Short Items

A few short items:

  • To compare and contrast to the activities of the Simons Foundation, there’s the Templeton Foundation, which has a $1.7 billion or so endowment to spend:

    They have a new Big Questions Online site, which asks Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God?

    At Oxford and Cambridge, Templeton is putting $1 million into Establishing the Philosophy of Cosmology, by, among other things, having a conference in January on Is God Explanatory?

    This miniseries will explore the theological and, by extension, metaphysical questions that pertain to cosmology. The origin and order of the cosmos have helped inspire belief in a “Supreme Being” or “First Cause” for millennia; but what bearing, if any, does the modern scientific approach to studying cosmology have on such beliefs? Does introducing God into the discussion add anything?

    This week this Foundation is funding a Workshop on Philosophy and Physics in Tuscany, with blogging from Sean Carroll and here.

    An apt quotation from Carroll a few years ago would be this one:

    The problem with the Templeton Foundation is not that they coerce scientists into repudiating their beliefs through the promise of piles of cash; it’s that, by providing easy money to promote certain kinds of discussions, those discussions begin to seem more prominent and important than they really are.

  • Sometimes you’ll see trackbacks in the comment section to Intelligent Design blogs which have become my fans since I’m critical of the multiverse. Often these get identified by the spam filter as spam, but when they get through I tend to leave them, partly because I’ve had my own problems with trackback censorship (see here), partly because they provide some insight into how the Intelligent Design people are using multiverse mania for their own ends. From one of these links I learned about a recent article in the Skeptic Society newsletter by Michael Schermer. At some point I wrote to him to warn him that claims of scientific testability for the multiverse were bogus, so he should consider avoiding this as an argument with IDers. After some e-mails back and forth it wasn’t clear if I had made any headway with him. The new article shows that he hasn’t given up on this, but maybe my arguments had some effect.
  • For an update on the sad story of Paul Frampton, who earlier this year was the victim of a scam that ended putting him in jail in Argentina on drug-smuggling charges, see here, here, here, here and here. A website to provide support for him has been set up here. It includes letters of support from various people including Edward Witten.

Update: There’s an article in the Telegraph about the Frampton story here.

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12 Responses to Short Items

  1. God says:

    QM doesn’t make it easier to believe in me, but it does prove that I have a sense of humor.

  2. Hansi says:

    Peter, why do you not comment on strings 2012 which ends tomorrow?:

  3. Peter Woit says:


    I’m curious to see what the concluding talks there will have to say, probably will write something after those appear.

  4. imho says:

    “…Williams said Frampton thought he was meeting a young woman from the Internet, but instead an agent asked him to take a suitcase to the United States…”

    Why should we support him? How do we know his intentions? Why do we trust him over the Argentinian authorities?

  5. Anonyrat says:

    Obviously, you support Frampton only if you find him credible.

  6. quotes says:

    Today you cite an ‘apt quote’ from Sean Carroll, but a few posts ago you criticized the same for advertising the Higgs (on a CNN interview) as a `portal to dark matter’ (or something like that). Unlike God, Carroll is only human (ok, I don’t know that for a fact) … it really wasn’t so bad, what Carroll said about the Higgs. Realize that it will be the same with many other people. Prof Sir Martin Rees peddles the Multiverse these days, I think. Perhaps his lordship will speak at the conf in Jan? What then?

  7. Peter Woit says:

    I don’t understand your point. I agree with most of what Sean Carroll or Lord Rees has to say, disagree with them on certain points (promoting Higgs portals or the multiverse).

  8. Name Here says:

    Peter, Nicolai concludes about non-string quantum gravity efforts: “Confirmation or refutation by experiment/observation even more of a challenge than for string theory!” (last page of his .pdf).

    What do you think? And does this mean quantum gravity research is not science?

  9. Peter Woit says:

    Name Here,

    Seems to me Nicolai is arguing “well, as an idea about unification, or as something that can be connected to experiment, as a theory of quantum gravity string theory sucks less than the alternatives”. That’s kind of the main argument for string unification right now: “OK, it’s a failure, but so is everything else”. May be accurate, but not necessarily a good argument for pursuing the idea.

  10. Hansi says:

    @Name Here:
    Of course, especially in gravity, there are many things which are solid science even if they can not be experimentally verified. For example, the Hawking Penrose singularity theorems are certainly not something that can be experimentally verified. But they can be proven from general relativity. Similarly, research on quantum processes in gravity is most solid, when it is solely based on mathematical proofs. For example, Hawking radiation is derived from curved spacetime geometry and quantum field theory. If a theory of quantum gravity could be similarly derived, it would be very very strong science. Unfortunately, no one has found a way for such a derivation yet. From the phenomenological viewpoint, quantum gravity is always problematic, as it will always be difficult, if not impossible to test such a theory. In practice, it can be seen as a relative success in this field, if one comes up with something, that does not disagree with known physics.

  11. BH says:

    Looks like John Templeton Jr. has been secretly bankrolling anti-Obama evangelical political organizations. The story is in today’s (8/5) Huffington Post.

  12. Peter Woit says:

    For those who want to follow up what BH is talking about, the reference is to

    which mentions the funding from John Templeton Jr. of “Let Freedom Ring”, a right-wing political organization. I don’t know that there’s any way of finding out the current size of his financial contributions to this.

    For discussion of this topic though, please use the Huffington Post….