The cult of skepticism

Mental sanity explained to skeptics and vice versa

Part 3

Summing up my old report

Long ago I spent quite some time reviewing the situation of the debate in France, and wrote a report in French.

The main categories of those points:

To roughly sum up some diverse aspects:

Some historical aspects in France and in the world

More stuff I wrote long ago There is a list of articles in French in the web site of IMI. For example in that article Here is an explanation once given by a member of the students group of IMI in 2007 in a newsgroup, about what is wrong with the practice of the so-called scientific skeptics ("OZ" = Observatoire Zététique):

Popularization, amateurism and attempts of originality

As mentioned, the skeptic I debated with is first of all the author of a famous science popularization YouTube channel. On my side, while I did open a YouTube channel at one point to put my speech criticizing the academic system, I did not put any further video there for a long time since then, despite my initial intention to add some physics lectures.
One reason was that my time was taken to improve my course on the foundations of math, which logically comes first and is much better expressed as text than as video (while videos will be better fit for geometry and physics which come next). But the other reason is my care for perfectionism. I want to do something perfect, however perfection does not come in a first creation move, it requires a huge amount of revisions. Many times when after much rework I thought I managed to make something perfect so I could switch to another topic, yet, some time later checking again I still found further needs for improvements, over and over again. Of course, text is much more convenient to rework than videos.
But why do I care so much for perfection ? Because I cannot see how a work of exposition of topics which are not supposed to be new discoveries for specialists nor artistic fantasies but well-known basic stuff on the core of science (foundations of math and physics) could be worth anything at all unless it is near perfect. Because for each such topic there must already exist out there thousands of redundant lecture notes and hundreds of redundant videos (uh, probably fewer in each language other than English, but...). In such a context, each individual act of creating a new book or new video is most likely to contribute to the educational environment by adding not any real progress but only more mess (taking the time of viewers who would otherwise have spent that time following something as good or even better elsewhere). Only doing something better than others can be useful. Plausibly, more than half of all existing stuff is likely to be less quality than average on the same topic and therefore disadvantageous.
Something useful to reduce the mess would be to work on reviewing existing stuff to collect and select references of all the best stuff to better orient people in that jungle. Unfortunately, hardly anyone ever does that, since not only would such a task be daunting but it cannot feel as honorable as creating one new piece of crap to waste the time of thousands of people who would have otherwise found something better to watch or read instead. And there is not even in these times any decent environment to give to such referencing work any chance to be actually used by a significant fraction of the world.

In such a jungle, then, the winners of popularity are likely to be those who make the most fun-looking stuff, adapted to the level and topics of interest of a majority of not so intelligent people. Dictatorship of the intellectual proletariat (underclass), once again. To repeat what I explained in my video and elsewhere such as the need of teachers paradox: you cannot run after 2 rabbits at the same time. To altogether produce serious stuff and attract viewers, are hardly compatible requirements. Some people specialize in informing, others in knowing. But people who inform may fail to know, because people who know may fail to inform.

So, his list of videos... is kind of messy. Some of these touch to the foundations of science (math and physics), yet others are more anecdotal, I mean not as much as what is the 100th decimal of pi but...with not as much sense of unifying architecture of knowledge as I see needed and possible. Of course such a relatively discontinuous approach, with not so much connections between topics, and some topics made of brief surveys over big works skipping crucial details, leads to relatively less sense or purpose for a needed lengthy improvement. Skeptics and popularizers (quite correlated activities, as skepticism is itself a kind of "science popularization" enterprise) are themselves promoting in guise of science a similar (and often much worse) kind of mess of disconnected anecdotes from which these same skeptics are champions in doubting the possibility to draw any significant conclusions, thus ultimately feeding their relatively pointless, inconclusive version of "science". By this I do not mean that it is worse than official teaching curricula. These suffer a similar lack of rework towards some unifying perspective. It is actually very hard in the current world to reach the appropriate unifying perspectives. Many scientists could essentially reach them, but only as an end result of a much longer path and experience dealing with existing theories, than could have sufficed if the needed clarifications of these theories had been done.

Now 20th century science brought crucial clues to metaphysics, especially with quantum physics and the problem of its interpretations which is very uncomfortable for naturalism. There are great debates among experts trying to compare the different naturalistic options (same link as given in Part 2), all facing great difficulties which is why none of them could "win" against others, letting several ones persist with respective supporters. But to understand this debate requires a certain level of expertise, namely a proper understanding of some core concepts of quantum theory, followed by a review of the main interpretations. But quite few people reached that needed level to become able to say something scientifically decent on the topic.

Yet much more people are feeling confident that this problem with quantum theory is not indicative of a problem with naturalism. But how can they know that ? Actually just rumors as we shall explain below. As commented in another page, the usual flow (e.g. in Quora) of people's expressions of confidence that quantum theory does not challenge naturalism is very negatively correlated with competence in this field. Precisely, most of such expressions either come as bare denials of such a challenge without any explanation, or "explanations" are made of claims which are known to be either inaccurate or flatly untrue by specialists. A frequent example of such claim is the claim that any interaction between systems, or interaction with the environment, suffices to collapse the wavefunction ; while all what quantum mechanics in itself actually says is that it only makes decoherence (more comments below)

How could that happen ? Usually, experts just avoid the topic by lack of precise arguments (except when focused on wrong targets), letting non-experts fill the flow of replies with their own guesses about that state of the debate which they do not actually know. Such guesses are naturally formed according to the natural expectations of what the laws of physics should look like if naturalism was correct, expectations which are assumed reliable based on the rumor of compatibility, just like skeptics are comfortable in explaining NDE testimonies which they did not really study, based on their own guess that these testimonies they need to explain are looking like the way they woud naturally be expected to look like under naturalistic assumptions. Of course. But then systematically they only successfully "explain" versions of stuff completely offset from the reality of these things. But skeptics never see anything wrong with this behavior since it is there to support the right conclusion, and they cannot expect any need to study things to discover that these things are not actually fitting their expectations.

Now in one of his videos, this skeptic presented his own tentative interpretation of quantum physics. This description is very vague, and so vaguely succeeds to vaguely account for diverse aspects of modern physics as they may look like from a popularized viewpoint. Unfortunately this kind of behavior is just the same as that of so many authors of crackpot physics, such as those trying to explain how Relativity is a mistake from Einstein uncritically followed by physicists, or inventors of perpetual motion machines, or inventors of new theories of everything who feel sure (uh not exactly sure, details of what I mean below) they can explain all known physics with no need to study it or as they already know it because the high school physics teaching said it all, and found it necessary to directly inform the large public bypassing the review of experts because the latter appeared too dogmatic and closed-minded in lack of "rational arguments" against their ideas.

Now of course not the same motivations pushed him to publish his ideas in his YouTube channel. Nevertheless it reflects a similar lack of awareness to the distinction between scientific research and popularization : a similar way of insinuating that amateurish viewpoints and inspirations on issues of top physics research might be as legitimate as views of experts. I had a very long and fruitless dispute with him, where I tried to explain the need to first actually learn and understand quantum physics as a requirement to make sense of a debate on interpretations, including the opportunity of popularizing one's own suggestion of a fresh new one beyond the list of the main ones which experts are currently considering. In particular I asked him if he had grasped the concept (which I regard as crucial for this debate) that the Hilbert space of a composite system is the tensor product of the Hilbert spaces of its sub-systems. He didn't. So it is on the basis of such an ignorance that this skeptic is so proud of sharing to the large public his confidence in the scientific plausibility of materialistic expectations... (the day when all such bullshit will be removed from scientific popularization spaces, what will remain of this rumor of scientific plausibility of naturalism ? I am curious to see...). Anyway, he stays proud of his method of essentially praising ignorance in physics as a wiser and higher basis than knowledge and intelligence for developing and directly popularizing new ideas on the field of interpretations, bypassing any expert review.

At the beginning of the discussion, his line of defense on this question (the question of the opportunity of making that video, not the debate on the depth of ideas given there) was of 2 main ideas. Here is the quote of his first idea.

