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Sabine Hossenfelder on the flight from falsifiability

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Lost in Math

Particle physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, comments on the current state of falsifiability in particle physics, which is not good:

Troubles begin if scientists attempt to falsify principles by producing large numbers of models that all make different predictions. This is, unfortunately, the current situation in both cosmology and particle physics. It documents that these models are strongly underdetermined. In such a case, no further models should be developed because that is a waste of time. Instead, scientists need to find ways to arrive at more strongly determined predictions. This can be done, eg, by looking for model-independent predictions, or by focusing on inconsistencies in the existing theories.

This is not currently happening because it would make it more difficult for scientists to produce predictions, and hence decrease their paper output. As long as we continue to think that a large number of publications is a signal of good science, we will continue to see wrong predictions based on useless models. Sabine Hossenfelder, “Yes, scientific theories have to be falsifiable. Why do we even have to talk about this?” at BackRe(Action)

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, ideas that cannot be falsified because there is no evidence for them. But many cosmologists need implicit faith in such ideas to hold their theories together and perhaps to keep getting funded.

And that is why we “even have to talk about this.”

Note: Cosmologist Adam Becker, the one who had a bee in his bonnet about Inference Review, doesn’t seem to be a fan of falsification.

See also: Sabine Hossenfelder: Has The Large Hadron Collider “broken physics”?

Sabine Hossenfelder: Can gravitational wave interferometers tell us if we live in a hologram universe?

and

Do science hero stories stand in the way of progress?

Hey, here she is:

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One Reply to “Sabine Hossenfelder on the flight from falsifiability

  1. 1
    Nonlin.org says:

    She can do better: http://nonlin.org/philosophy-religion-and-science/

    Some non-falsifiable hypotheses are not optional. These are known as axioms or assumptions (aka religion) and no science is possible without them. For instance, cosmology would be dead without the unverifiable assumption (religious belief) that the laws of physics are universal in time and space.

    Science = Observation + Assumptions, Facts Selection, Extrapolations, Interpretations…
    Assumptions, Facts Selection, Extrapolations, Interpretations… = Sum of Axiomatic Beliefs
    Sum of Axiomatic Beliefs = Religion …therefore,
    Science = Observation + Religion

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