What one gets from pop science media is not evaluation of ideas in danger, like the Higgs boson and string theory, but evangelism for them.
Meanwhile, in “String and M-theory: answering the critics” (December 7, 2011), Woit tells us about recent attacks on his work by string and multiverse theorists, in particular:
Mike Duff has a new preprint out, a contribution to the forthcoming Foundations of Physics special issue on “Forty Years of String Theory” entitled String and M-theory: answering the critics. Much of it is the usual case string theorists are trying to make these days, but it also includes vigorous ad hominem attacks on Lee Smolin and me (I’m described as having an “unerring gift for inaccuracy”, and we’re compared to people who campaign against vaccination “in the face of mainstream scientific opinion”). One section consists of a rather strange 3-page rant about Garrett Lisi’s work and the attention it has gotten, a topic that has just about nothing to do with string theory.
But that’s easy to explain, psychologically if not mathematically: If Woit’s criticism was off side, the theorist would patiently reexplain his theory. When his criticism hit the mark, the stung theorist started shouting about vaccination or something. Maybe Galileo. By the time a theorist is hanging by a thread of metal off one hinge, he’ll probably start channelling the shadowy theocrats that “he knows” control Woit and other string skeptics … .
String theorists have a problem not just with the public, but with their colleagues. The main reason for this is not Smolin or me, but the failure of the string theory research program.
What does that remind us of?