Einstein, the mythical vs the real

Professor Matt Strassler commented: “ …   encouraging all those young people to strive to be the *mythical* Einstein (who spent all his time thinking deep theoretical thoughts, of course), and the backlash drives young people to focus more on proposing and explaining experiments (like the *real* Einstein), that would be a good thing for science.”


I kind of understand your saying. Let me paraphrase it. If I got it wrong, please correct me.


This is very much to do with linguistics; too many terms are over used and become toxic. For example, what is “theoretical physics”?


a. A theoretical framework which is “based” on “quantum principle and relativities” is not consistent as the two in the base are not compatible. That is, there is no true theoretical system based on these two pillars of physics.


b. The Standard Model has no “theoretical base” but is a 100% hodgepodge of the test data. The equations of the model are the “best fit” mathematic formulas for the data, and many parameters in the equations are “put in” by hand, not from any theoretical base. That is, the Standard Model is just a “bookkeeping”, not a “theory” per se.


c. Being not a true theory, all “predictions” in the Standard Model have no theoretical base but is from the result of that “there is a ‘piece’ missing” or that “it must have this mass in order to balance the book”. Thus, the term “prediction” is now no longer connecting to any theoretical work. Furthermore, this kind of “bookkeeping” can be tweaked, and there comes the “post-diction” which further poisons the term “prediction”.


d. For a true theoretical framework in physics, it should be an axiom-system, with a base (definitions, axioms and procedures) and a set of consequences (sentences and theorems). As the term “prediction” is now badly contaminated, any theoretical framework will no long produces predictions but have “consequences” which are delinked from the “pre- or post-“ of any data point. When a “consequence” is verified by a data set of 100 years old, it is still a “pre-“diction for that data set.


Both M-theory and SUSY are true physics theories (theoretical frameworks). But, they are in two different “levels”. If we use the Standard Model as the “reference” point, there are two “types” of theoretical framework (not using “theory” any more as it is badly poisoned).


      i. Type I: “above” SM framework, that is, its base contains the Standard Model. Of course, its consequences should not reproduce the SM. That is, no existing “data” (not knowledge) can judge its validity. A new data is needed for this Type I framework.


     ii. Type II: “below” (beneath) SM framework, that is, its base does not contain the Standard Model. Then, its “major” mission is to “reproduce” the SM. If it succeeds, it is a valid framework. Otherwise, it is a failed trash. Thus, the “pre-“diction (consequence) of this Type II can be verified by all kind of “old” data sets.


By definition, the base of an (any) axiomatic-framework can be chosen arbitrary, that is, it is not subject to any testing. Its validity hinges on two points.


     1. As a mathematical construct — it must be mathematically consistent.


     2. As a theoretical “physics” framework — its “consequences (not the base)” must make “contacts” with the “known” physics.


If your *mythical* is about a construct which does not make any contact to the reality while *real* denotes a connection, then I now understand your saying.


The above is available at (http://profmattstrassler.com/2013/07/31/a-few-stories-worth-a-comment/#comment-72302 ).


Sean Carroll commented at his blog , “The working definition of “scientism” is “the belief that science is the right approach to use in situations where science actually isn’t the right approach at all. … Indeed, you might even misunderstand yourself. By which I mean, using vague words like this is an invitation to lazy thinking. … Given that the only productive way to use a word like “scientism” — something vaguely sinister, ill-defined, used primarily as an accusation against people who would not describe themselves that way — would be to provide an explicit and careful definition every time the word is invoked, why use it at all? … but lumping everything we don’t like into one catch-all word isn’t useful.”

You are exactly right. It is not helpful by using such a catch-all poorly defined word.

Yet, for Pinker to have a talk with the title “Science Is Not Your Enemy”, it shows that there is an issue much deeper than a single word “scientism”. Science instead of being *merely* an extremely effective method for gaining empirical knowledge of the world, it was claimed by very many as the “only” way of gaining empirical knowledge of the world, and this is the problem. There is no crackpot-philosopher or crackpot-musician, only crackpot-physicist. The problem is the definition of “science” by many physicists. If a theory is not a part of the mainstream menu, it is automatically labeled as crackpot. Then, many philosophers and artists are worse than crackpots but are idiots, and this was evident in the “Nothingness debate”. Why should those idiots not fight back?

I do see a major problem in the definition of “science”, especially on two of its terms, “prediction and theory”.

“Pre- (before)” of prediction was referring to with a “time-frame”. When a “new” data confirms the calculations of an old theory, that old theory made good “prediction”. When the calculation of a new theory fits the old data, it is a “post-“diction, and a postdiction has no scientific value.

Then, there are two types of theories.
Type A — a hodgepodge of test data, with the “best-fit” mathematic equation and with many hand-put-in parameters. This type theory does not truly make “theoretical prediction” but predicts from not “fitting” well, such as there must have a third generation of quark in order for a better fit of the known data.

Type B — an axiomatic system, with a “base” (definitions, axioms, procedures) and consequences (sentences, theorems, etc.).

As the hand-manipulated theory, the type A theory can always be tweaked to make postdiction. On the other hand, the consequences of type B theory can never make any postdiction without changing its base. Thus, the “prediction” of type B theory is not referring to a time-frame but is about its base. If its base is “below (or beneath)” the data’s theoretic-reference-frame, its consequences still “predict” that old-data.

The new meaning for “prediction” is very important. That is, the “base” of theory B is verified without itself being subject to “direct-testing”. With this, science “could” well be the right tool to use for every problem, including in the “Nothingness debate”, and even the issues of consciousness and intelligence. A not-testable “base” can be verified via its consequences.

The above is available at (http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/08/14/lets-stop-using-the-word-scientism/#comment-7295910552604267885 ).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s