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Lee Smolin article

  1. Aug 31, 2009 #1
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/indepth/39306" [Broken], but I found it fascinating, and would be interested in comments, with specific reference to the nature of Mathematics and Time
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2009 #2


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    So Smolin wants to dispense with multiverses because he has discovered Peircean semiotics (even if he has not yet got to grips with vagueness, dichotomies and hierarchies - firstness, secondness and thirdness).

    Yes we must always dichotomise. For that is the way of nature itself. And where Smolin goes wrong is then the usual place. Believing the answer must come out either/or rather than both - both as the limits of what can be divided.

    Is it flux or stasis that is fundamental? Well, it is both, as the complementary limits that frame what exists. And both - as limits - would also be emergent. They would develop from vague existence to crisp existence.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2009
  4. Sep 2, 2009 #3
    Like the rest of us, Smolin is a man with an agenda shaped by the times he lives in.

    Smolin's present agenda is to promote his notion of Cosmic Darwinism, if necessary at the expense of such maunderings as the Anthropic principle, Multiverse Mania and the ideas of a Block Universe outside of time (see for example The End Of Time by Julian Barbour). Smolin's Cosmic Darwinism, which seems to me a wild speculation, is on the other hand heavily involved with the curiosities of time that emerged from relativity about a hundred years ago -- curiosities that project modifications of our ordinary notions of time upon large scales like the universe, or like the scene of massive stars collapsing into singularities. Smolin thinks such collapse generates new universes.

    He summarises his ideas on mathematics in the "Fourth Principle" box in the article you refered to. I'm in agreement with his views on mathematics, at least.

    The difficulty with dead and gone philosophers (including Pierce, who died in 1914) and their ideas about the physical world of our experience is that they lived before the foundations of modern physics were established. One can hardly expect them to have a balanced view of the difficulties --- like the nature of reality, time and space --- that now plague the present
    plethora of speculation. Maybe a balanced view may yet be a long time coming.

    In so denigrating Smolin, Apeiron, you sound as if you believe that Pierce was better informed about such matters. Remember that Pierce was even more handicapped than we are by as-yet-incomplete knowledge. He was only a man of his time.
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  5. Sep 2, 2009 #4


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    No, I like Smolin because he is always adventurous. And even more so as he fosters adventure in others.

    The fact that he cites Pierce approvingly these days gives me mixed feelings. Great that he does, not so happy that he does not really appear to get what Pierce was actually saying. It comes across more as a name-check than a sign Smolin really endorses his metaphysics.
  6. Sep 2, 2009 #5
    Yes, I agree that Smolin is adventurous, and I like reading him. But as you point out, he has a tendency to be a bit shallow, perhaps with Peirce's stuff (I'm too ignorant of it to judge this), but certainly with his own suggestion of how singularities let universes evolve. He hasn't yet addressed this suggestion's main difficulty: to me it seems that, for us Plebs in the outside universe, what goes on in a singularity happens in our infinite future. No concern of ours?

    Evolution as a series of events in a series of infinite futures rather makes my mind boggle. Smolin just cruises on, ignoring this perplexity. Shallow of him, I think.

    I also apologise for mis-spelling Peirce, as I once mis-spelt Apeiron. Don't want to set a trend!
  7. Sep 2, 2009 #6


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    A good paper to check here would be Vaas' Time Before Time.


    After wide review of other ideas, Vaas makes the Peircean-friendly argument....

    Kant’s first antinomy makes the error of the excluded third option, i.e. it is not impossible that the universe could have both a beginning and an eternal past. If some kind of metaphysical realism is true, including an observer-independent and relational time, then a solution of the antinomy is conceivable. It is based on the distinction between a microscopic and a macroscopic time scale. Only the latter is characterized by an asymmetry of nature under a reversal of time, i.e. the property of having a global (coarse-grained) evolution – an arrow of time (Zeh 2001, Vaas 2002c, Albrecht 2003) – or many arrows, if they are independent from each other. (Note that some might prefer to speak of an arrow in time, but that should not matter here.) Thus, the macroscopic scale is by definition temporally directed – otherwise it would not exist. (It shall not be discussed here whether such an arrow must be observable in principle, which would raise difficult questions, e.g. in relation to an empty, but globally
    expanding universe.)
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