About Nottale's Scale Relativity "theory"
Let us illustrate and complete the previous remarks
with a concrete example of a situation, that may be considered
typical and unsurprising for scientists, but challenges some naive
expectations of other people about science.
The one field of scientific research that may be the most
highly valued by popular scientific magazines, philosophers of
science and many other popular commenters, as well as "worked on" by
a majority of cranks (a much larger proportion of them than of
true scientists), is the quest for a "theory of everything" of
physics, that would "explain the deep nature of things" by
unifying both theories of fundamental physics from which most known
physical phenomena are derived: general relativity, and the
famous Standard Model of particle physics in the framework of
quantum field theory.
So, there is a large public, thirsty and excited of reading any
news on what's going on in this area, wishing the problem to be
solved, maybe expecting the world to be quickly somehow
enlightened and transformed with a revelation of the mind of God as
a result of such a discovery (according to Hawking's conclusion of
his Brief History of Time), disregarding the fact that they didn't
understand in the first place these two established theories in need
Still, somehow uncomfortable between their ignorance of this
established physics knowledge and their inability and/or laziness or
lack of time to really learn it, they are quite fond of
"popularized science" books which will give them the impression
to understand it - no matter how illusory this impression may
One day, both dreams came to be realized in one book that quickly
became a best-seller in France: "La relativité dans tous ses
états" (Relativity in all its states). The
author, Laurent Nottale, is an astrophysicist entitled
with one of the highest official scientific positions in the
French public science system : Research Director in CNRS
(national center of scientific research)
Or, this title may sound more honorable than it really is, as there
are between 4,000 and 4,500 other French scientists of all fields
with this same title. But the public did not pay attention to this.
They did not care how many other scientists with this title there
were, and they even did not know any other scientist with this
title. Of course, some other scientists with this title may have
been heard of by the public, but they did not pay attention to this.
This is because there was no reason to point out this title except
for the case of Nottale, because Nottale was the only one of
them who made any really interesting discoveries, and for whom it
was really important to point out this title, in order to show
how scientifically credible his extraordinary claims must be.
Roughly, the first half of his book was to give a popularized
presentation of modern physics, and the second half was to introduce
the principles of his own theory, "Relativité
d'échelle" (Scale Relativity, that we will write as RE). He
explained the fundamental principles of his own theory, as
consisting of :
1) "Taking away the differentiability hypothesis" (on which,
according to Nottale, mainstream physics was currently based),
thus allowing for a "fractal space-time";
2) Introducing a "principle of scale relativity" (as an extension of
application of the relativity principle), after those of Special and
General relativity (which may be described as being respectively
about relativity of speed and acceleration);
3) Deducing consequences, by drawing a parallel between the role of
speed in special relativity and the role of scale in scale
relativity. One of the first "consequences" was that, just
as speeds are bounded by the limit value c (speed of light), so
there would be limit values of scale too, from a lower extreme (the
Planck scale), to a higher extreme (the cosmological constant).
Another consequence, would be to explain the quantum behavior
of particles as following "geodesics in a fractal space-time".
Another consequence would have been to explain the distribution of
planetary orbits as following a quantification rule like electrons
in atoms. And many other claims of explanations, from particle
physics with its constants, to evolutionary processes.
It would all be a continuation and new extension of Einstein's works
and discoveries. Anyway, what is sure is that, consequently, this
work also provided its author for a new extension of Einstein's
Along the several years of his popularity, several articles praising
his discoveries appeared in all the 4 main French popular science
One article was to present a list of the 4 main competing
theories of everything (or research programs towards a theory of
everything): String theory, loop quantum gravity,
Connes'non-commutative geometry, and Nottale's scale relativity.
Pour la science (the French edition of the Scientific
American) published in 1997 an article by Nottale, titled "Are we
in a black hole ?", and in july 2003 gave 8 pages to be directly
written by Nottale, claiming for experimental
confirmations of his theory, after another popular science magazine
published similar claims by another member of his team in 2002.
