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Massimo Pigliucci on string theorists vs. “Popperazi”

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“Popperazi” = falsifiability enthusiasts, a la Karl Popper

Here.

When George Ellis and Joe Silk wrote an op-ed in the prestigious Nature magazine, dramatically entitled “Defend the integrity of physics,” cosmologist Sean Carroll responded via Twitter (not exactly a prestigious scientific journal, but much more effective in public discourse) with, and I quote: “My real problem with the falsifiability police is: we don’t get to demand ahead of time what kind of theory correctly describes the world.” The “falsifiability police”? Wow.

It’s how he sees them, Massimo, and whatever appears to be true to him is true.

The focus, of course, is superstring theory and related concepts (such as that of a multiverse), which appear to be dominant in the fundamental physics and cosmology communities at the moment, and yet have gathered an increasingly vociferous number of critics who allege that these mathematical constructs are just that: math (possibly even useful math), but not science. More.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG Pass the cheez zizzles this way, please, and someone go for more pop.

See also: Not only is earth one nice planet among many, but our entire universe is lost in a crowd

and

The multiverse: Where everything turns out to be true, except philosophy and religion

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2 Replies to “Massimo Pigliucci on string theorists vs. “Popperazi”

  1. 1
    bornagain says:

    String theory is built on the assumption that there should be some overarching unity to mathematics. Specifically it is built on the assumption that the mathematics of General Relativity and the mathematics Quantum Mechanics should be able to be ‘unified’ into a single mathematical ‘theory of everything’ that describes the entire universe:

    String theory – Fundamentals
    In the twentieth century, two theoretical frameworks emerged for formulating the laws of physics. One of these frameworks was Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, a theory that explains the force of gravity and the structure of space and time. The other was quantum mechanics, a radically different formalism for describing physical phenomena using probability. By the late 1970s, these two frameworks had proven to be sufficient to explain most of the observed features of the universe,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_theory#Fundamentals

    For atheistic materialists/naturalists, there are two deep flaws with the assumption that General Relativity and the ‘radically different formalism’ of Quantum Mechanics can be unified into a single mathematical theory.
    The first deep flaw in this assumption is that Godel has proven that mathematics is fundamentally ‘incomplete’.
    Godel proved that, if numbers are included, there cannot be a ‘complete’ mathematical theory of everything.

    “Clearly then no scientific cosmology, which of necessity must be highly mathematical, can have its proof of consistency within itself as far as mathematics go. In absence of such consistency, all mathematical models, all theories of elementary particles, including the theory of quarks and gluons…fall inherently short of being that theory which shows in virtue of its a priori truth that the world can only be what it is and nothing else. This is true even if the theory happened to account for perfect accuracy for all phenomena of the physical world known at a particular time.”
    Stanley Jaki – Cosmos and Creator – 1980, pg. 49

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    Taking God Out of the Equation – Biblical Worldview – by Ron Tagliapietra – January 1, 2012
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) proved that no logical systems (if they include the counting numbers) can have all three of the following properties.
    1. Validity … all conclusions are reached by valid reasoning.
    2. Consistency … no conclusions contradict any other conclusions.
    3. Completeness … all statements made in the system are either true or false.
    The details filled a book, but the basic concept was simple and elegant. He (Godel) summed it up this way: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove.” For this reason, his proof is also called the Incompleteness Theorem.
    Kurt Gödel had dropped a bomb on the foundations of mathematics. Math could not play the role of God as infinite and autonomous. It was shocking, though, that logic could prove that mathematics could not be its own ultimate foundation.
    http://www.answersingenesis.or...../equation#

    Even Hawking himself at one time admitted, and apparently subsequently forgot, that there cannot be a ‘complete’ mathematical theory of everything,

    The nature and significance of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems – Princeton – 2006
    Excerpt: ,,Stephen Hawking and Freeman Dyson, among others, have come to the conclusion that Gödel’s theorem implies that there can’t be a (mathematical) Theory of Everything.,,
    http://math.stanford.edu/~fefe.....el-IAS.pdf

    Weinberg, who is an atheist, and although he was not specifically commenting on the incompleteness of mathematics, none-the-less Weinberg succinctly puts the mathematical dilemma that incompleteness presents to atheists as such:

    “I don’t think one should underestimate the fix we are in. That in the end we will not be able to explain the world. That we will have some set of laws of nature (that) we will not be able to derive them on the grounds simply of mathematical consistency. Because we can already think of mathematically consistent laws that don’t describe the world as we know it. And we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?’. And I don’t see any way out of that.
    Steven Weinberg – as stated to Richard Dawkins at the 8:15 minute mark of the following video
    Leonard Susskind – Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg – 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant points to intelligent design – video
    https://youtu.be/z4E_bT4ecgk?t=495

    In fact, according to Chaitin, there are an infinite number of true mathematical theorems that exist that cannot be proved from any finite system of axioms.

