DEC 10, 2015 @ 01:03 PM 48,339 VIEWS
Why Trust A Theory? Physicists And Philosophers Debate The Scientific Method
POST WRITTEN BY Sabine Hossenfelder
Sabine is a theoretical physicist specialized in quantum gravity and high energy physics. She also freelance writes about science.
This week, a group of about 100 physicists and philosophers have gathered in Munich to reassess a question at the heart of science: “Why trust a theory?” In an opinion piece by George Ellis and Joe Silk, published in Nature earlier this year, the two physicists expressed worry about current developments in some areas of theoretical physics. In particular, they were concerned with untestable attempts to address the fundamental questions concerning space, time and matter. Their article gave rise to the idea of the current meeting.
An increasing number of physicists, Ellis and Silk observed, have become strongly convinced of the viability of theories that have no empirical confirmation. This trend is most pronounced in the quest for a theory of quantum gravity – notably string theory – and in cosmology where theories for the early universe give rise to a multiverse. Why, they ask, do scientists trust theories that have not been experimentally tested? Worse, in some cases, these theories cannot even been tested in principle. Is this still science?
Philosopher Richard Dawid, one of the organizers of the Munich meeting, has observed the same development and, in his book “String theory and the scientific method” argued that string theorists in particular use a method of “non-empirical theory confirmation.” This method is used during the development of a theory and is based on collecting indications which increase the physicists’ confidence that a theory describes nature. These indications are, for example, the amount (or absence of) alternative solutions to a problem, the degree by which a theory is connected to already confirmed theories, and the amount of unexpected insights that the theories give rise to.
While Dawid focused on string theory, non-empirical theory confirmation is used and has been used in theoretical physics for a long time. What was missing so far is a legitimate philosophical underpinning. Dawid’s arguments provided such an underpinning. String theorists, needless to say, were delighted to now have philosophical support for their procedures, but not everyone was pleased to see the scientific method being watered down. This is what prompted Ellis and Silk to "defend the integrity of physics." The topic of the present workshop is the following question: under which circumstances, if any at all, is non-empirical theory confirmation a justified procedure?
It is a pressing and timely question. As physics has matured, experimental test of new, more fundamental theories have become increasingly difficult. Many existing theories are so difficult to test that they are widely believed to be untestable in the foreseeable future. The methods from the past are not working any more. “We are in a different era of science,” says Nobel Laureate David Gross....
Read more here/Leia mais aqui: Forbes
O workshop em questão foi este:
7-9 December, 2015
Idea and Motivation
Fundamental physics today faces increasing difficulties to find conclusive empirical confirmation of its theories. Some empirically unconfirmed or inconclusively confirmed theories in the field have nevertheless attained a high degree of trust among their exponents and are de facto treated as well established theories. This situation raises a number of questions that are of substantial importance for the future development of fundamental physics. Can a high degree of trust in an empirically unconfirmed or inconclusively confirmed theory be scientifically justified? Does the extent to which empirically unconfirmed theories are trusted today constitute a substantial change of the character of scientific reasoning? Might some important theories of contemporary fundamental physics be empirically untestable in principle?
The workshop will be centred around an in-depth discussion of these and other related questions, with a particular focus on the methodological and philosophical aspects. As such, it will be an interdisciplinary event, involving physicists and philosophers of science. It will bring together main exponents of important theories in fundamental physics, physicists who have expressed criticism of the current strategies of theory assessment in fundamental physics and philosophers who have thought about those issues.
NOTA DESTE BLOGGER:
Há muitas teorias, hipóteses e ideias científicas que não tiveram até hoje a sua confirmação no contexto de justificação teórica. A hipótese darwinista de ancestralidade comum com modificação através da seleção natural e n mecanismos evolucionários de A a Z (vai que um falhe...) é uma delas!