Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stewart says science relies on faith

Cosmologist Sean M. Carroll is upset that Comedy Channel guy Jon Stewart said:
I’ve always been fascinated that, the more you delve into science, the more it appears to rely on faith.
Carroll responds:
What kind of misguided “faith” would lead people to believe in dark matter, of all things?
Stewart is a parody of a left-winger. The companion show on the Comedy Channel has Colbert as a parody of a right-winger. They both say stupid things to get laughs. Carroll takes Stewart too seriously.

To answer Carroll's question, a lot of physicists have faith in supersymmetry because they say it would mean that the universe had more symmetries during the first nanosecond of the big bang. They are hoping that dark matter will consist of invisible supersymmetric particles. The latest Scientific American quotes a supersymmetry advocate:
“It is the next step up toward the ultimate view of the world, where we make everything symmetric and beautiful,” says Michael Peskin, a theorist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory…

Many are still hopeful. “There are still very viable ways of building supersymmetry models,” Peskin says. Expecting to see new physics after just a year of data taking was unrealistic, says Joseph Lykken, a theorist on the CMS team.

Carroll's own research is on time travel, extra dimensions, and the arrow of time. All of this is a matter of faith, and there is no physical evidence for any of it.

In other recent blog entries, Carroll argues that Science Refuted Religion. And in Quantum Mechanics and Decision Theory, Carroll argues for many-world theory, where there are infinitely many parallel universes with people just like us. He argues that quantum probabilities are just an illusion that follows from trying to decide what universe to join. Lumo refutes him.

I have argued that probabilities are not essential to quantum mechanics, but I have to admit that certain experiments look probabilistic. The many-worlds theory cannot explain the probabilities because the advocates claim that all possibilities occur in different universes.

Real science does not require faith, but Carroll's science does. So I can understand why Stewart would say that advanced science requires faith, when high-profile physicists like Carroll are always promoting ideas that can never be verified.

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