One of the most prestigious French higher educational institutions,
is Ecole Normale Supérieure (there are 3 of them, I'm
speaking about the most famous one, "rue d'Ulm" in Paris): entry is
admitted from an extremely selective contest after a 2-3 years of very
intensive training after high school; its students already receive a quite
good salary from the state for studying, and are then easily accepted
to research or teaching positions. The famous Bourbaki group
(collective author of a large compendium of modern mathematics in
the middle of the 20th century) is from there; but this school includes
a large diversity of fields from science to literature and philosophy.
This school had its famous regular seminar on the philosophy of
science, called "Pensée des sciences". The literal
translation of this title would be "Thought of sciences". Is this
clear ? How can we explain this title ? We may try
to understand it by replacing there "sciences" by something
else. Uh, what can it be ? Let us look for another sort of
profession. So, what profession can we imagine to put there instead
of sciences ? Well, sorry I would not like to offend any profession.
So, I will take here, at random, the profession of garbage
collecting (and I want to ask forgiveness from all scavengers if
this choice may sound downgrading to them, as this is not my purpose
here). So, we can understand that seminar's title by replacing
"sciences" by "garbage collecting": this would be about making the
difference between garbage collecting on the one hand,
and the thought of (or philosophy of) garbage
collecting on the other hand, in the sense that the latter would
be spiritually higher than the former.
So, the purpose of philosophers coming to this "pensée
des sciences" seminar, is to come and look at sciences from
above, in order to provide them for a meaning.
And what happened, is that Nottale was a reputed member of that
seminar. He held there several presentations of his views, was
a good friend of the organizers and highly considered by them.
His popularity extended all over the web. If you made a web search
on "relativité" at that time, you would have got manier
entries about scale relativity (even among the first entries) than
about Einstein's relativity theories. (I felt concerned about
this because I had written about special relativity). A large number
of Web sites, groups or seminars of science popularization (such as
clubs of astronomy), book reviews or philosophy of science, had
an entry about scale relativity.
The problem is, his popularity among amateurs of science, did
not extend to professional physicists. These usually did not mention
Nottale if they had a Web site. Nottale's research team remained
quite small, as hardly any other physicist joined it. He had a few
articles published in peer-reviewed journals, but he often faced
rejection of his articles too.
Of course, discussions had happened between him and other
physicists. These discussions usually came to dead ends: either
aporia, or harsh judgements with an impossibility to talk any
further, suspecting that Nottale's ideas just had no meaning and no
value, or could not be verified. But, as I could know of (and I made
large web searches at that time), hardly anything from these
debates was ever written down and published anywhere, except
quite short reports in discussions.
By lack of peer physicists, Nottale tried to extend his team by
accepting and leading Master or PhD students, but still had big
troubles doing so. Some came, but most of them quickly gave up and
went away for another subject, either because they quickly noticed
that scale relativity made no sense and nothing could decently be
made out of it, and/or for fear of not being accepted after this for
a scientific job anywhere else if they worked on it then.
In front of this mad situation, I took a very bold decision: I
started writing down a harsh (and even
mocking) criticism of Nottale
and his "scale relativity", to publish on my web site.
Across all the web, I was (and I always remained) the only author
criticizing Nottale's scale relativity in the form of Web pages (all
other cases of online criticisms I know of were mere
messages in newsgroups and web forums, except maybe one small page,
quite less developed).
It was a very hard and painful task. It was made especially hard
by Nottale's writing style. This style, which made virtually
desperate any attempt to criticize him, consisted in the fact that,
in a first approximation, he did not seem to write anything clear
and precise that could ever be an object of a possible agreement or
disagreement. In other words, his claims were usually not even wrong. Namely, much of
his writings were but an endless play of introductions to
themselves. It was so hard to identify there any well-defined claim
that could be argued about, and the explanations of what was wrong
with that, were beyond the reach of an expression in the usual
language of popularized science. It required to explain in details
how some usual introductory or popularized ways of expressing the
known laws of physics, were not an exact image of the deep
theoretical meaning of these laws as professional physicists
are normally familiar with, and that these subtle misunderstandings
are responsible for the fact that Nottale's claims seem to
make sense (seem quite plausible and meaningful) for amateur
physicists, but turn out to be definitely nonsense when considered
from a professional physicist's viewpoint.
