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Peter Woit vs. Sean Carroll on bending rules

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Multiverse skeptic and mathematician Peter Woit vs. multiverse activistSean Carroll on bending the rules to get the multiverse accepted without conventional evidence:

From Not Even Wrong:

Beyond Experiment: Why the scientific method may be old hat

This week’s New Scientist has an article by Jim Baggott and Daniel Cossins entitled Beyond Experiment: Why the scientific method may be old hat, which deals with the recent controversy over attempts to excuse the failure of string theory by invoking the multiverse. The article (unfortunately behind a paywall) does a good job of describing the nature of the controversy: what do you do when it becomes clear your theory can’t be tested? Do you follow the conventional scientific norms, give up on it and work on something else, or do you try and find some kind of excuse, even if it means abandoning those norms?

Well, we know what they are in fact doing. The beauty of the multiverse is that it makes evidence irrelevant.

Carroll has explained his views in more detail here, arguing that falsifiability is an idea that needs to be retired, to be replaced by “empiricism”. “Empiricism” seems to mean “ability to account for the data”, with “the multiverse did it” an acceptable way to account for data, even if not falsifiable. He’ll be giving a talk on this at the American Astronomical Society meeting in San Diego this summer, with abstract:

A number of theories in contemporary physics and cosmology place an emphasis on features that are hard, and arguably impossible, to test. These include the cosmological multiverse as well as some approaches to quantum gravity. Worries have been raised that these models attempt to sidestep the purportedly crucial principle of falsifiability. Proponents of these theories sometimes suggest that we are seeing a new approach to science, while opponents fear that we are abandoning science altogether. I will argue that in fact these theories are straightforwardly scientific and can be evaluated in absolutely conventional ways, based on empiricism, abduction (inference to the best explanation), and Bayesian reasoning. The integrity of science remains intact.

Carroll’s argument seems to be that the conventional understanding of how science works that we teach students and use to explain the power of science has always been wrong. More.

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

But who needs reality-based thinking anyway? Not the new cosmologists


The war on falsifiability

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2 Replies to “Peter Woit vs. Sean Carroll on bending rules

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    OK, so can ANYBODY play this game?

    That is, can ID score more points by admitting it can’t be proven but can be used to explain known facts about life on Earth?

    If the scheme can ONLY be used by groups given special privileges to cheat, then it’s clearly cheating and clearly is being allowed to award those select groups MONEY (e.g., grant approvals) and Power (e.g., the right to declare competitors’s work worthless without identifying specific errors).

    I’m guessing that, as with Communist theory, only members who toe the line on approved theories will be allowed to use the argument.

  2. 2
    tjguy says:

    Thumbing your nose at the scientific method is acceptable. Accepting a hypothesis without testing it is acceptable when Materialism is the conclusion – but when a science paper mentions a “Creator”, that is not permissible.

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