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Philosophy became a euphemism for crackpot physics

Sean Carroll attempted to defend philosophy against the physicists who rightfully point out that it is not the right path to learn how the world around us works:

Physicists Should Stop Saying Silly Things about Philosophy (Preposterous Universe)
This defense isn't surprising because Sean Carroll is an eminent example of a physics crackpot who uses philosophy and his personal links with philosophers to suggest that he is something else than a physics crackpot.

He lists three valid criticisms that physicists sometimes raise against philosophy and attempts to disagree with them:
“Philosophy tries to understand the universe by pure thought, without collecting experimental data.”

“Philosophy is completely useless to the everyday job of a working physicist.”

“Philosophers care too much about deep-sounding meta-questions, instead of sticking to what can be observed and calculated.”
These criticisms – in one way or another articulated by folks like Weinberg, Hawking, Krauss, Tyson, and others – are true even though Weinberg in particular has stated the problems with philosophy much more crisply and accurately.

But let me write down my own – related but not identical – objections against philosophy as a method to learn how the world works.

Philosophy is a wrong way to learn how the world works especially because
Most importantly, philosophical prejudices and dogmas are always more important than new empirical evidence and solid calculations and argumentation.

The authority is ultimately not derived from the impersonal evidence but from the predetermined "wisdom" of the philosophers that ultimately boils down to their popularity among the folks who are even less competent than themselves.

The philosophical approach remains tightly linked with the human language which has been getting, is getting, and will be getting increasingly inadequate as a language to accurately describe Nature. Philosophers almost always fail to appreciate that their language is rooted in assumptions that have been proven wrong which has made almost all their questions ill-defined and almost all their answers misguided.

This whole octopus may sometimes accidentally agree with the scientific evidence but much more often, it is used to redirect the progress of science in a different direction than the direction indicated by the evidence, typically in the direction of people's wishes how Nature "should" look, and it is being used as a justification for crackpot physics in general.
To express the last point differently, philosophy has turned into a social movement where one can hide if his ideas have been falsified – killed by a procedure that is the most important building block of the scientific method. Because philosophy as an institution is a hideaway for people who are wrong, it is a factor that isn't just neutral. Instead, it reduces the efficiency of the scientific method.

When Carroll tries to disagree with the claim that philosophy doesn't derive its authority from the empirical data, he says it is a "dopey" claim because philosophers sometimes care about the empirical data, too. Well, maybe, some of them, sometimes – it's hard to summarize the attitude of thousands or millions of people who call themselves "philosophers" to thousands or millions of scientific questions by such a simple-minded slogan.

The point is that the partial evidence and even the rock-solid evidence just doesn't have the ultimate power to decide and beat other arguments. The ultimate power comes from people who describe themselves as the philosophers. To a large extent, they treat themselves as infallible and their authority as permanent. This intrinsic dependence on the highly imperfect humans – humans that are not subject to any mechanism that would guarantee that they improve themselves or converge closer to the truth – is the real #1 reason why science works and philosophy doesn't. Carroll writes:
Philosophers do, indeed, tend to think a lot. This is not a bad thing. All of scientific practice involves some degree of “pure thought.”
Well, philosophers are obviously not thinking enough. It's the good theoretical physicists who are practicing "pure thoughts" well.
Philosophers are, by their nature, more interested in foundational questions where the latest wrinkle in the data is of less importance than it would be to a model-building phenomenologist.
The theoretical physicists, like string theorists, are also interested in foundational questions and they are much less affected by the latest experiments or fads. The only difference is that they are doing it right while philosophers are not.
And some amount of rigorous thought is necessary to make any progress on them. Shutting up and calculating isn’t good enough.
This comment is completely wrong. Shutting up and calculating – at least what this phrase is meant to denote when it's used favorably by sensible physicists – is not only enough. It is absolutely necessary for modern physics to operate well. It encodes the attitude that one has to use the superior language of mathematics to learn and decide about things; and one must always be able to forget about complaints produced in an inferior language – especially the human language – i.e. to shut up whenever one learns something using the language of mathematics.

The principle is about the priority of tools and it's the calculations that are treated as more powerful in physics than verbal arguments. It is an extremely important principle necessary for physics to work. Carroll really, not just seemingly, contradicts it. Note that he uses the adjective "rigorous" for the philosophers' thoughts. But one adjective that is completely wrong for the approach that denies the importance of "shut up and calculate" is "rigorous". One may only be rigorous if he uses the language of mathematics. One may only be rigorous if he shuts up and calculates. The language may be used as a rough summary of something that has been nailed down in the language of mathematics – but not the other way around!

In particular, the phrase "shut up and calculate" has been used in the context of the foundations of quantum mechanics. Virtually all the philosophers misunderstand the quantum revolution – the very fact that the quantum revolution has forced us to describe Nature in a way that is fundamentally incompatible with the most general assumptions of classical physics and "common sense". They talk a lot and almost everything they say about these problems is pure junk.

Quantum mechanics brought us a new framework for physics and science and it is rather simple to summarize it. Only the results of observations – perceptions by observers – are facts that may be talked about; and the laws of Nature can only calculate probabilities of the individual outcomes from squared absolute values of the probability amplitudes – using the mathematical formulae that apply in every single context of the real world and that are easy to summarize.

The previous sentence summarizes everything that is scientifically meaningful according to the new (well, 90 years old) framework of physics. Every question about Nature that doesn't respect this general template is scientifically meaningless. Every claim about Nature's inner workings that disagrees with the general postulates of quantum mechanics – postulates that render most classical assumptions about the world incorrect and most classical questions about "reality" meaningless – is wrong.

"Shut up and calculate" isn't supposed to mean that we don't talk at all. It is supposed to say that except for (usually long) calculations, the only foundational insight we should understand and keep in mind is the sentence that I repeat because it's so important:
Only the results of observations – perceptions by observers – are facts that may be talked about; and the laws of Nature can only calculate probabilities of the individual outcomes from squared absolute values of the probability amplitudes – using the mathematical formulae that apply in every single context of the real world and that are easy to summarize.
Everything else – I mean everything fundamentally different – that people say about the foundations of Nature or quantum mechanics is wrong. Everything else is a violation of the "shut up and calculate" rule and inevitably ends up being wrong. Sometimes people produce dozens or hundreds or thousands of pages of fantasies that slightly or heavily disagree with the principles of modern physics as we have learned them. And these dozens or hundreds or thousands of pages are just wrong. They're not just "pure thought"; they're "pure šit".

