Daily musings, mostly about physics and consciousness, heavily biased by Topological Geometrodynamics background.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
New Einstein or new science community?
Lee Smolin wondered for some time ago "Why No New Einstein?" in Physics Today. Smolin analyzed the reasons for the recent dead end in fundamental physics and proposed also some concrete ways to make progress. The article stimulated vivid discussions as in Not-Even-Wrong and detailed responses as in Lubos Motl's blog.
New Einstein or new science community?
Personally I would not talk about the need to find a brand new Einstein but the need to become collectively conscious of new ideas, or even better, new theories, which are already there. As some one said in some blog: there is no need to socio-engineer a new Einstein, and as I would continue: the new ideas allowing to get out from the dead end express themselves unavoidably through some brain and have probably already done so. The question is about when the community becomes mature to become conscious of these ideas and ceases to think in terms of Names.
TGD indeed represents a highly developed theory reproducing standard model, predicting 4-dimensionality of space-time, and making rich spectrum of testable predictions. The problem is that it is practically impossible to communicate TGD to the quantum field theory community. Not that it would require Einstein's brains to comprehend TGD but simply because of the incredible disdain of QFT community towards people who are not names. In practice this arrogance makes these people conditional autists who neither hear nor see anything without first receiving a signal telling that the main signal originates from a Name.
I have repeatedly witnessed this attitude in blogs like "Not-Even-Wrong": the response is typically a cold silence or just some sheer sillinesses like "I visited your home page and found that this work has nothing to with science" (quite a feat for an occasional visitor taking into account that the amount of material is something like 6000 pages summarizing a work of 27 years). For these fellows it does not occur that this kind of dramatic claims would require something looking like a scientific argument as a justification. The second typical visitor is an anonymous arrogant who requires Peter to banish crackpots: an easy trick to receive respect based on fear without saying anything interesting or even anything demonstrating that the person has something do with physics.
Probably these tricksters are not taken too seriously by professionals. What makes me sad that Peter Woit performs typically mass deletions when the discussion is becoming really interesting rather than only attacking against landscape or Templeton foundation. The last time this occurred when a really interesting discussion about the basic assumptions of general relativity was getting on wings. Peter of course has right to eliminate from his blog new ideas which he obviously strongly dislikes. Peter has obviously not considered the possibility that Not-Even-Wrong could find a place in history as a discussion forum where the censored ideas leading out of the dead end saw the day light. Not-Even-Wrong has probably alrady now carried out its mission since even Lubos Motl admits that M-theory is in a deep crisis and has become a serious criticist of M-theory. My sincere hope is that some far-sighted enough physicist with a formal authority would create a blog site dedicated to discussions about the basic problems and basic principles.
What it feels to be quantum field theorist?
The macho attitude of QFT people cannot be understood without knowing the underlying belief system which characterizes the state of consciousness they are experiencing. Already quantum field theorists regard themselves as very exceptional people, but string theorists view themselves as super geniuses. No wonder! They know the Feynman rules! If you really believe that Feynman rules catch everything that is worth of understanding in this Infinite Universe then you have right to feel being next to God.
These people also hate philosophy and conceptualization because Feymman happened to hate philosophy. Their response to any attempt to raise discussion about conceptual problems of physics is a chilly silence. Again and again I find that most of QFT people have never realized that their formulas are an outcome of a process of conceptualization which has lasted centuries and must continue if any progress is to be made. There is no deep difference between Peter Woit and Lubos Motl: Peter Woit's dream is that the glorious days of QFT would return and Lubos Motl's dream is that the ultimate theory would give M-theory as a limiting case: no problems with fundamentals of quantum theory.
The state of consciousness and world view of a typical quantum field theorist is obviously somehow badly lop-sided, and as I have written earlier, these people are in many aspects at the developmental level of a ten year old boy. It is however not easy to express more precisely what really has gone wrong in the personal development of these ten year old machos.
