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Good show at Not Even Wrong

  1. Jan 12, 2005 #1

    marcus

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    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog/archives/000133.html

    the comments are in reverse order, so you have to start at the bottom and read up

    the topic is
    "The Problem of Predictivity" in String Theory
    and the discussion was triggered by Steve Giddings paper
    http://www.arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0501080
    a paper which divides the "Landscape" up into
    "friendly neighborhoods" or countries also enters the conversation
    http://www.arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0501082
    (this one is not yet accessible, try it in a day or two)
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2005
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  3. Jan 12, 2005 #2

    marcus

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  4. Jan 12, 2005 #3

    marcus

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    I dont remember such gravity and seriousness in Thomas Larsson's tone,
    heretofore:

    ---quote from the N.E.W comments---

    Lubos, I think you should admit one thing, at least to yourself. People like myself, Woit, Lunsford, Baez, Schroer or Rovelli have never written a positive word about anthropism. The only person on your hate-list that has been close to anthropism is Smolin with his fitness landscape (which I find disturbing), but he is also the only tenured person to publicly criticize Susskind.


    We all know who the landscapers are: stringpots like Susskind, Douglas, Polchinski, Dimopoulos, Kachru, and Arkami-Hamed. And Witten and Weinberg are the ones that cannot find good arguments against the AP. Draw whatever conclusion you wish from this.


    Posted by: Thomas Larsson at January 12, 2005 10:27 AM
    ---end quote---

    It is seen here as a point of honor that Smolin has taken the step of publicly criticizing Susskind's resort to anthropery. There is a moral seriousness in Larsson's words which I find refreshing: if your professional group has charlatans then it is your professional responsibility to denounce them. Witten and Weinberg have be lax, as it would most naturally be expected to come from them, or so I hear him saying.
     
  5. Jan 23, 2005 #4
    I would argue that "moral seriousness" is exactly not the sort of attitude we need when talking about physics theories.

    "You're wrong, for reasons A, B and C"

    is a good attitude in science.

    "It's immoral to say what you're saying, you charlatan"

    is not. Agreed?
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2005
  6. Jan 23, 2005 #5

    marcus

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    I dont think you understand the issues Ontoplanckton. From my perspective you seem to have things so turned around that it would be difficult to discuss with you.

    Paul Steinhardt, Larsson, Philip Anderson, Smolin, Woit, Glashow(?) and others have giving reasons A,B,C why Susskind and his friends are wrong. I believe it is a scientist's moral responsibility to speak out. My personal view is that other string theorists who are privately critical of Susskind and who have NOT taken a public stand are remiss. There is an obligation to the collegial system, to physics, the profession---however you want to say it.

    I believe that to speak out and say (in your simplified words) "You're wrong, for reasons A, B and C"
    is not only good, but even sometimes because of funding, career realities, politics, etc. may require courage, and may be a moral obligation. To to speak out to help control unscientific behavior in one's own profession may at times be not only good, as you say, but MORALLY good.

    this is the kind of moral seriousness I am talking about, and thank goodness a few of them are showing it.

    =====
    the moral imperative here has to do with the occasional need to control charlatanism in one's own professional line. charlatanism is always a potential threat to science, and traditionally the professions have been self-policing I cannot imagine it any other way. Science must be self-critical and self-policing because no other agency can do it.

    Charlatanism (and backsliding from the standards of empirical science) is not to be combatted by name-calling. The way to combat a charlatan is not (as your persona does) by CALLING him a charlatan, but by rational argument.

    However sometimes a little name-calling may help: Lubos Motl refers to the "Anthropic Principle" as the "Anthropic Lack of Principles" :rofl:
    and i confess that although I distrust him and disagree with him often enough on other matters, I sometimes find his invective right on.
    My sense is that the Anthropery is in gradual retreat and may be disposed of in a few years, but of course one never knows.
     
  7. Jan 23, 2005 #6

    Chronos

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    I may be prejudiced, but when Smolin speaks, I listen. His work has always been first rate. He is not of the habit of proposing a new idea without a way to test it, and his students are highly regarded. Historically, this is the footprint of an outstanding scientist.
     
  8. Jan 23, 2005 #7

    marcus

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    Hi Chronos, your mentioning Smolin got me to look back in this thread and I saw that Thomas Larsson spoke of him among some others.
    ---quote from the N.E.W comments---
    Lubos, ... The only person on your hate-list that has been close to anthropism is Smolin with his fitness landscape (which I find disturbing), but he is also the only tenured person to publicly criticize Susskind.

    We all know who the landscapers are: stringpots like Susskind, Douglas, Polchinski, Dimopoulos, Kachru, and Arkami-Hamed. And Witten and Weinberg are the ones that cannot find good arguments against the AP. Draw whatever conclusion you wish from this.

    Thomas Larsson January 12, 2005
    ---end quote---

    My comment (whether or not it's relevant) was
    First off let's give Smolin a clean bill of health about the anthropic principle. He has never given it approval that I know of---not even come close: his CNS scenario is the quite distinct from AP and logically a good way of countering it. Smolin's CNS is one universe with certain laws that allow certain parameters to evolve. It explains and it is testable. this is the opposite of giving up and saying our universe is an unexplainable accident that happened to be suitable for life!
    CNS is in the empirical mechanistic tradition and extends that tradition to include a determistic evolution of physical constants. So Larsson spoke carelessly. He noted a superficial resemblance to AP. Apparently he did not read Smolin's paper (Scientific Alternatives to AP) which makes it clear CNS is not AP. That is fine! Larsson should not have to read everything!
    (You may have had similar thoughts, since you know the situation at least as well as I do. But I want to make this explicit in case others read the post.)

    The other point is a bit more serious. Larsson said
    "...but he is also the only tenured person to publicly criticize Susskind."

    If this is true it is really shameful. But I think Paul Steinhardt has spoken up (maybe not mentioning Susskind by name).

    Many more should have spoken out and have not. Larsson refers ironically to "Witten and Weinberg...the ones that cannot find good arguments against the AP." I believe what he means is that if they had the integrity to speak out they would have no shortage of arguments, but they have so far kept mum in public, AS IF they couldn't think of anything to say.

    Anyway those senior tenured people who have spoken out, whether they be Smolin, Steinhardt, Philip Anderson have certainly gained stature in my estimation, especially given others' silence.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2005
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