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Fri, 10 Apr 2009

Controvertialism


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Rahul Basu pointed out an article by the eminent scientist Freeman Dyson.

In the past Dyson has raised a number of interesting questions and has been thought-provoking, but it is difficult to read him when he writes like this.

I have re-phrased what he has said (debunking climatologists) and turned it into an argument against the Large Hadron Collider so that we can see how obnoxious it sounds.1

My first heresy says that all the fuss about the Higgs particle is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of high energy physicists and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe that the world is predicted by the standard model. Of course, they say, I have no degree in physics and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the standard model and I know what it can do. The model solves the equations of gauge theory in the simplest cases, and it does a very good job of describing the interactions of the known particles. It does a very poor job of describing how mass arises and the chemistry and the biology of phenomena we see everyday. It does not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on a lab coat and measure what is really happening in the complex phenomena of compounds and materials. That is why the high enery physicists end up believing their own models.

The rest of the article can then be similarly re-phrased but I will just summarise it as:

There is no reason for the rest of the world to believe the high energy physicists and squander billions of dollars into following their proposed unique solution to the questions of physics.

Of course, there is a good chance that Dyson will agree with the above point of view as well! The problem with ``controversialists'' like Dyson is that they believe that taking extreme positions helps clarify issues. Unfortunately, extremists are a-dime-a-dozen in today's world.

I suppose I should clarify that I accept neither the extreme position on climatology nor the one on the LHC!


  1. My friend is a high energy physics theorist!


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