So I spent quite a time developing a first version of this
criticism, which was then widely visited as it appeared (and still
appears now) among the first links (first page of results) on
keywords "Nottale" or "relativité d'échelle".
For example, I explained that the apparent similarities between
both "relativity principles" for special and general
relativity, as presented by Einstein in his famous book (relativity
of speed and of acceleration), only hold for a popularized and
introductory viewpoint on these theories, while it would be quite
odd to try keeping such a parallel in the effective contents of
these theories as any specific cases of a mathematically
well-defined general concept of a relativity principle. For this and
other reasons, just calling for a "new extension of the same
principle" to the case of scales, can hardly mean anything in itself
(while Nottale just assumed that this call must suffice to be making
sense, without any further justification).
I reviewed many Web sites mentioning scale relativity and wrote
to their authors to tell them about my criticism. I reviewed all
possible online discussions that may have meaningful contents about
scale relativity, and referenced them, to form a quite complete and
exhaustive (including all sides of the debate) online list of
references of opinions on the subject, much more than those given by
Nottale and the other site promoting scale relativity themselves at
And I got a diversity of reactions (but Nottale himself never wrote
me, as he never wrote himself in online forums either, while he must
have known about my criticism).
One of the things I heard or got in reply to my criticism, from
people who closely knew him and his work, was that Nottale was a
very humble person who did not make any big claim, but doing an
honest pioneering of a research work that was far from complete, so
that it would be wrong to expect from him any clear and solid
conclusion; and he is therefore not responsible for his exaggerated
popularity. Much more clarification work for his ideas would have to
be done first.
But the problem here is the discrepancy between such unofficial
claims of humility in private discussions with physicists, and
the self-complacent claims that he and his supporters publish in the
media and online forums, and that remained uncontradicted
by any of their other public claims.
One reader of "La relativité dans tous ses états"
wrote on a Web site that this book must be reserved for
advanced physicists. When I asked him why, he explained that, as a
beginner, he has not the necessary background to properly understand
it and do anything with the claims contained there. However my
criticism of this book had been dismissed by one of Nottale's
supporters by claiming, that, of course, it is normal that as a
book of popularization, it should not be expected to provide any
solid defensible contents for a proper assessment of the theory;
thus he advised me to stop reading any book of popularization, and
start reading Nottale's more advanced writings.
Problem: if it is neither good for beginners nor for advanced
readers, how could this book ever be a best-seller as it was ?
Then, there is a "more advanced book" that one should read instead;
I read the first chapters that were available online and I found
there the same flaws.
For example, the "formulas" there were nonsense, as the symbols did
not have any well-defined meaning, and there were no clear rules
what to do of them.
Still, some defenders argued that this observation was not right,
either because I would be ignorant of the concepts and the meaning
of the formalism, or because anyway other mainstream accepted
theories suffer similar weakness.
Indeed, it is well-known that Quantum Field Theory (the framework of
particle physics) is quite ill-defined mathematically, based on
formulas that do not make any direct sense but have to be
"interpreted" through a large series of tricks transforming the
initial formulas into other formulas that finally give better
computable results. This requires some quite strange tricks,
such as letting the physical constants that appeared in the initial
formula, become variables depending on the size of
the pixels into which the physical space is approximated.
However, such an argument cannot stand because, what really matters
to physicists is a kind of intuition they develop about their
formulas, that goes beyond the strict and immediate consideration of
mathematical rigor for its definiteness, and that can assess
whether some deeper meaning for formulas can still exist "out
And, while such an intuitive meaning does exist for the formulas of
quantum field theory, no start of a meaning can be found for those
of scale relativity.
Another reaction was, who am I, mere math PhD, to make such a harsch
criticism of a scientist with such a high grade as Nottale ?
