Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Coincidences, naturalness, and Epstein's death

The circumstances of Jeffrey Epstein's death seem to be a drastic but wonderful metaphor for naturalness in physics: those who say "there is nothing to see here" in the irregularities plaguing Epstein's jail seem to be similar to those who say "there is nothing to see here" when it comes to fine-tuning or unlikely choices of parameters in particle physics.

As far as I can say, a rational person who thinks about these Epstein events proceeds as follows:
  • an invention of rough hypotheses or classes of hypotheses
  • usage of known or almost known facts to adjust the probabilities of each hypothesis
It's called logical or Bayesian inference! That's a pretty much rigorous approach justified by basic probability calculus – which is just a continuous generalization of mathematical logic. The opponents of this method seem to prefer a different Al Gore rhythm:
  • choose the winning explanation at the very beginning, according to some very simple e.g. ideological criteria or according to your own interests; typically, the winning explanation is the most politically correct one
  • rationalize the choice by saying that all other possible explanations are hoaxes, conspiracy theories, "not even wrong" theories that are simultaneously unfalsifiable and already falsified, and by screaming at, accusing, and insulting those who argue that their other choices seem more likely – often those who do some really fine research
Which of the approaches is more promising as a path towards the truth? Which is the more honest one? These are rhetorical questions – of course Bayesian inference is the promising and ethical approach while the other one is a sign of stupidity or dishonesty. I am just listing the "second approach" to emphasize that some people are just dumb or dishonest – while they or others often fail to appreciate this stupidity or dishonesty.

OK, the basic possible explanations of the reported death seem to be the following:
  1. Epstein committed suicide and all the "awkward coincidences" are really just coincidences that don't mean anything
  2. Epstein committed suicide and someone helped to enable this act, perhaps because of compassion
  3. Epstein was killed by somebody and it's accidentally hard to determine who was the killer because the cameras etc. failed to do their job
  4. Epstein was killed by somebody who took care of details and most of these coincidences are issues that the killer had to take care of
  5. Epstein is alive – he was probably transferred somewhere and will be allowed a plastic surgery and new identity
I have ordered the stories in a certain way – perhaps from the most "politically correct" to the most "conspiracy theory-like" explanations. I had to order them in some way. Also, some completely different explanation could be completely missing in my list – but at some level, it should be possible to group the explanations to boxes according to Yes/No answers to well-defined questions which means that there is a semi-reliable way to make sure that you won't miss any option.

OK, I think that there are lots of politically correct, basically brainwashed and brain-dead, people who imagine a similar list, order it similarly, and pick the first choice – the most politically correct choice – because it's what makes them feel good, obedient, and it's right according to them. They may have been trained to think that it's ethical if not morally superior to believe the first explanation according to a similar ordering.

And then there is the rest of us, the rational people who realize that the most politically correct explanation is often false and one should treat the explanations fairly and impartially, regardless of whether they sound politically correct or convenient for certain people etc.

In the absence of special data and circumstances, the rational people among us also favor the "least conspirational" explanation – well, the most likely one. However, it isn't necessarily the "most politically correct" one in general. Also, the fact that we try to favor the "most likely" explanation is a tautology – it's the task we are solving from the beginning.

But in this case, and many others, there are lots of special facts that seem to matter and affect the probabilities. In this case, and quite generally, they just make the "conspiracy-like explanations" more likely. (A much more detailed analysis should be written to clarify which hypotheses are strengthened by which special circumstances.) In this Epstein story, they are e.g. the following:
  1. Epstein was on suicide watch just three weeks ago but he was taken from the suicide watch days before he was found dead
  2. Epstein has previously claimed that someone tried to kill him in jail
  3. the cameras that could watch him were looking the other way for a very long time – a fact that may clearly be counted as a case of malfunctioning camera (and Polymath is just batšit crazy when he claims that a camera looking the other way, away from Epstein, for hours (?) is not malfunctioning)
  4. Epstein's cellmate was transferred hours before Epstein's death (a possible witness)
  5. the cellmate was taken out from a cell that has a bunk bed (double decker) which is probably needed for a suicide claim (but the very presence of a bunk bed increases the probability of the suicide option 1, too)
  6. he should have been checked every 30 minutes but around the death, the protocol was violated for hours
  7. one of the two relevant guards wasn't a corrections officer but a more unrelated employee
  8. he was claimed to hang himself using bed sheets but the sheets should have been made of paper and the bed frame was unmovable while the room was 8-9+ feet high
  9. a new huge batch of documents about the ring was released by court a day before his death
  10. the number of people who had the motive to kill Epstein was huge – and their combined power is even greater because they were usually rich and high-profile people (note that I don't make any claim about whether the potential killer was left-wing or right-wing – people in both camps speculate but the left-wing killers seem more likely because they were more connected with Epstein and apparently more sinful)
And I am pretty much certain that this list is incomplete, even when it comes to coincidences that have really shocked me. I tried to add some hyperlinks (sources) to the list above but there's no objective way to determine what is the "best" source. Most of these things simply look credible. Some of them really look implicitly "proven". If there were a good camera recording of his suicide, we would have probably learned about it, right?

