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Was a theory of everything bound to fail?

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Lost in Math

In response to Sabine Hossenfelder’s recent book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, Mathematical physicist Wolfgang Smith raises a fundamental question:

One is reminded of Goethe’s memorable dictum “In der Beschränkung zeigt sich der Meister”: could it be that the prowess of science derives ultimately from its Beschränkung, its limitation? And does this not, finally, entail that the quest for a “theory of everything” is bound to fail? For my part, I am persuaded that such is indeed the case: in the final count, physics “works” precisely because it is not a “theory of everything.”

The reason why “no one understands quantum theory” resides thus in the measuring problem. And what renders this conundrum insoluble to the physicist is the fact that “strictly speaking, within quantum theory itself there is no decoherence.” Here we have it: the very Beschränkung, it turns out, which bestows upon the physicist his sovereign power to comprehend the physical universe, renders the measuring problem insoluble — i.e., to the physicist! — by restricting his vision to the realm of the physical as such. Wolfgang Smith, “Lost in Math: The Particle Physics Quandary” at Philo-Sophia Initiative

It’s worth considering: A theory of everything might not be possible. If reality truly is constructed of disparate natures, no theory from inside would explain it all.

Hat tip: Philip Cunningham Follow UD News at Twitter!

See also: Sabine Hossenfelder: How you can help science out of a rut

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One Reply to “Was a theory of everything bound to fail?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    News, as well, I liked the following paragraph in addition to what you quoted:

    i.e., to the physicist! — by restricting his vision to the realm of the physical as such.
    What is it, then, that this vision excludes?,, “It excludes the blueness of the sky and the roar of breaking waves” I wrote, “the fragrance of flowers and all the innumerable qualities that lend color, charm and meaning to our terrestrial and cosmic environment.” To which of course the “scientific” response will be: “But these are all subjective attributes: that color and that sound — that’s all in your head!” Here we have it: the Beschränkung is yet in force! It has not been transcended: the aficionados of physical science have apparently become de facto incapable of transcending it.

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