Saturday, July 12, 2014

Defending physics from post-empiricism

Peter Woit attacks a string theory philosophy book on a new philosophy blog:
The book in question was Richard Dawid’s String Theory and the Scientific Method [4], which comes with blurbs from Gross and string theorist John Schwarz on the cover. Dawid is a physicist turned philosopher, and he makes the claim that string theory shows that conventional ideas about theory confirmation need to be revised to accommodate new scientific practice and the increasing significance of “non-empirical theory confirmation.”
This is on the blog that defended philosophy from attacks by physicists. I posted some comments:
Does anyone here think that modern philosophers have contributed something useful to this topic? String theory has failed to make testable prediction, or to reproduce existing theory. The Standard Model has succeeded in LHC experiments. Thus the Standard Model has won. Modern philosophy of science has contributed nothing.

Yes, there is a competition to find the best theories for high-energy physics. Many leading physicists were openly hoping that the LHC would falsify the Standard Model so that competing theories could gain traction.

I do think that philosophy of science should be able to say something about whether string theory is a worthwhile scientific endeavor.

I read Pigliucci's complaint that Tyson said that "philosophy has basically parted ways from the frontier of the physical sciences" in the early 20th century. Sorry, but Tyson is right. It is nearly impossible to find any philosopher who has anything worthwhile to say about 20th century physics. Dawid's post-empiricism is just the latest example of foolishness, as Woit explains.
If I were to pick one failure of 20th century philosophers on the subject of physics, it would be the textbook resolution of the Bohr–Einstein debates. From the famous R.P. Feynman Lectures on Physics:
Another thing that people have emphasized since quantum mechanics was developed is the idea that we should not speak about those things which we cannot measure. (Actually relativity theory also said this.)
Philosophers love to give opinions about things that cannot be measured. That is okay with me. My problem is with those who say that it is somehow a shortcoming of the physical theory that it only explains observables.


  1. Disillusionment sometimes occur when the discipline does not live up to the hype of some research area.
    Cosmology hasn't told us "why we are here." The Human Genome Project has not cured diseases. There is no quantum computer with hundreds of qubits. Fusion power is still 30 years away... Marcelo Gleiser became disillusioned with high energy physics because it did not live up to its reductionist propaganda.

    Everything is dead.
    The physics department is dead
    The chemistry department is dead.
    The mathematics department is dead.

    None of this bullshit is going to make coal, oil, or natural gas. Room temp Superconductor, thats the last frontier to link up the solar panel covered deserts in the world. Everything else is the slave trade.

  2. Peter Woits cure for everything in physics is more mathematics. What the hell does he think String Theory is? Its a moral authority ("smartest guys in the room") scam to gain command over capital. String Theory subsumes everything, the "experts" have everything under control, and the "experts" tell us there is no alternative. Does that sound like physics or a scheme to control the creation of money?

    Motl is a banker, the physicist bit is a cover. Woit isn't doing any mathematics and Motl isn't doing any physics. They doing people control. Enslave or be a slave. That quantum computer isn't going to feed anyone. Its a financial WMD. The clowns in academia no longer have an identity. They are just a bunch of parasites.

  3. The biologists are in control now. The physicists and chemists are peasants now. The concepts and theories of physicist and chemist are totally useless to the biologist. Peter Woit's pathetic representation theory isn't going to cure the diseases of aging. The FIAT money system is being brought to its knees on account of aging. String theory is useless. The mathematicians are useless. The Schrodinger equation is useless.

  4. Defending physics from Banksters:

    Bankster: "Will your research provide growth"

    Physicist: "I do curiousity based research only"

    Bankster: "Then you are not chattel any longer"

  5. The 2012 Springer book: "Applied Chemistry: A Textbook for Engineers and Technologists" does not mention the word 'quantum' even once.

  6. Try a book in more theoretical chemistry. Maybe that book is for those who have not studied quantum mechanics.