Everything that Sean Carroll has ever said about the foundations of quantum mechanics is pure šit, too. That's why he's defending other crackpots who are doing the same and who love to mask their medieval dogmatism and stupidity by pompous labels such as "philosophers". The very same comments apply to his hardcore crackpottery about the cosmological origin of the arrow of time, his Boltzmann Brain psychopathological seizures, and others.

In the second segment, Carroll criticizes the statement
Philosophy is completely useless to the everyday job of a working physicist.
by conjecturing that physicists who decide about the value of ideas from the perspective of their work only are "leading a fairly intellectually impoverished existence." Except that it isn't necessarily so. Physicists who are studying the foundations of quantum gravity, taking not only general postulates of quantum mechanics but also all other modern insights of physics into account, are leading an intellectually omnifarious, omnicompetent, and omnicorporeal existence. They're avoiding everything else related to the nature of being because they know that (and why) everything else attempting to say something about these matters is bullšit.
Philosophy is interesting because of its intrinsic interest, not because it’s a handmaiden to physics.
Great but the real problem is that the results of the philosophical (unscientific) method are wrong. What is particularly ironic – and hypocritical – about Carroll's attitude is that he is one of the loudest critics of religions and everything associated with them. Nevertheless, he frantically defends "philosophy" as a way to learn about Nature. It's insane because philosophy is exactly as unscientific as religion. Every religion may be called just another philosophy and pretty much all philosophies and religions are equally deficient when it comes to their basic flaw – the violation of the rules of the scientific method.

But if I were going to choose Carroll's sentences in which aggressive stupidity shows up most clearly, it would probably be the following ones:
Foundational questions, such as the quantum measurement problem, the arrow of time, the nature of probability, and so on. Again, a huge majority of working physicists don’t ever worry about these problems.
A huge majority of working physicists do care about these questions. Indeed, the measurements in quantum mechanics, the nature of probability, and the second law of thermodynamics influence virtually everything they're working on.

Their real difference from Sean Carroll isn't that they "don't worry" or "don't think" about these matters, or that they "lead an intellectually impoverished existence". Their real difference from the likes of Sean Carroll is that they have understood the answers to all these simple enough questions that have been found by the scientific method. That's the real reason why they avoid writing idiotic crackpot would-be "philosophical" blog posts and indeed whole books about the "alternative" answers concerning these basic questions.

Unlike Carroll, they are not cranks!

The sentences by Carroll above show why it is so important to point out as often as possible that the likes of Carroll and Smolin are deluded, sloppy cranks. As soon as you fail to emphasize this fact once, the likes of Carroll and Smolin will abuse this weakness of yours, and they will actually place themselves above you. They will label you as an unthinking, intellectually impoverished machine. In reality, your only "sin" is that you have understood some undergraduate basics of modern physics while they have not. Spoiled brats like Carroll need to be beaten, beaten, beaten.

Finally, Carroll claims that the criticism of philosophy
“Philosophers care too much about deep-sounding meta-questions, instead of sticking to what can be observed and calculated.”
is frustrating. He writes, for example:
The idea is apparently that developing a new technique for calculating a certain wave function is an honorable enterprise worthy of support, while trying to understand what wave functions actually are and how they capture reality is a boring waste of time. I suspect that a substantial majority of physicists who use quantum mechanics in their everyday work are uninterested in or downright hostile to attempts to understand the quantum measurement problem.
Intelligent physicists are more or less hostile towards this philosophical movement for a simple reason. It is wrong. It is based on fundamentally misguided tenets. Modern physics actually understands what the wave function is and especially what it's not very well. I have already written the sentence that says everything that matters. Wave functions are just collections of mathematical data that encode the observer's knowledge about the system and that may be used to probabilistically predict additional knowledge. That's it.

What the people trying "to understand what wave functions actually are" are doing nothing else than trying to promote a different, i.e. wrong, answer to this question. They are trying to force physics to return to the narrow realm compatible with their extremely limited brains, to the realm of classical physics. They are trying to promote childish metaphors and to force everyone to believe that these metaphors are true.

Wave functions are "actually" nothing because they don't exist in any classical, "actual" sense. The very rhetorical trick of using words like "actually" is nothing else than another example of the methods how deluded and intellectually limited people are trying to "authoritatively assert" that good science is "obliged" to become compatible with their uninformed, obsolete, falsified, and downright idiotic ideas about the way how the world "should" work.

But the world just doesn't work like that. The incompatibility of the laws of physics with their preconception boils down to two things. One of them is the empirically rooted evidence that has simply falsified classical physics in the most general sense as a framework for all of physics. The other fact underlying the incompatibility is the "philosophers'" inability to understand the new framework that is extremely beautiful, natural, and that has been known since 1925.

In his text, Carroll also slings mud at the beautiful picture of Nature as developed by modern physics. He finds it "sad" that physics could reduce the problems to calculations – and could have eliminated the need for long, would-be intelligent monologues and dialogues. But that's exactly what makes the modern physics beautiful and powerful. There may be many complicated formulae and calculations and their applications are numerous but the basic framework of quantum physics may be summarized in the single sentence I have already written down – plus a few simple mathematically formulated postulates of quantum mechanics that specify what we mean. This ability of the humans to unify all of their knowledge in this crisp way is stunningly inspiring. People like Carroll who are "sad" if they see concise foundations of physics that leave no room for babbling just hate science – and they don't belong to science. Philosophers may prefer a world where the foundations of physics require 500 pages of rhetorical babbling. But our world isn't like that. The "verbal", conceptual foundations may be summarized in one sentence or two and all the other "details" are a matter of calculations. This conciseness of the foundations is pretty and people who actually like theoretical physics have been attracted by this conciseness (and the expectation that they would unify the foundations even more than that – make them even more concise) – exactly the aspect that repels physics-haters like Carroll.

An ordinary layman could be simply said to be deluded, intellectually insufficient to grasp the true foundations of modern physics. However, people like Carroll are pompous fools, aggressive self-confident idiots who try to paint their intellectual defects in rosy colors and decorations such as the word "philosophy". They won't hesitate to claim – and look into people's eyes while doing so – that their misunderstandings of modern physics makes them intellectually superior while those who dare to understand the basics of modern physics are intellectually impoverished.

The correct term for these people is "arrogant cranks" and the more other philosophers fail to protect their trademark "philosophy" against parasites like Carroll, the more accurately the words "philosophy" and "crackpottery" will be turning into synonyma.

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reader TwoBs said...

I Couldn't agree more with your own list of objections, especially the first and the third one.

