Cosmology Intelligent Design Philosophy Science

Falsifiability is overrated, some cosmologists say

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This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.
Big Bang/NASA

We seem to be talking a lot about falsifiability these days. Many cosmologists don’t like Karl Popper’s concept of falsifiability because it gets in the way of simply assuming that concepts like string theory and the multiverse are correct because, well, because they just must be. Many would like to loosen the concept of falsifiability to allow for such cool but unfalsifiable concepts in science:

Take, for example, supersymmetry. SUSY is an extension of the Standard Model in which each known particle is paired with a supersymmetric partner. The theory is a natural outgrowth of a mathematical symmetry of spacetime, in ways similar to the Standard Model itself. It’s well established within particle physics, even though supersymmetric particles, if they exist, may be out of scientists’ experimental reach.

SUSY could potentially resolve some major mysteries in modern physics. For one, all of those supersymmetric particles could be the reason the mass of the Higgs boson is smaller than quantum mechanics says it should be.

“Quantum mechanics says that [the Higgs boson] mass should blow up to the largest mass scale possible,” says Howard Baer of the University of Oklahoma. That’s because masses in quantum theory are the result of contributions from many different particles involved in interactions—and the Higgs field, which gives other particles mass, racks up a lot of these interactions. But the Higgs mass isn’t huge, which requires an explanation.

“Something else would have to be tuned to a huge negative [value] in order to cancel [the huge positive value of those interactions] and give you the observed value,” Baer says. That level of coincidence, known as a “fine-tuning problem,” makes physicists itchy. “It’s like trying to play the lottery. It’s possible you might win, but really you’re almost certain to lose.” Matthew R. Francis, “Falsifiability and physics” at Symmetry

The article doesn’t explain what the “fine-tuning problem” means. It means that the universe shows evidence of design. No one has been able to explain that away.

However, if basic thinking in science is jerked around enough, maybe ideas that don’t work can be offered social promotions and sit right alongside demonstrated ones.

Sure. That’ll work.

See also: Laszlo Bencze: The key to falsifiability of not evidence but observability The multiverse theory is irrefutable because alternate universes are, by definition, forever inaccessible. (If they were accessible through some very difficult convoluted route, they would still be part of our universe.)

Sabine Hossenfelder on the flight from falsifiability Hossenfelder is right to be concerned. Some cosmologists would like to dump falsifiability as a criterion. If they could, they would remove an obstacle to demanding public belief in ideas like the multiverse.


What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

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One Reply to “Falsifiability is overrated, some cosmologists say

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    Am I missing something I thought the Higgs boson mass was heavy, It didn’t leave much room for other particles which was one of the reasons I believe they were bemoaning finding it at 126.5 GEV or was it tGEV? I can never remember I could just look it up to be honest with you but still I thought it was they thought the particle was too heavy and they were looking for one that was at 115.

    The other problem was to is the roundness of the electron was a big hit to the idea of a lot of models of supersymmetry. If I’m not mistaken it was a huge hit that happened a couple years ago that illuminated a giant amount of the theories for SUSY. I thought the article was called “SUSY is getting some spring cleaning done” and it wasn’t joyous times. Find me in the electron to be very spherical and shape on they were looking for an oblong shape indicated that there were no other super symmetrical particles that were influencing at least the electron which is what they were looking for. Or at least that’s how I remembered it correct me if I’m wrong it’s been along time since I’ve read that article like almost 7 years

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