Not Even Not Even Wrong

I find it just completely unbelievable that anyone thinks this kind of thing is science.

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7 Responses to Not Even Not Even Wrong

  1. My view is that the “anthropic principle” is a way to camouflage experimental input as if it were theoretical input. Surely most of the papers can be driven to a more standard format, separating really theoretical restrictions from just empirical restrictions. If they prefer this way, it is perhaps because the theoretical restrictions are not, say, very spectacular by themselves.

    I could write a paper claiming that atoms of, well, 82 protons, are necessary for human beings, and that the perturbative stability of this kind of atoms ask for a fine structure constant smaller than 1/82. But nobody should mistake such paper with a theoretical work.

  2. Thomas Larsson says:

    Maybe you can argue that human life requires that the aether wind be neglible, which would explain the Michelson-Morley experiment.

  3. JC says:

    Did anyone ever try to cook up an “anthropic” explanation for something like the Balmer spectra of hydrogen, before the Bohr model ever existed?

    It would be interesting to see what sort of phenomena had “anthropic” explanations more than century ago, which today have relatively well established theories and experiments.

    It seems like “anthropic” explanations are not much more convincing that saying something happens because of “God’s will” or that “it’s the work of Satan” type of stupidity.

  4. Peter says:

    Weinberg’s argument is just that the cosmological constant can’t be too large, or else galaxies won’t form. So he is telling you that even if you have no idea what causes the cosmological constant, there is an allowed range it can be in. People are calling this a “successful prediction” because the observed value is (by some measure) in the middle part of that range. I don’t think this deserves to be a called a scientific prediction because:

    1. It is not based on understanding anything about the phenomenon at issue, it is based on claiming utter ignorance about it.

    2. It can never be made precise, because you really are not actually understanding anything.

    The idea that one can make “predictions” by looking at all vacuum states and saying we should be in a generic one, could in principle be falsifiable, if you had a good understanding of what all the vacuum states are. The problem is that you don’t really know what string theory is well enough for this to be a well-defined problem. Susskind can thus go and do silly things like claim that if you stack enough branes on the KKLT construction you can evade falsification.

    There’s a pretty standard human behavior of “group-think”, where each member of a group of people starts doing something stupid because others around them are doing it. This has a lot to do with the whole string theory phenomenon, now an even more bizarre version of it seems to be going on at Stanford. Susskind devotes a lot of his time to proselytizing for this nonsense, evidently he’s even writing a popular book to promote these ideas more widely.

  5. erinj says:

    Isn’t astronomy the only physical science where quantitative predictions within “a couple of orders of magnitude” are thought of as being “successful”? Are such predictions acceptable in cosmology?

    Surely the “anthropic principle” is a misnomer, as even if it is falsifiable, it hasn’t been established as a scientific principle – so I certainly agree, Peter, that it isn’t science. OK, it’s nonsense. It reads even worse if you call it, as Dimopoulos does, “habitability criteria”. Now that’s just silly!

    Isn’t there a pattern here as well? Susskind is at Stanford. So is Dimopoulos, Kachru and Kallosh. Andre Linde is there too. So we have KKLT, the `anthropic virus’, Susskind’s “landscape” and Linde’s `universes in the lab’ all emanating out of Stanford. Are all these things the result of infighting and petty competition between these Stanford guys? Are they trying to out-do each other? Something in whatever they drink there?

  6. D R Lunsford says:

    What is Weinberg’s 1987 paper like?

  7. serenus zeitblom says:

    Well, the desperation revealed there at least shows that the anthropic principle *is* science. Clearly LS is worried that the AP can be falsified. The only catch is that it *has* been falsified by the longevity of the proton.
    Actually this longevity-of-the-proton argument has been around for a long time, and it is the reason I never took anthropism seriously. I thought that this was well-known, and I am very puzzled that it is being bandied about now as if it were some sensational new discovery….anyway the point is that anthropism is clearly wrong, and LS’s paper has the virtue of advertizing this obvious fact!

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