I think many people misunderstand the word 'calculate' in 'shut up and calculate', thinking perhaps about some childish dull calculation of a sort, while it is instead all about make concise, accurate and true statements about non-trivial phenomenon. Often they involve cutting edge tools in physics and mathematics. I am thinking e.g. about the scattering amplitude mini revolution.

reader hvaiallverden said...

If it wherent for the table and the lapptopp I owuld slam my forhead into the floor, in respect.

I have read about QM since a child, and lately, exept a period of 20 years I read nothing, and took up reading letely.
And I dint understand/ed jackshitt, and gott only headace as a revard, and a massive about of thing I havent a clue about was writhen.
But I knew the basics, as I always try to hammer into people and math.
Its not difficould, its the haze created that obscures the obvious, the f.... ups everything, and drown it in drivell, and blames Others for hehe "metaphysocs".

I read the other coment, and agres mutch, and the interplay of "forces" of mind, earth and the univers is basicly correct as I persive it.
Regarding the multiverse, I am not in synck, its not severa parralelrunning universes we persive, we persive thrue our "filtered mind/consciousness" a reality of 3d, that is created by our own mind, all learned from others, as in the collective settings in the "mind/consciousness" level we persive this reality in.
The problem, is the persiver, in all aspects incl buggs, witch lives acordingly to their reality, witch doesnt have to be attaced to ours by virtues as time and space, their perseption of time may be hughly diffrent but we have the same reality in and as organic begins in this persived 3d reality.
The universe is dual, and as we are centered into a duality as begins, and organic/collective entety, based on colutions of a multitute of other "creatures" that in the end makes up our organic body, we are a walking, breathing and living collective consciousness, our body is that.
The separation is in the consciousness aka the mind, diverted by an material and an inmaterial reality.
I dont like the terms used as "anti matter", the inorganic begins, have only risen their energetic and consciousness level to regocnise its own existence, and the senter of it all is Free will, this is the core, our mind is attaced to it, not in any phsyical sense but by energy/entanglement with it.

I dont think there is a multiverse, I belive we persive different "wavw lengths" filtered thru our own mind/consciousness.
Some of it is to guide the organic entety and the rest is basicly forgotten and hiden in more dirivel as "religion" and all the bollocs attaced to that.
The problem in huamn perseption is the other entety, witch is basicly different and operates different, and t\its abilitys, is mindboggeling.
I have no problems with realitys within realitys, as a fogg or densety of some sort, where may be our ability to "chouse" the persived reality, makes all this possible.
There isnt any way else to configurate it.
If we regard the QM part of it, we still are in the bigginig stage of it, reaging the obserever effect.

Otherwise, have a nice day, I am having it.


reader RAF III said...

Lubos - YES!!! (I hope you understand why I have used three exclamation points) It may seem strange, coming from me, but I think that your last paragraph is important as there are real philosophers out there. The lack of 'self-policing' in academic disciplines, for decades, has led to the deplorable current state of affairs where intellectually challenged celebrities can pose as experts (with the degrees/credentials to prove it!).

reader mr. critic said...

Hm, why the obsession with the "true" wave function? What's the obstacle which prevents the existence of an internal mechanism? It doesn't have to be a classical object. Not at all. Are you implying that no one can program the movement of an electron at an atomic orbital in accord with the uncertainty principle and plot it on a computer screen? It's the wave math (ok, and a little randomness) that will determine the picture and of course, you cant ride this wave with a surf. What defies the pseudo-randomness? What evidence or theoretical model proves that we are dealing with "true" randomness (whatever it means) and how pure randomness brings "collections of data" which resembles wave patterns? Does modern physics have answer to these questions? I'm really interested.

reader Luboš Motl said...

The obstacle preventing an additional "internal mechanism" isn't one. There are several and they are completely essential. They are the fundamentals of the modern knowledge of all people who know something about Nature's inner workings.

The obstacles include the relativity principle and the uncertainty principle, among others.

There can't be an underlying mechanism that would "explain" the collapses of the wave function because such the reduction of the wave function appears instantly after the observations, and it instantly affects the predictions across the Universe, due to entanglement. Relativity, which is robustly backed by observations, bans instantaneous influences.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Right! It's really a symptom of the internal failure of the duties that certain institutions should have had because it is what justifies these very institutions' existence.

reader Luboš Motl said...

I totally agree. This misinterpretation of the word "calculation" finally boils down to their dislike for maths in general. They associate calculations with some dumb things because they haven't learned about any better kind of calculations or mathematics - like the one that governs all of modern physics.

reader Dilaton said...

Wow, I always thought Sean Carroll is a decent cosmologist somehow, but how he seems to be going really down tha wrong rabbit hole. And maybe his popularity among the laypeople has confused his thinking a bit too?

These are rather some random annotations from reading this TRF article than a coherent, internally consistent comment :-P

If Sean Carroll likes philosophers so much (more than physics?), why does he not simply join his friends?

The only really apropriate language to talk about physics is math!

"...To a large extent, they treat themselves as infallible and their authority as permanent."
Haha yes exactly, I always suspected that the pompous overreaching philosophers who enjoy trying to patronize physics in the popular media channels suffer from a God complex ...

Sean Caroll better looks for a good hiding place in case the mathematicians find out about his blatant abuse of the term "rigorous" ...

People who still dont understand what the wave function is seem to be stuck in the lectures of a basic introductory QM course, no?

reader RAF III said...

Lubos - Yes. Across the board, they have been intimidated by disingenuous appeals to some principles they are supposed to uphold - free speech, tolerance,collegiality- (while ignoring, for example, integrity) and have naively, apathetically, and nowadays fearfully, capitulated.

reader Luboš Motl said...

They were actively demanded to be "welcoming" which also includes "welcoming" to all the bad habits of the general society from which the clean academic environment was supposed to be protected.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Good observations, Dilaton.

Just to be sure, I've considered him a good cosmologist for many years.

The emergence of a completely new leg to build someone's personal existence upon is always risky. Fame with the normal people is a soft and ephemeral value which mean bring a man astray. I think that many people who became well-known have honorably avoided this threat, too.

I also think that mathematicians should be very unhappy about his believed meaning of the word "rigorous".

reader Tavrik said...

In America we have a phrase " Dumb as we want to be" , which I believe now applies to the majority of our citizens and essentially all of out politicians. It has now become socially unacceptable to show evidence of real learning. One should only be aware of that which is presented by the official media sources.
You seen to think that the basic problem is simply that of stupid people. I think there is something more diabolical happening. There is a sponsored attempt to discredit the "Big Bang" and all of the scientific method. This to be replaced by a type of Lysenkoism, wherein the world is not as it really is but is as our elite think it should be. I would appreciate your comments.

reader RAF III said...