Someone (that seemed to be working on the philosophy of mathematics
in Ecole Normale Supérieure) wrote me that I seemed jealous
of Nottale's findings, and that at least he made an honorable effort
(good try) towards the ultimate mysteries of the universe, while I
was a failed scientific thinker looking for recognition while
I could not make anything like this. I replied to him that,
well, there is no one goal absolutely the best, and that other jobs
such as garbage collecting can be honorable too. Indeed, the very
task I was just doing, to dismiss Nottale's claims and try to clean
up the public media of this nonsense, can be seen as a sort of
intellectual garbage collecting, that may seem quite a dirty task,
but for the intellectual hygiene of society there needs someone
to do it too.
In online forums I read a message of someone who dedicates much of
his life in many forums to promote the existence of the paranormal
as well as every possible crackpot idea he can find under the sun,
who reported to have written to Nottale in hope to receive from him
support for his ideas, and then being shocked at Nottale's reply,
which was a for him a devastating revelation that Nottale is a very
materialistic person denying the existence of any paranormal
Someone wrote me that Nottale had the bad practice to take for
his own credit all results from his collaborators.
Wikipedia articles were made about Nottale and scale relativity. I
tried my best to put a stop to this foolishness, by trying to make
corrections, and, in the discussion page, replying on every
pseudo-argument made by the main author of this Wikipedia article
(who was not a scientist but an amateur of science popularization,
crazily enthusiastic of Nottale). It was an awful, exhausting fight.
He reverted away my corrections of the article a number of times. It
was desperate to try to convince him, as there was no possible cure
for the strength and pride of his ignorance. This Wikipedia article
was a shame of an article for Wikipedia, because any non-ridiculous
introduction to scale relativity would have to obey Nottale's way of
introducing his ideas, based on his disastrous misinterpretation of
the situation of mainstream physics. So, there was logically no way
under the sun for a Wikipedia article on the subject to ever both
seem "neutral" and be really fair, as the official Wikipedia policy
He said that Nottale has credentials as he did publish in
peer-reviewed journals, while I do not have any such credentials. So
he challenged me to make a scientific publication criticizing scale
relativity in a peer-reviewed journal. Then, I asked someone for
advice about this challenge, and got the reply that it was rather
hopeless, both because
- Nottale has a high scientific position which I don't have
(only highly reputed authors could afford to write such criticism,
but they usually don't).
- Scientific articles must usually be about positive results, while,
just explaining that BS is BS, which was already clear for most
scientists anyway, is not a genuine form of scientific progress.
In fact, as was noted in other discussions, when looking more
closely at Nottale's publications, it appears that no true
peer-reviewed credentials for scale relativity articles can be
- Nottale had publications accepted in scientific journals
but most of them are not about scale relativity. As for those on
scale relativity, they cannot be used as a credit to it because
- Many did not have any such credentials: they were either mere
preprints or made in contexts like symposiums that do not constitute
a peer-review credential;
- Some were published in journals of astronomy where referees don't
always have the necessary background in physics
- Some were published in the journal "Chaos, Solitons and Fractals"
whose editor-in-chief of that time, El Naschie, is a famous crank
with similar ideas too (unknown to the French public).
According to RationalWiki,
bloggers removed their posts about El Naschie and Chaos,
Solitons and Fractals, apparently in the face of legal threats from
the El Naschie's representatives"
So, we are in a legal system that somehow practices censorship
against genuine scientific review, not letting scientists any full
right to criticize cranks. This is serious.
Also, the author of the wikipedia article argued that my criticism
seemed weak: according to my own words, it seemed that I did not
really check what Nottale's ideas were worth, nor did I really
understand what they were about, but I only made vague
suspicions against them, so that my harsh conclusions were not based
on any serious justifications.
From this, I took a serious, painful decision: I went on to
sacrifice one more month of my life to rewrite and develop all my
arguments against scale relativity, so as to make them much clearer
and remove this impression of weakness or uncertainty.
I noticed that Nottale published an article in the journal
"Commentaire" (and put it on his web site) precisely to criticize
the peer-review system, based on the observation that his own
articles about scale relativity were often rejected by reviewers,
which he interpreted as an expression of conservatism of physicists
who remain sticked to their dogmas and are not open to new ideas.