(which is the very definition of unfalsifiability...) Well so many authors of pseudo-physics theories are saying exactly the same, claiming to not anyhow oppose this official physics they have no clue of, but then how can they really know if there really is no opposition ?? we shall come back to this in another section. That last point was very unclear in his video, now trying to figure out what kind of view is that, I realize that it actually suggests a somewhat meaningful class of interpretations of quantum physics beyond traditional ones, so I just added it to my list under the name "lawless eternalism" unless it would better be called the "Alice in Wonderland interpretation", which unfortunately violates the principle of optimism of scientific investigation (I once commented this to him as ). He replied Indeed I may have neglected attention to his paradigm (goal), however I still deny to see this as a failure from my part, since the mere fact he is following his own other paradigm does not mean he is right to do so. I shortly replied "A paradigm which consists in motivating an educational point by a way of superficially seeming to be compatible with current physics while mocking the question whether it is the case, that looks unclear".
If I understand it well, his skeptics "paradigm" is the same as the one described in the above quote with the metaphor of chemistry and the catalyst : the paradigm of seeing it anyway right to pick an example purely for the pedagogical purpose to illustrate a concept or method and its success... regardless of the fact that the "success" of this method may be actually leading to the wrong conclusions on the particular example which has been picked for that pedagogical purpose. In other words, the paradigm of developing methodologism or pedagogism as a substitute for actual, honest truth seeking. Not caring of any collateral damage in terms of truth in this pedagogical war for methodologism or some great concepts. Lazily assuming it to be either unworth or impossible to find in the world any other example that might as well illustrate the desired pedagogical point without need to unfairly kill some truth on the way. Carefully putting one's head into the sand to deny having done anything wrong on the way, as the goal (pedagogism or methodologism) can justify the means (killing some hypothesis by arguments which "follow the right method" regardless that this argumentation may be revealed invalid once re-examined from a competent viewpoint). And just by a happy coincidence, happening to feel comfortable of the crime so proudly committed because the conclusion of that so invalid argument on this specific example incidentally happens to fit and spread public support in favor of some article of one's prejudices, in ways which would be much less comfortable to try defending in any more valid manner.

Let us compare his justifications to popularize his speculations, with his view on the behavior of Didier Raoult popularizing the success of his treatment against the virus:

As I already commented some anti-Raoult madness of skeptics in Part 1, I will not do my readers the insult of bothering to explain and debunk again all the absurdities in the above quote one by one. Instead, I will just point out the few aspects which are on-topic for the present section. Raoult's videos announcing the success of his treatment and other remarks about the pandemic were neither intended, nor mistaken by his supporting audience, as any kind of lecturing or training, neither in medicine, scientific methodology nor critical thinking. But it was only meant as the news of what he happened to conclude, as a top world expert having carefully examined this issue which is precisely in his field of expertise, to be the most useful information he can share here and now to the world that he sees most likely, if followed, to save a maximum of lives in these times of emergency. Because, no offense to skeptics ideals, in the current times the most urgent thing is not to train and hire 5 billion people worldwide to become themselves top world experts in virology in order to all repeat the investigation he just already did of trying to figure out what the best treatment options to this illness in current circumstances are likely to be.

Long later we had the last (much shorter) dispute on the issue as follows (his replies in italic):

In clear, he points out how much he had already proclaimed to his audience at the beginning of his video that his ideas he would present there are rubbish and purely ignorance-based, and therefore worth spreading precisely for this reason. As if the worthiness of spreading stuff to public audiences had to be inversely proportional to the competence at the origin or inspiration of that stuff. Of course this only goes this way when it fits skeptics agenda, not otherwise. (This reminds me the so many Christians who ran away from me, despising me and dismissing my research and deconversion testimony as all the more totally unworthy trying to discuss, hear or understand that I mentioned having made the more serious and well-thought research with the clearest and most undeniable conclusions ; which is how they can remain so proudly clueless how it is possible for anyone to have any good reasons to reject their teachings ; so that praise of cluelessness as the highest virtue and sign of wisdom under the label of "humility" is one more common point between Skepticism and Christianity)

Looking through all the comments which were posted by viewers of that video, well, most of these were expressions of the highest enthusiasm towards this intellectual rubbish which they love so much. I do not remember seeing there any trace of a negative feedback. Visibly none of the participants in this comments thread have any clue about modern physics either, yet an unanimity is formed and unchallenged in praise of this which is openly claimed to be rubbish.
And guess how he reacted to this tsunami of praise ? Well.... he thanked those people for their encouragements. As if a Jesus-Christ neither known for, nor claiming to have, any special wisdom, and not feeling sure that claiming to be the Son of God was the right thing to do, was thanking his crowd of followers for their encouragements in doing so, taking their praise as a confirmation of that claim, ignoring the famous verse (Matthew 15:14) "...If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit". So I think he was the one not understanding his own disclaimer, and how his disclaimer is anyway doomed to stay ineffective due to the role he took by his channel, as a popularizer of science. (On this topic of the understanding of disclaimers, there is a video in French of a skeptic visibly too dumb to understand a similar disclaimer by a non-skeptic, as well as the sense of freedom of thought).

One big problem I see that was overlooked there is, his attitude does not significantly differ with the flow of thousands of pseudo-physics theories out there. It looks like, he fancies to crucially differ from them by his way of claiming loud that his ideas are personal ones, not validated by other physicists, and that he remains open to criticism. Of course, this attitude seems to justify him at first sight. And of course there is no way to figure out what there may still be wrong in such conditions... from the viewpoint of any good newborn thinker trying to guess how the processes of scientific research and rational debate should be working.

Yet it turns out unfortunately (I already explained things there, I repeat them here) that the real state of affairs in the way science works crucially differs from this so honest and plausible newborns guess about it, in the fact that most of these thousands of pseudo-physicists out there have (more or less) that same attitude of warning that their theories are neither ready nor confirmed yet but need more work, and thus are welcoming high-level physicists to come help checking, completing and developing their new theory for them. And of course, to bring critical review. Yet there is an obvious condition : the criticism they are inviting professionals to bring of course needs to be a rational one and hopefully "constructive" in order to deserve consideration. That is, well-explained and logically articulated arguments, which make sense. And they are very disappointed in their experience with official scientists from "the establishment", that none of them ever behaved in such a rational way, but all reacted by either mockery or "dogma", for those who replied at all.
In a sense however, they cannot be surprised in this "disappointment", since the rules of the "rational" debate they are offering to play, are rules where they give themselves the position of judge for what it should mean for an argument to be objectively "rational". These rules are relative to the data of their own precise personal background in physics, which is their only acceptable source of references for "rational arguments". In a sense, these rules already determine the conclusion : as they somehow implicitly know in advance, relatively to this background their position is anyway invincible : no "rational" argument against it is possible. So they are, so to speak, absolutely and irrefutably sure, not that their theory is valid (of course such arrogance would be indefensible and they know it), but that it is anyway absolutely possible (relatively to their background), an attitude by which they are essentially winning the debate in their own eyes by putting the hat of arrogance on the heads of their opponents.
But the certainty of the maybe, however relatively absolute, can still remain absolutely relative.

Now here is the deep misunderstanding of how science works (which unfortunately, is almost impossible even for the best of newborn thinkers to expect) : there is actually no logical possibility for a genuine, deeply scientifically informed review to ever seem "rational" in the eyes of these people who don't understand the current state of science and how things look from that perspective. As from this perspective, the ideas put forward are really completely ridiculous and worth absolutely nothing, not worth any reply. And this cannot be explained in any way which the authors of these ideas can understand. Because the only way to understand "the reason" is to just forget (un-learn) that misleading fuss, then go and study high-level physics as it now stands. And there is no other possible way to explain why. In other words, there are 2 kinds of people : those who know physics, and those who don't. To those who know, the reasons to dismiss this stuff are obvious and don't need to be explained. But those who "need" explanations, only do so because they have not the required background, but their case is hopeless and no amount of explanation can suffice either. So nobody can exist for whom any work of "rational criticism" can be useful. Being "open to rational criticism", no matter how sincerely, is not a scientific attitude since that "expected" criticism can anyway never come no matter the need, but only a vain posture whose only actual result is to (involuntarily) give oneself an illusion of rationality in naive eyes.

