Episode One – Introduction

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Dwayne

Einstein, in the special theory of relativity, proved that different observers, in different states of motion, see different realities. ”

Leonard Susskind

Ashna

Nothing is real unless it is observed.

John Gribbin; In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality, 1984

Dwayne

Things are the way they are in our universe because if they weren’t, I wouldn’t be here to notice.”

Brian Greene; The Elegant Universe.

Dwayne
These quotes amount to an attack on the senses, an attack on the ability to know reality, an attack on objectivity, an attack on reason and so forth. But, once you abandon reason, you have abandoned science. So, what these quotes amount to is an attack on science.

Ashna:
What about the Standard Model of physics, though? That seemed like it was a pretty big deal and seems to have gone a long way towards explaining the fundamental forces of nature and classifying the elementary particles.

Dwayne
Yeah, OK, but that was about forty years ago at this point.  And what have they done since then? They have not made any kind of progress like that since then and fundamental physics has come to somewhat of a standstill.  This is something which many physicists admit.

String theory manifold.
This is the kind of thing string theorists talk about. Is it any wonder they have made no progress?

Ashna
But many consider that string theory will one day qualify.

Dwayne
String theory is a bizarre hodgepodge of contradictory ideas which nobody has been able to make work despite about thirty years of intense theorizing. We will cover string theory in later episodes, but for now, it suffices to say that we do not think string theory qualifies as a promising area of physics research. In fact, it is indicative of the entirely irrational way many physicists approach physics.

Ashna
Have they made any progress?

Dwayne
Oh, of course, they have. But, there has not been anything big that furthers the understandings of the fundamentals of physics. Not for a long time.

Ashna
Why do people believe this kind of thing then?

Dwayne
Because most people, including most modern physicists, have, explicitly or implicitly, adopted an irrational philosophy that leads them to accept that reality as it really it is not knowable, which makes it hard to know or develop rational physics.

They incorrectly believe that we can only know reality as it appears to us, distorted by the lenses of our human senses. This is what it means when it is said that we can only know “appearances”, that we can only know reality as it appears to us, not as it really is.

There is an attitude of “science is what scientists say it is” that is very prevalent in modern culture.  It is considered irrational to question anything a scientist says, no matter how clearly irrational what is said might be.

Ashna
Indeed, it is taken for a fact that scientists do science and what they say is therefore almost certainly rational and true, no matter how bizarre it might sound…

Dwayne
It is unfortunate that they think that, however, it is not very surprising.  The sciences tend to be advanced subjects which many non-specialists only have a very basic grasp of.  Most people do not and should not be expected to have a deep understanding of the sciences and therefore rely on the word of scientists when it comes to many scientific issues, which is also fair enough.

However, there is the attitude that just anything scientists say should be accepted as science.  But, it is not true that just anything a scientist claims should be accepted to be true.

While it is true that many non-experts are in a position where they should generally trust the word of any credible scientific expert, this does not mean that just anything these experts might say should be accepted.

Not if what they say flies in the face of proper philosophical ideas.  Not if what they say clearly contradicts the rules of logic or metaphysics or are just clearly wrong.

It is true that philosophy is not able to form a position on particular, scientific issues (outside of philosophy).  It does not have the tools, such as experimentation and math required to engage in the physical sciences.

But, it does have a certain veto power when it comes to the physical sciences.  Any claim made within the realms of physical sciences (or any other field of study) which contradicts rational metaphysics and epistemology must be rejected.  No matter how much evidence any scientist claims to have or how well reasoned he claims that his argument is.

Aristotle
Aristotle is, as we shall see, proof that philosophy is relevant to science.

Ashna
“If your metaphysics and epistemology are rational, then it should not conflict with evidence or reasoning.  If it does, then you should probably reconsider your evidence or reasoning..

Dwayne
Right, therefore, to some extent, anyone with even a basic understanding of rational philosophical ideas can reject certain things scientific experts might claim.  Even if they lack expertise in the subject. If scientists make claims which contradict rational philosophy, then those claims should be rejected, regardless of any alleged scientific evidence.
People do not do this.  They accept almost anything scientists claim these days.  Partially because they are used to accepting what experts in the field say, partially because they assume people with authority in a subject are almost never wrong.

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