Susskind has posted a new preprint entitled “Cosmic Natural Selection”. It’s just two pages of various attacks on Lee Smolin’s theory of cosmological (not cosmic) natural selection. Smolin’s theory is described in detail in his book “The Life of the Cosmos”, published seven years ago. As far as I know the terminology of “Landscape” entered physics in this book, where Smolin adopts the term “fitness landscape” from evolutionary biology.
Why is Susskind all of a sudden taking an interest in Smolin’s old theory? Well, last Tuesday a preprint by Smolin appeared entitled “Scientific Alternatives to the Anthropic Principle” in which he gives a detailed criticism of the anthropic principle as unscientific. The next day Susskind tried to post a response to Smolin, consisting of a 3 page paper, half of which was just a quote from a summary of his argument that Smolin had sent to him. The one and a half pages that Susskind himself wrote were pretty much incoherent, and showed no sign that he had bothered to actually read Smolin’s article.
This was such a bizarre document that someone responsible for the arXiv actually refused to accept it. I’ve heard of several non-mainstream physicists who have had problems getting their articles accepted, but this is the first time I’ve heard of this happening to a well-known mainstream physicist. Whoever did this was doing Susskind a huge favor, but he then immediately forwarded a copy of the paper via e-mail to a long distribution list.
So that’s why Susskind’s latest begins “In an unpublished note I criticized Smolin’s theory of cosmological selection…” Note that he is not addressing any of Smolin’s criticism of his own work as unscientific, instead he is attacking Smolin’s own speculative ideas. I’ve personally experienced this kind of thing from more than one string theory fanatic. They don’t respond to criticism of what they are doing (because they don’t have much of a response), and instead forcefully and incoherently attack one for any speculative comments one may have made.
This just gets weirder and weirder all the time….