Now of course, he would rather believe such a state of affairs about how science works (in both physics and the epistemology of debates about physics) that does not fit his expectations, if he could find clear and strong experimental evidence for this. So he did the social experiment of making that video to see what feedback he would get, then I warned him about the lack of expectable scientific feedback from there. Aside that warning, I also gave him my own feedback as an exception, and we had long discussions about it ; but, as usually happens, despite this and also, again, how he knows my competence in theoretical physics for which I gave my kind assistance for another purpose, he did not appear to give to my feedback much value (details below).
So, the last conversation above went on as follows:

If he had any sense of logic, he would have noticed that his point was not contradicting mine, since what he was reporting to happen did not fit in the category of what I warned would not happen. But let us come back in time to much older parts of the conversation Details of the misunderstanding moved to be answered in the section on the "core of Science".
(Another time along the same lines he also criticized me for failing to write him what he believed to be "the right criticism" : Well I just have no time to waste with pseudo-flaws which are potentially answerable, even if the right answer would just turn out to be "just because it happens for the universe to be that way, as fine-tuning parameters among others..." because by my familiarity with how thinking goes at a high level, the only things that matter to me are those flaws which I know to be fatal, i.e. for which I clearly see in advance that it cannot be answered even after 1 million years of further works and extra ingredients .... even though, of course, he cannot see how I can see it, and even if I cannot even explain to him which are those fatal flaws I see).
But he continued as follows As mentioned above, it is very exceptional for any knowledgeable physicist to bother reviewing pseudo-physics. I have been an exception, as I tried to do such reviewing myself long ago and was quite isolated in this effort as there is way too much to review any significant fraction of it (some other physicists also tried of course but faced the same problems...). As it usually stays ineffective on authors (a waste of time for idiots who are not worth of it), the goal of informing potential readers can serve as substitute motivation, leading to focus the work on stuff or authors of highest reputation; however this makes the task all the more risky for one's own. I once undertook that foolish adventure with the case of Scale Relativity, which was my last target before leaving that activity. Now I only know one physicist who really keeps on that job in such a straight and fearless manner : Lubos Motl. He cared to make a review of 't Hooft's more recent paper (2014, same topic and much longer : 259 pages book, vs. 22 pages for the above referenced 2009 paper). Here is an excerpt: Now of course, this begs the question : how can that be, while (from Wikipedia), Gerard ’t Hooft shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics with his thesis advisor Martinus J. G. Veltman "for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions" ?
This crucial question will be addressed in the next section.

The naturalism of physicists

While I already explained by my text on dualism the behavior of philosophers rejecting dualism for "physical reasons", I still have to comment on the behavior of physicists doing the same for "philosophical reasons".

Imagine a world very similar to the one in which we live, except that people would behave a bit differently.
There would also be traditional religions, where the pastors would preach "God created the universe 6 millennia ago !" and the attendees would say "Amen !" (I write it caricaturally to simplify). Then in quest for God and further understanding His creation, some people would be sent in mission of scientific investigation of the world, developing the sciences of geology, paleontology and astrophysics. These scientists would do their job rigorously and successfully, progressively retracing the history of the planet and the evolution of life there. As the progress goes, the discrepancy of their findings with their traditional religious creed would start raising some issues. Some of these scientists would find no more sense in attending those religious ceremonies, and thus just stopped going there, without further comment. Others would keep attending the ceremonies, still saying "Amen" to the creed, not trying to contradict it, because... it would be way too complicated to explain what difficulties could be found about it; anyway that is their religion, which cannot be easily dropped. The pastors would be proud of this, and say: "See ! We have some of the best scientists of the world among our faithful members ! This confirms the scientific plausibility of our creed."

These scientists would keep practicing their investigation work without worrying too much of the discrepancy. Some would do so like a treasure hunt, a sort of big fictional game to play. Others would feel it as something more serious and truthful. However this diversity of feelings between scientists towards the status of their discoveries would hardly have any practical consequence in the process of their research. From time to time during coffee breaks, one of them would ask the others : "How strange it is to see all our calculations appearing to converge to give our planet an age of about 5 billion years when we know from our Bible that God created it all 6 millennia ago, don't you think so ?". To such often heard idle talks, their peer scientists would regularly reply : "Shut up and calculate !"

Sometimes, someone with an acute sense of religious values would try to look through the works of these scientists, and express his dissatisfaction in these terms : "Your work does not appear to make any sense ! as it still does not explain how all this was created by God 6 millennia ago". Then in an attempt to make things clearer, he would try to examine some of the known fossils. He would object to the calls to learn about the long evolutionary accounts which were developed, arguing that what really matters is to check and account for the facts which are clear (fossils), not the theory which is fictional and subject to revision (evolutionary history). He would care to figure out and propose his own candidate explanations for the fossils which were presented to him, in a more religiously coherent manner. Yet scientists would know that his explanation fails to account for the rest of fossils they know which he does not know yet, but could not explain this to him in a simple manner. He would challenge any scientist to show him "the fossil which proves to be millions of years old. I just ask for one !", to which no scientist would reply.
Now in an intermediate position in this debate, religious scientists are much more aware than lay religious people about the huge difficulty to offer any such young-age "explanation" able to successfully fit the real, much wider range of data they know, so most of them just would not try. Yet it could happen for some of them to dare starting attempts of this daunting task.

The above skipped second idea was

So he was confident to find a much clearer light of understanding following the way of Gerard ’t Hooft's who explained his motivation in Physics Today (2017) as follows Uh, an approach which did not seem to earn an objective existence as a meaningful theory outside the head of its original author, years after its huge mediatization and popularity to a wide audience of people expecting to find there the long hoped for light of understanding away from the obscure "mysticism" of quantum mechanics... that reminds me, once again, the case of Scale Relativity.

More references on the topic:

A big hurdle and a long way to go, which my skeptic debater appeared to terribly underestimate (again my replies in straight, his in italic): This is a widespread temptation for many people, so including some top-level physicists, to choose obscurantism over science in matters of theoretical physics, ready to throw out of the window all the scientific progress obtained there, however amazing, in the name of how guilty it is of stubborn incompatibility with naturalistic expectations about how the universe "should" be working; and faithfully hope that something more compatible should be found regardless the fruitlessness of all huge efforts made in such directions. How widespread this temptation is, is illustrated by this Facebook group on quantum physics, with over 46,000 members in May 2020. It now describes itself as A former description of that group (Sept 2016) was In this sea of failures, one of the best relative "successes" has been Bohmian Mechanics, which still has big problems which can be summed up by that phrase I copied from Reinhard F. Werner: "Is it really worth saving Physical Reality at the expense of real physics?" .

There is actually no consensus whether modern physics as it now already stands, is compatible or not with naturalistic expectations. The above quotes illustrate the behavior of those who found them incompatible (with such high sincerity, both in their view of incompatibility and their attachment to naturalism, that they are ready to pay the price of throwing overboard the most spectacular success of all science in the name of these). Other physicists seem just happy accepting both naturalism and current modern physics, seeing them compatible: this is the way of the Many-worlds interpretation (while all other naturalistic "interpretations" are not accepting current physics but trying to modify it, without any clear success), as notably advocated by Sean Carroll. Or, whether they really see it good I cannot tell. At least they so combine a recognition of the success of science good enough to refuse breaking it for any reason, with their attachment to naturalism, that they go on condoning any philosophical issues that may result from this combination (which are unacceptable to others).

But let us see how Sean Carroll, one of the most vocal proponents of this acceptance of compatibility of naturalism with the achievements of science through the many-worlds interpretation, presents the case for naturalism (his blog post about it):

This looks like the expression of his argument for naturalism requires to start with a claim which directly contradicts his other claim of where physics leads to, that is the many-worlds interpretation.
He continues as follows So no : since the laws of physics explicitly allow atoms to anyway act differently from one case to another with no need of a physical cause for the difference, they do not need to be altered to let an immaterial conscious being choose between the different outcomes which they accept as all legitimate possibilities.
Also terrible is his argument of Descartes inability to explain mind-matter interaction which I commented there. A possible source of confusion for naturalistic arguments is how in his video he claims that the discovery of the law of conservation of momentum brought a historical contribution to the debate, but then he explains in which way it did, which is relative to the very specific historical context of that time and has nothing to do with the way in which many philosophers of today still wrongly imagine this (i.e. as supporting the causal closure of the physical, which it clearly doesn't).

So his reasons for naturalism did not seem very clear there. However he actually has another "reason" which he stated in the older video of his debate on the interpretations of quantum mechanics (time from 50:50):

And of course, that many-worlds has the minimum number of equations among interpretations of quantum physics, namely the one which was so successfully verified.

