Monday, September 18, 2006

Another Incendiary Quote

More from Gregg Easterbrook's review in the liberal Slate e-zine of physicist Lee Smolin's book The Trouble With Physics, which claims (from within) that the scientific establishment is ignoring massive flaws in string theory because of greed and ideology:
Maybe string theory eventually will prove out; maybe the apparent vibrating nothing on which we are based is but a slice of some far grander reality. But string theory seems to contain significant helpings of blather designed to intimidate nonscientists from questioning the budgets of physics departments and tax-funded particle accelerator labs. And consider this. Today if a professor at Princeton claims there are 11 unobservable dimensions about which he can speak with great confidence despite an utter lack of supporting evidence, that professor is praised for incredible sophistication. If another person in the same place asserted there exists one unobservable dimension, the plane of the spirit, he would be hooted down as a superstitious crank.
Materialism--the philosophical view that matter is the only and ultimate reality--rules modern science, despite the fact that it is a scientifically unprovable assumption. Materialism cannot prove that material is all that exists; it can only assert it. This assertion (though inconsistently held, as the above example shows) is, by definition, driven by motivations other than the emprical, whether they be philosophical, psychological, (anti-) religious, or some combination therof.

The sooner we all realize that, the sooner science will be able to resume its rightful place in human endeavor as one way of discovering a certain kind of truth and abdicate its modern status as the mediator of all truth. Such a return will benefit society and science. But don't hold your breath. "Arbiter of all truth" is a powerful position, and not one many are likely to give up too easily.

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