So I think it's just OK to list similar coincidences even without other "sources". In my case, they are a result of my research and careful curation of sources. I am proud of offering occasional investigative stories that are both more accurate and more early than elsewhere. So if someone suggests that I should be just a follower who copies some MSNBC articles, I feel incredibly insulted because TRF is obviously better, more accurate, and more groundbreaking than the MSNBC. If you really disagree with such a claim, then it would be sensible for you to avoid my website altogether, wouldn't it?

At any rate, there is a very large number of "coincidences" that are generally increasing the probability of the more "conspiracy-like" explanations. Everyone who doesn't acknowledge this fact is a brainwashed or brain-dead irrational moron, a stupid sheep that might be used for wool but not for thinking. The event may still turn out to be a suicide and the coincidences may be just coincidences. But even if that is the case, it will still be true that the people who accept this conclusion immediately are either stupid or dishonest – or perhaps even involved in the plan.

A broken clock is correct twice a day. A wrong reasoning may sometimes end up with a conclusion that happens to be right, too. But even when it is so, we can still analyze how the reasoning was made and if it is demonstrably fallacious or stupid, it can be demonstrated that it is fallacious or stupid – and that the person reasoning in this way is analogous to the broken clock.

Now the analogy. You have the people who won't ever acknowledge any arguments involving fine-tuning or naturalness or the preference for theories that just look more solid, less contrived etc. Like in the Epstein case, these people find their winning explanation in advance, i.e. by ignoring all the relevant detailed evidence that may be collected later. And then they just rationalize this explanation and spit on the alternatives and everyone who "dares" to defend them.

So these people may decide that the best theory is a "quantum field theory with the smallest number of component fields" – their form of Occam's razor. Supergravity or string theory "add fields", according to their counting, so they are less compatible with this version of Occam's razor, and therefore they eliminate these theories even though they don't have any negative evidence.

But competent physicists don't think like that. The claim that a "field theory with the smallest number of fields is most likely" is just a hypothesis and there is an extremely strong body of evidence – both anecdotal empirical evidence and theoretical evidence in the form of incomplete but nearly mathematical proofs – that this assumption is incorrect. Competent physicists really know that the relevant realization of Occam's razor is different and when some multiplets (or supermultiplets) of fields are guaranteed to exist by a symmetry principle or another qualitative principle, they cannot be counted as a disadvantage of the theory that makes them unlikely, despite the fact that the number of component fields may grow very high.

So once again, competent physicists are actually doing something that is analogous to the rational people who care about the peculiarities involving Epstein's guards, documents, camera, and cell maintenance. They just work with the evidence in a nontrivial way – with lots of evidence. The rational usage changes the odds of various theories and even classes of theories. In particular, people have learned that theories with greater numbers of component fields implied by powerful enough symmetry principles (or similar principles) seem like the more natural, default, apparently more likely hypothesis than the naive theory with the smallest number of component fields.

Both in the case of particle physics and Epstein's death, there simply exist two groups of people. One of them prefers an impartial treatment of the hypothesis and relentless, rigorous work with the detailed evidence and its ramifications; and the people who just prefer naively simple explanations picked by some stupid – and in generality, clearly incorrect – criteria followed by a repetitive rationalization and frantic but content-free attacks against everyone who disagrees with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment