Wednesday, August 10, 2022

New Lecture on Many-Worlds

Physicist Sean M. Carroll has a new lecture on The Many Worlds of Quantum Mechanics. Here is a 2-year-old lecture on the same subject.

A question at 1:04:00 asks for observable evidence for many-worlds. For example, could you prepare a Schroedinger Cat, and somehow verify that it is alive in one world and dead in another?

The correct answer is that there is no such evidence, and the whole concept of many-worlds is unscientific and unverifiable.

He dodges the question, and says that there are experiments that could disprove quantum mechanics.

Yes, of course, but textbook (aka Copenhagen) QM does not say the two cats can be observed.

His lecture is a pretty clear explanation of QM and many-worlds.

He says, at 35:40 that many-worlds is a theory, not an interpretation. I agree with that. The interpretations of QM all have the same predictions and observations. The interpretation is just a philosophical explanation for what the variables mean, but no experiment can say that one interpretation is any better than any other.

The Copenhagen interpretation is what Bohr and Heisenberg said. And maybe Schroedinger and Dirac. The textbook interpretation is the version of it found in modern textbooks.

Many-worlds is, in essence, the theory of QM with the part about observations and predictions removed. So many-worlds cannot make predictions, and cannot be tested or verified.

Carroll is a big proponent of many-worlds, but only because he believes it gives a better explanation of what is going on. But it does not explain anything, and is an unscientific theory.

In the older lecture, he admits at 37:00 that many-worlds cannot be tested. He excuses this by saying that the assumptions that go into many-worlds can be tested. Those assumptions are the same as with quantum mechanics, so every test of QM is also a test of many-worlds.

This is just a dodge. There is no test that can show a preference to many-worlds over textbook QM.

He then goes on to say that many-worlds is an unfinished theory, maybe some day someone will figure how many-worlds could make testable predictions. With the current knowledge of the theory, it deterministically predicts that all things happen in branched universes, so all predictions come true in some universe. The theory cannot be tested.

Israeli physicist Lev Vaidman has a new paper on Why the Many-Worlds Interpretation?:

A brief (subjective) description of the state of the art of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (MWI) is presented. It is argued that the MWI is the only interpretation which removes action at a distance and randomness from quantum theory. Limitations of the MWI regarding questions of probability which can be legitimately asked are specified.... Some speculations about misconceptions, which apparently prevent the MWI to be in the consensus, are mentioned.
I give you arguments for many-worlds, as otherwise you would not believe that the theory is as stupid as it is.

Note that he says that MWI removes randomness and fails to predict probability, as if that were an advantage.

The only part of our experience, which unitary evolution of the universal wave function does not explain, is the statistics of the results of quantum experiments we performed. ...

Thus, the MWI brings back determinism to scientific description [8]. (Before the quantum revolution, determinism was considered as a virtue of scientific explanation.) We, as agents capable of experiencing only a single world, have an illusion of randomness. This illusion is explained by a deterministic theory of the universe which includes all worlds together.

Got that? It it deterministic about things we never see and fails to predict the probabilistic events we do see.
The MWI provides simple answers to almost all quantum paradoxes. Schr ̈odinger’s Cat is absurd in one world, but unproblematic when it represents one world with a live cat and a multitude of worlds with the cat which died at different times of detection of the radioactive decay. ...

The paradoxical behaviour of Bell-type experiments disappears when quantum measure- ment does not have a single outcome [9]. ...

The reluctance of a human to accept the MWI is natural. We would like to think that we are the center of the Universe: that the Sun, together with other stars, moves around Earth, that our Galaxy is the center of the Universe, and we are unhappy to accept that there are many parallel copies of us which are apparently not less important.

There you go. Your rejection of the idea that you are constanting splitting into parallel universes is just a natural human conceit about your own self-importance. You are like those narrow-minded astronomers who put the Earth at the center of the universe.

This is crackpot stuff. It is anti-science. It is saying that you can get paradoxes out of a theory by removing all predictions.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Grad Schools to Stop Using Standardized Tests

From an AAAS Science magazine editorial:
Earlier this year, the University of Michigan became the first US university to remove the requirement that applicants to its nonprofessional doctoral programs take a standardized test—the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This decision will not, on its own, address inequities in admissions practice, nor the broader education barriers that many applicants face. But it is a major step toward an admissions process that considers all dimensions of a candidate’s preparation and promise—a holistic view that should be adopted by all universities if equity in education and opportunities is to be achieved. ...

What are the costs for admissions committees that use the GRE in admissions decisions? In short, the loss of talented applicants at every stage of the process.

This is the dumbing down of science grad schools. The purpose is to admit incompetent women and BIPOCs. There is no example of a talented applicant being lost. The talented ones are able to score well on the tests.

Test scores are the main way that talented students get into good schools, when they have deficiencies in their records. Ignoring the scores serves no purpose, example to enable sex and race discrimination. It is amazing to see America's leading science journal going along with this nonsense.

Google Quantum Computers Failed to Prove Anything

AAAS Science magazine announces:
Ordinary computers can beat Google’s quantum computer after all
Superfast algorithm put crimp in 2019 claim that Google’s machine had achieved “quantum supremacy”

If the quantum computing era dawned 3 years ago, its rising sun may have ducked behind a cloud. In 2019, Google researchers claimed they had passed a milestone known as quantum supremacy when their quantum computer Sycamore performed in 200 seconds an abstruse calculation they said would tie up a supercomputer for 10,000 years. Now, scientists in China have done the computation in a few hours with ordinary processors. A supercomputer, they say, could beat Sycamore outright.

Such results were reported previous on this blog, and by Gil Kilai, who points out that Google was wrong by ten orders of magnitude.
“I think they’re right that if they had access to a big enough supercomputer, they could have simulated the … task in a matter of seconds,” says Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas, Austin. The advance takes a bit of the shine off Google’s claim, says Greg Kuperberg, a mathematician at the University of California, Davis. “Getting to 300 feet from the summit is less exciting than getting to the summit.”

Still, the promise of quantum computing remains undimmed, Kuperberg and others say.

No, they are not 300 feet from the summit. They are still at sea level.

The whole point of quantum supremacy is to find a computation where quantum computers are demonstrably faster that classical (Turing) computers. That has been a failure. No advantage has been shown at all.

The advance underscores the pitfalls of racing a quantum computer against a conventional one, researchers say. “There’s an urgent need for better quantum supremacy experiments,” Aaronson says. Zhang suggests a more practical approach: “We should find some real-world applications to demonstrate the quantum advantage.”
They are acknowledging that no quantum computer has demonstrated any advantage.

I have said here that the whole research program is misguided and doomed. Quantum computing is probably impossible.

Even if you didn't know anything about this subject, you would have to think the program is fishy. The QC proponents are collecting billions of dollars in research funds, and making wildly exaggerated claims, only to be proved wrong later. Look at how they are in denial. The biggest result of the last ten years is proven wrong, and they still say, "the promise of quantum computing remains undimmed".

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The Prize for the Electroweak Model

The biggest Nobel Prize for the Standard Model was probably the 1979 prize to Glashow, Weinberg, and Salam for electroweak theory.

Peter Woit posted some info about bickering behind the prize. Apparently Salam's work was unoriginal and undeserving. Salam thought that he deserved to share the 1957 prize for parity violation, and lobbied heavily to get it for something else.

Apparenly also Weinberg used to be close buddies with Glashow, but did not want to share the prize with him. So Weinberg was eager to credit Salam in order to cut Glashow out.

I am not even sure Weinberg was so deserving. His contribution was a short 1967 paper that was not hardly cited by anyone, Decades later prizes were given for the Higgs mechanism and 'tHooft renormalization, and they were arguably more critical.

A couple of comments mention that Salam was the first Moslem to win a science prize. I do not know if that worked in his favor, or against him.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Next Quantum Computing Milestone will be in 2050

A new paper sketches the history of quantum computing:
We argue that quantum computing underwent an inflection point circa 2017. Long promised funding materialised which prompted public and private investments around the world. ...

We argue that the next inflection point would occur around when practical problems will be first solved by quantum computers. We anticipate that by 2050 this would have become commonplace, were the world would still be adjusting to the possibilities brought by quantum computers.

Note that the big advance of 2017 was in funding, not technological progress.
A turning point in the development of quantum computation appears around 2017. At this point, several long-promised large funding programs began such as the European Quantum Flagship and the American National Quantum Initiative Act (this happened around the world and was in the Billions of USD). Most national investments appear to keep a country compet- itive in technological development. There are many initiatives around the world adding up to more than 20 billion USD committed public funding. In addition, many private companies also invested dramatically around this time. Mean
We have to wait a long time for the next milestone.
When will we see another inflection point? It’s hard to tell. The saying goes that knowl- edge begets knowledge. And so development always seems to go increasingly faster. But the next jump might have to wait until practical problems of commercial value are regularly solved. This should take place perhaps even around 2050.
I reported here in 2019 that progress was doubly exponential. If that were true, we would already see commercial value. Instead we have to wait 28 more years.

I don't believe it. We will not see those commercial applications. I also don't believe that it will get billions in funding for three decades without commerical payoff.

My prediction is that in about ten years, everyone will be complaining that quantum computing failed because the funding dried up.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Capturing the Central New Lesson of the Quantum

Physicist John Wheeler once wrote:
What one word does most to capture the central new lesson of the quantum? ‘Uncertainty,’ so it seemed at one time; then ‘indeterminism’; then ‘complementarity’; but Bohr’s final word ‘phenomenon’ – or, more specifically, ‘elementary quantum phenomenon’ – comes still closer to hitting the point. [...] In today’s words, no elementary quantum phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is a registered (‘observed’ or ‘indelibly recorded’) phenomenon, ‘brought to a close’ by an ‘irreversible act of amplification’. (Miller and Wheeler, 1984)57
Brian Greene comments on the view that the essence of the quantum is entanglement. Maybe superposition is second. But he says that when he was in school, no one made a big deal out of entanglement.

I don't think any of these are so central to quantum mechanics. Yes, in a quantum mechanical system, particles are usually entrangled with others. But would you say that the essence of solar system gravity is that every planet exerts a force on every other? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Scott Aaronson has weighed in on the Bohr-Einstein debates. I added this comment:

If you believe in MWI, then both Bohr and Einstein completely missed what quantum mechanics is about. What makes QM unusual is not measurement, or entanglement, or superposition, or probability, or complementarity. It is the continuous splitting of the universe into parallel worlds, where essentially everything happens somewhere.

While Bohr and Einstein did not find Bell’s Theorem, they were probably aware of von Neumann’s 1932 textbook with a theorem that had similar conclusions. That is, under certain hypotheses, QM cannot be recast as a theory of classical variables.

Aaronson notes that von Neumann's assumptions have been criticized. Yes, that is true, but not the conclusion. Conventional wisdom has been since 1932 that a theory of classical variables will not work. So I do not think that Bell's theorem would have affected Bohr or Einstein at all.

The bigger issue is my first point. Aaronson and many others now say that they subscribe to many-worlds theory (MWI). If so, why is he even talking about these other issues? MWI is so bizarre and counter to science that it makes all the other issues trivial.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Only Greeks had the Pythorean Theorem

From the Wikipedia List of common misconceptions
The Greek philosopher Pythagoras was not the first to discover the equation expressed in the Pythagorean theorem, as it was known and used by the Babylonians and Indians centuries before him.[641][642][643][644] He may have been the first to introduce it to the Greeks;[645][643] the first record of it being mathematically proved as a theorem is in Euclid's elements which was published some 200 years after Pythagoras, so he could have been the first to prove the theorem.
I don't think that there is a misconception here.

The Pythagorean theorem is named after Pythagoras, but he was a Greek who lived 2500 years ago, and no one know what he exactly did.

Ancient Babylonians and Indians had examples of right triangles with a2+b2=c2, but they did not have the theorem. As far as we know, only the Greeks invented mathematical proofs.

Babylon and India were doing arithmetic. Greece was doing real mathematics.

Speaking of math, Numberphile has a new video on 10272,000 universes in string theory, more than previously announced. In the middle it casually mentions that they all have negative energy, and are therefore unphysical. Ultimately this is what string theory will be famous for.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Dr. Bee Announces a New Book

Sabine Hossenfelder has posted a new co-authored paper:
What does it take to solve the measurement problem?

We summarise different aspects of the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. We argue that it is a real problem which requires a solution, and identify the properties a theory needs to solve the problem. We show that no current interpretation of quantum mechanics solves the problem, and that, being interpretations rather than extensions of quantum mechanics, they cannot solve it. Finally, we speculate what a solution of the measurement problem might be good for.

Okay, this is mostly conventional wisdom of the last 90 years. Quantum mechanics depends on measurements, without precisely defining it.

Does that make the theory inadequate?

If quantum theory is not a valid scientific theory, then maybe we need to redefine theory. We have a trillion dollar semiconductor economy based on the theory. It is the most commercially successful scientific theory of the XX century.

She has also announced a new book, and promises a whole chapter on free will.

EXISTENTIAL PHYSICS

A Scientist's Guide To Life's Biggest Questions

A contrarian scientist wrestles with the big questions that modern physics raises, and what physics says about the human condition

Not only can we not currently explain the origin of the universe, it is questionable we will ever be able to explain it. The notion that there are universes within particles, or that particles are conscious, is ascientific, as is the hypothesis that our universe is a computer simulation. On the other hand, the idea that the universe itself is conscious is difficult to rule out entirely.

According to Sabine Hossenfelder, it is not a coincidence that quantum entanglement and vacuum energy have become the go-to explanations of alternative healers, or that people believe their deceased grandmother is still alive because of quantum mechanics. Science and religion have the same roots, and they still tackle some of the same questions: Where do we come from? Where do we go to? How much can we know? The area of science that is closest to answering these questions is physics. Over the last century, physicists have learned a lot about which spiritual ideas are still compatible with the laws of nature. Not always, though, have they stayed on the scientific side of the debate.

I am glad to see her address these issues, but she believes in superdeterminism, which is as wacky as the simulation hypothesis that she mocks.

Michio Kaku writes:

In physics, the concept of a multiverse is a key element of a leading area of study based on the theory of everything. It’s called string theory, which is the focus of my research.
There are many different notions of the multiverse, and I cannot even tell which he is referring to.

Update: Dr. Bee writes in defense of superdeterminism:

In a superdeterministic model, these quantities de- scribe an ensemble [9] rather than an ontic state (hence rendering the measurement update of the wavefunction purely epistemic), but that doesn’t make superdetermin- istic models classical. This should not be surprising, given the purpose of superdeterminism is not to return to classical mechanics, but merely to return to locality.
This makes no sense to me. Quantum mechanics already has locality. Interest in superdeterminism arose as a loophole in Bell's theorem. If you want a classical theory to replace quantum mechanics, then it must be nonlocal or superdeterministic.

Update: In the current Physics Today, N. David Mermin denies that there is a measurement problem:

Many physicists dismiss this view with the remark that quantum states were collaps- ing in the early universe, long before there were any physicists. I wonder if they also believe that probabilities were updating in the early universe, long before there were any statisticians.

Niels Bohr never mentions a quantum measurement problem. I conclude with a state- ment of his that concisely expresses the above view that there is no such problem, provided both occurrences of “our” are read not as all of us collectively but as each of us individ- ually. “In our description of nature the purpose is not to disclose the real essence of the phenomena but only to track down, so far as it is possible, relations between the manifold aspects of our experience.” I believe that this unacknowledged ambiguity of the first per- son plural lies behind much of the misunderstanding that still afflicts the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

This view is becoming a minority, but it should be regarded as the textbook view.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Aaronson Switches from Qubits to AI Chatbots

Quantum computer complexity theory Scott Aaronson is leaving the field for a year to join OpenAI. He is jumping from one overhyped field to another.

Aaronson endorsed Google's claims to discovering quantum supremacy, and later quietly backed off. Now he is inspired by a couple of Google employees claiming that Google has invented a sentient chatbot.

I am not sure what the thinking is here. Maybe because Aaronson understands how quantum computers can outdo Turing machines, he will underand how AI will outdo humans? Or vice-versa?

Or because Aaronson has credibly resisted overhyping quantum computers, he will be a credible sage to discuss AI hype?

Previously he announced that Google's chatbot is not really sentient. And said that complexity theorists had taken over the Solvay conference. Some sommenters asked about free will, and he says:

As someone who was actually there, I can tell you that I don’t remember the question of free will ever really coming up at all.
Aomw od rhw commenters seem to believe that studying quantum information theory leads to the conclusion that there can be no free will.

Ben Shapiro, a conservative political activist, comments in a recent short video:

Free will is the single most important principle undergirding any civilization.
Aaronson concedes that when physicists discuss poltitics, they speak as if people have free will.

It appears that the quantum information theory experts do not want to talk about it. To them, free will is both necessary and impossible, and they cannot handle the contradiction.

Update: Here is a newly-posted interview of Sean M. Carroll on free will. Hel says he believes in free will, but only as a term for describing human behavior. He says libertarian free will is absurd, and without any scientific evidence. The Schroedinger equation is deterministic, and makes human choice impossible. But people have an illusion of free will, so it still makes sense to hold them responsible for their choices.

He does not mention Many Worlds theory, but that is why he believes the Schroedinger equation to be deterministic. Maybe he thought that mentioning Many Worlds would undermine his credibility. The textbooks says quantum mechanics predicts randomness, but he believes all things happen in all worlds. Randomness is also an illusion because we do not see the parallel worlds.

Carroll doesn't make any sense. There is evidence for free will every time you make a decision. Quantum mechanics is not deterministic. If free will did not exist, it would not be useful to talk about it.

Aaronson writes:

I have tenure. And I don’t see QC [quantum computing] becoming uninteresting anytime soon (and of course, if it turns out to be impossible for some deep reason, then that will be a revolution in physics). I’m doing this because it’s an opportunity to take a break, learn something new, and possibly make a difference.
Kuhn defined a scientific revolution as a change in viewpoint that has no observable consequences, like changing a reference point in cosmology.

More comments:

“are you … willing to claim that Vladimir Putin is no more responsible for his own outcomes than a tennis ball is responsible for its own outcomes?”

You are saying that Vladimir Putin is not genuinely responsible for starting and continuing the war against Ukraine. So, have the courage of your convictions, and go out and tell your friends and neighbours, and tell the war-crimes tribunals.

I feel like we have to accept the idea that “each and every outcome is 100% due to the laws of nature” for living beings if we are to believe there are laws of nature at all. It seems like the hypothesis that humans, or other sentient beings, can violate the laws of nature through an act of will essentially establishes magic. Most of our work in biological sciences begins with the premise that we can use the scientific method to study the physical processes that combine to produce the behaviors we call “life”, without resorting to magic.

It would be useful if more intellectuals explained their views on free will. It helps in understanding their worldview.

Update: Aaronson did write an 85-page paper on free will in 2013.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Einstein's Name is Worth a Fortune

The Manchester Guardian has a long article on how Einstein's estate still makes money:
Einstein had been a well-paid man. His $10,000 salary at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton – roughly $180,000 in today’s money – was set by the institute to exceed that of any American scientist (“Isn’t that too much?” Einstein queried at the time). But his earnings in life were insignificant compared to his earnings in death. From 2006 to 2017, he featured every year in Forbes’ list of the 10 highest-earning historic figures – “dead celebrities” in the publication’s rather diminishing term – bringing in an average of $12.5m a year in licensing fees for the Hebrew University, which is the top-ranking university in Israel. A conservative estimate puts Einstein’s postmortem earnings for the university to date at $250m. ...

Despite Richman’s best efforts, some “seriously offensive” products, as he saw them, reached the market. When Richman discovered that a chain of stores owned by Universal City Studios sold a sweatshirt with the slogan “E=mc2: Shit Happens”, he successfully had the sweatshirt banned, and forced Universal to pay $25,000 in damages.

Here is a newly-posted video interview of an Einstein biographer. While the title is about an Einstein mistake, it has over-the-top praise for his genius.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Science Teachers Adopt more Woke Terms

Evolutionary scientists used to complain a lot about the possibility that some teacher somewhere might suggest intelligent design as an alternative hypothesis about the origins. They won that battle, and such ideas have been purged.