Now some people may be tempted to take this requirement seriously, and in hope to fulfill it, dream of possibilities to explain consciousness as made of mathematical systems, from which they hope that the laws of physics might emerge. So did Donald Hoffman (unfortunately neither a mathematician nor a physicist but only a cognitive scientist) with his mathematical theory of "conscious agents" (articles Objects of consciousness and The origin of time in conscious agents, 2014). Similarly (more loosely), some spiritual people in quest for "scientific credibility" but without a solid scientific background, may give in to the temptation to get interested in diverse speculative ideas offered by scientists on the nature of reality (such as the ideas of Penrose with his "Orch Or", or the "Integrated Information Theory") which superficially seem closer to spiritualistic metaphysics than usual, as possible models or sources of inspirations by which they may hope to exchange politeness and mutual recognition with what superficially looks like credible science.
Actually such tries to fit with inspirations or requirements presented by these scientists are traps, in the following ways :

What needs to be done on the contrary, is to reject this call of naturalism by denouncing its fallacies : not only the non-argument of the ridiculously false "causal closure" hypothesis, (commented in the page on dualism), but also the fallacies of remaining versions of (deliberate or naive) naturalistic-like views that seem to go beyond pure physicalism.

Depending on the reference or even the particular statement inside a given reference, the principles of Naturalism may suffer ambiguities, between

In Encyclopedia Britannica, The same ideas are expressed in a longer way in the section "Providing assumptions required for science" of the Wikipedia article, and in a less restrictive manner in the section Science and naturalism of another Wikipedia article.

This actually contains 2 quite different ideas.

One idea is the requirement of causal connection with us : to be part of Nature and thus exist, something must be potentially able to causally affect us. This is indeed, roughly speaking, the condition for our possibility to start investigation about it.

Adding to this the assumption of physicalism (with its causal closure), this excludes from Nature and thus from "existence":

On the other hand, removing this assumption of physicalism, leads to accept in "Nature" any supernatural realities which we do happen to have news from, such as those described by Seth through Jane Roberts.

The second idea is that of "regularity".
Let me first re-phrase what I see valid there: in order for science to be possible, we need to reject the idea of Last Thursdayism despite the lack of empirical grounds to do so. Then, if we want to investigate anything through indirect evidence, we need to assume that the intermediate processes in the causality chains separating our perceptions from the target of investigation, are reliable: that their behavior conforms to known laws, to a sufficient extent for us to be confident about our deductions by these laws, from the available data to the state of the target. Actually, there is no strict need to take this regularity as an assumption, as it can be verified with some more efforts, by finding a plurality of indirect means of diverse kinds to investigate the same target, and observing that these all agree with the same hypothesis on the target : this validates the regularity hypothesis, as its negation would require not just a breach in the known regularity but a conspiracy (thus another regularity) of such breaches in the specific way which could produce this result.

All these issues can be analyzed in terms of entropy measures and the file compression problem, with concepts I wrote in the bottom half of first page of this text: scientific investigation can be understood as an exercise of file compression, aiming to put information in its most compressed form split in 2 parts: "the law" i.e. the executable file of the most efficient known compression algorithm, and the "deciphered data" containing in clear form the information on target objects, obtained by so compressing the longer file of the brute (undeciphered) data of direct measurement outcomes.
In such terms, then of course, the need of scientists (which reality has no duty to fulfill) is that the once found law would be regular, as, to compress a lot of stuff, we need to re-use some known efficient compression algorithm to compress many other files instead of having to repeatedly add copies of this algorithm to all compressed files (which would make the compression worthless, heavier than the brute files).

Empirical sciences (i.e. sciences other than math) can be roughly split in the following parts (though this division is not always clear in practice):

The scope of mathematics is a kind of stuff as uniform and necessary as physics (or even more absolutely so as its validity extends beyond our universe) but has in common with other sciences to be open-ended : mainly by the range of its developments (definitions and theorems : the focus of over 99% of mathematical works) but even also in its foundations (axioms of set theory).

Theoretical physics has a unique feature among all sciences: it is the only science which is not open-ended, since its goal is to establish THE equation, mathematical expression of the law which is perfectly uniform throughout this universe. Once done, the investigation ends, research institutes can close and there is no job for theoretical physicists anymore.

Now comes the field of the supernatural, with the question of its position with respect to this picture. It has observable effects, so it fits the first condition of naturalism : investigation about it can start. If there was an equation for it, this would mean that the investigation of its foundations could end by completion. Quite a different requirement, which no science fulfills except theoretical physics. Now why do some theoretical physicists want to put this requirement ? Of course one main explanation is by the famous saying "If you are a hammer, everything is a nail".

It is the very point of supernaturalism as I see it to dismiss the claim of universal determination of everything by any single equation (even in terms of probabilistic laws), to recognize instead the existence of free will with a crucial role of some mathematically undefinable qualia. Some people did not expect this, as they expected something absolutely regular (mathematically expressible) to be the ultimate foundation of everything. More precisely, empirical sciences are about phenomena assumed by many to result (emerge) from physics, where the equation is the most fundamental stuff. Now supernaturalism does not anyhow deny this well-known regularity of the laws of physics as they were found, and thus the possibility and validity of all other sciences which rely on it. It only denies the role of absolute foundation of everything, to this physics in particular, or to any so absolutely regular causality law in general.
Well, so what ? In so many cases, this is completely irrelevant, while the lesson of indeterminism from quantum physics is already well-accepted. For example, biological evolution describes how the most advantageous genetic features win the way things go, but it does not matter whether this condition of how things go is behaviors obeying the quantum probabilities, or the completely different behaviors from the free will of conscious individuals : this leads to quite different kinds of winning species, and yet, in itself, the theory of evolution still holds.

Other possible factors which may contribute to the naturalism of many physicists, come from misunderstandings. I will describe the situation by symbolizing the mind-matter interaction problem with the metaphor of the key-locker connection. Consciousness will be symbolized by a man with a key; the locker symbolizes the laws of physics. The key represents the few aspects of consciousness which are relevant to understand the general form of its possible interaction with matter. The key is much simpler than the locker, itself much simpler than the man. Before this universe was created, there was no locker, only the man with the key. It could be a very hard problem to invent and make a locker with the right mechanisms for the key to fit in. This problem was finally solved, so the locker could be created, in which the key could fit.

Then come philosophers and physicists trying to figure out whether and how such a key-locker interaction is possible. Philosophers hardly know anything about either the key or the locker, so they have no chance to understand anything of the key-locker connection either. Physicists, on the other hand, spent their life studying the locker, yet may still fail to figure out the possibility to open it because most of them have no clue about what the key looks like. The locker is made of mathematics; the key isn't. Some physicists spend the rest of their life searching for a mathematical key to fit into this mathematical locker, and cannot find any. Others, aware of the vanity of this quest, decide to end it by concluding with the many-worlds interpretation, according to which this locker is not a locker and it is there to remain forever locked, since no key exists that can ever fit in.

Finally some physicists considered the possibility for the key to be given by consciousness, and yet could fail to see it fit, due to some misunderstanding ; or some thought that it fitted but mistook the precise way in which it did, and for this reason failed to convince more than a few others. Now let us review such possible misunderstandings. Beyond the mistake of expecting a mathematical key, I noticed 3 more main mistakes that could be committed.

One is the mistake by Henry Stapp (and also by Penrose) of expecting the action of free will to require a suspension of quantum decoherence to explain for the action of mind on matter. Such an expectation is indeed unfortunate (falling in the delusion that "we need a strange solution, quantum superposition or entanglement looks strange, so we need it as a mechanism"). This led some materialist physicists to imagine refuting the role of consciousness in quantum physics just by pointing out the ineluctable high speed of quantum decoherence in natural conditions, while the proponents desperately persist searching for ways to escape this. That is actually the wrong target, which needs to be discarded.

The other 2 mistakes are about the shape of the key, i.e. the relevant features of the metaphysics of consciousness. These are kinds of naturalistic mistakes, assuming consciousness to fit materialistic models or assumptions more than it really does : so we actually need more boldness in the rejection of naturalism in order to escape inconsistency failures.

