Wednesday, August 15, 2018 ... /////

Deep thinkers build conjectures upon conjectures upon 5+ more floors

Among the world's string theorists, Sheldon Cooper has given the most accurate evaluation (as far as I can say) of the critics of string theory:

While I have no respect for Leslie [Winkle, a subpar scientist designed to resemble a hybrid of Sabine Hossenfelder and Lee Smolin] as a scientist or a human being for that matter we have to concede her undeniable expertise in the interrelated fields of promiscuity and general sluttiness.
Not even Edward Witten has ever put it this crisply. Winkle has rightfully thanked Sheldon for that praise. Well, I also don't have any respect for the string theory haters as scientists or human beings, for that matter. But I am regularly reminded that the disagreement is much deeper than different opinions about some technical questions. It's a disagreement about the basic ethical and value system.

Many stupid things have been written by journalists and the string theory haters – the difference between these two groups is often tiny – as reactions to the controversies among string theorists concerning the cosmological constant or quintessence and most of these stupid proclamations have been discussed dozens of times on this blog and it's boring to discuss the same stupidities all the time.

But there's one relatively new slogan that has apparently become popular among these individuals. Not Even Wrong, a leading website of the crackpots, has released its 10460th rant
Theorists with a Swamp, not a Theory
Here you have the slogan in four variations:
Will Kinney: The landscape is a conjecture. The “swampland” is a conjecture built on a conjecture.

Sabine Hossenfelder: The landscape itself is already a conjecture build [sic] on a conjecture, the latter being strings to begin with. So: conjecture strings, then conjecture the landscape (so you don’t have to admit the theory isn’t unique), then conjecture the swampland because it’s still not working.

Lars: “It’s conjectures all the way down.” Conjecture built on guess / In turn that’s built on hunch / The latter really rests / On inference a bunch

Peter Woit: The problem is that you don’t know what the relevant string theory equations are. So, this is a conjecture about a conjecture: / First conjecture: There is a well-defined theory satisfying a certain list of properties. / Second conjecture: The equations of this unknown theory do or don’t have certain specific properties.
The sudden explosion of this meme shows many things. The first thing is that they are just talking heads who mindlessly parrots slogans they just heard from other members of that echo chamber. But the content of the slogan is more damning.

You know: All of these individuals clearly have a severe psychological problem with uncertainty and the mental constructions building on uncertain assumptions. But this building upon uncertain starting points is what science is all about! And the more advanced, the deeper the science – and especially modern theoretical physics – is, the higher number of floors built on each other the skyscraper of knowledge has.

Scientists try to connect the bricks as tightly as they can – and they wrestle with the uncertainty as much as possible. But the fact is that it's almost never possible to eliminate at least some uncertainty about important physical questions. Does it mean that physicists should give up?

This qualitative comment isn't a lesson I converged to before I was given a PhD or something like that. The excitement about the ability to build very tall skyscrapers from the metaphorical (intellectual) bricks was something that I already experienced when I was 3 years old – and even more so when I was an older kid.

For creative children. Czech product. Designed with the help of kids. "Finally we can build a proper castle, what do you say, bro?"

The people who aren't thrilled with this construction of tall buildings made out of uncertain ideas are simply not curious people. They're closer to pigs than to theoretical physicists. But the likes of Peter Woit not only fail to be thrilled. They are openly – and, as you can check, hysterically – hostile towards these key drivers of all of modern science – the curiosity and the desire to have a chance to see the grand structures of ideas underlying the Universe in their full glory, with their actual complex relationships. So they're on the opposite side from the pigs than the theoretical physicists. What is the proper name of the creatures whose coordinates may be written as$\vec x_{\rm Šmoits} = 2 \vec x_{\rm Pig} - \vec x_{\text{theoretical physicist}}?$ Oh, I see. The name of the anti theoretical physicists relatively to the pigs at the origin is Šmoits! But seriously, this is something so essential that I could never accept that, tolerate the environment of immoral, intellectually dead, uncurious, arrogant morons such as Woit and Hossenfelder. A nation where this kind of creatures is allowed to influence the public discourse vis-a-vis science is fudged up and deserves to go extinct as soon as possible.

You know, I only "discovered" Richard Feynman when I was 17 or so. But these basic things as the ability to "live with the uncertainty" and "not giving up the desire to figure things out because of the uncertainty" was something much older, as I mentioned. But Feynman has described a true scientist's relationship to the doubts and uncertainty in the BBC program:
I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things. But I am not absolutely sure of anything. And there are many things I know nothing about. But I don't have to know any answers. I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious Universe without having any purpose – which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn't frighten me.
Amen to that. Feynman was really comparing his, scientist's, view on uncertainty with the attitude of non-scientists such as the religious people. You can't really be a scientist if you have a serious psychological problem with uncertainty, doubt, and not knowing things. You can't really do theoretical physics if you find it absurd or impossible to build additional floors on top of assumptions that aren't quite certain – because, as Feynman mentioned, nothing is really quite certain in natural science.

And the non-scientists who believe that they may be certain about something are almost universally wrong. They just "totally" believe in wrong things about Nature. Science is the only reliable method to converge towards the most accurate answers but it still can't eliminate the uncertainty altogether. In fact, the science's admission that it doesn't eliminate the uncertainty about all big questions – a humility of the scientific method, you might say – is one of the key reasons why science works so much better than the alternative, "pompous" methods to find the truth (such as the organized religions).

So the existence of the huge number of de Sitter vacua wasn't ever quite certain and it is still not certain. But people had to build on it, elaborate on the assumptions, try to get as far as they can, find the complicated chains of implications that are nevertheless almost certain. The same holds for other scenarios that are reasonably possible such as the Vafa Team's quintessence picture. Science simply is about the constant formulation of conjectures and hypotheses – and conjectures based upon conjectures; conjectures based upon conjectures based upon conjectures (the Šmoits couldn't even envision such a complicated thing but the actual theoretical physicists have to deal with constructions of this sort and even analogous constructions with 5+ floors – and not only talk about these chains).

If you have a problem with the absence of perfect certainty, and you just can't build new ideas in such a situation, if you can't focus on thinking what some (uncertain) assumptions, hypotheses, conjectures, or axioms imply, it simply means that you can't be a theoretical physicist. Every person who has this psychological problem with building on uncertain axioms but who pretends to be a scientist is a 100% fraud and every person who believes this fraudster's claim that she is a scientist is a complete moroness. (I introduced some affirmative action so that the [never] fudged up feminists can't complain.) They totally suck as thinkers. And if you start to brag about this fatal intellectual defect of yours, others in your environment should appreciate that you're as far from a pig as theoretical physicists are – but you're on the opposite side of the pig than the theoretical physicists. Given these assumptions, you're a Šmoit, a pile of junk.

You need to be treated as junk, otherwise there is something profoundly wrong about the whole society that harbors this junk.