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Cosmology struggles from hand-waving toward exact science, despite its friends?

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Our Mathematical Universe bookcover.jpg Interesting point from a response by mathematician Sheldon Glashow to Daniel Kleitman’s review of Max Tegmark’s 2015 book, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality,  again in Inference:

Chapter 9 is devoted to what can only be called mathematical epistemology. Tegmark alleges the plausible hypothesis that there exists an external physical reality completely independent of us humans to imply a rather more startling Mathematical Universe Hypothesis: that our external physical reality is a mathematical structure.8 The Level IV multiverse, it turns out, is nothing other than the set of all mathematical structures, each of them constituting a universe unto itself.

According to Tegmark, our universe is (rather than merely “is described by”) the long sought

Theory of Everything, or ToE, from which all else can be derived… [S]uch a complete description must be devoid of any human baggage. This means that it must contain no concepts at all! In other words, it must be a purely mathematical theory… [An] infinitely intelligent mathematician should be able to derive the entire theory tree [including all of science, engineering, sociology, psychology etc.] from these equations alone, by deriving the properties of the physical reality that they describe, the properties of its inhabitants, their perceptions of the world, and even the words they invent. This purely mathematical theory of everything could potentially turn out to be simple enough to describe with equations that fit on a T-shirt.9

And our ToE is just one among an infinity of mathematical structures, each of them its own universe. If Tegmark is correct, there must exist a slightly different mathematical structure, whose equations are emblazoned on another T-shirt, wherein I am Tegmark’s psychiatrist rather that a physicist. I do not believe a word of it. Paraphrasing Danny, I may be a blockhead but I am certainly not a mathematical structure akin to a triangle. More.

Tegmark is what happens when cosmology tries to become a philosophy instead of just sticking to facts. It sells books.

See also: We have infinite selves in a multiverse? No, sorry, goodbye all youse, says math prof “Since the laws of nature would thus be different [in a multiverse], you could not be you.”


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As to this quote from the article:
"Paraphrasing Danny, I may be a blockhead but I am certainly not a mathematical structure akin to a triangle."
Of related interest to Sheldon Glashow's observation that he is "certainly not a mathematical structure akin to a triangle" is this recent article by Steven Weinberg:
The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics - Steven Weinberg - JANUARY 19, 2017 http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/01/19/trouble-with-quantum-mechanics/
In the preceding article, Weinberg notes that
“(the Schrödinger equation) is just as deterministic as Newton’s equations of motion and gravitation.,, There is not even the possibility of chaos, the extreme sensitivity to initial conditions that is possible in Newtonian mechanics.”
Weinberg then asks
“So if we regard the whole process of measurement as being governed by the equations of quantum mechanics, and these equations are perfectly deterministic, how do probabilities get into quantum mechanics?”
Weinberg, after dismissing decoherence as a plausible explanation, then states this:
“Today there are two widely followed approaches to quantum mechanics, the “realist” and “instrumentalist” approaches, which view the origin of probability in measurement in two very different ways. For reasons I will explain, neither approach seems to me quite satisfactory.”
Weinberg then rightly rejects the ‘realist approach’ to quantum mechanics because of some irreconcilable problems inherent in the ‘many worlds interpretation’, but, on the other hand, it is interesting to note the main reason why he rejects the ‘instrumentalist approach’ to quantum mechanics:
“The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,, In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11 Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,, Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,”
Since Weinberg rejects the instrumentalist approach since it undermines Darwin’s goal of trying to explain humans as purely the result of the laws of nature, and if I had the pleasure to ask him, I might like to ask Weinberg, “Who discovered the standard model? You or the laws of nature?” Or perhaps ask him, “Who wrote your article? You or the laws of Nature?” Moreover, whilst Weinberg may object to human beings being brought ‘into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level’ since it undermines the 'vision that became possible after Darwin', the fact of the matter is that Darwin, nor anyone else, has ever been able to elucidate the ‘impersonal physical laws’ of Darwinian evolution that are suppose to be describing us and our behaviors.
The Evolution of Ernst: Interview with Ernst Mayr – 2004 Excerpt: biology (Darwinian Evolution) differs from the physical sciences in that in the physical sciences, all theories, I don’t know exceptions so I think it’s probably a safe statement, all theories are based somehow or other on natural laws. In biology, as several other people have shown, and I totally agree with them, there are no natural laws in biology corresponding to the natural laws of the physical sciences. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-evolution-of-ernst-in/ WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? Evolution is True – Roger Highfield – January 2014 Excerpt:,,, Whatever the case, those universal truths—’laws’—that physicists and chemists all rely upon appear relatively absent from biology. Little seems to have changed from a decade ago when the late and great John Maynard Smith wrote a chapter on evolutionary game theory for a book on the most powerful equations of science: his contribution did not include a single equation. http://www.edge.org/response-detail/25468 “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.” Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.
Thus, it seems rather futile of Weinberg and other Darwinists to want to describe humans solely as the result of impersonal physical laws when no one has a clue what those impersonal physical laws might actually be. Moreover what sane person really wants to be a deterministic automaton that is completely reducible to natural laws? To be a 'neuronal illusion' with no free will? Certainly not me. In fact, the realization of such a misplaced desire would undermine sanity itself. To repeat the paraphrase
"I may be a blockhead but I am certainly not a mathematical structure akin to a triangle."
Of related note:
The Confidence of Jerry Coyne - Ross Douthat - January 6, 2014 Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession (by Coyne) that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary. http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/06/the-confidence-of-jerry-coyne/?_r=0
Seversky - I couldn't agree more. Better ideas about the origin of the universe than multiverse or string theory need to be put forward and fairly evaluated. How about there is in infinite God that created it all. That seems much more reasonable. I think I will stick with that one. JDH
There are obviously profound mysteries about the nature and origins of our Universe. Maybe Tegmark or multiverse theory or string theory are wrong but we have to start somewhere. Anyone who has any better ideas is welcome to put them forward. Seversky

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