Wherever experimental evidence can be coaxed out of nature, it suffices to corroborate or refute a theory and serves as the sole arbiter of validity. But where evidence is sparse or absent, other criteria, including aesthetic ones, have been allowed to come into play – both in formulating a theory and evaluating it. Watson believes that because of this, in some ways “physics has become mathematics”, arguing that we are currently “living in an in-between time, and have no way of knowing whether many of the ideas current in physics will endure and be supported by experiment”.
This, Watson explains, deeply worries the likes of cosmologists Joseph Silk and George Ellis. At the end of 2014, Silk and Ellis argued in a Nature comment piece that some scientists appear to have “explicitly set aside” the need for experimental confirmation of our most ambitious theories, “so long as those theories are sufficiently elegant and explanatory”. They further complain that we are at the end of an era, “breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition” of defining scientific knowledge as empirical.
As Silk and Ellis point out, this situation has come about because particle physicists have struggled to go beyond the Standard Model. Their most prominent attempt has been the theory of supersymmetry, but the problem is that no supersymmetric particles have been found, and Silk and Ellis fear that its advocates will simply “retune” their models “to predict particles at masses beyond the reach of the LHC’s power of detection”.More.
Put simply, the war on falsifiability advances.
See also: The war on falsifiability in science continues
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