Physics, cosmology in particular, is at an interesting and potentially dangerous crossroads, as argued in a recent, sharp piece in Nature by physicists Joseph Silk and George Ellis. In short, it would appear that theory, particularly neat-o ideas like string theory and the multiverse, has reached the outer limits of provability. We can’t access the higher dimensions of string theory, nor can we observe (or not observe) our would-be sibling universes. Their fate is idea limbo, forever between notion and fact.
Yes, we too talked about that here:
If physicists want to join the many and various advocates of self-expression who do not depend on rigorous examination of evidence to validate their assertions, that is a choice physicists make.
No one forces that choice on physicists. But they are free to make it.
And if so,
Physics becomes just another player in a culture war, with no more genuinely respectable claims for attention than the demands we hear daily from grievance warriors that their version of events be accepted without cavil as Truth. You could find yourselves currying favour with politicians, as an identity group, for your version of nature versus that of magical thinking. Is that really what you want?
Byrne also introduces another voice:
Another voice within this movement is that of philosopher and theorist Richard Dawid. Dawid argues that we can use probability as a stand-in for experiment. That is, using Bayesian analysis, it’s possible to determine the probability that a set of facts fits a theory. If the probability is good enough, we can chuck testability. Dawid argues that, because, “no-one has found a good alternative” and “theories without alternatives tended to be viable in the past,” string theory should be assumed legitimate.
In essence, he’s arguing that theorized discoveries can be taken as evidence for fundamental theories. If we had the capability of conducting some experiment, it would probably have this outcome because the mathematics works out. Ellis and Silk argue simply that that’s not good enough, for theoretical physics or any science.
Byrne says that is not good enough, noting that “The scientific high-ground is at stake, with an ocean of pseudoscientists ready to flood the landscape, taking the public with them.”
Much of the public has caught the train already. The multiverse is just too good to be untrue. Just think:
The multiverse: Where everything turns out to be true, except philosophy and religion
As if the multiverse wasn’t bizarre enough …meet Many Worlds
Anything one wants can be true except facts and evidence. And how cool is that?
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