Jonathan Turley writes:

In academia, there have been growing controversies over language guides and usages, including the use of pronouns that some object to as matters of religion or grammar. Now the largest association of science teachers in the world has issued a guide for “anti-oppression” terminology for science teachers. In the guide, titled “Gender-Inclusive Biology: A framework in action,” the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has called for “gender-inclusive biology,” which includes the abandonment of terms like “parent,” “men,” “women,” “mother,” and “father.”

Under the guide, mothers are now referred to as “persons with ovaries” in reference to reproduction cycles while fathers are now “persons with testes.” Additionally, the association declares the move of various states toward “Sex verification in sports” as an example of oppression. ...

Under the new guidelines, teachers are encouraged to drop terms like “male” in favor of “XY individuals.”

The NSTA suggests that this can be a fun exercise like having students come up with an entirely new name for the word “parents,” such as “gene-givers” or “biological life transmitters.”

I did not verify this, so maybe it is a joke. Regardless, this is where we are headed.

I refuse to believe that anyone is really offended by terms like "mother". This is just a step in a Leftist battle.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Qubit Skepticism Endangers National Security

I have been a quantum computing skeptic, but did you know that makes me a threat to national security?

Forbes reports:

Quantum computing will never work. Keeping enough qubits stable long enough to do any significant calculating or processing, is a mathematical impossibility. The whole idea that one day quantum computers will discover new miracle drugs, or crack public encryption systems, is a mirage. Even worse, it’s a hoax.

That’s been the message from so-called quantum skeptics for a decade or more, including physicists like Gil Kalai of Hebrew University and Mikhail Dyakonov of the University of Montpellier — all in spite of the fact that quantum computers have continued to grow in sophistication and qubit power. Most experts now agree it’s not a question if a large-scale quantum will emerge that can break into public encryption systems using Shor’s algorithm, but when.

But earlier this month a group of offshore short sellers appropriately named Scorpion Capital used these dubious claims to attack and drive down the share price of the first quantum computer company to go public, Maryland-based IonQ. The danger is that investors and the public will assume from this vicious and misleading attack that today’s quantum industry runs entirely on hype rather than achievement—an assumption that could ultimately threaten our national security.

Responses from Kalai, who doubles down, and Scott Aaronson, who refuses to update his views on whether quantum computing is a hoax.

Instead Aaronson brags about his eugenic donations to abort poor Texas babies, and complains that he has moved to a state where everyone has guns. It is funny watching him try to be a good liberal, while his more ideologial leftists despise him.

Kalai explains how quantum computing progress of the last ten years has largely consisted of dumbing down the goals.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Neutral with Regard to Jurisdictional Claims

Report:
Back in March of 2017, this strange note first appeared at the end of a paper in the journal Nature: "Publisher's note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations." I looked over the paper, and it didn't have any maps in it. None of the authors had unusual affiliations, just the normal university departments. Why the disclaimer? Before answering this question, let's dig a bit deeper. This notice first started appearing in mid-March of 2017, when it was attached to every single research paper in that issue. I cannot find any papers prior to that with the "Publisher's note." Ever since then, Nature has put this notice on every paper in all of their journals. For example, the current issue has a paper on mapping sound on the planet Mars, by an international team of astronomers and physicists. It does contain maps, but they don't describe any features on Earth. Nonetheless, it has the disclaimer at the end about "jurisdictional claims in published maps."
Speculation is that this might be driven by dispute between China and Taiwan, or maybe some indigenous claims. No one is talking.

There are lots of other border disputes, such as Israel and Ukraine. But isn't it obvious that a science journal does not have the political authority to set national boundaries?

Soon we may get more disclaimers. Maybe: This journal is neutral with regard to the pronoun preferences of deceased scientists, and whether research tainted by systemic racism should be cited.

Monday, May 30, 2022

A Man is Entitled to his Opinions

Science writer and Skeptic Michael Shermer writes:
Was the Great Scientist E. O. Wilson a Racist? NO! ...

