A reader has pointed out to me by e-mail that the self-described science blogosphere is getting crazier than ever before. Sean Carroll has essentially joined Peter Woit and others in their irrational attack against existing high-energy theoretical physics and contributed to the advertisements of recently published "alternative physics" books. The union is so satisfactory for Peter Woit that Peter Woit and Sean Carroll have unified their articles and the discussion beneath it. This union emerged half a day after Woit's vitriolic attack against the conference "Strings 2006", its very meaning, and its key participants.
In a newer article on "Not Even Wrong", Peter Woit uses the discussion at Cosmic Variance as an example how a discussion about these matters should look like according to his opinions, and I think that there are very good reasons why Peter Woit says so.
Just like in most cases, the discussions below Sean's and Peter's new articles are discussions among uninformed outsiders - who are convinced how terribly nice and smart they are, the kind of folks that Feynman used to call pompous fools. In these discussions, 1/3 is composed of attacks against string theory, 1/3 is made out of attacks against the rational thinking in general, and 1/3 is represented by attacks against Luboš Motl who is quite clearly the only representative of all the evil from the previous two thirds. ;-]
In his new article, Carroll has said a couple of words that make some sense. But more importantly - and this is why the article was written - he praised the importance of several books critical of science as such - at least one of which is extremely stupid - that he has not read, as he openly admits. Why, you should ask? How is it possible? Why hasn't he written about the Evolution Backlash or the Inflation Backlash? Why doesn't he praise the importance of Shattering the Myths of Darwinism? If there are books whose conclusions violate his far left-wing political beliefs, such as alternative scenarios for the origin of life (ID) - or even mainstream studies that are politically incorrect (brain and sex) - he is extremely brutal in his criticism.
But if there are analogous books whose goal is to argue that the theoretical physics community is essentially cheating the whole society and that the crackpots should replace the physicists, then he endorses such books as important reading even without having seen them. Sean's behavior is another striking example of a complete loss of common sense and the honest approach of a scientist and their replacement by political dogmas and pre-determined preconceptions that make him look "nice" in the eyes of everyone, except for mine, of course.
I have read the first book mentioned in those debates very carefully, and it is more or less a worthless book that contains no new or interesting ideas, just a lot of negative bias, a lot of errors, and obsolete concepts. According to everything we know about the history of science, such purely negative non-technical books by outsiders are never helpful for science and the people who say something else are just liars.
I find this support of crackpotism very immoral whenever I think of the students who are learning how the world works for many years, who have to struggle with their exams and first projects, while living from a small amount of money. When they complete everything, they find out that a scientific zero who has studied nothing whatsoever for decades and who does not know anything has a better support from the society to spread his "ideas" just because this zero is backed by cranks whose main feature is their hatred against the "establishment", and by politically correct opportunists who have no opinions about science. In this atmosphere, it becomes a matter of masochism to plan to do serious things. The society deliberately supports fraud and bad pseudoscience - and books about it.
The only people who might find such books useful are either aggressive crackpots themselves who are legitimized, or young people interested in science who will figure out that it is a pretty good idea to avoid theoretical physics as a profession unless they want to be treated as ... your humble correspondent by ignorant but loud outsiders (or to shut up).
The only thing that the Cosmic Variance blog has done during the years of its existence for the public understanding of generally misunderstood basic questions in high-energy theoretical physics was to prove that the string theorists can sing out-of-tune songs and to write that it is indeed unknown whether string theory is a performance art or philosophy.
Sorry to say but this is the last well-known physics blog on this planet that publicly claims that the theoretical physicists generally know what they're doing and why they reject some ideas from outside, despite a gigantic pressure of several layers of strange people to write something very different. All other blogs that claim to have something to do with physics as science - as opposed to physics as a source of income for people who don't have much to do with it intellectually and who don't really believe it - are just politically correct tools for crackpots to make their deep misunderstandings of the basics of modern physics ever more powerful and legitimized, and to destroy physics as a process to eliminate wrong ideas and elaborate on the viable ones after a finite timescale. This process is already well underway.
Imagine that others would be approaching topics that are slightly beyond their super-narrow specialization just like Sean Carroll does. We would start to advocate the nice Riofrio, a full-time researcher in cosmology who is suppressed by the sexist pigs in cosmology, despite having her "GM=tc^3" theory of the Cosmos that is far simpler, more important, and more testable than anything that Sean Carroll or any of his colleagues have ever invented during decades if not centuries of their fruitless and expensive efforts. We would defend nice and intelligent designers such as William Dembski - and surely also their alternative science - against nasty and despicable people like P.Z. Myers (scienceblogs.com/pharyngula).
Do you know why you don't read these things on this blog? Well, it's because your humble correspondent understands cosmology and biology well enough to figure out why Riofrio's calculations and Dembski's speculations are nonsensical and why the actual key results of cosmologists and biologists are important, including the new paradigms that cannot quite be considered as proved ones yet, such as inflation or the human cloning, to choose two random examples.
Obviously, Sean Carroll is not able or willing to do the same thing in the case of crackpot books about theoretical particle physics. At least he should try to close his mouth instead of filling the blogosphere with noise, reviews of books he has not seen, and politically correct summaries of the fields that he does not understand.
There is already enough of this junk around and there is little doubt that the more texts legitimizing attitudes like those of Peter Woit we will see, the more newspaper articles such as those in the Sunday Times, the Financial Times, or at least the (milder) Wall Street Journal we will have to read. It's completely inevitable.