Brief digression to integral psychology
The need to have a better diagnosis about the psychological state of QFT people has become more and more compelling during these years that I have witnessed the degeneration of theoretical physics. I was happy to learn quite a lot in this respect when I read a summary of Ken Wilber's integral psychology, which is an ambitious attempt to integrate the views about consciousness given by disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, transpersonal psychology, and the ancient wisdom of various cultures.
Wilber's approach can be seen as an attempt to fuse together various views about universe corresponding to I, We, and It. "It" is the third person view of hard science: universe consists of dead matter and consciousness has no causal role in it. "I" is the subjective view given by personal conscious experience: all science of course relies on sensory experience and tries to explain its regularities but hard nosed methodologists have forgotten this for long time ago. Self expression is essential part of "I" view and art is how I view about the world is expressed. "We" view is the view of collective and includes more abstract notions like ethics and moral. Reader has probably realized that these three views relate to the categories of Truth, Beauty and Good: only truth (or rather "truth") is included in the world view of the hard nosed scientist.
Wilber introduces the notions of state, developmental line, and stage. Basic states include at least the three basic realms of consciousness: wake-up, dreaming, and deep sleep. The practitioners of meditative disciplines claim that it is possible to be conscious in each of these states and the character of conscious experience differs dramatically in these states. Spiritual practices assign to these states different bodies labelled with various names such as ordinary body, subtle body, and causal body.
It is possible to distinguish about 24 loosely correlated developmental lines. Examples of lines are motor skills, cognition, language skills, social skills, and various special gifts. Along these lines one can typically distinguish about 8-10 developmental stages. No one can end up to the highest super-conscious level in all of these lines but it helps considerably if one becomes conscious about those lines where the development has not even begun. Extremely intelligent person can behave like a psychopath and a saint or super mathematician can be infant in many lines related to the practical and social life.
Wilber claimes that a high level of cognitive development is necessary for the progress in other lines: intelligent persons are able to admit that they are not so good in some lines and quickly realize that they can do something for the situation. Spirituality is often regarded as a separate line whereas Wilber believes that spirituality is not a line in itself but correlates with the developmental level at various lines. I have temptation to disagree. The reader can decide. Of course Wilber's view is that of phenomenologist and the ultimate theory of consciousness probably leads to a simpler view. Despite this this approach is very fruitful since it avoids the obvious shortcomings of various schools of psychology.
What goes wrong with a typical QFTheorist and is there any cure?
Wilber's scenario provides a rough map about the personal development. It also helps to understand what has gone wrong in the science community. The basic message of Wilber is that your world view directly reflects the level of consciousness you have achieved. Vulgar skeptic really believes in his weird world view: he simply has not become conscious of more subtle levels of existence. By reading the discussions in blogs one soon learns that quite too many participants can be classified, sorry to say this, as spiritual infants. These people continually insult other participants by calling them crackpots and loonies and insisting that they should be banished from the group. These people are like these hyper-Darwinistic animals fighting, feeding, and fucking in TV documents about Wild Nature that we can enjoy almost every evening.
I think that the only manner to overcome the situation in basic science is a gradual transformation of the basic education which can be only brought up by a transformation of the basic values. The basic prerequisite for this is satisfied since, thanks to web, there is no need for a scientist to become an extreme specialist who cannot work without the support of the academic community and therefore must accepts all its prejucides.
Believe or not, even an elementary particle physicist could become a civilized human being conscious about the possibility that there are also other branches of physics and even other human endeavors besides elementary particle physics. This more subtle variant of elementary particle physicist could become conscious about the possibility that standard model might not explain everything above intermediate boson length scale. Eventually he could discover that there is a phenomenon known as life about which recent day fundamental physics can say practically nothing really interesting. He could even realize that consciousness is an equally deep mystery for physics and directly related to the basic conceptual problems of quantum theory and that anyone who dreams of becoming the new Einstein should take it very seriously. At these subtler levels of consciousness this new variant of elementary particle physicist would realize that Curriculum Vitae is not the only measure of personal growth that even people without name might have something interesting to say.