dimensions are a priori known to be probably wrong. Lawrence Krauss believes that extra dimensions are a priori ridiculous and that he can prove it without writing any papers that actually present any physical arguments: pure thought and a popular book addressed to the laymen is apparently enough. Sometimes you wonder whether Lawrence Krauss also believes that a priori it is clear that particles must have well-defined positions and velocities and that "now" must have an invariant meaning.
As you can see, one half of Lenny's book and essentially the whole book by Krauss are scientifically flawed, so you may ask: can it happen that your humble correspondent would endorse whole articles written either by Krauss or by Susskind in 2006?
The answer is, of course, a resounding Yes. It happens whenever Krauss and Susskind exchange their ideas with someone whose opinions are sillier than their own at least by an order of magnitude. Given the high intelligence of Krauss and Susskind, the number of such people is very large, of course, and one of them is called John Horgan. In this particular case, Susskind and Krauss even wrote their answer together.
- Susskind and Krauss reply to Horgan (New York Times)
Given the fact that some of these fields are really hot these days and they are expected to revolutionize our lives in the 21st century, you may think that there will be no one who will agree with Horgan's madness. But you would be wrong. And unfortunately, we are not speaking just about the crackpots from Peter Woit's blog in particular and intellectual trash in general.
A more realistic description of the situation is that there have always been people who did not believe in science. All those people who have lived since 1700 may be described by a word that starts with "ID". The year 2006 and John Horgan are not special in this respect: John Horgan is just another spot in a long sequence of billions of his peers.
Even if the progress in some particular fields slowed down - and there are many fields Horgan mentions where the progress is, on the contrary, speeding up - it does not imply and cannot imply that the belief in science as such should be diminishing. What we have learned cannot be unlearned. And as long as we are humans, no one can kill the natural human curiosity.
When I mentioned the crackpots from Peter Woit's blog, they are having a hard time with the fact that Lawrence Krauss, who was believed to have retracted all of modern physics, suddenly argues that theoretical physics is a legitimate science. It would indeed be pretty serious if Krauss or even Susskind endorsed Horgan's general moronic statements. Susskind and Krauss have helped, in a sense, a whole gallery of anti-scientific bigots including personalities such as William Dembski or John Horgan. If Susskind and Krauss were not protesting against the abuses of their books by these people, they would become two of them.
I, for one, believe that there is still a significant gap between these groups of thinkers, despite Krauss' misunderstanding for the basic motivation behind the ideas of modern particle physics and Susskind's unscientific approach to the vacuum selection problem. Susskind and Krauss are famous colleagues of their fellow physicists, Horgan is not.
I guess that the reasonable ones will continue to live in our fantasy realms where scientific arguments matter and where fantasies often become true - and sometimes they are guaranteed to - leaving Mr. Horgan in his intellectual s**tland.