One is Wigner's mistake, of expecting the different conscious individuals, who intervene as observers of quantum measurements, to be fundamentally distinct (separable) entities. They are not : for the purpose of properly interpreting quantum physics, they need to be regarded as all faces (appearances) of a single universal consciousness.
A related mistake by some people trying to interpret parapsychological phenomena, is to present telepathy as a case of quantum entanglement. Of course, entanglement cannot explain telepathy : it is the other way round. Namely, telepathy, i.e. the usually uncommon manifestations of the root unity of all consciousness, is what explains the consistent possibility to create a material universe able to manifest quantum entanglement smoothly in all cases (while those cases when it is really involved, ideal implementations of what is basically described in theory by the EPR paradox, were never actually experimented yet, since the measurement processes in relevant time intervals were purely physical). In telepathy experiments, the "communication process" itself occurs in totally nonphysical ways, thus does not involve any quantum-entangled physical particles either.

The other, I may call Wheeler's mistake (I saw it vaguely from J Wheeler, who, by the way, opposed parapsychology; also from Richard Conn Henry), is the idea that brains are needed for conscious observations to take place, so that the universe remained in large quantum superpositions as described by the many-worlds interpretation until biological structures were sufficiently developed to proceed the big quantum collapse. Of course, such a view would be very awkward, but it can be easily dismissed : since consciousness creates physical reality rather than the other way round, it does not need any brain structure to proceed either. There was no problem for observers to be already present as ghosts since the big bang.

I explained in other documents about quantum physics (shape of the locker) and the Von-Neumann Wigner interpretation (shape of the key), needed to make it clear how well they fit.

Missing the real core of Science

We reviewed some usually unrecognized contradictions between the views of diverse skeptics behind their naturalistic front, about the precise kind of fundamental reality they believe in : a large number of them worship science and especially physics, while, by the pride of their ignorance about it (or even for those who know it, in contraction to what they know), they so often either put it forward as an authority to say the opposite of what it actually says; while those aware of the discrepancy are eager to throw overboard the existing success of physics to take refuge in the most hazardous speculations, finding satisfaction in prophesying the future coming of some nicer physics which would better fulfill their expectations by finally telling the opposite of what current physics said.

We shall now dig further into their contradictions by analyzing their attitude towards the God of their God: while the God of Naturalism is Physics, the God of Physics is Mathematics. Yet much of Naturalism leans towards the despise of Mathematics (as illustrated by the lack of mathematicians in skeptical organizations).

First we need to explain how Mathematics is the God of Physics, and which Mathematics we are talking about. Mathematics is generally the only way to form any clear concept of a regularity law, unaffected by any fantasies of how any given regularity law is to be interpreted. So it is essentially required as a cornerstone of naturalistic expectations.
Then, I would roughly divide mathematics into 2 kinds: the "low" and the "high" styles of mathematics. This division is of course not strict. Different criteria can be considered for this distinction, which are not always equivalent, but are interestingly correlated.

One criterion, is to label as "low" the finitistic mathematics (which deals with finite systems only), in other words the mathematics of algorithms. Then the "high" mathematics is the one which involves infinite or continuous systems.

Another criterion, is to label as "high" the mathematics of symmetric systems, and as "low" that of asymmetric ones. A correlation between both criteria can be illustrated by the following example which is actually a toy model of mathematical facts which play an effective role in theoretical physics.

It is possible to approximate a circle by a regular polygon with a large number of sides. This approximates the continuous symmetries of the circle by the still numerous symmetries of the regular polygon. However, when the circle is replaced by a sphere, such a possibility breaks down: the 3D analogues of regular polygons are the Platonic solids which are very few. So the symmetry group of the sphere cannot be the approximation of any group of exact symmetries of a large but finite system: whatever system you may take trying to approximate a sphere, as soon as more than a quite small number of spherical symmetries work on it, infinitely more of these symmetries still do, and essentially all of them. When symmetry matters, no small escape from continuity is mathematically conceivable.

Daringly, a third criterion is sociological : the low-style math is the math of non-mathematicians, for whom math is "just a tool"; while high-style mathematics is the one of mathematicians, who see math as their home and a reality in its own right.

In these terms, the large anti-mathematical trend I mean to point out among naturalists, consists in dismissing the value of high-style mathematics, essentially for its touch of mysticism, to focus on (only accept the legitimacy of) low-style mathematics. Or (since it may look bad to make this position explicit), many of them express this in a completely implicit manner, in the form of giving descriptions of mathematics or physics as if low-style mathematics was the only mathematics that existed, or sufficed to express physics.

However, the found laws of physics belong to high-style mathematics. This is what I see as actually meant by the famous Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences (wikipedia - a page I wrote with notes and references on the debate).
So, physicists did not seem to expect this, but why ? I can offer anyway the following clue why high-style math is likely to be better suitable than low-style math to express a law of Nature: high-style math is needed for a law to meaningfully serve as a law of Nature because that style is needed for a law to carry its own necessity (virtue of logical unbreakability).

Indeed, low-style mathematical laws would be unable to carry their own necessity:

On the other hand, high-style laws are more likely to provide their own necessity. In particular, the concept of continuous transition of the state of a physical system, has a certain virtue of carrying by continuity the necessity of the final state, from that of the initial state (some people will object that quantum mechanics denies continuity as it only recognizes locally finite numbers of states. In a sense this is true, however this discreteness is only an appearance of the measurement results, which do not themselves belong to the laws of quantum mechanics as explained below. Still, the law of quantum mechanics in itself is fundamentally continuous in the way manifested as providing continuous values of the probabilities). Now for who actually studied the laws of physics, their character of intrinsic necessity of continued validity appears quite impressive. A striking example is the case of the conservation of energy. Naive expressions of this law present it as a postulate, coming without a reason and therefore questionable. However in General Relativity, it turns out to be a theorem of geometry, once the energy is seen as defined from space-time geometry by Einstein's field equation, regardless the details of this geometry (only assumed to be that of a pseudo-riemannian manifold with signature (3,1)).

Concretely, here is how this fact answers to the people who imagine the conservation of energy as a postulate : consider a universe A with a certain distribution of energy at a given time t. Can we imagine that at just the next time t+dt, the energy appears to vary at one given place in violation to the conservation of energy, everything else being the same ? We can proceed by figuring out a different universe B which at that time looks very similar to A, with the essentially the same distribution of energy, except just the different concentration of energy at that precise place. Now how can we transition from universe A to universe B ? I mean, of course we might proceed just by destroying the universe A at time t, to not let it exist anymore from now own, then creating the universe B to start existing only from the same time as if it was old while it isn't. However, that may or may not satisfy us for the following reason: once we so took our big scissors to cut the space-times of A and B at hopefully "the space-like slices marked by the same time all over the place", kept just the past side of A and the future side of B, we still need a way to... kind of glue both pieces together. And this is when we are running into trouble. Even allowing ourselves to do it completely arbitrarily, it is ... just mathematically impossible to do it without violating the laws of physics not just at one place, but more or less everywhere. Concretely, any energy added at one place must anyway come from somewhere else.

That even would not be much of a problem from a low-style mathematical perspective : seeing the laws of physics as a computation, the cosmic cut-glue process, no matter how dirty, can just be done by switching off the cosmic computer (Doomsday), modifying its memory as much as we need, and then restarting it all Last Thursday. By the way, if consciousness was a computation, as naturalism claims, then for the same reason there would be no way to ensure the validity of our own thoughts (especially our memory), which would condemn us to skepticism and hyperbolic doubt. By the way, skeptics are really subscribing to hyperbolic doubt when, faced with the case of Pam Reynolds (who had OBE perceptions when the brain was really totally inactive), they put forward the possibility for the brain to build up memories of perceptions that were never real in order to fill the gaps of a given scenario. This idea that memories can be, and even sometimes did happen to be, completely built up with all their vividness about experiences that were never real, is indeed a logical consequence of the hypothesis of the material nature of memory, and has no essential difference with Last Thursdayism.

The conservation of the electric charge has the same necessity as the conservation of energy. Then maybe not all other physical laws have the same spectacular character of necessity, yet it remains hard to mathematically conceptualize, in quantum field theory, any process leading to some outcome which the laws would forbid. A semi-exception to this is given by the "wavefunction collapse" we shall comment below.

That was why and how the laws of physics belong to a high style of mathematics and need to be accepted as such. This does not contradict the possibility to re-express them algorithmically, which is indeed another requirement for some mathematical theory to be qualified as a physical law: it must be possible to effectively compute its predictions. Yet remains some deep structural difference between the law in its high-style formulation, and any algorithm which can produce its predictions. Namely, the former looks much more elegant than the latter.