In fact, Nottale also once wrote the following about his life :
"Once I had this idea, I did
not think (I was not yet in CNRS): 'Hey, I'll announce this as a
research orientation in my CNRS application ! I will work on it'.
I would never have done such a thing. I did not write in my
CNRS activity reports, before the end of the 1980s, that I worked
on that. I did that in parallel, as if it were my leisure time…
I know it was not publishable. I knew I could not make a carreer
or even simply have a position, if I mentioned such researches. If
I announced I worked on this path, I'd have killed all
possibility to have a research position, despite my 13 articles
in referee journals, my state doctorate, etc.
Then, for ten years, I kept that as a background task, and it
is, indeed when I was recognized for my work on lenses
(the Digital prize and other rewards), that I wad nominated
research director in CNRS, and I said myself : 'Now I take
I kept referencing all possible comments found on the web about
One PhD was made under Nottale's direction. The result of this
thesis was refuting a fundamental formula which was used everywhere
in scale relativity calculations. The thesis report by the jury
mentioned something like "The originality of this thesis is that the
student happened to disagree with his director, and was approved
there by the jury". This student was consequently rejected by
Nottale after this.
One newsgroup participant reported to have been shocked at hearing a
radio interview of a highly ranked specialist of general relativity,
where an auditor asked for his opinion about scale relativity,
and as a reply he "swept away the theory in one sentence, saying
there was no ground in Nottale's books". This listnener's helpless
report and comment, expressed his deep disappointment about that
reputed physicist, who in this way appeared quite intolerant
and conservative against new ideas in physics. But others disagreed
with this view, defending this physicist against Nottale.
Other examples of comments:
"Let's be serious,
Nottale's theory interests only one person in the world,
Nottale. I never heard any notable scientist of any
nationality, that mentions him".
A physicist in the newsgroup reported to have taken a lot of
time reading Nottale's articles (much more than I did myself),
without succeeding to find any sense in them, nor to find any
supporter to give any explanations on their meaning (the only ones
who replied were ignorant enthousiastic supporters of scale
relativity who did not understand the articles themselves and thus
could not give any explanations). He also tried to check whether,
among all claims made by scale relativists to have had their
predictions confirmed by experience, he could really find
any such a prediction to have really been published before the
experimental confirmation came out, and could not find any.
"i>As there are hundreds of
thousands of young researchers in the world looking for a big
scoop to be famous, ready for anything to publish and get a
position, I guess if there was any small probability to draw
anything from these fractal theories there would be many
articles on hep-th. But it seems to be a complete silence.
The problem of string theory is that it is very difficult (...),
but telling anything about fractals, quantum chaos or the
butterfly effect, would be in anyone's reach, and cranks don't
"I doubt any but Nottale know
what he did"
"The name of Nottale tells you something ? he is professor
in CNRS and Centrale [an engineer school], I think, he wrote
brilliant books on relativity, brilliant books that, after analysis,
turned out to be devoid of meaning. And these books have
been sold like little breads"
Then I invited him to read my criticism, to which he
"Excellent, really excellent. The
criticism really expresses what I observed and the feeling I had
when reading Nottale's articles. But it goes clearly deeper
Only one Web site except mine contained significantly developed
arguments against scale relativty. This was the forum of a famous
French site of science popularization.
Here are some translated excerpts from this forum (not the
arguments about high concepts of theoretical physics, but the
simple ones), to show what can be a normal, rational
argumentation and ultimate refutation, made by scientists against a
popular theory written by a highly ranked scientist, that has been a
best-seller of scientific popularization for a long time, praised by
many philosophers of science, scientific magazines and
many book commenters, and seemingly uncriticized by anyone
several hours of discussions with [Nottale], I could never understand the
fundamental principle by which he obtained quantum effects..."
"However, one thing is sure : though one magazine recently made
its headlines with 4 scientists implied with
these theories, no theoretical physicists believes any
least bit in [scale relativity].. the first 3 are serious
attempts, but the latter is mere "calculational poetry" and it
is nonsense to compare it to the others."
