- We don't know what we're talking about
- We are much like the physicists in 1911 who did not understand radioactivity
- We are missing perhaps something as profound as they were back then
- The field is in a period of utter confusion
These words are slightly uncharacteristic for one of the greatest optimists among theoretical physicists but on the other hand, they are expected from a great physicist who also knows very well how to criticize. ;-)
The word "confusion" was also used by another leading theoretical physicist in a private debate with me. Be sure that these two gentlemen are not complete dissidents. Well, there have probably been many things going on that do not make much sense. Many things that do not make sense to me. Many things that they do not make sense to the big shots. And I am afraid that the percentage is too sensitive a number for me to estimate it here.
One should however exaggerate neither the importance of one confusing conference nor the importance of one or a couple of discouraging years in the search for something that may be with us for centuries. David Gross has also given a summary of the 1938 Warsaw conference which was very entertaining. These big guys really did not know what they were talking about - except for Klein, of course. (Those who speak German know very well that Gross has all the rights to judge Klein.)
We are certainly in a much better shape today. Nevertheless, the people in the year XY will definitely be humiliating the 2005 Solvay conference, too - because they will know the fundamental insights that we are missing today. It remains our task to try to make the number XY as small as possible.
Peter Woit celebrates the words about the trouble, in a way that resembles the jihadists' celebrations of the Private Katrina, here. ;-) Nowadays, it has become extremely fashionable to criticize string theory and physics beyond the Standard Model in general.
I would like to emphasize that while we are in a period of utter confusion about several questions at the cutting edge, we are not too confused about many other fundamental insights - some of which are newer than 5 years - and we are not confused at all about thousands of other things. Think twice before you replace the whole community of confused physicists - because confusion is the natural state of the theoretical physicist throughout most of his or her life.
You may start with physicists who are confused whether XY may become a solution of the cosmological constant - but if you promote real "diversity of approaches", you may end up with a general confusion about the difference between a force and voltage.