Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Of cosmologists and equivocators

I've posted many times of the arrogant, condescending and ignorant opinions many physicists such as Feynman, Weinberg, and others have about philosophy (here and here). The latest fiasco in this is Lawrence Krauss book which he explicitly claimed including in an Atlantic interview (then somewhat retracted in the same interview and in other articles) solves age-old philosophical problems such as why is there anything rather than nothing. Of course, Krauss uses the same old silly argument that when the physicist says that particles (or what appears to be particles) can come from relativistic quantum fields (RQF), the RQFs, they claim, are really "nothing" and the physical laws then generate the particles which solves the problem. Abracadabra! That's how you get something from nothing.

This despite the obvious objection that because these RQF have certain properties they are not a "nothing" but a something. Krauss and other physicists have only explained how something can come from some other thing, not out of nothing.The philosophers of science David Albert (who also has a PhD in theoretical physics!) point out to this silly error in a blistering book review in the New York Times.

Krauss did not like that review and predictably, went on a legendary tirade calling Albert a "moron philosopher" and calling philosophers in general all sorts of names and denigrating the whole discipline (he has since made somewhat of a retraction of denouncing the whole field.)

Even Krauss's friend and fellow cosmologist Sean Carroll has basically taken Albert's side (as well as other cosmologists like Lee Smolin and the evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne).

On Sean Carroll's excellent cosmology blog, I posted the following replies (comment #59 and 61) which I state that despite Krauss's errors which Carroll was justified in pointing out (such as ad hom and strawman arguments), Krauss is guilty of something much worse that everyone seems to have missed: you can make a good argument that his statements were insincere, dishonest, and maybe even fraudulent because Krauss exploits an equivocations seemingly purposefully. You can also add to that list, the no true scotsman fallacy to the list of all Krauss's errors in the Atlantic interview when asked by a very informed interviewer that if philosophy is so useless why did was modern computer science born from the work of Russell and Wittgenstein? Krauss then said that they are mathematicians! This despite the facts that both Russell and Wittgenstein (not to mention many other philosophers) received their PhDs in philosophy, taught in philosophy departments all their lives, did work in other areas of philosophy, considered themselves philosophers, considered their work in logic to be extensions of Aristotle's and Leibniz's original work etc, etc.