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Sean Carroll channels Giordano Bruno

giordano bruno

Sean  M. Carroll, a noted cosmologist, in his first column for Discovery Magazine called Welcome to the Multiverse writes that the progress in cosmology has forced cosmologists “kicking and screaming” to accept the Multiverse, the same theory that caused Giordano Bruno to be burned at the stake in Rome in 1600.

Sigh.

I sigh because the two pieces of evidence that have dragged him “kicking and screaming” into multiverse theory are “string theory” and “inflation”. And what you should immediately ask, is “What!? Not Bruno’s universalism?” because both of those “theories” have about as much to support them as Bruno did.

Carroll knows this, and in a clever twist, argues that like Bruno, we should explore scientific heresies with an open mind. Except that it isn’t the Church, but the philosophy of science that is being trashed. That is, while I am all for exploring scientifically heretical subjects, I would prefer to do so on empirically sound foundations, which neither String Theory nor Inflation possess. One should read Bruce Gordon on the metaphysics that undergirds both theories–which have gone through numerous modifications as they fail to conform to data. In fact, on Lakatos‘ analysis, both StringTheory and Inflation are clearly “degenerate science programs”.

So how does one get “forced” by degenerate science programs that expend all their disposable hypotheses on shoring up the main thesis?

Read more…

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4 Responses to Sean Carroll channels Giordano Bruno

  1. He refutes his own statement that he was drug “kicking and screaming” when he notes, in that column, that many theories of Inflation do not posit a Multiverse at all.

    A broader point here speaks to the rampant degeneracy of modern science across numerous fields. Traditionally the product of science is to migrate an Abductive framework (Peirce) to an Inductive one a single point at a time via experiments — deductive constructions. The modern metaphysics infestation is not one of bad metaphysics but an attempt to alter things such that the product of science is the Abductive frameworks themselves. Full stop, and nothing more to be done.

    You can ascribe this qua Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn, Jaki, or even just a limit to current measurement equipment and mathematics as you like. (The last two as, if there is nothing more that can be produced at this time, those employed will still attempt to produce anything as a matter of their continued employment.) I’m not familiar with Jaki, but if he takes the standpoint that the Nullius in Verba consequence of treating men as flawed and venal things; then he’s certainly done a better job of things than Lakatos’ efforts at dialectics.

    tldr: The problem is that the product of science is, now, the creation of novel religions rather than novel consequences.

  2. That is, while I am all for exploring scientifically heretical subjects, I would prefer to do so on empirically sound foundations, which neither String Theory nor Inflation possess

    Well then…

    Cosmologists Search for Gravity Waves to Prove Inflation Theory
    Nancy Atkinson, University of Chicago, 2009

    Inflation Theory proposes a period of extremely rapid and exponential expansion of the Universe during its first few moments prior to the more gradual Big Bang expansion, during which time the energy density of the universe was dominated by a cosmological constant-type of vacuum energy that later decayed to produce the matter and radiation that fill the Universe today.

    In 1979, physicist Alan Guth proposed the Cosmic Inflation Theory, which also predicts the existence of an infinite number of universes. Unfortunately, cosmologists have no way of testing that particular prediction.

    “Since these are separate universes, by definition that means we can never have any contact with them. Nothing that happens there has any impact on us,” said Scott Dodelson, a scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and a Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

    But there is a way to probe the validity of cosmic inflation. The phenomenon would have produced two classes of perturbations. The first, fluctuations in the density of subatomic particles happen continuously throughout the universe, and scientists have already observed them.

    “Usually they’re just taking place on the atomic scale. We never even notice them,” Dodelson said. But inflation would instantaneously stretch these perturbations into cosmic proportions. “That picture actually works. We can calculate what those perturbations should look like, and it turns out they are exactly right to produce the galaxies we see in the universe.”

    The second class of perturbations would be gravity waves—Einsteinian distortions in space and time. Gravity waves also would get promoted to cosmic proportions, perhaps even strong enough for cosmologists to detect them with sensitive telescopes tuned to the proper frequency of electromagnetic radiation.

    See also TOBA is a-swingin’, looking for gravity waves

  3. Another example (I can provide more if you like)

    Particles, Strings and the Early Universe – Scientific Program
    University of Hamburg, Collaborative Research Centre, SFB 676

    The SFB is centered at the interface of particle physics, string theory and cosmology. The upcoming experiments at the ‘Large Hadron Collider’ (LHC) at CERN (Geneva) will elucidate the nature of the elementary building blocks of matter, uncover the mechanism responsible for their mass generation and discover or severely constrain physical phenomena which go beyond the established theory of the known elementary particles. Similarly, cosmological observations which are planned for the coming years will improve the understanding of the still mysterious Dark Matter and Dark Energy and will further establish the history of the very early universe.

    Various research groups of the SFB are involved in the LHC and in aspects of the upcoming cosmological observations. In parallel theoretical and mathematical investigations are carried out. In particular (supersymmetric) extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics are in the focus of interest. Such theories lead to interesting predictions for new particles within the discovery reach of the LHC and they also suggest a promising explanation of the dark matter. In addition, neutrino physics, the physics of very weakly interacting sub-eV particles, questions concerning the origin of the highest energy particles observed in the universe, cosmic leptogenesis and quantum field theoretic foundations of cosmology are further research projects of the SFB. Particle physics and cosmology are expected to be unified within string theory. The mathematical development of string theory and its application in particle physics and cosmology therefore form a central research block of the SFB. On the one hand, the mathematical foundations of string theory are developed in close interdisciplinary contact with modern mathematics. On the other hand models of inflation and particle physics which come out of string theory are investigated. The interplay of string theory and strongly coupled quantum field theories – such as (supersymmetric) quantum chromodynamics – are further central research projects.

    The research arena of the SFB is the interface of Particle Physics, String Theory and Cosmology. Accordingly the SFB is structured into the following sections:

    A String Theory
    B Particle Physics
    C Cosmology

    Associated Young Investigator Groups

  4. rhampton7,
    I appreciate your effort to demonstrate that both string theory and inflation have experimental predictions. However, this is not enough to make them empirical.

    Here’s an anecdote to explain, based on the story of Euler and Diderot. (See Wikipedia entry on Euler). Euler was an accomplished mathematician and devout, Diderot an accomplished Frenchman and not. They were both employed in Moscow, when Diderot asked for a mathematical proof of the existence of God. Euler complied, saying,

    “Euler appeared, advanced toward Diderot, and in a tone of perfect conviction announced, “Sir, \frac{a+b^n}{n}=x, hence God exists—reply!”

    My point being that acoustic waves in the early universe do not need inflation to be either predicted or observed. Neither do dark energy or dark matter need string theory to be observed or predicted. Colloquially speaking, if I had some ham, I’d make a ham sandwich (with String Theory) if I had some bread.

    And that is the problem. Empiricism itself needs to be well connected to observation or else the appeal to empiricism is as vacuous as the appeal to data. Neither inflation nor string theory have any support even for the construction of these experiments. They have merely appropriated them as if they were parts of the theory.

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