The main categories of those points:
I want to consider two points during this presentation. The first is how all actors, whether favorable to the study of parapsychology or against this study, present the debate. In their view, this debate would oppose a parapsychology at the margins of science that would be barred from becoming a normal science because of the opposition of skeptics, integrated with the institution. But if you look at the situation as it stands, we notice that it is parapsychology, particularly through the Parapsychological Association, that belongs to the institution, while the skeptics are those gathered in associations outside the establishment. It is therefore not a controversy for the admission of a discipline but a controversy between scientists (parapsychologists) and science consumers (the rationalists) who are skeptical towards the interest of obtained results for society, as often happens (GMOs, nuclear energy etc.). Thus why do even parapsychologists accept reports on the controversy that do not correspond to reality and promote the discourse of skeptics ? That is an enigma.
But this puzzle does not come alone. In fact, I think it is related, at least in France to another very powerful speech in parapsychology circles. Indeed, for decades, endless controversies always occurred following the terms imposed by rationalists. Thus parapsychologists scramble to meet the requirements of proof raised by rationalists rather than rely on the normal scientific practice and seek in the plurality of scientific practices the allies they would need. And this discourse on evidence taken from rationalists (that has the disadvantage of being by definition impossible to satisfy) is coupled with a lack of real practice of the discipline. However, it is difficult to accept that rationalists are such a great danger when we see that parapsychology has scientific societies such as the PA, newspapers referees and symposia. (...) there were other times, especially in the early 50s with Robert Amadou, when parapsychology had created the conditions for a debate without worrying constantly of the only rationalist opponents (...) By focusing on rationalists, parapsychologists today give the impression of wanting to support them at all costs by refraining in finding elsewhere the relays to build an identity for research in parapsychology (...)"
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.
— I do not know anyone who altogether opposes the existing and is aware of doing so. They cannot be aware of opposing what they have never learned. They only object to what they believe to be unjustified presuppositions.
— Well if you prefer I rephrase "if ever an element in what I do is opposed to the existing I would change it" I mean that it is not the point.
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:
Long later we had the last (much shorter) dispute on the issue as follows (his replies in italic):
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:
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
’T HOOFT : I do not believe that we have to live with the many-worlds interpretation.
Indeed, it would be a stupendous number of parallel worlds, which are only there because
physicists couldn’t decide which of them is real.(...) What is the reality described by quantum
theories? I claim that we can attribute the fact that our predictions come with probability
distributions to the fact that not all relevant data for the predictions are known to us.(...)
The response has been very mixed. Many other researchers are clearly very skeptical.
They should be, because there are important unanswered questions. Others have
expressed their interest and support. What concerns me is that I haven’t yet found
colleagues who completely understand my approach.
More references on the topic:
"Gerard ’t Hooft in recent years has been pursuing some idiosyncratic ideas about quantum mechanics (...) Personally I find it difficult to get at all interested in this (...) One of ’t Hooft’s motivations is a very common one, discomfort with the non-determinism of the conventional interpretation of quantum mechanics. The world is full of crackpots with similar feelings who produce reams of utter nonsense. ’t Hooft is a scientist though of the highest caliber, and as with some other people who have tried to do this sort of thing, I don’t think what he is producing is nonsense. It is, however, extremely speculative, and, to my taste, starting with a very unpromising starting point.
Looking at the results he has, there’s very little of modern physics there, including pretty much none of the standard model (which ’t Hooft himself had a crucial role in developing). If you’re going to claim to solve open problems in modern physics with some radical new ideas, you need to first show that these ideas reproduce the successes of the established older ones. From what I can tell, ‘t Hooft may be optimistic he can get there, but he’s a very long way from such a goal. (...) the central mathematical structures of quantum mechanics fit so well with central, deep and powerful insights into modern mathematics (through symmetries and representation theory) that any claim these should be abandoned in favor of something very different has a big hurdle to overcome. Basing everything on cellular automata seems to me extremely unpromising: you’re throwing out deep and powerful structures for something very simple and easy to understand, but with little inherent explanatory power."
— The QFT model describes much more than what is observed experimentally.
To consider it as a truth on the entirety of its domain is an error of approach.
Like to consider Newtonian theory as absolute before relativity.
I don't judge knowledge I judge a method, these are unrelated.
— But you judge what you can know, and speculate what you think should be compatible with knowledge you don't have. How can you know that?
— Uh no there is a misunderstanding
— If you have ideas which you do not see how they could be incompatible with established physics it may be only because you ignore established physics while who knows it would know why it is incompatible. You thus expose yourself to the risk of having no chance that your speculations will work, that the physicists will know why but cannot explain it to you because their reasons rest on a knowledge that you do not have. And these reasons cannot be summed up by the question of whether space-time can be emerging or not.
— So if the only available model of the planet movement was geocentric, do you consider that not mastering it would prevent any discovery? The existing model does not have to be known to progress but the observations yes. We have to bring ourselves back to what was once observed and not only to the way we explain it. But it won't prevent me from learning about the existing model
— You compare what is not comparable. First you need to learn that established physics is a success. That means it is hugely simpler to learn about "the model" (the theory that has been verified) than about the observations that support it. This makes your "The existing model does not have to be known to progress but the observations yes" completely ridiculous. It is impossible to learn about observations otherwise than in the form of the known theory which accounts for them. In addition, the theory is precisely formulated to almost contain only the data of what is observable. The idea of uselessness to learn a theory, namely that it would involve complications compared to simple observables, would be precisely applicable only to hidden variables theories. In fact, hidden variables theories make things very complicated despite their attractive appearance for beginners ! They only give an illusion of totally demagogic comprehensibility which has nothing to do with any real learning of physics data...
I commented [in French long ago, then in English] on those who believe they can reinvent science as amateurs. So I'm very familiar with the problem: there are thousands of people who get caught up in their fantasy to think that in their ignorance they are smarter than those who know. They think they are valiant adventurers with a critical mind, "questioning" "dogmas".
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):
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):
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 :
Depending on the reference or even the particular statement inside a given reference, the principles of Naturalism may suffer ambiguities, between
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":
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):
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.
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:
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
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
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:
Among these numerous problems are, for example
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:
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 :
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 :
And maybe what I build is trivial too. But it is an exercise that I rarely come across. Therefore it is missing. When we can no longer go down into the nature of things to understand them, it is sometimes interesting to construct hypothetical examples and see what we could conclude from them. But in any case I want to make it clear that I am not naive about what I think to accomplish. I never said I had the slightest quantitative theory here. There is not 10% usable stuff. It is the approach that I find interesting and the illustrations of mechanism it gives
Overall I like superdeterminism as an explanation for entanglement. Methodologically speaking I find it interesting to wonder what one could observe as bizarre behavior if one were, as an observer, included in a global determinism. It is possible to be able to observe nothing in particular, but it is also possible to observe behaviors like entanglement."
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
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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