Monday, February 6, 2017

Non-Empirical Confirmation in Physics

Philosopher Richard Dawid writes a new paper, The Significance of Non-Empirical Confirmation in Fundamental Physics:
During most of the 20th century, fundamental physics was perceived as a scientific field where theories typically could be empirically tested within a reasonable time frame. ...

Today, the situation is very different. String theory has been playing the role of a well established approach towards a universal theory of all interactions for over three decades and is trusted to a high degree by many of its exponents in the absence of either empirical confirmation or even a full understanding of what the theory amounts to. Cosmic inflation is being trusted by many theoreticians to a degree that in the eyes of many others goes substantially beyond what is merited by the supporting empirical data. Multiverse scenarios in the eyes of critics raise the question to what degree they can be endorsed as scientific hypotheses at all, given that their core empirical implications to a large extent seem not empirically testable in principle. What is at stake here is the understanding physicists have of the status of the theory they work on throughout their lifetimes. In the most far-reaching cases it is the status a given theory can acquire at all.
He is right that there are now hundreds of high-status seemingly-productive physicists who can spend their whole lives publishing papers on ideas that will never see any empirical tests.

Mathematicians never see their ideas empirically tested, but they prove their results, and so they know if they are correct or not. These physicists do not prove anything and never learn whether their ideas have any validity or not. For many of them, it is not clear whether it even makes any sense to say that the ideas have any validity.

Dawid tries to defend the notion that a theory can be confirmed if it is viable, without any evidence that it is true. He claims that there are three ways of doing that:
NAA: The No Alternatives Argument: Scientists have looked intensely and for a considerable time for alternatives to a known theory H that can solve a given scientific problem but haven’t found any. This observation is taken as an indication of the viability of theory H.

MIA: The Meta-Inductive Argument from success in the research field: Theories in the research field that satisfy a given set of conditions have shown a tendency of being viable in the past. This observation is taken to increase the probability that a new theory H that also satisfies those conditions is also viable.

UEA: The Argument of Unexpected Explanatory Interconnections: Theory H was developed in order to solve a specific problem. Once H was developed, physicists found that H also provides explanations with respect to a range of problems which to solve was not the initial aim of developing the theory. This observation is taken as an indication of the theory’s viability.
His best example is string theory. It passes NAA because the alternatives for quantum gravity, MIA because unified field theories have previously been successful, and UEA because it is mathematically interesting.

I say this is crazy, and quantum gravity is not even a scientific problem.

This is just another of how modern philosophers have abandoned truth. They just hate any philosophies that are based on truth.

Ricky Gervais tell Stephen Colbert on this new video:
Atheism is not a belief system ... Everything in the universe was once crunched into something smaller than an atom. ... Science is constantly proved all the time.
There must be some belief system that is telling him that the universe was once smaller than an atom. I would not call that science. We have good theory and evidence for the universe expanding, and it is reasonable to say it was once much smaller. But we cannot go back to the size of an atom. We don't have either the theory or the evidence for that.

I used to accept what he said about atheist not being a belief system. But most self-proclaimed atheists have an assortment of odd unsupported beliefs.

Here is another atheist (evolutionist professor Jerry Coyne) promoting his own beliefs:
Even though all rational people know that determinism rules human behavior, and in that sense there is no possibility of “choosing otherwise” at a moment of decision — absent quantum effects, which don’t in any way give us “free will” — this conclusion disturbs some people. Our sense of agency is so strong that it’s impossible for many of us to accept determinism of our behavior, or, if we do, to fully grasp its implications.
He is entitled to his opinion, and he may be right that he has no free will. He has written a lot on this subject, so he adequately explains himself. My quarrel here is his belief that "all rational people" agree with him. This is something that leftist atheists say. No, most rational people certainly do not agree with him.

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