There’s an article in this week’s Nature by Geoff Brumfiel entitled Outrageous Fortune about the anthropic Landscape debate. The particle physicists quoted are ones whose views are well-known: Susskind, Weinberg, Polchinski, Arkani-Hamed and Maldacena all line up in favor of the anthropic Landscape (with a caveat from Maldacena: “I really hope we have a better idea in the future”). Lisa Randall thinks accepting it is premature, that a better understanding of string theory will get rid of the Landscape, saying “You really need to explore alternatives before taking such radical leaps of faith.” All in all, Brumfiel finds “… in the overlapping circles of cosmology and string theory, the concept of a landscape of universes is becoming the dominant view.”
The only physicist quoted who recognizes that the Landscape is pseudo-science is David Gross. “It’s impossible to disprove” he says, and notes that because we can’t falsify the idea it’s not science. He sees the origin of this nonsense in string theorist’s inability to predict anything despite huge efforts over more than 20 years: “‘People in string theory are very frustrated, as am I, by our inability to be more predictive after all these years,’ he says. But that’s no excuse for using such ‘bizarre science’, he warns. ‘It is a dangerous business.'”
I continue to find it shocking that the many journalists who have been writing stories like this don’t seem to be able to locate any leading particle theorist other than Gross willing to publicly say that this is just not science.
For more about this controversy, take a look at the talks by Nima Arkani-Hamed given today at the Jerusalem Winter School on the topic of “The Landscape and the LHC”. The first of these was nearly an hour and a half of general anthropic landscape philosophy without any real content. It was repeatedly interrupted by challenges from a couple people in the audience, I think David Gross and Nati Seiberg. Unfortunately one couldn’t really hear the questions they were asking, just Arkani-Hamed’s responses. I only had time today to look at the beginning part of the second talk, which was about the idea of split supersymmetry.
Update: One of the more unusual aspects of this story is that, while much of the particle theory establishment is giving in to irrationality, Lubos Motl is here the voice of reason. I completely agree with his recent comments on this article. For some discussion of the relation of this to the Intelligent Design debate, see remarks by David Heddle and by Jonathan Witt of the Discovery Institute.