Thursday, August 18, 2005

A compromise with Lenny Susskind

After roughly six e-mails we exchanged with Lenny Susskind who started the debate with this sentence:
  • LS: Dear Motl, I heard that you have some strong opinions that differ from my own. You are a smart guy so I thought I better understand your point. (...)
the following words of Lenny about the status of the anthropic reasoning could have been more or less subscribed by both of us although they don't contain some of the most novel points in our debate. Lenny wants me to post it on the blog which is what I'm gonna do right now:
  • LS (+LM): Let me propose a formulation that I think is honest, non ideological, and combines what I think are the best of each side.
  • First of all, the evidence for inflation suggests a very large universe which may not be everywhere the same. We can't be sure.
  • The existence of a cc just at the predicted value (Weinberg) is completely mysterious from any known framework other than the "populated landscape."
  • There are strong signs of a very large landscape of string theory.
  • ...
  • BUT
  • ...
  • the landscape is far from a mathematical fact at this point.
  • the math behind eternal inflation is still shaky.
  • It is not impossible that there are unknown mathematical ingredients of string theory (or some other theory) that might surprise us.
  • Finally, I think it is fair to say that there is no other concrete competing proposal to the "populated landscape." There is also no theorem (actually there is --Weinberg's theorem about the cc) that forbids another explanation. [LM objected to the inconsistency of the second sentence and the historical character of the first sentence.]
  • ...
  • The conclusion that should be drawn from this is that

It is conceivable that the following exchange - a standard example how senior left-wing people are talking to their right-wing junior colleagues in Academia - should be added to this file, too:

  • LS: Lastly, I should say that some people have tried to get a lock on the use of the word "rational" in the same way that George Bush tries to monopoly on "compassionate." As far as I can tell, at the present time, the only rational explanation of the cc is the A.P. Unless you have another.

LM: Your comparison of your attitude to Bush's attitude may be an apt one. That's not an insult - as you know, I usually like Bush. ;-)

  • LS: Now, on another point--bush? Motl, you are either dumber than I thought, sicker than I thought, or about as mischievous as I thought. Which is it? You can tell me. I won't tell anyone else.

Note added to the blog only: Lenny won't, but I will. You may think that I am used to this kind of comments from the communist times. However, surprisingly, I am not. I don't remember a single communist whose opinion about the U.S. president (probably Reagan at that time) or even his moderate supporters would be formulated in such strong and humiliating terms.

But once again, the U.S. Academia is ahead of the Czechoslovak communists not only in the authoritarianism with which they want to propagate their opinions but in many other respects, too. You may imagine that the idea that a junior rightwinger could enjoy the political aspect of the academic environment is a completely weird fantasy.

Lenny probably realized what could the people around learn from this comment about his attitude to democracy, and he wrote me that he thought that I had to be kidding about W; and either I would take the comments off or XY. Well, this is how I allowed certain people to treat me in the last 8 months or so, and because it has made me extremely unhappy, you should not be surprised that I switched to the old-fashioned mode and chose XY.

Finally and thankfully, Lenny sent me the following summary:

  • LS: Lubos is absolutely correct. Senior physicists have absolutely no business trying to intimidate their younger colleagues, either scientifically or politically. I regret my remarks.

1 comment:

  1. I must agree partly with LS in that politicians like to get a lock and monopoly on determinate words. This is standard operation in fixing the Perceived Reality, and some scholars of language and politics have reviewed it during the last century. On other hand, we scientists try to lock words because we aim to work in a closed set of postulates, so we need such lock by different reasons that politics do. I hope.

    Aside, it should be kind if you include references when discussing about concrete papers, as the one of Weinberg. This blog has a general readership.