To the Editor:
Paul Davies, in his Op-Ed piece Taking Science on Faith, uses recent untestable speculation about multiple universes motivated by string theory to claim that “the mood has now shifted considerably” among physicists. He characterizes physics as being, just like religion, “founded on faith”, faith in the existence of intelligible laws describing nature and in a “huge ensemble of unseen universes”, the so-called “multiverse”.
The only real recent shift in mood among most physicists has been a loss of interest in string theory, precisely because its proponents have been forced to invoke the multiverse hypothesis in order to explain why string theory can’t predict anything. The existence of mathematical “laws of physics”, describing accurately and successfully the physical world in a testable way is not a “belief” but a fact.
Update: The Edge web-site is promoting both the Davies Op-Ed, and several critical responses to it.
Update: Lots of other bloggers weighing in, with the Science Blogs crowd (here, here, here, and here) uniformly Davies-hostile. The only positive blog entries I’ve seen about the Davies piece come from the IDers and Lubos Motl. Lubos seems to feel that the main issue here is that Steven Weinberg, Stephen Hawking, Lenny Susskind and Frank Wilczek may be unable to pursue their anthropic-principle-inspired research programs out of fear that I might criticize them. I would think they might be even more intimidated by P.Z. Myers, who reaches rhetorical heights I can not aspire to, referring to the Anthropic Principle as that tiresome exercise in metaphysical masturbation that always flounders somewhere in the repellent ditch between narcissism and solipsism.