Lubos - If you replace 'marginally' with 'generally' I would agree. This has been a long time coming and I doubt that anything can now be done from within these institutions to correct the situation.

reader james said...

You paint with a rather wide brush. I agree that quite a number of philosophical questions are misguided. I have no idea what is meant by "real wave function", and when theorists try to reduce complicated human interactions to a single principle (e.g. maximum happiness principle) they generally go off the deep end. Quite a few other questions are important, though.

As an example, take the question "Does my wife love me?" Before I try measuring things I need to think about the meaning of what I'm trying to learn. My life isn't a lab where I can do multiple marriage experiments: there's a bit of hysteresis in such enterprises.

Do I try to weigh the beans she serves on my plate, or count the number of times she kisses me and scale by the amount of free time? Or take blood samples and measure oxytocin levels? Do I have a good enough model for what I should mean by "love"? Maybe I should discuss that with a few people.

That would be a philosophical discussion.

reader mr. critic said...

On the contrary, I listen very carefully. Unfortunately, I'm not conveying my thoughts right. By internal mechanism I meant only the "wavy" part of the system. It sounds like a classical wave, but it doesn't have to be "material" in any sense.

The collapse of the wave function is perfectly explainable by the observation (which, as I see it, is nothing more than inserting energy into a subsystem) and the pseudo-random generator is just the result of all the dynamics of sequential events. Like a ball in a wavy "roulette wheel" you can only predict with a probability where it will land.

The uncertainty principle fits just fine here. If the amplitude of the wave determine the probability of a particle being in a specific position, then the more you determine the position (using external energy) the more high-frequency components will appear in the spectrum, broadening the distribution of the particle's possible positions in the next moment, thus making the speed uncertain.

I remember this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9yWv5dqSKk which you probably will find offensive, but it's kinda cute :) Really, what else can explain the uncertainty principle and the interference patterns than an intrinsic wave?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Mr Critic, nope, you are just repeating, using slightly different words, the very same things my comment was proving to be impossible. I won't repeat myself again, it's a waste of time.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

Dear Tavrik, I think there are no dumb questions in general or even if they express something uncomprehensible.
Yes in my architect view, quantum mechanics describes at the surface a sub quantum mechanical world which is probably deeply based on coded vacuum energy oscillations and the real FORM operation of fermion and even photon and real particle stringy particles able to change form into vacuum Higgs field particles. However all motion and form coding is instant entangled with Charge Parity symmetric at long distant mirror Universes, all originated from one big bang as the centre of a raspberry shaped multiverse. God plays dice with multiple entangled pinball machines each called a universe. ( material or anti-material)

reader lukelea said...

"Physicists who are studying the foundations of quantum gravity, taking not only general postulates of quantum mechanics but also all other modern insights of physics into account, are leading an intellectually omnifarious, omnicompetent, and omnicorporeal existence. They're avoiding everything else related to the nature of being because they know that (and why) everything else attempting to say something about these matters is bullšit."

I must say, I agree with Lubos's epistemological and ontological position here. :)

reader Gordon said...

Thanks, Lubos. I will play with it maybe later today.

reader Gene Day said...

Of course life is a lab. You do things and you experience the consequences. Hopefully, you learn from these consequences. If you don’t; you suffer.
Hysteresis is just part of the experience. There can be a lot of it in such things as suicide attempts.

reader lukelea said...

It is all part of the high state of decadence into which the modern academy has fallen outside the hard sciences. Maybe the latter should ask for a divorce.

reader Shodan said...

I think some very important work in physics is philosophical in nature. E.g. This paper on a modern formulation of the Copenhagen interpretation (decoherent histories)


I would suspect that an automatic aversion to the word "interpretation" is why decoherent histories got 0% support in a recent survey.

reader Eclectikus said...

I am a big fan of your texts on philosophy of science, I really enjoy them and always learn something in the reading (and of course I'm basically and humbly agree with them). But I understand that this post (as many similar others) is not a real complaint to the Philosophy itself, is rather against philosophers who claim "to make" Physics, and more frequently, against physicists using philosophy to sidestep themselves from the Scientific Method. But true Philosophy can not become crackpottery, we can not forget the cross contributions between the two fields, starting for example by Karl Popper.

IMHO the real problem is when different fields are mixed on discussions about similar topics, and precisely Cosmology is a critical area where this is shown, but questions, answers and methodologies are different (and immiscible) for a philosopher and a theoretical physicist... and the crackpottery arise just from the mix.

reader Shodan said...

Yeah, I think there is some valuable philosophy out there that would help people strip away their classical commitments and embrace QM as ultimately the deeper description of reality. The trouble is philosophy is not as good as science at vetting itself, and so valuable work in philosophy gets drowned out by other competing but inferior works.

reader Gene Day said...

The article that you cite is pure nonsense. It claims, among other illusions, that determinism is sometimes valid. This is not only dead wrong; it shows a complete lack of any grasp of QM whatsoever.
Nothing new has been learned about QM since the 1920s. Get used to it.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Yes, absolutely, I only meant that part of philosophy and should have said it clearly! ;-)

reader scooby said...

ahem, a paper by Roland Omnes on quantum mechanics? Pure nonsense? I would be very surprised.

reader Nick D Waters said...

Very well written. The opinion expressed by Carroll is at its heart anti-science, and serves as a source of ignorance served to the greater public audience which generally is unable to make proper distinction.

reader Dilaton said...

Thanks for this nice interesting report.

I had to point this article to a Quora user, who thought that being sceptical about the fact that string theory is a "real" theory ;-), to show him among other things that string phenomenology can even make low energy predictions ... ;-P.

That guy quite raised my blood pressure ...

reader Gene Day said...

Perhaps I was a bit hasty having read only the abstract but something is seriously wrong when the author says of the new understanding:
"It shows in particular how and when determinism is valid.”
Determinism is never valid; that’s just not how the world works. Einstein didn’t get it and neither does Omnes.
Of course determinism can be a useful approximation but it is only an approximation.

I repeat, nothing new has been learned about QM since the 20s. It was complete and perfectly consistent both internally and with observation from the beginning.

Quantum mechanics cannot be understood from the outside looking in but only from the inside. The very notion of interpreting QM is specious.

reader Gene Day said...