    The Limits Of Reason – Gregory Chaitin – 2006
    Excerpt: Unlike Gödel’s approach, mine is based on measuring information and showing that some mathematical facts cannot be compressed into a theory because they are too complicated. This new approach suggests that what Gödel discovered was just the tip of the iceberg: an infinite number of true mathematical theorems exist that cannot be proved from any finite system of axioms.
    http://www.umcs.maine.edu/~chaitin/sciamer3.pdf

    As well, in support of mathematical incompleteness and also in support of the contention that general relativity and quantum theory are fundamentally mathematically incompatible from each other, general relativity and quantum theory are formulated in two very different mathematical languages

    Shape from Sound: Toward New Tools for Quantum Gravity – 2013
    Excerpt: To unify general relativity and quantum theory is hard in part because they are formulated in two very different mathematical languages, differential geometry and functional analysis.,,,
    http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v110/i12/e121301

    I think that Dr. Gordon has done a beautiful job in the following article of clearly elucidating the profound dilemma that atheists are facing in regards to ever describing the universe purely in terms of a single mathematical theory of everything:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.
    Nowhere is this destructive consequence more evident than in the machinations of multiverse cosmology to “explain” cosmological fine-tuning. Cosmic inflation is invoked to “explain” why our universe is so flat and its background radiation so uniform. All possible solutions of string theory are invoked to “explain” the incredible fine-tuning of the cosmological constant. But the evidence for cosmic inflation is both thin and equivocal; the evidence for string theory and its extension, M-theory, is nonexistent; and the idea that conjoining them demonstrates that we live in a multiverse of bubble universes with different laws and constants is a mathematical fantasy. What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale.
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

  2. 2
    bornagain says:

    The second deep flaw in the atheistic assumption that the universe should be able to be described by a single mathematical ‘theory of everything’ is that the belief that the entire universe should be governed by a single set of laws was, and still is, a Theistic presumption. ‘Coherent unity’ of the universe has NEVER been an atheistic presumption.

    The God Particle: Not the God of the Gaps, But the Whole Show – Monday, Aug. 2012
    Excerpt: C. S. Lewis put it this way: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.”
    http://www.christianpost.com/n.....how-80307/

    The Genius and Faith of Faraday and Maxwell – Ian H. Hutchinson – 2014
    Conclusion: Lawfulness was not, in their thinking, inert, abstract, logical necessity, or complete reducibility to Cartesian mechanism; rather, it was an expectation they attributed to the existence of a divine lawgiver. These men’s insights into physics were made possible by their religious commitments. For them, the coherence of nature resulted from its origin in the mind of its Creator.
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....nd-maxwell

    “Our monotheistic traditions reinforce the assumption that the universe is at root a unity, that is not governed by different legislation in different places.”
    John D. Barrow

    “In materialism all elements behave the same. It is mysterious to think of them as spread out and automatically united. For something to be a whole, it has to have an additional object, say, a soul or a mind. “Matter” refers to one way of perceiving things, and elementary particles are a lower form of mind. Mind is separate from matter.”
    Kurt Gödel – Hao Wang’s supplemental biography of Gödel, A Logical Journey, MIT Press, 1996. [9.4.12]

    “So you think of physics in search of a “Grand Unified Theory of Everything”, Why should we even think there is such a thing? Why should we think there is some ultimate level of resolution? Right? It is part, it is a consequence of believing in some kind of design. Right? And there is some sense in which that however multifarious and diverse the phenomena of nature are, they are ultimately unified by the minimal set of laws and principles possible. In so far as science continues to operate with that assumption, there is a presupposition of design that is motivating the scientific process. Because it would be perfectly easy,, to stop the pursuit of science at much lower levels. You know understand a certain range of phenomena in a way that is appropriate to deal with that phenomena and just stop there and not go any deeper or any farther.”,,, You see, there is a sense in which there is design at the ultimate level, the ultimate teleology you might say, which provides the ultimate closure,,”
    Professor Steve Fuller discusses intelligent design in Cambridge – Video – quoted at the 17:34 minute mark
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nd-others/

    In fact, to further solidify the contention that the ‘coherent unity’ of the universe is not an Atheistic presumption, Leonard Susskind, an atheist, at the 7:19 minute mark of the following video, proposed ‘varying laws’ for unobservable parts of the universe in order to try to ‘explain away’ the fine-tuning of the laws of physics in the observable universe:

    Leonard Susskind – Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life and Mind? – video – 7:19 minute mark
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=2cT4zZIHR3s#t=439

    Moreover, when the agent causality of Theists is rightly let ‘back’ into the picture of physics, as the Christian founders of science originally envisioned, (instead of the self refuting ‘blind causality’ of atheists), then a empirically backed unification between Quantum Theory and General Relativity is readily achieved in the resurrection of Christ from death:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-548425

    Verse and Music

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Empty (Empty Cross Empty Tomb) with Dan Haseltine Matt Hammitt
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=F22MCCNU

    Supplemental note:

    Two very different ‘eternities’: Special Relativity, General Relativity, Heaven and Hell
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_4cQ7MXq8bLkoFLYW0kq3Xq-Hkc3c7r-gTk0DYJQFSg/edit

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