Sunday, July 15, 2007
There are many strange ideas that are masquerading as science. How can crackpots be determined? There is a way that tells if a person is a crackpot. Someone who brags about all the great discoveries he is about to make is clearly a crackpot. Reading what they say shows that string theorists are screaming at everyone that they are crackpots. It is not necessary to look at string theory, which is glaringly crackpot, to tell, string theorists are screaming that they are crackpots. Of course string theory has nothing to with science, nor is it meant to. It is purely a religion (and like a religion ignores what experiment --- reality --- requires). Replacing science by religion is not unusual in physics. A half century ago, for example, there was much excitement about ideas extended from dispersion relations, involving smoothness of surfaces. Its center was at Berkeley and its leader was Geoffrey Chew. There was so much excitement that people at Berkeley asked each other "are you a member of the Chewish religion?". That idea had no real rationale and was wrong but was not crackpot. String theory is crackpot. That is why it lasted so much longer. It is still the leading religion of physicists. And the problem is not only in physics. One particularly cruel example is autism, a devastating neurological disorder, now known to be due to brain abnormalities. However the experts decided that it was do to the coldness of mothers, named refrigerator mothers. The way the mothers held the baby in the first 30 seconds caused devastating abnormalities. Of course there was no evidence of this but that was unnecessary. They were experts so qualified to decide even with no evidence at all (and, like string theorists, no matter how absurd their views). There is one thing experts know: how expert they are. And this was particularly cruel, adding to the burden of a parent with a severely sick child the extra burden of (nonexistent) guilt. But experts responsibility is to their expertness, not to facts, not to patients, not to those with grievous misfortune, but to themselves. And they were allowed to get away with it. All too often experts are so proud of their expertise their heads swell up in pride so much that it causes brain damage. This is quite clear in physics, especially with string theory, and in so many other places. Experts are dangerous.