[lit-ideas] Re: Science as Aesthetics?

  • From: John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 14 May 2009 00:26:51 +0900

On Thu, May 14, 2009 at 12:02 AM, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>wrote:

> As regards, "He believes superstring theory is too beautiful to be
> wrong", many beautiful theories have been falsified by an ugly fact. That
> many theories, that survive attempts at falsification by experiment, also
> have aesthetic qualities, cannot be used as a valid argument that aesthetic
> qualities predict that theories will survive attempts at falsification or
> that they are true, and nor can such aesthetic qualities show the theory is
> testable by experiment, either presently or in the future.

Someone who really knows the physics, please correct me if I screw this up.
I believe, however, that the discussion to date is marred by the assumption
that string theory has nothing testable about it. That seems unlikely to me.
Advances in physics typically involve new theories that do not replace old
ones but, instead, encompass and extend them. Thus, for example, Einstein's
theory of relativity does not disprove Newtonian mechanics; it accounts for
everything that Newtonian mechanics does and adds predictions, e.g.,
concerning the observed position of Mercury, that cannot be deduced from
Newtonian mechanics alone. Unless I am much mistaken, no physicist would be
taking superstring theory seriously if the math weren't consistent with
already established findings predicted by previous theories. The testable or
not issue refers to the ability to perform experiments that would produce
findings demonstrating the validity of predictions made by superstring
theory that are not made  by other theories. In this respect, superstring
theory is a different sort of beast from aesthetic theories that have no
indisputable results at all to explain.
Too much wine tonight, but perhaps you can see what I'm driving at.

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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