Lee Smolin is a physicist, on the faculty of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. He recently published an article in Physics World about the numerous theories of a 'multiverse' in cosmology being at best misguided. Overview via PhysOrg:

Lee Smolin, author of the bestselling science book The Trouble with Physics and a founding member and research physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, writes exclusively in the June issue of Physics World explaining why theories of cosmology that suggest that our universe is just one of many - the so-called multiverse - and thus perpetuate the notion that time does not exist are flawed.

The money quote that made me really pay attention in the PhysOrg article is this: "The notion of transcending our time-bound experiences in order to discover truths that hold timelessly is an unrealizable fantasy. When science succeeds, we do nothing of the sort; what we physicists really do is discover laws that hold in the universe we experience within time. This, I would claim, should be enough; anything beyond that is more a religious urge for transcendence than science."

I am interested in responses - especially from the physicists out there.

Views: 85

Replies to This Discussion

Dannyisme,

I am not sure about the alchemy analogy - but sometimes I think a certain subset of theoretical physicists out there are too caught up in the why question instead of how. We may be unable to learn about anything pre big bang. And I am OK with that.
It's difficult for me to respond not being a scientist. Some of the stuff that supposedly top notch scientists peddle nowadays sounds like bad fantasy or sci fi and they really have no proof. Seems they start with an idea now and then try and fit it into a mathematical equation. Kind if like forcing a round peg into a square hole. The real problem with this approach is it damages not only their credibility but all the other scientists.
Its also one of the arguments that religious people use against scientists and the only argument that makes any sense from their side. Is there a difference say between alternate dimensions, time streams and believing in god?
I'm not a physicist either. However, I have to say I'm not so troubled by scientists speculating about possible theoretical explanations beyond the boundaries of what is actually accessible to us. The problem arises when speculation is seized upon as the answer by other scientists or, more commonly, by those in the media who write about science. Scientists who want to indulge in flights of fancy should be careful to label them as such. When they don't, they leave themselves, and the scientific enterprise as a whole, open to criticism that can detract from more credible scientific theories.
George,

My problem is that it is getting a little out of hand. While I do not have a problem with things like string or M theory (which are currently beyond our technology as to testability) I do have a problem with science being asked to explain WHY. The scientific method is not formulated to explain why, only to get at a consistent explaination of HOW. We may or may not live in a multiverse. But if the other universe(s) are forever denied to us via experiment or experience it can only be specuilation. If you cannot falsify a theory it is essentially useless.

Brad
The scientific method is not formulated to explain why, only to get at a consistent explaination of HOW

Was it Richard Feynman who said: "Even after we find out that something is true (in science), we still don't know why it's true"?

Maybe its on philosophical boundaries like this that we non-theists can call the game off (with the believers) on account of metaphysical darkness. Let's limit the discussion on and post-Big Bang.
Here is a discussion by working scientists on this concept.

http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/origins-symposium/panel-2-is-...

The biggest problem is that science is ultimately based on testability and falsifiability. Almost by definition, other universes in the multiverse would not be causally connected to ours, so that may well negate any possibility of doing real science. On the other hand, if we have a mathematical theory that we can test in as many ways as possible, and that predicts such multiple universes, what should we do at that point? How seriously should we take the statements about such other universes?

I tend to lean towards multiverses being rather theological and not very useful for understanding.

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