Science is not “good" at vetting itself, Shodan, because there is no need. The truth is the truth independent of anyone’s opinions as to its value or integrity.

reader RAF III said...

Then you haven't read his book titled (in English) Quantum Philosophy.
The 'determinism' he puts forth is a FAPP version of classical determinism which specifically excludes quantum effects. The value of this notion to physics or to philosophy is questionable.

reader Svik said...

Nice stuff. Wonder if it can compute i^-i-1 without blowing a fuse.

At least is should be a better calc that the miserable stunted android one.

reader Swine flu said...

I've always found it intriguing that among those that keep poking at the foundations of quantum mechanics one finds a surprising smattering of very accomplished physicists. Are they just blind to the fact that there is "nothing to see there"?

reader kashyap vasavada said...

Interesting debate. I agree with Luboš that philosophy does
not contribute directly to the development of physics (theoretical or experimental) and many physicists would just stop at the agreement between equations and experimental data and would not want to look further. However, our body and intuition are classical for sure and experimentalists have to deal with classical equipment. So at present if one wants to understand the meaning of the equations of modern physics, one has to take recourse to philosophy, which dangerously borders with
metaphysics. On the other hand, I have no use for an atheist philosopher!! I would any day invite an atheist theoretical physicist for dinner instead of an atheist philosopher!!

reader Zephir said...

Funnily enough, whole this post is a pure philosophy

reader RAF III said...

Then you haven't read his book titled (in English) Quantum Philosophy. The 'determinism' he puts forth is a FAPP version of classical determinism which specifically excludes quantum effects. The value of this notion to physics or to philosophy is questionable.

reader Shodan said...

Gene, your criticism of Omnes is bizarre. He is, of course, well aware of the fundamental postulates of quantum mechanics, and the inherently probabilistic time-evolution of dynamical variables. His philosophy of quantum mechanics is indeed done from the inside. He frames determinism as an equivalence principle, discusses its emergence from quantum physics, and quantifies this emergence.

Also, your claim the "nothing new has been learned about QM" is either wrong or obviously true, depending on what you mean. If you mean it literally, it is of course wrong. Decoherence is an important insight into the behaviour of quantum systems, and it is a relatively recent development. If you mean "The core postulates of quantum mechanics remain unchanged", that is obviously true. In fact, if anything, the paper is an argument for why the postulates are complete, and don't need changing.

reader Shodan said...

The truth (I.e. The process of postulating principles, formulating hypotheses, exploring consequences and predictions, and submitting reports for peer review) is precisely the vetting process I was referring to.

reader NikFromNYC said...

It seems like physics is the wrong place to seek mysticism of whatever flavor you have a yearning for, given that there are unlimited upper layers of complexity within both mathematics itself and the way the brain works, to afford centuries of advances in understanding and creative invention whereas foundational physics just says you can't probe any deeper than the fuzzy layer we already know of where strings and things likely form particles and atoms and the rest is chemistry and light. And rather than mysticism if all a philosopher seeks is social status and parasitic funding and profit, playing off of meek academic physicists is an easy option for sociopaths who promote little cults by injecting mystery into science in banal ways that reflect a lack of appreciation of the mystery that is already revealed. An analogy exists in the aftermath of the psychedelic 1960s movement in which the cool guys invented Silicon Valley wheras the assholes created postmodern academia in general, to destroy instead of create.

“Now, I beg, apply your mind to true reasoning. For a mightily new thing is labouring to fall upon your ears, a new aspect of creation to show itself. But nothing is there so easy that at first it is not more difficult to believe, nothing again so great or so wonderful that all men do not by degrees abate their wonder at it. In the first place, consider the clear and pure colour of the sky, and all that it contains the travelling constellations, the moon, and the bright light of the dazzling sun; if all these were now revealed for the first time to mortals, if they were thrown before them suddenly without preparation, what more wonderful than these things could be named, or such as the nations would have less dared to believe beforehand? Nothing, as I think: so wondrous this spectacle would have been. Yet think how all are so wearied with satiety of seeing it that no one now thinks it worth while to look up toward the bright vault of heaven! Forbear then to be dismayed by mere novelty.” – Lucretius (On the Nature of Things, ~ 60 BC)

reader Svik said...

Could not get into the cloud version on my phone.

However the w alpha was able the the computation below. Bit it is a cousy calculation as it can save values in memory.

Plus they want 3 bucks for the app.

reader QsaTheory said...

“There exists a passion for comprehension, just as there exists a passion for music. That

passion is rather common in children, but gets lost in most people later on. Without this

passion, there would be neither mathematics nor natural science. Time and again the passion

for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world

rationally, by pure thought, without any empirical foundations—in short, by metaphysics.

I believe that every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist, no matter how pure a

‘positivist’ he may fancy himself. The metaphysicist believes that the logically simple

is also the real. The tamed metaphysicist believes that not all that is logically

simple is embodied in experienced reality, but that the totality of all sensory

experience can be ‘comprehended’ on the basis of a conceptual system built on

premises of great simplicity. The skeptic will say that this is a ‘miracle creed.’ Admittedly

so, but it is a miracle creed which has been borne out to an amazing extent by the development

of science.”

—Einstein, “On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation”, 1950, reprinted in Einstein,

Ideas and Opinions, 1954.


reader Ralph Waldo Paradero said...

Expand your knowledge and learn from a renowned solar company about the cheap solar panels. Visit our site and contact us today!

reader Rehbock said...

Yes. And they may have fine excuses for not accepting that they are wrong. But they are wrong and are correctly called crackpots or idiots.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Biff, philosophy used to mean lots of valuable things and it is still used as a label for conceptual bases of scientific and other disciplines, strategies, and ideas.

But in this article, I mean philosophy as a modern discipline of human knowledge. I would define it as any would-be smart talking about ill-defined things, i.e. as any purely verbal rhetoric similar to your comment that pretends to solve something but is actually meaningless.

Your comment itself is a wonderful example of philosophy and its lack of value.

1. Why would "defining philosophy" would help us to understand the problem in any way? If someone doesn't know what is the "philosophy" I am talking about, my more detailed text will obviously be worthless for him, anyway. Philosophy is clearly meant to be what is being done by people who call themselves philosophers. Some disciplines or institutions are supposed to have some goal and are trying to achieve it in ways that are promising.

But philosophy isn't an example, as this very blog post tries to argue, so that's why there isn't really any human-being-independent definition of philosophy.