On December 26, 2021, the renowned Harvard University evolutionary biologist, conservationist, and two-time Pulitzer Prize winning writer Edward O. Wilson died at the age of 92. Three days later Scientific American, for which I penned a monthly column for nearly 18 years, opined on “The Complicated Legacy of E. O. Wilson” through the voice of Monica R. McLemore, who with no engagement with any of Wilson’s scientific theories announced that “we must reckon with his and other scientists’ racist ideas if we want an equitable future.” No examples of said racism were provided. She even branded as a racist Gregor Mendel—the 19th century scientist who established the role of genetics in pea plants—although there is absolutely no evidence for this extraordinary claim, unless it is racist to demonstrate that pea color is genetically determined.

Shortly after that hit piece, the publication Science for the People, whose website self-describes as “an organization dedicated to building a social movement around progressive and radical perspectives on science and society,” declared that it has “new evidence of E. O. Wilson’s intimacy with scientific racism.” The charge is not new. In 1975 this same group accused Wilson of promoting race science and eugenics upon the publication of his book Sociobiology, which viewed all creatures—including humans—as biological beings, part of evolved life on Earth. In the final chapter Wilson argued that human capacities for culture and behavior, including aggression and xenophobia, along with altruism and love, are facilitated by biological capacities.

Okay, he makes a good argument that WIlson was not a racist, but this defense is unsatisfying.

Yes, the SciAm attack on Wilson was offensive, but so is Shermer's tacit acceptance of this Leftist doctrine of applying political ideological purity tests to scientists, alive or dead.

Wilson was entitled to his opinions. Lots of great scientists have had goofy opinions. Some are Communists, royalists, fascists, pacifists, etc. Some have odd political beliefs. For example, Einstein belonged to Communist front organizations while Stalin was killing millions.

Future generations might say that today's scholars are morally defective because they eat meat, or pay taxes, or fly in aiplanes, or vote for Joe Biden.

I say they are all entitled to their opinions. If they are wrong, go ahead and say so, but it doesn't have anything to do with their scientific worth.

Wilson's great expertise was in ants. He occasionally made vague generalizations to human beings. I do not know why this was so upsetting to some people. He also believed in group selection and IQ measurements. Again, these are very upsetting to some people. If he is wrong, then prove him wrong. That would not detract from his work on ants.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The New Secular Faith Statements at Colleges

Justin P. McBrayer writes:
In 2008, I was in graduate school and applying for tenure-track jobs in philosophy across the country. My applications fell into two piles: those that required faith statements and those that didn’t. Many religious colleges required applicants to either write their own faith statement or sign on to a standardized one. This bothered me.

It’s not that I didn’t have faith commitments. I did. But as a philosopher, I wasn’t ready to sign just anything. I craved the careful distinctions, nuance and subtlety that faith statements often papered over. As a result, I had to pore over the standardized statements to ensure that I could sign in good conscience or construct my own that hewed closely to my intellectual, moral and religious commitments. Secular institutions were so much easier.

Contrary to what you might think, many secular institutions now require faith statements, too. They go by the name diversity statements, but they function in the same ways as faith statements at religious institutions.

He goes on to give examples of diversity statements, and show how t hey are worse than faith statements.
In sum, both faith and diversity statements artificially limit an applicant pool, ask for commitments that go beyond our evidence, signal our tribal loyalties and close questions. Realizing that they are on a par should give us pause. Religious colleges are private institutions that are typically up front about their religious orientations. In that context, a faith statement makes sense. But requiring a functionally similar statement at a public institution is a bad idea.

Even setting aside questions of whether it’s legal to require diversity statements at public schools (arguably not) and whether doing so helps students (there’s no evidence that it does), doing so likely contributes to the further intellectual polarization of the academy. Faculty are already overwhelmingly progressive, and given our propensity to evaluate politically charged issues in light of our own biases, it’s plausible that requiring job applicants to provide diversity statements further increases the probability that applicants espousing progressive views about the nature of and solutions to diversity-related problems are hired over politically moderate or conservative competitors. That’s something that should worry anyone interested in building communities that are trustworthy, intellectually diverse and vibrant.

It is getting worse than the old Soviet Union.