From Avi Loeb at Nature, on the achievements and limitations of Mayan astronomy:
So why, I wondered, didn’t the Mayans go further and infer aspects of our modern understanding of astronomy? They determined the orbital periods of Venus, Mars and Mercury around the Sun, but Earth was at the centre of their Universe. I came to appreciate how limiting prevailing world views can be.
I noticed this bias recently while assessing a PhD thesis. The student was asked to test whether a data set from a large cosmological survey was in line with the standard cosmological model. But when a discrepancy was found, the student’s goal shifted to explaining why the data set was incomplete. In such a culture, the current model can never be ruled out, even though everyone knows that its major constituents (dark matter, dark energy and inflation) are not understood at a fundamental level.
Instead, observers should present results in a theory-neutral way. Observations should not converge on one model but aim to find anomalies that carry clues about the nature of dark matter, dark energy or initial conditions of the Universe. Further observations should be motivated by testing unconventional interpretations of those anomalies (such as exotic forms of dark matter or modified theories of gravity). Vast data sets may contain evidence for unusual behaviour that was unanticipated when the projects were conceived. If all results are expected and planned for, babies may be thrown out with the bathwater. More.
Good advice, but it may be running up against the hard reality today: The evidence (fine-tuning of the universe, for example) cannot be accepted for cultural reasons. Non-evidence-based reasoning (the multiverse, for example), is urged without evidence, in order to support naturalist cultural beliefs. In short, the abundant evidence is an embarrassment to the irrational conflicting theory.
See also: With a signal (at last!), mystery around fast radio bursts only deepens Researcher: “If FRBs have γ-ray counterparts, it would be hugely constraining of models and extremely interesting.”
What next? Physical law as an alien intelligence? This is the most original way we have heard of to get around both the fine tuning of the universe and the absence of aliens. The fine tuning (the constants, the equations) is the aliens. And, as with the multiverse, we can never know if the thesis is true or not.
But who needs reality-based thinking anyway? Not the new cosmologists
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