2. The scientific method, the principle of abandoning ideas that have been falsified? My political principles? Freedom? Postulates of quantum mechanics? Relativity? The word "principle" may mean many things, there are many important principles, and it's clearly impossible to compare the "breadth"of two principles that are incomparable, that talk about completely different aspects of completely different things, that are totally different when it comes to their being specific or general, and so on.

3. I have no idea what a sane person could mean by "axioms of knowledge" without further explanations. It can mean anything. And indeed, "philosophy" is full of would-be impressive clichés of this kind that don't really mean anything or they mean everything which is effectively the same thing. People spreading the empty clichés and asking these would-be deep but in reality meaningless questions and proposing their idiosyncratic answers pretend to be among the deepest people on the planet except that their dialogues about "who is the broadest" and what are the "axioms of knowledge" resemble pissing contests of boys in the kindergarten. Only rarely, the philosophers are pissing further and broader than the average boys in the kindergarten.

Knowledge comes from many sources and the scientific method is the most systematic way to obtain the knowledge about the questions how things work in their very depth. The detailed descriptions of the scientific method are evolving with time as our knowledge is being expanded - which is a necessary part of the progress - so there are no "completely fixed axioms for everything". The very idea that the "axioms of knowledge", whatever it is exactly supposed to mean, must be completely constant is one of the misconceptions held by philosophers that makes their method unable to make any progress.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Gene, LOL, this exact 1992 paper by Roland Omnes is the paper that made me sure that quantum mechanics is fully understood over 20 years ago. See


I think it's a great paper.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Fortunately, I've forgotten what the pompous term "categorical imperative" means - probably it is some fancy word for a "justification"? ;-)

reader Swine flu said...

Is Tony Leggett, to pick an example, really an idiot and a crackpot? Nice try. But then, doing research on the foundations of quantum mechanics because one doesn't feel entirely at peace with it and not accepting that one may be wrong are not the same thing, so we may not be talking about the same set of people. Or are we?

reader MarkusM said...

The world consists of quantum fields! There has been nothing substantially added to this understanding since Feynman, etc.
Everyone who wants to know more, should shut up, sit down, learn quantum field theory and calculate ! Period.

reader Eugene S said...

Wonderful quote from Einstein.

reader eagleeyedental said...

Do you know how many Mines of Coal In India

reader RAF III said...

I think that Gene's reaction is quite understandable and not at all bizarre.
I would agree that Omnes has a fine understanding of quantum mechanics, but he also has a tendency to place undue emphasis on ideas that are important only to philosophers or historians.
Omnes doesn't really have a philosophy of quantum mechanics. He simply writes about quantum mechanics in terms that appeal to philosophers and seem to address their 'concerns'.

reader Peter F. said...

Completely agree! :-)

reader Peter F. said...

I probably would not like your food anyway so I won't feel rejected and stay dejected for very long. ;-(
Sorry to offer you the sour grapes! ;-)
However, IMO, "there are philosophizers and then there are philosophizers". %-}

reader Peter F. said...

We all already know you are not against 'thinking as such'! :-D

reader lukelea said...

Now that we have that cleared up!

reader lukelea said...

The problem here (I think?) is that Einstein didn't follow his own Machian philosophy in the case of quantum mechanics. He thought there must be something real (realer?) behind the observations, which is the very point that Lubos is writing about, isn't he? Not only is there nothing real behind these observable events, it can be proved there is nothing real behind them.

The classical mind rebels at the counter-intuitive craziness of quantum mechanics. And for very natural reasons: millions of years of human evolution. You have to be specially trained not to do it. And even then you might not be able to keep it up into old age. Look at Steven Weinberg for example.

I hope I have this right.

reader Peter F. said...

It is highly likely that their brain stem and limbic system circuits are storing CURSES (~Conditioned-in Unconsciously Reverberating Stressors {specifically SHI-type such} Effecting Symptoms) and that these conditioned-in states are overpowering their thinking caps capacity for rational thinking.

The same brain regions/circuits partly function in a way remotely similar to capacitors on computer motherboards except that what is all too commonly stored and at the same time as if 'demanding' to be automatically safely sequestered - or even ambiadvantageously adapted in the AEVASIVE ways typical of our the human lineage - in people generally (i.e. not just in brains of crackpots and idiots) are various (with commensurate commonness ended up under) Specific/synaptic Hibernation" {meant to be instructively contrasted with states of 'general hibernation' - i.e. chiefly hibernation and aestivation} Imploring Threats.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

"One copy of you in one universe
gets one result and another copy of you in another universe gets another

If that other copy of me is Charge Parity symmetric with me, he will get the same result living in that mirror universe.
So an entangled anti-material copy of me could be reality even at a long distance and living in a universe far away.

reader Shodan said...

Well having a fine understanding of quantum mechanics but putting undue emphasis on some ideas is quite different from writing "seriously wrong" "pure nonsense", so I maintain my confusion.

Omnes's work on the interpretation of quantum mechanics will probably not have any major impact on research in the physics community, so it is not important in that regard. But this does not mean it isn't a valuable or worthwhile endeavor. It is my opinion that one of the biggest barriers to a public understanding of quantum mechanics is understanding the interface between the quantum and classical world, and how classical sensibilities can be recovered in the limit of the quantum framework.

You say "Omnes doesn't really have a philosophy of quantum mechanics". If you mean he doesn't tender any new ontology, you are right. But he does tender an exploration of the logic behind quantum mechanics, and an exploration of the divide between classical and quantum physics. Restricting philosophy to ontology would be a little unfair.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

It is NOT Mysticism, if we use our imagination to see the big bang process parallel with the laboratory process.

As I wrote before but was trashed to Tavrik:

Dear Tavrik, I think there are no dumb questions in general or even if they express something incomprehensible.
Yes in my architect view, quantum mechanics describes at the surface a sub quantum mechanical world which is probably deeply based on encoded vacuum energy oscillations and the real FORM operation off real stringy particles, able to change form into vacuum Higgs field or other particles. However all motion and form coding is instant entangled with Charge Parity symmetric mirror Universes, (at long distance). All are originated from one big bang as the centre of a raspberry shaped multiverse wit an even number of mirror universes. So God plays dice with an even number of instant entangled pinball machines each called a universe. ( material or anti-material)

reader NikFromNYC said...

“They were actually deceptive. If they had not been so obscure and so confusing, this kind of philosophy would not have held its own very long. But most men revere words that they can not understand and consider a writer whom they can understand to be superficial. That is a touching sign of modesty.” – Albert Einstein on the works of Aristotle (In Letters to Solovine)

reader kashyap vasavada said...

