Burton Richter’s talk at the panel on “Naturalness” at SUSY06 is now on-line. Richter blasted his three theoretical colleagues on the panel (two of whom are his colleagues at Stanford) in forceful terms as no longer doing science:
… I think some of what passes for the most advanced theory these days is not really science.
I see no problem if part of the theory community goes off into a kind of metaphysical wonderland, but I worry that they may be leading too many of the young theorists along into the same wonderland. Simply put, it looks to me as if much of what passes as the most advanced theory these days is more theological speculation that it is the development of practical knowledge.
… the distinction between theory as theological speculation and as the development of practical knowledge. Theological speculation is the development of models with no testable consequences.
[About supersymmetry and naturalness] The price of this invention is 124 new constants which I always thought to be to high a price to pay.
Naturalness may be a reasonable starting point to solve a problem, but it doesn’t work all the time and one should not force excessive complications in its name.
The Anthropic Principle is an observation, not an explanation…. I have a very hard time accepting the fact that some of our distinguished theorists do not understand the difference between observation and explanation, but it seems to be so.
… what we have is a large number of very good people trying to make something more than philosophy out of string theory. Some, perhaps most, of the the attempts do not contribute even if they are formally correct.
It is not that the landscape model is necessarily wrong, but rather if a huge number of universes with different properties are possible and are also probable, the landscape can make no real contribution other than a philosophic one. That is Meta-physics, not physics.
After all, the Hebrews after the escape from Egypt wandered in the desert for 40 years before finding the Promised Land. It is only a bit more than 30 since the solidification of the Standard Model.
Update: Clifford Johnson was there, and has a report on the session. He describes Richter’s talk as “It was basically a loud fart in a quiet cathedral, during evensong. Excellent.”