But, what does it mean for some mathematics to be elegant ? Interestingly, this is precisely a typical example of an essential topic of disagreement between naturalism and supernaturalism: the status of qualia.

A famous illustration is given by Mary's room thought experiment: is a sensation fully explained by the physical description of its neuronal stimulation pattern, or is there something more to learn by having this sensation as one's own personal experience ? In other words, is a sensation, such as that of a color, anything more than the pattern of neuronal stimulations which form it in the brain ? This question may sound hard to figure out, because we do not have a ready scientific description of neuronal stimulation patterns for sensations under hand.
Another famous example of the same question, is "What is it like to be a bat ?".
Yet another example of, I would say, roughly the same question, is so much easier to effectively experiment that... probably most people already did it. Here it is: the question of the difference between a melody and its partition. Someone can have learned music theory, then read a music score, know in principle how it should be played on the piano, be familiar with hearing the piano and how each note sounds, and yet not figure out how nice is the melody which is written until the time of effectively hearing it. Of course good musicians can manage to read a music score in the sense of playing it in imagination and this way effectively feeling it, but that takes a special training or effort. I even once watched on a screen the display of the sound analysis of a music I was hearing, I am not sure how much this display was actually faithful, or did it lose a lot of fine crucial aspects of the sound, but I was very puzzled to experience how hard it seemed to figure out the connection between what I heard and what I saw...
So, when perceived by the right senses, a structure can induce a feeling (qualia, subjective appearance), that is something more than the sum of the parts which the structure was made of. Yet this feeling is not something complex like the structure was, but something simpler, and of a completely different nature.

Now the point of this reminder, is that I see a very similar phenomenon crucially concerning the core sciences : mathematics and physics. Mathematics is much more than the sum of its theorems, and the laws of physics are much more than the sum of their experimental predictions. And the way they are more, is not anything more complex, but something so much simpler than the parts they are made of, and at the same time something transcending these parts: they make sense. In other words, I find some special qualia of what it is like to be a mathematician, and what it is like to be a physicist. There is some qualia of the activity of exploring high-style mathematics, which may be more or less lacking in that of low-style mathematics. Metaphorically speaking, the laws of physics are written in symbols of color, whose qualia we need to feel in order to fully understand these laws, even though, strictly speaking, no qualia exists among either physical objects, the laws of physics, or generally any mathematical theory or entity.
Of course I cannot prove these things, since it is generally impossible to prove the existence of some qualia to those who do not happen to perceive them. For this reason, even those who perceive them may remain doubtful, either when challenged to justify these in debates, or even for themselves.

Now this is an important dimension of the opposition I see between Skepticism and Science : skeptics ignore and even despise the heart of science. Because the core of sciences is math and/or physics, the core of physics is mathematics, the core of mathematics is its high-style version which is also the part of math which matters for physics, and the core of this high-style math is the qualia we can experience by studying it. And that qualia is a general light of scientific understanding which transcends all particular scientific facts or methods. Skeptics with their favorite methods miss that completely. Mathematical concepts and theorems are neither proven by double-blind randomized testing, nor falsifiable, and yet they perfectly belong to Science.

An important qualia of mathematics, is the sense that mathematics forms its own reality. This is usually called mathematical Platonism. Unfortunately, the usual attempts of philosophers to describe it are quite terrible and usually made of claims which I would dismiss as category mistakes instead of being meaningfully either true, false or debatable. So, let me offer my own formulation of mathematical Platonism. Actually I would split it in 2 thesis which may be considered independently of each other

The second point can be actually demonstrated by giving an explicit description of this architecture, namely the tandem of set theory and model theory, which the main focus of my work was to clarify precisely. A crucial point is the completeness theorem and its proof, which for any consistent theory expressed in first-order logic (= "classical logic"), provides an arithmetical (but not algorithmic) construction of a system it describes. In short, consistent description provably implies mathematical existence.

But this second point once made, supports the credibility of the first point, as there is no less reason to believe in the mathematical reality than in the physical reality once found that mathematics has all the qualities in the name of which the physical universe is usually accepted as real (unless I missed something). Moreover, the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics" with the observed crucial role of high-style math in theoretical physics, supports mathematical Platonism. Yet this support may be not very clear because, inside the world of mathematics, the precise part of mathematics which provides for what I will call here the native mathematical ontology is the tandem of set theory and model theory ; it is not the same as those parts of mathematics which matter in physics, so that both ontologies (the mathematical and the physical) do not coincide. This gap will be further commented below.

But the validity of mathematical Platonism, either the one with the native mathematical ontology, or some variant more suited to physics, remains controversial among both philosophers and physicists. For example Peter Woit strongly supports the value of high-style math, while Carlo Rovelli and Lee Smolin oppose mathematical Platonism by denying high-style math. (Both Rovelli and Smolin work on Loop Quantum Gravity, a tentative approach to quantum gravity based on a kind of discretization of space-time, but for what I saw on Wikipedia it seems unclear whether this succeeded anything at all).

Along such lines, here is an excerpt of the debate

Actually he is the one who understood nothing : what a low-mindedness of him to imagine that I need his explanations for such trivialities ! Of course it is possible to play this petty game of writing such stuff vaguely looking like an explanation of "gauge invariance". The true reason why I said that I don't see how this stuff can explain gauge invariance, is that the kind of gauge invariance which is really needed in physics is not the same, and cannot be the same, as those which can ever be reached by such methods. Where he sees no weakness, I see a fatal flaw. Yet I cannot explain why. It is the qualia which tells me so.

A much more caricatural situation occurred one day I discussed with a philosophy student. He was skeptical to the claim that sciences, especially physics with its mathematical theories, achieved any success in understanding the universe. He thought that theories of physics are made up, and physicists just give themselves the illusion of verifying their theories, since they need their theories to interpret data, their reasoning would be circular; there would be no way to prove theories. I tried to explain that it really makes precise sense to say that we have successful theories verified by observation, and the criterion for this is in the success of these theories to reduce the entropy of observed data. But he did not understand what I meant because he did not study the concept of information entropy. So he needs to study it first. But he dismissed this request, claiming that if I need mathematics to define the concept of entropy and this way justify the success of mathematics in physics then my reasoning is circular. Well in the same way, animals can claim that human language does not make any sense, as if we tried to explain what human language can be useful or meaningful for, we would need to use human language for the explanation, so the argument would be circular as well.

In a similar vein, many philosophers of mathematics are very fond of so-called intuitionistic logic™ (a phrase so trademarked by one of the most absurdly anti-intuitive ideologies ever) and/or finitism, giving these topics an extremely oversized importance compared to their interest for mathematicians. As far as I could see, such philosophies are mainly about arbitrarily denying the validity of much of mathematics or its proofs, for hardly any serious or fruitful reasons beyond the fun of this denialism. I mean, I can accept the study of distinguishing what can be made with finitistic mathematics, as a possible specialized topic in mathematics among hundreds of others; however those who focus on philosophical issues making a fuss of their skepticism about the law of excluded middle are really wasting time. Well, of course everyone is free to undertake such an exploration of the mathematical world in ways restricted to these viewpoints of mentally transabled people. However I would beg them to not go as far as expecting the taxpayers to provide for their metaphorical wheelchairs. Because, well, hopefully the world may have more useful jobs for people who do not really like math, beyond the job of just making a fuss about it.

More generally aside such extreme cases, a kind of obscurantism can be found as having taken the role of orthodoxy in academic philosophy, where the respective statuses of knowledge and ignorance have essentially been switched. Namely, where consideration is only given to reasonings based on the purest scientific ignorance and immaturity of understanding. This is well aligned with the general principles of skepticism, of the form "what can I discover and verify if I am the most stupid and ignorant person possible" taking such a framework as a prerequisite for the validity of judgements. It is on this basis that some ill-defined concept of "naturalism" is regarded by philosophers as the most advanced thought of the time, raising the enigma of how this obscurantist orthodoxy of naturalism should be articulated with the scientific orthodoxy of mathematical Platonism. Hence the great debate about which of both oxymorons "Naturalized Platonism versus Platonized Naturalism" would be a better fit.

Now, here are some explanations I can think of for this attitude by both some physicists and many philosophers to reject mathematical Platonism and still recognize the physical (the so-called "concrete objects" as if this concept of concrete object had to make any clear sense — a presumption of meaningfulness which reflects so much ignorance in physics) as "more real" (or even the only reality) than the mathematical.