"The problem with his theory is that it predicts everything,
and if we asked for it, it could even make coffee. It could have
been a good idea, it did not work, the author insisted, it became
a parascientific delirium."
"The scientific work does not consist in proving that all
fuzzy claims are false. It's up to a new theory to prove itself
valid. Nottale was unable to do so. If scientists had to spend
their time proving that smoky theories are such, they could do
it full-time !"
"All his seminars I saw were fuzzy, without any proof"
[in reply to a RE supporter's message "I wish to bring him
on the right track by reacting on some quotations about RE that
seem very far from the scientific debate":]
"The main reason may be that RE
is precisely quite far from science..."
"The problem of scale relativity is that it is NOT a theory.
It is at best
a modern poem. Scale relativity does not give any possibility
to be falsified, and according to its author, it explains everything
from the electron's mass to planetary orbits. But when you look
a little at the mathematical framework behind the theory, there
is STRICTLY nothing solid (...) Nottale is a good communicator
and know to sell himself"
"like the Bogdanov (...) they
know how to use the media to make up an image of themselves in
the public, by lack of a professional recognition. Nottale
published more in wide public journals than publications (...)
he gets predictions out of his hat while hiding technical
problems at the foundation of his "theory"(...) it is not sane
and goes away from the scientific method. All scientists with
whom I could talk say it's [worthless]" (the French word here
and here is the concluding message by a moderator:
"What a caustic humor !
But I still find terribly
amusing to see that you don't notice the ridicule of your
pseudo-defense of RE : among those 7 preprints, only one was
published... I restricted my search to the theoretical physics
part of arxiv, letting down the astro part.
Absurd theories don't deserve to spend time on them because
they immediately appear so if one has a minimum of knowledge.
I agree that at least RE may seem from far away a minimum
serious. I will conclude with some remarks but have no more time
to waste with RE.
I know Nottale rather well and had many chances to see him and
discuss his case. We (...) had no private talks, but he seemed very
nice to me. I have strictly nothing against him personally. However,
he seems to mainly be a sweet dreamer and a bit
As for the value attached by the community to RE,
two-three weeks ago was organized in Paris a huge
international conference in the honor of Einstein and the
100 years of relativity, as well as the famous other articles
As you can see on the site of the conference
very many researchers participated and many high
researchers in relativity / fundamental physics were there.
Was Nottale there? Was there anyone to mention RE?
Absolutely not. However, many ideas and speculative
theories were presented, especially in the parallel
session on "the structure of space-time".
And you want to know in all that what seems to me the
clearest sign of the absence of value of RE as a candidate
fundamental theory ? It simply is the fact that the laboratory
that organized this conference is LUTH where precisely
Nottale works, who was neither in the organizing committee,
nor among participants. I repeat, I strictly have nothing
against Nottale, but there are
times when a scientist must stay a minimum serious."
So I referenced these discussions, making them much more readily
accessible to anyone searching for information on scale relativity.
I also browsed many Web sites that spoke about scale
relativity, to mention the work I had done. This resulted in a rapid
decrease of Nottale's popularity.
Of course I have written to the popular scientific magazines to
mention my argumentation. None of them ever published any mention
about it, and they even did not write me a private reply.
The only reply I got was from Pour la science, at the time in
between the two versions of my argumentation, as a justification for
them to not publish any mention of a criticism of scale relativity:
publish articles already appeared in prime international
peer-reviewed journals, so I suggest you to submit your article
to one of them"
and in the next reply
PLS is not the best place for a debate of specialists. For
this there are specialized journals. Let me just ensure you one
point: the publication of a popularization article by Nottale in
our columns does not suffice to give his theory a Gospel value,
it would be giving too much importance to our journal. Our
readers know it, and know that scale relativity is
controversial. We also know it, as illustrated by our pluralist
The only effect was probably a negative one: since that time, (if I
didn't miss something) none of these magazines ever published
an article about scale relativity anymore.