@Leo Vuyk : You may have a point, but all I was pointing out was that, if you are looking for meaning of QM, then
there are these mysteries (unresolved issues over which there is no consensus in spite of 90 years’ debate).These are
not settled in spite of unbelievable agreement between theoretical calculations and experimental
results. The reason I brought up Sean Carroll’s belief in multi world interpretation was that he does attack religion and metaphysics. Yet he
believes in MWI which appears to me as completely metaphysical and outside the
usual logic of physics at this time. Whether it would be ultimately right or wrong is not the issue.

reader RAF III said...

I wrote 'undue emphasis on ideas that are important only to philosophers or historians'. In the abstract that Gene read the idea was 'determinism' and 'in particular how and when determinism is valid'. As Lubos wrote above 'Determinism is sometimes valid in the sense that - almost exact - claims equivalent to those that would follow from deterministic theories may be derived from quantum mechanics, too. They only cover a small subset of quantities in some limiting situations...'. Emphasizing such a concept in such a context is very misleading and surely comes close to being 'seriously wrong' and 'pure nonsense'. Would you look for some rare instance of combustion in which the idea of phlogiston works almost exactly? And having found one, would you declare that phlogistonic sensibilities had been recovered? Would this improve public understanding?
What you see as 'an exploration of the logic behind quantum mechanics' is, to me, simply a description of quantum mechanics. The differences between classical and quantum physics have been properly addressed by many people (e.g. - the Ehrenfests) since the advent of quantum mechanics without any increase in public understanding.
There can be no interface between the quantum and the classical world because there is no classical world. Restricting philosophy to a false ontology is more than a little unfair.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

Right or wrong: In the lab all ( both) possible outcomes are realized, dead cats or alive, up and down etc. But in CP(T) symmetric MWI the result is the same!!

reader Shodan said...

You are now introducing undue emphasis yourself. Determinism is one part of the larger discussion in the paper. But even if undue emphasis to determinism was given in the paper, it would not even be close to being "pure nonsense" or "seriously wrong".

Also, Omnes is not at all misleading. He is very precise and about what he means by determinism and its limitations. To suggest he is attempting some sort of bait and switch is unfair to him.

Yes, it is ultimately a description of quantum mechanics. That is not at all a criticism of the paper. That you did not find the paper, subjectively speaking interesting or useful does not mean other people didn't. I personally found the concept of "histories" to be a useful framing device for quantum mechanics.

reader Gordon said...

One of the most devastating reviews of a philosophical books was Peter Medawar's review of Teilhard de Chardin's (religious mystic and coiner of such words as "the noosphere" and beloved by the deluded)book, "The Phenomenon of Man"----

"Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its
author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before
deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself."

reader Swine flu said...

Just how old an old age are we talking about? I recall a PRL by Weinberg messing with quantum mechanics back around 1989, when he was only in his mid to late 50's. It was probably about nonlinearities rather than measurement or other interepretation issues, but still.

reader RAF III said...

You are engaging in bullshit, bluster, and misdirection.
I referred to several sentences in the abstract only, not to the paper itself or it's contents. Having read his papers and books I know what Omnes means by determinism, but someone reading only the abstract would not.
I did not suggest that he was attempting some sort of bait and switch - you are suggesting that I did.
I was not criticizing the paper - I was criticizing your interpretation of the paper.
I did not say that I 'did not find the paper, subjectively speaking interesting or useful' - you said that.
The contents of the paper are completely irrelevant to our discussion as are your feelings about them. If you 'personally found the concept of "histories" to be a useful framing device for quantum mechanics' (whatever the hell that means), so what?
Since you are unable or unwilling to respond to what I actually wrote I declare this correspondence closed.

reader Yo yo said...

Lubos, this is interesting about the BICEP2 results:


reader Leo Vuyk said...

A supersymmetric MWI with (CP(T) symmetry between the distant universes is indeed outside the usual logic at physics at this time. However in no time it could be inside the logic after 90 years of debate,

reader Hacienda said...

Lubos, I agree with you that there is a lot of dumb philosopher comments about physics.

Not sure I agree that philosophers have retarded physics in anyway.

But let's go the other direction. How many dumb comments about life and philosophy have been made by physicists?

Eg. Newton, the virgin? What possible value does he have from a philosophical perspective.

reader RAF III said...

I'm sure that there is a great deal that you find incoherent since you consistently misread every word put before you.
This is the second and last time I'll correct your misapprehensions.
I said that Gene's reaction, having read only the abstract, was understandable, not reasonable.
I did back it up - http://motls.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/philosophy-became-euphemism-for.html#comment-1453956789, and you did not respond to any of the substance.
You really must look up the meaning of 'precise'.
Oops, I lost the phrase 'engaging in bullshit bluster and misdirection'. Did you take it?
I referred only to the abstract, not to the contents of the paper.
You do have interpretations of the paper - 1)'he does tender an exploration of the logic behind quantum mechanics, and an exploration of the divide between classical and quantum physics' - 2)'I personally found the concept of "histories" to be a useful framing device for quantum mechanics'
I said that emphasizing 'determinism' in the context of quantum mechanics and in a short abstract was misleading, and comes close to being 'seriously wrong' and 'pure nonsense' - nothing more.
I said that Omnes 'has a tendency to place undue emphasis on ideas that are important only to philosophers or historians' - you somehow inferred that that meant 'the paper being interesting only to philosophers and historians'( it doesn't).
You say that I '*did* imply the paper was deficient in one way or another' - In what way? Try to be precise.
You say that - 'Now, I would hazard a guess, after thinking about it for a while, that gene's reaction was due to the poor state of affairs when it comes to "interpretations". There is indeed a lot of "pure nonsense", and a heuristic principle like "treat all discussions on interpretation as pure nonsense" is probably reliable most of the time. But this does not imply Omnes's work was in any way illegitimate, uninteresting, or nonsensical.'; here you are just making shit up, imputing it to someone else, and arguing against him, just as you have done with me.
And look up the meaning of the word 'precise'.
Now, go away kid, you bother me.

reader QsaTheory said...

And with his philosophical objection (of course he was wrong) he came up with the entanglement issue(EPR), which is now a sub-field on its own. Science also works in mysterious ways!

I don't think physicists really care about classical vs non-classical, I think the issue is how comfortable are they about what the answers are. And one of the golden rule is that "the majority has to accept it" to be scientifically certified. So as long as NO majority is available as in QG and QM foundation, naturally controversy will ensue embroiling philosophers and physicists with their own "philosophies".

reader Shodan said...

