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 of unification.

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 be.

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 popularity too.

Along the several years of his popularity, several articles praising his discoveries appeared in all the 4 main French popular science magazines.
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 that time.

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 there".
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 phenomena.

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 requires.

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 found:
- 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,
"Several 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 the risk'."

I kept referencing all possible comments found on the web about scale relativity.

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".
"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 miss this"
"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"

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.
Then I invited him to read my criticism, to which he then replied:
"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 else:

"Despite 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 says "anything").

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 megalo-parano.

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 of 1905.
As you can see on the site of the conference (http://einstein2005.obspm.fr/index.html)
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:

"Indeed, we only 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
"Dear Sir, 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 policy".

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 public space.
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 the years.

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.
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 France (Association 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 phenomena.

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 now clear.
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 foolishness.
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 public.

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 ?

Back to main chapter page: Explaining reason and science
Back to home page of Anti-spirituality site