The possibly main explanation is that so many people are more familiar with the physical than with the mathematical. At least, it takes more work, and usually comes later in life, to become familiar enough with mathematics to perceive this as a case for mathematical Platonism, than it was to get familiarity with the physical and accept the reality of the physical on this basis.

Then for those who finally become familiar enough with math for it to weight as much as physics, the reluctance to endorse mathematical Platonism may of course have a part of explanation in the general difficulty to switch views. But more precisely here, the difficulty comes from the question it raises of how all these things can fit together. Namely the difficulty comes from the temptation of monism : the assumption that there should only be one kind of reality, since a plurality of ontologies raises difficulties to figure out their articulations. Once the mathematical and the physical are so seen as in competition for the role of unique reality able to contain everything, the physical seems a better candidate than the mathematical indeed.

Yet Mathematical Monism, also called Mathematical universe hypothesis has some supporters, most of which also support the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum physics. These should be distinguished from the computationalists, who are roughly the most common kind of naturalists, that may be considered more or less also mathematical monists, but low-style ones (finitists), thus generally offset from genuine theoretical physics. This position is usually labelled "Simulation hypothesis or "Digital physics". Among its proponents, Gerard 't Hooft and H. Pierre Noyes are the only physicists I can see, while others are usually clueless in physics (Stephen Wolfram, Brian Whitworth...)

On the other hand, Roger Penrose offers a trio of realities : the mathematical, the physical and the mental. This may sound good, but the problem is how they relate to each other. He describes them as cyclically dependent on each other, which is quite a mysterious architecture.

Now, mathematical Platonism brings an ontological challenge to naturalism (especially physicalism), as it is a clue about ontology, thus a unique chance to bring light to the previously mentioned ontological question on the nature of consciousness. This challenge consists in the following questions:

I see 3 possible ways out for naturalists: But already between the mathematical and the physical ontologies I see especially 2 fundamental differences Then I can still criticize all above 3 ways out for naturalists as ineffective solutions, because while they are removing the qualia (unified understanding) of the problem, this still cannot remove the large number of relatively more concrete problems which this qualia was the unified understanding of.

Among these numerous problems are, for example

I wrote on these ontological issues with other details and references in another text.

Aside these ontological issues, another qualia which emerges from the studies of both mathematics and physics, is the qualia of recognizing the situation described in the previous section : that the laws of physics indeed form a metaphorical locker and that no mathematical key (candidate complement to the laws of physics) can fit in. This is the unified understanding behind diverse no-go theorems against classical realism, and the feeling of "conspiracy" in the face of all experiences of failures trying diverse candidate mathematical keys and seeing them not fitting.

A first approach is the idea to accept as plausible the message which happens to be rather clearly given to us from Nature, rather than going for a headlong rush of seeing it as an accidental conspiracy of appearances hiding opposite kinds of underlying facts.
More precisely, this approach is the message of Logical Positivism, which was needed to motivate the success of modern physics away from imaginary obstacles : if some hypothetical parameter stubbornly and perfectly escapes measurability among all of a given range of diverse experiments (with no good "natural reason" for this), then it is reasonable to dismiss this parameter from the "explanations", i.e. the expression of the laws of physics which are relevant for these experiments. Then the success of such theories which do not use this parameter, in both terms of mathematical consistency and confirmed predictions, validates their terms.

An important point, which so many people could be led to underestimate by their naturalistic prejudices, is how amazingly great is the success of our theories of modern physics which explain so well so many experiences based on a formalism which reject such naively expected parameters. Now this success is so well-known to anyone caring to get informed, and other physicists did this supporting work already, making totally irrational any persistent belief in their underlying existence in some "true" fundamental laws of physics which remain to be discovered. This is why I see no duty to develop this point in too much details myself.

So here is the resulting picture:

This message from Nature, thus, was that the laws of physics form a locker whose key is nonphysical, non-mathematical, from which it is natural to infer that it must be consciousness.

Now my skeptic debater appeared quite reluctant towards such a logical positivistic attitude. So he expressed his skepticism towards these great advances of modern science as follows :

Yet the question may remain to assess the precise measure of how hard (far-fetched) it would be to try to reject this message : how hard would it be for any mathematical key to possibly fit this locker (even if such a key was not the one involved in reality). There are 2 general kinds of keys usually searched for, with toy models proposed by specialists However they are never really satisfactory. An important inconvenient is that they usually depend on a structure of absolute simultaneity along which instantaneous distant effects occur (breaking relativistic invariance). So they might only (more or less) "explain" non-relativistic versions of quantum mechanics. Searching for relativistic versions of such theories would be much more acrobatic, and finally hopeless.

Besides these, is the range of super-deterministic locally causal theories, which is usually not considered by specialists, but compared to the above, would have the great advantage of not involving instantaneous actions at a distance. It happens to be his favorite one. Here are some excerpts of his replies :

Yet, superdeterminism is hardly ever considered seriously by specialists. One may be tempted to complain for a lack of visible strong reason for this (in comparison with the above mentioned clear defects of non-local hidden variables and spontaneous collapse), as if it was a taboo subject. Actually this request for strong reasons against it is a good question, to which I see 2 main answers.

The clearest reason is about quantum computation, which cannot be accounted for by locally causal theories (assuming behaviors as given by some kind of classical computation with locally limited resources). Actually I had to raise the issue in the discussion, because he was not aware of it, since... he did not even figure out how much there was such a concept as quantum computation which may sometimes be more powerful than classical computation. His first reaction was

After some research he wrote the following reply In short, all this to say that his attempts to document himself on quantum computing still leave him skeptical about what the heck the whole point of research in quantum computing could be.
To excuse him, the above excerpt is from January 2018, thus 20 months before Google's breaking news on the topic which finally forced everyone to hear that it had to mean something. On the other hand, more knowledgeable physicists can be better aware of this discrepancy between the predictions of quantum mechanics and what can be expected from classical computational theories. Namely, 't Hooft himself wrote in comment to P. Woit's blog article in 2012, that his ideas "...could well lead to new predictions, such as a calculable string coupling constant g_s, and (an older prediction) the limitations for quantum computers". A prediction which may thus be considered to have failed with the news of Google's success, depending on where the limitations could be thought to be.

But, what a strange universe it would be, that would be basically working in one kind of way (local classical computation) but on top of that would be programmed in such an extraordinary way that it would maintain the appearance of so perfectly following a completely different kind of laws (quantum mechanics) for seemingly all experiments until the day when its success to do so would completely break down because of special circumstances which make it run out of the computing power needed to maintain this appearance. Actually I once saw a physicist (Valerio Scarani if I remember well) make a similar remark about the relevance of experiments to test the violation of Bell's inequalities : it would be so strange to see quantum mechanics perfectly predict everything in all previous experiments including those on entanglement with defective devices failing to fit the conditions of violation of Bell's inequalities, then suddenly break down when devices are perfected enough to fit. Now since experiments approved the expectation that this paradoxical prediction of quantum mechanics would keep working on perfected devices against classical realistic expectation, then why would the case of quantum computing be different ?

This leads us to the other answer I see : the violation of Bell's inequalities (the prediction of quantum mechanics which is the point of the concept of "superdeterminism" : the virtue of a local deterministic law to match this prediction). Why it is a really strong problem, is not so easy to clearly explain, but I will try by analogy with a different, more simply expressible mathematical problem that is subject to the same issues. Just one arbitrary example of an endless range of similar problems.

Here is the example. Let us call conspirational number any nonzero integer whose exponential only has finitely many 3s in its decimal expansion.
Now, does a conspirational number exist ? The point is, any good mathematician would be confident that no such number exists, and yet would not be able to write a proof for this. It is worth hesitating whether this conjecture is actually provable. It is expectable that no simple proof exists, so any proof would be extremely complicated. But the point is that mathematicians do not need such a proof, since their intuition suffices instead of a proof to know the non-existence of conspirational numbers anyway.

Now, superdeterministic laws are like conspirational numbers: mathematical intuition (the qualia of what it is like to be a mathematician) can give confidence that such a law cannot exist, despite the lack of proof for this impossibility. The reason is essentially the same, both for the confidence in the conjecture that no superdeterministic law can exist, and the lack of means to prove this non-existence. Of course I cannot prove the validity of this analogy between both problems, I am simply confident in this, just like I cannot prove but I am confident that conspirational numbers do not exist.