You're simply repeating the same wrong things you have said previously. It's incredibly peculiar, and it forces me to repeat myself.

You said Omnes emphasises determinism, to an extent approaching "seriously wrong" and "pure nonsense". That is wrong. Instead, he reports "A theory of phenomena, viz., the classically meaningful properties of a macroscopic system." and shows "in particular where and when determinism is valid". This is almost the exact opposite of affording undue emphasis to determinism approaching pure nonsense. Instead, it is a precise discussion of where and when determinism can be asserted.

You said Omnes was being misleading in his mention of determinism. That is wrong. He carefully defines what he means by classical motion, and it is not at all a contrived or esoteric definition. Would you consider a statement like "It shows where and when classical mechanics is valid" to be misleading because, technically speaking, classical mechanics is always only approximately true?

You said Omnes 'has a tendency to place undue emphasis on ideas that are important only to philosophers or historians' and you also said he 'writes about quantum mechanics in terms that appeal to philosophers', in the context of a discussion about a paper Omnes wrote, and how an evaluation of the article as "pure nonsense" is understandable. My inference was not at all contrived.

You want me to go away? Here's all you have to do: Explicitly contradict my inferences, and say clear that you do not, in fact, find the paper or the abstract unreasonable, misleading, nonsensical, uninteresting to physicists, or in any way as silly as attempting to crowbar phlogiston theory into thermodynamics.

Say the paper is fine. Say that it is a reasonable paper, and not only will I go away. I will go away in shame, knowing I have misinterpreted you.

reader RAF III said...

This has been brought to you by -
The Shodan Center For Kids Who Can't Philosomatize Good And Want To Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too

p.s. - Omnes paper is eminently reasonable. Now fuck off. In shame. And grow up.

reader Shodan said...

I will indeed fuck off in shame. Boy do I need to grow up. All this time I though I was arguing with a fuckwit retard suffering from arrested development who thought Omnes's paper warranted an analysis with phlogiston theory. Boy was I mistaken.

reader juandoe said...

Sorry for posting this here, but Lubos, do you want to win 10,000 dollars? Look!: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/06/25/want-to-disprove-man-made-climate-change-a-scientist-will-give-you-10000-if-you-can/comment-page-3/

This is a not a rhetorical question, I am dead serious since I truly support your views on global warming.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks, in some Czech media, this is actually the #1 news in the world. I find it utterly silly and unworthy a full-fledged comment on a blog.

Such prizes were announced on both sides, yet it is utterly obvious to every sane person that they're just empty gestures and no money will ever be paid by either side because no one on the other side will ever satisfy the author of the challenge - on either side.

reader Luboš Motl said...

I am uncertain whom your question is being addressed.

If it is addressed to me, I have obviously never said that "the classical limit doesn't exist". Most quantum theories have a classical (hbar to 0) limit. Some quantum theories have many classical limits - various quantities may be scaled differently with hbar.

What I also said is that the limit by itself is always a wrong theory of all natural phenomena.

But the limit as a theory involves many limits as results of some calculations and those surely carry some information about the right, quantum theory, so they obviously constrain its identity.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear biff, your latest comment looks almost OK with me - I wouldn't be quite sure what we disagree about if I only read that comment.

Perhaps your "rejection of rationalism" would be a hint. ;-)

The ultimate reason why I am disturbed when I see people self-confidently rejecting rationalism - I think you mean rational thinking - is that I realize it is never just their private things. Lots of people, including geniuses, have suffered because they were surrounded by folks who were doing their best to impose their irrationality on the rest of the world.

reader Rehbock said...

Well he believes there is a quantum measurement problem. This is because he believes that there is an objective collapse of the wave function.
All of that is ... Well probably I don't want to call a Nobel prize winner a crackpot but he is one who insists on an objective reality when the evidence requires subjective reality.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Many stupid things.

Roughly speaking:

The ingenious insights were found by Newton the physicist. The idiocies were invented by Newton the philosopher.

reader lukelea said...

Didn't Lubos make some referene to Weinberg's possible senility on this very issue within the last couple of years?

reader Don said...

All I can say about this post and about the comments is this:


reader Leo Vuyk said...

The ultimate solution after 90 years of debate: Matt Strassler's: "I am dealing with the challenges of being in a quantum superposition"

IMHO In a super ( CP(t) symmetrical raspberry Multiverse all possible outcomes of superposition collapes are in each (anti-) copy universe the same.

So we don't live in a continuos splitting- and soap bubbeling multiverse, but we are a part of the whole raspberry set of universes.

See: "Democratic Free Will in the Instant Entangled Multiverse". http://vixra.org/abs/1401.0071

reader Alice Cheshire said...

You are so correct. This is just a "dog and pony" show designed to get people to think science actually cares about evidence, not politics. No one can win because the definition of global warming includes that it is true no matter what anyone says, basically. There will always be some "physics equation" that proves the entire theory irrespective of the fact that the theory is based on thousands of calculations involving many physics equations which may or may not actually lead to the conclusion. It is in no way about science whatsoever now. No matter what the smiling man in the suit says.

reader Swine flu said...

My point was that Weinberg was 56 in 1989, so "senility" is not a very suitable label/explanation of his interests in this area, since they are not of such recent vintage.

reader Swine flu said...

I thought his was an example of proper scientific research.

He proposed an idea and derived an inequality based on it. It got checked experimentally, with his hypothesis ruled out in favor of conventional quantum mechanics. As long as he accepted the result, all is well.

What worries me is that in trying to stop all the cranks, which are certainly very numerous, one can become so dogmatic as to declare the subject tiself an exclusive province of crackpots. And that's where I have a problem - I think people of Leggett's caliber very much do have the "right" to question everything they feel deserves questioning, provided they do proper research and don't limit themselves to "philosophical" musings.

reader Rehbock said...

We converge that crackpot doesn't apply to those who question. It does apply to those who refuse to see answers nature has given.
I think that nature has convincingly excluded Carroll among the smattering of "accomplished" you spoke of. But it is likely true that more than a smattering of accomplished physicists will prove again and again that they should have read TRF before embarking on that quest :-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly, you said it even more clearly!

reader Hacienda said...

Well said. But I don't see philosophy being ludicrous as a negative thing about philosophy. Anymore than someone who spends all their time listening to frogs, birds, rivers etc.

Wittgenstein advocated nuclear annihilation, but he did so with a sense a grievance. Because, he was a fanatic at heart, masquerading as a philosopher.

People's philosophical statements reveals things about them. There's got to be some value in that.

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