Long later, I got a thankful message from a physics faculty member
who mentioned that, some years before, he had to check about
scale relativity for taking a decision whether to accept a
paper from one of Nottale's PhD students in the reports of a "Young
Researchers" meetings. He thought that he should not, but could not
convince about it the other members of the committee. So the paper
was accepted. He regretted to not have seen my argumentation at that
time, which may have changed the decision.
The work was done. The garbage was swept away from most of the
A few of the Web sites that had referenced scale relativity before
referred to me, but that's all, and all this quickly vanished along
A number of unserious web sites of science popularization or human
sciences, including a site of book reviews, are still positively
referencing Nottale and his scale relativity at this time.
A number of cranks are doing it too:
The last academic work on scale relativity outside Nottale's team,
is a work of philosophy and sociology of science, focused on
bibliometric considerations, that is, the study of how many
publications by Nottale could be accepted in peer review journals,
and how many other scientists happened to get interested in it after
this. I tried to write to him as well as a few other philosophy
faculty members in the institution where he was working, and never
got any reply.
- One of them speaks about "The Tao of Pansystems":
"The Einstein's Relativity and L Nottale's scale relativity are all
a special case of Panrelativity.".
- Another, translated from French: "As for the physicist
Laurent Nottale, he could confirm the validity of Kalachakra space
particles, following an intuition of the Dalai-lama who associates
them to the new paradigm of physics".
So the subject of this work is to observe how a new theory away
from the mainstream remains ignored, even if a couple of
articles about it happen to be published in peer-reviewed journals.
This is supposed to illustrate the dogmatism and inertia of the
scientific community which is not open to new ideas. So,
philosophers imagine that they are making sense of what is happening
in science, by looking at it from the outside. But the reality is
that they are remaining completely blind to the very object of their
study, because, how can they draw any sane conclusion about the
conservatism of the scientific community from a sociological
measurement of the scarcity of references to Nottale's ideas, if
they have no clue of the fact that, for anyone who knows about
physics, there are indeed strong reasons to reject this thing
that is not even worthy of being called a theory, because,
indeed, it hardly has anything to do with science ?
Let's mention now a loud non-reaction on the
issue. Once in this work, I wrote to a French skeptic
organization that seems to be the most reputed one in
Francaise pour l'Information Scientifique =
French association for scientific information, AFIS, see also my comments
in English about them here
and there), as
the aim of its publications is to generally criticize all possible
forms of pseudo-science around, with not as much focus on the
paranormal issues as the more caricatural branches of
French skepticism (Zététique).
I hoped they would be interested with my criticism work, because it
is their very purpose to be the voice to draw the line between
science and non-science, and to criticize pseudo-sciences
that the public may believe in.
But they were not, as their reply to me just claimed that Nottale is
a normal researcher in lack of collaborators.
Visibly, nobody really understand physics among them, so that nobody
there can grasp the sense of opposing something that
masquerades as a physics theory by playing on the
misinterpretation of physics by the public.
In fact, their ignorance of physics clearly appears in the childish
way in which they pretended, in one of their articles, that the
known laws of physics exclude the possibility for paranormal
This is not an isolated case
Other cranks have high scientific ranks in the institutions and are
taken seriously by some scientific or popular media, though they
remain intellectually isolated with respect to the other scientists.
To just mention two clear cases:
One example was Maurice Allais, economics Nobel laureate who melt
with physics and claimed to refute Special Relativity theory.
Another example is Gabriel Chardin, French physicist in the CEA
(Atomic Energy Commission)
with crazy ideas about antimatter (with an idea that antimatter
would have negative mass and be gravitationally repulsive, which is
just ridiculous nonsense for most other physicists) and a
few other things.
Problem: while I did help many people save a lot of time, as they no
more had to waste their energy studying this nonsense, I hardly got
any reputation from it. Okay, it was basically not a self-interest
work, but still, how to qualify such a long and tedious work for
mankind, useful in the public sphere, that does not even bring any
moral recognition to its author ?
