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A Are String Theory physicists violating the Scientific Method

  1. Nov 29, 2017 #1
    The Scientific Method says that if a theory disagrees with observations, it has been falsified (according to Karl Popper). String theory predicts that spacetime is 10-D, but it is observed to be 4-D. This is a wrong prediction by the theory. So string theory is falsified.

    String theorists then make the ad-hoc assumption that 6 space dimensions must be tiny and hidden, in order to save their theory. But there is no experimental or theoretical evidence for tiny dimensions. String theory does not predict that 6 dimensions should be tiny and 4 should be large.

    Is questioning the validity of your observations part of the Scientific Method? If any theory disagrees with an observation, you can always question the observation by proposing new possibilities as to why the observation was incorrect. (For example, a predicted element is too small to see or too massive to produce.) So how could String Theory or any theory ever be falsified? If a theory is not in principal falsifiable, then it is not scientific.

    (Please note that I am not debating whether or not String Theory is correct. Even if string theory turns out to be right, isn't this process still disregarding the Scientific Method?)
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  3. Nov 29, 2017 #2


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    That is a nonsensical statement unless you can prove that the 10 dimensions don't exist. The fact that you can't detect them doesn't mean squat.
  4. Nov 30, 2017 #3

    Superstring theory is very versatile to explain nature and perhaps some dynamics can make it fall into place.. for example.. physicists say they don't know the basic guiding principle of superstring theory.. if the guiding principle is found out.. then perhaps we can go forward in Superstring theory.

    One of my major concerns now is. If there is no supersymmetric particles.. how can you continue with superstring theory? What kind of superstring theory is there that has no supersymmetry??
  5. Nov 30, 2017 #4


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    Every theory predicting new phenomena would be unscientific according to this reasoning.
  6. Nov 30, 2017 #5


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    String theorists violate the Popper's scientific method. However, scientists are by no means obliged to follow the method proposed by the philosopher Popper. The Popper's scientific method is an artificial canon for ideal science, not a realistic description of actual scientific practice.
  7. Nov 30, 2017 #6


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    As has been said already, no matter what we think of ST, the falsification arguments are simplistic and so is Poppers reasoning. Many years ago i took my time to actually read through poppers book "The Logic of Scientific Discovery" and I must say it was not with a smile. Sure the book is old, but felt MUCH older in spirit than it actually is.

    The main issue i had with Popper, is that it buts far too much emphasis on corroboration and falsification. But a proper analysis of a rational inference schema worthy of "science" must acknowledge ther process of hypothesis revision. This is totally relegated to "scientists brains" in Poppers abstraction. Popper was allergic to all kinds of inductive reasonings. Unfortunately throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We can do better than Popper.

  8. Nov 30, 2017 #7

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  9. Nov 30, 2017 #8
    I completely agree with what Fra and Demystifier said above. All I ever said was that String Theory methods violate the philosophy of Popper's version of the scientific method. I never thought that physicists should or must follow Popper's philosophy precisely.

    So, is there any possible experiment that could either confirm or falsify string theory?
  10. Dec 17, 2017 #9


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    Does it ever occur to anyone whether it is not string or some other theory under attack that fails to describe reality, but Karl Popper?

    And does anyone even ever worry about whether they have failed to describe Popper?
  11. Dec 17, 2017 #10


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    Let's see. Firstly, I only quoted you to have a link to Popper and not because I have an opposite opinion, and secondly, I'll have to admit, that I didn't make it through the entire 400 plus pages. Thirdly, on my review just by now, I found quite a couple of remarks of mine in the margins - something I usually try to avoid. In the first remark already on the foreword I complain, that he seemingly confuses postulate and theorem. Maybe I have read it in the wrong way, which might also be a crucial part of this discussion. So let's have a closer look. Popper's very first words in his preface to his first English edition - I have a translated 5th edition and the following quotation is a backwards translation - reads as:
    What does he say?
    • Popper wrote the book in 1934. This was a time in which science and especially physics and mathematics just experienced some of their most fundamental transitions ever. And they had been far from settled, which a brief view in our Quantum Mechanics Forum shows. But even in philosophy, the works of Russel or Wittgenstein still have to be considered young.
    • Popper explicitly addresses the philosophical problem situation. I'm not that familiar with the subject to be allowed to comment on it, however, it doesn't sound as if he will talk about the scientific aspects, but rather about the philosophical situation of his time.
    • Popper explicitly refers to the philosophy of language and Wittgenstein is one of his most cited sources.
    • Popper complains about the philosophical situation of his time and wants to close ranks with the language analysts among the philosophers.
    • Popper speaks of his attitude to philosophy.
    This is a very brief first glance and an analysis of the very first paragraph and it already demonstrates eventual difficulties a comparison to physics will bear. Luckily, because I'm neither qualified nor presumptuous enough to formulate a verdict, this debate has already taken place on a far better informed level. Popper himself completely quotes (per print and per copy) and answers to the letter a physicist of his time wrote to him in the edition of mine. Personally, I consider this letter as a friendly written, but nevertheless scathing critique and objection. Popper admits some mistakes but cannot bridge the discrepancy between two fundamentally different points of view, the physical and the philosophical; and they don't match very well. What has to be said is, that in my opinion Popper left his field of competence way to much and tried to combine two ways of reasoning which don't fit well, probably due to his lack of understanding of physics.
    http://strangebeautiful.com/other-texts/popper-logic-scientific-discovery.pdf (p. 482 ff.) *)

    *) I have checked the IP addresses. Although ping and IP Finder had different results, both led to countries (USA, Germany) with functioning copyright laws, and I thus assume that the link to Popper's book is allowed. Also my quotation might differ a bit from the book's as I back translated it from mine.
  12. Dec 18, 2017 #11


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    The testing aspects of the scientific method don’t really apply to theories in their formative stage. It becomes important in the acceptance process leading to a theory becoming established. In theory formation, all that matters is theorist hunches as to the most promising direction. IMO, though string theory has been pursued 40 years or so, it is still formative. This need not be surprising, as the problems confronted are harder than anything before. Without doubt string theory aims to encompass known physics, and make predictions. Physicists don’t necessarily get to choose how accessible predictions are. For example, the Shaposhnikov and Wetterich proposal on asymptotic safety of gravity and the Higgs mass suggests that no new phenomena will be found short of the Planck scale. Is it not a scientific proposal?

    On top of this, Popper’s criterion of falsifiability is inadequate. A legitimate theory can be possibly confirmable but not falsifiable. An example is an old proposal of Dirac’s, that the existence of a single magnetic monopole anywhere in the universe explains why all charges are integer multiples of a basic charge. Quite obviously, this theory is possibly confirmable, but not falsifiable. Should it be rejected as being nonscientific? Popper would seem to say so.

    [edit: i’ll go further and say string theory is certainly within Feynman’s puckish summary of scientific method. First, you guess. Then you work out the consequences of your guess. Then you compare to observation. There is no time limit on how long it takes to work out observable consequences. ]
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
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