Here by any superdeterministic law, I do not even require one which matches much details of the Standard Model of particle physics. I even expect toy models to be impossible as well. Uh, maybe not the absolutely most straw ones. So let us be more precise: my conjecture is the non-existence of any toy model of superdeterministic law (i.e. which statistically violates the Bell's inequalities) that would be Turing-complete on a visible level, with a lower bound on the efficiency in which it can process visible computation. Here by "visible" I mean as opposed to the "hidden" character of hidden variables. So I mean a law of a world in which it is possible to build a visible computer, in the same sense of those computers we have in our world, able to make classical computations (to use the result as a choice of direction to measure one entangled particle).

Here is a quote from the conversation:

Indeed you do not need to know much of particle physics to undertake a search for conspirational numbers. And it would be a huge success to discover a conspirational number, even if it would still not be the same as a superdeterministic theory which matches all predictions of the standard model of particle physics... even though I am skeptical about its usefulness for anything whatsoever. In particular, I am skeptical about how much closer to the latter dream such a discovery would bring us. I am even skeptical about how much closer it would bring us to some much more modestly different dream, such as the dream of discovering a nonzero integer whose exponential only has finitely many 4s in its decimal expansion.

Should the Universe be designed for the Method or vice versa

Let us sum up the diverse ways we developed in previous sections, in which skepticism and its methods turn out to work as an opposite of science. In very short, science expands our understanding, while skepticism restricts and amputates it ; the true spirit of science is non-essentialist, while skepticism perverts science, turning it into its opposite, by essentializing it. It does that by picking there a few elements (methods and principles) which, in themselves, are genuine, but become perverted by being used out of context and in inappropriately exclusivist manners. The problem is not that these points of focus are wrong, and it is not even that they would not be the best ones (insofar as a comparison would make sense). But very generally, even the best principles in the world can become ineffective and even misleading when focused on too literally, without proper discernment. And the skill of proper discernment has nothing to do with any issue of methods or principles.

The precise aspects of science picked by skepticism are somehow naturally those which are more likely to be picked when approaching science in a religious manner, that is, as an object of evangelization. They may be the clearest answers to the question of what are the most straightforward things to share if you want to spread a scientific mindset. Doing that, they could have overlooked the fact that, well, this question of how to most clearly and easily share a scientific mindset may be a wrong question about such a mindset, while their dear goal of popularizing science may be a kind of oxymoron. Because these are rather extroverts expectations about something which may actually require some introversion instead. Other crucial aspects of science thus missed would be much harder or even sometimes impossible to share in such popularized manners:

I pointed out that scientific methods could be usefully completed in some cases by some methods and inspirations from libertarianism. Indeed some good ideas and tools can be found there. Some of its principles are already exemplified by the success of free market economies over the Soviet ones ; along similar inspirations, some more advanced social technologies remain to be designed and implemented through a better use of information technologies which already came as a fruit of science.

Unfortunately, the current mainstream libertarian ideologies fell into similar traps with respect to the potentialities of libertarian solutions, as skepticism fell with respect to the scientific ideals: the trap of perverting its best principles by essentializing them and neglecting the need of thorough analysis to discover the appropriate ways of applying them. Namely, many fell to the temptation of extrapolating their confidence in the few classical methods of free market, justified by the success we know in classical cases, to dream of a straightforward universal applicability of these methods in all cases. They can rightly point out some cases where these methods were attacked for either wrong or controversial reasons, such as the institutions of rather heavy taxes to maintain some sub-optimal systems of social security and official education ; and extrapolate from there to less wisely dismiss as similar "attacks on liberties" any other calls for regulations, namely those for environmental concerns.

So in the discussion, I drew the parallel between both ideologies as follows:

So, searching for truths about the universe, or searching for solutions to real problems, is like traveling: there are some powerful means of transportation, but not a single one of them is appropriate to explore everything. Different parts of reality may have such different structures that they may require different kinds of methods to be uncovered. In the face of this diversity of needs and aspects of reality, researchers may need to adapt and innovate in terms of methods. In the name of what could anyone expect otherwise ? What could be the sense of expecting reality to be adapted to the requirement of being best investigated by some given simple methods fixed in advance ? The Universe has no such duty towards scientists.

Ironically, this strange hypothesis that the universe would happen to be adapted to the expectations of methodologists for the intellectual comfort of investigators (in terms of explorability : the superiority of a fixed exploration method), would actually be very bad news for these investigators. Indeed:

  1. It would make their work boring ;
  2. it would open the way to the automatization of their work, so that machines could ultimately overcompete them and leave them jobless.
Finally, I would re-place such considerations on the expectable meaning and values of scientific investigation, in the perspective of their context, as particular cases of the meanings of life in this universe which I sketched near the end of Part 1: the general quest for truth is just one of many possible games we have here the opportunity to play.
So, this quest for truth undertaken under human conditions, is just a game. It does not really aim to uncover these truths, providing an access to these which did not exist before, since all (or at least most) relevant truths to be so uncovered, were already known before the game started, and will be disclosed again anyway once the game is over. Instead, the real goal of the game is to play. It needs to have some visible other goals, and these visible goals need to appear serious, since this is needed to keep the motivation and opportunity to play this game seriously.
This game of the quest for truth, like any other game, is neither fair nor unfair: Rather than being worried for those who fail at the game of truth seeking (insofar as their failure does not cause any concrete tragedy, even if concrete tragedies themselves may in some sense be less serious than they seem), it is allowed to laugh at them ; yet, those who laugh for the wrong reasons will be laughed at.

In particular, different people may happen to be at different stages of their spiritual evolution (in particular their series of reincarnations). It can seem funny to stare at children's mistakes; but everyone has been a child someday, and the experience of committing and struggling with mistakes can be a necessary part of the learning process.

Let me reply to the possible suspicion that, by the above picture, I would be undermining the sense of seriousness (meaningful purpose) of scientific investigation. I happen to be very serious by nature, tempted to take everything extremely seriously. This went to the point of leading me to spoil my life trying to follow purposes and requirements which claimed to be serious ones but which actually weren't, such as "giving my life to God" with Evangelical Christianity, and accepting to follow the academic system up to PhD as if it would be needed for me to fulfill my wish of doing great science in my life, when it was actually a huge waste of energy. After such disastrous tries to integrate myself in the university system, I finally left it for good, disgusted of the reign of vanity and lack of meaningful purpose in so much of what is going on there. I already commented above about the mess of scientific popularization. I also reported elsewhere the degree of vanity I found in academia, both in scientific research and teaching activities. Indeed, what is the sense of passing an exam, really ? What is the sense of repeating the same lecture every year, on the same topic which thousands of other teachers are also teaching around the world, and still doing it as badly as decades ago without anyone giving any serious thought on needed restructuration ? What is the sense of racing to publish a given finding in a given popular research field, in hope to do it either before or at the same time as others, so as to become listed as one more of its co-discoverers ? What is the sense of doing some "great" work which will only interest the curiosity of a handful of specialists of the same topic but has no chance to be of any use for the rest of mankind anyway ? What is even the sense of all specialists of a given field focusing their works on publishing stuff to be read by their peers working on the same field around the world, but none of them even caring to help maintaining a list of those existing research teams in this field (I was the one doing it for them, despite being out of that system) ?

A vanity for another, let us compare the value of rational investigation to that of passing an exam. What really matters there is not, in itself, the discovery of the right result, since those truths to be discovered are anyway no mystery from the viewpoint by which the ultimate value of the investigation will finally be appreciated. What matters instead, is the method which is followed. Not because the right method is fixed in advance, but precisely because it isn't : you have to invent you own, and see how it goes. You have a large freedom in both your choices of target questions and methods to investigate them, and no secret will remain about this.
A possibly legitimate method is to copy your work from your neighbor's. Indeed this can be valuable in two ways. One way is to save your time, using the fruits of his work as a basis you need for your own other works, the different game you want to play where you can then develop and test different skills. The other way is to test your skills of discerning which works are worth copying from, and which aren't.
But, if you altogether undertake to get and wear dark glasses, proclaim that these glasses are the brightest of all (since only some of the brightest lights are visible through these), and complain against your neighbor, who disagrees with you on this, that you cannot see whether his work is worth copying from when you look at it through your glasses, then you may be the one actually failing.



Previous : The cult of skepticism Part 1 - Part 2
References list moved to Part 1

Back to site : Antispirituality main page