But, less than a recognition, all what I earned from my selfless
work of public information against nonsense (both against scale
relativity and other crackpot ideas), was to get the presence
of two web pages full of very dirty personal attacks against
me, and immediately accessible by google on my name, one by a
defender of RE, and another by another paranoid defender of crackpot
ideas in general). The problem is, people who wish to check what
kind of person I am, reading these pages, may not take the necessary
time to check how absurd these attacks are, and how mad and
devoid of any credibility are the authors of these pages, to
conclude how irrelevant are these pages.
Such an absurdly selfless enterprise I undertook, may be called
foolishness by some.
Now, just consider: if it might have seemed strange at first sight
that Nottale's arrogant claims and reputation as a new Einstein
could really be so false while it developed across a large public
and seemed to stand as a scientific reference, never contradicted
and even less carefully refuted "with rational arguments" by any
scientist except the foolish myself, the reason for this paradox is
This reason, is that the care to explain the truth is soooooooooooo
wasteful of energy, eating many weeks of hard, relatively stupid
work, from a precious intelligent life, and does not bring any sort
of advantage to the author of the criticism, but on the
contrary, will likely be harmful to his reputation. How the hell can
you honestly expect any sane rational and intelligent person to
dedicate himself to this dirty task ?
In other words:
Scientists cannot be held responsible for the popularity of
irrational ideas outside their own community. Neither a story of
a new Einstein with high academic positions, nor the
publication of these ideas praised and trusted in the name of
science by popular scientific magazines, are a sufficient
evidence of scientific credibility.
Not because of any conspiracy by hidden powers, but simply because
the editorial policy of scientific magazines is to write what the
public likes to buy and read.
The risk for the public to misunderstand science and buy something
else in its place, is basically caused by some irresistible public's
need to buy, praise and trust nonsense rather than genuine
science. It is NOT a scientific problem, nor a problem with the
scientific community which remains unconcerned with this collective
It is NOT the responsibility of scientists to care for and ensure
the correctness of public information, nor to proceed to any fight
against any possible widespread nonsense, either by "argumentation"
or by any other means that would go against
the public's irresistible need to believe nonsense.
Because the force of the public's need to believe nonsense may
remain stronger than any attempt of correction by scientists anyway,
and put the scientists who dare trying to oppose this trend, in
danger of public bullying and discredit instead of a thanks.
A sort of new maturity from the part of the public, to have a
more serious look at the scientific consensus, would be needed. (But
still another solution can be developed).
Another aspect of the problem, is the failure of the institutions
that do not have the necessary flexibility to fire a scientist
that turns out to dedicate himself to crackpot productions which
were not mentioned when he was recruited, in order to let a chance
for more serious scientists to get this position instead. But you
can guess how hard it would be to take such an exceptional, illegal
decision (as recruitments to CNRS cannot be cancelled) for a public
institution ruled by democratically
elected representatives, to fire the man that the overwhelming
majority of people believe to be the one new Einstein author
of the most amazing (or, the only interesting)
discovery of nowadays science.
Finally, let's see what such adventures can teach us about religious
and spiritual issues:
We mentioned what a desperate task it would already be to try making
any "convincing" explanations about whether a "theory" makes any
sense or not, to some cultivated but not expert
public (cultivated enough to get interested with physics
popularization), which should already be quite more intelligent than
the overall public which religions are proudly wide open to. This
happens in the context of a scientific world with an already
established quite good understanding of the laws of physics. So,
where the deep truth on the
issue at stakes, is already rather well-known. And this
established knowledge on a relatively modest question (the
understanding of the mere physical world, which is, in principle,
quite "simpler" than the spiritual one), was not enough to put a
stop to the fame of a absurd doctrine across a relatively informed
In such conditions, how the hell can any sane rational person,
expect the overall, less intelligent population of the world in
average, to behave so much wiser when it comes to
discerning the truth about the more obscure spiritual realities
(harder to perceive, harder to understand, as in its way to
transcend all physical realities, it may as well be beyond all
possible human understanding), that the basic, chaotic natural
communication and convincing processes across society would have any
chance to do it right, while no start of a reliable foundation for
the understanding of these realities was ever established yet ?
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