Physics versus astrology

We all know how mainstream institutions encourage us to think within boxes – boxes they control. They keep their mystique in these boxes, so control the box and you control the mystique. It’s been called credentialism, but I prefer the box idea because it seems to be joined at the hip to box-ticking.

So what about people-boxes such as physicist and astrologer?

Well one is a scientist following the scientific method and one isn’t according to official boxes. But there are numerous slants on what constitutes the scientific method. In my view there is no such thing as the scientific method, but for the sake of our boxy culture, allow me to assume there is. Try this :-

Any scientific statement must in principle be experimentally falsifiable.

Apart from that statement you might add, but please be patient while I cobble the argument together.

How about the multiverse theories pursued by some physicists? These theories are not experimentally falsifiable, so do we make an exception for physicists here? If we do, then the scientific method goes out of the window. Baby, bathwater, soap, tub – the lot.

I have no wish to support the antics of astrologers, denigrate physics or downplay the art of speculation here. I merely wish to poke a stick at the activities of some physicists and the comfy box they inhabit.

Because science frequently violates its own rules.

No ifs or buts or caveats – it does. It’s a fact – freely available data. Multiverse theories are examples of such a violation. String theories are too. So how can we classify multiverse theorists as scientists?

As of course we do.

We class physicists as scientists and whatever they do professionally we class as science. The box they inhabit is made from their qualifications and membership of professional bodies and institutions, but that’s it. Once safely snuggled inside the box, they are in it for life if they so choose.

But what about the entertaining aspect of the multiverse? Because in spite of all the TV programmes on exotic physics clearly intended to entertain and in spite of all those paperback books with the same intent, we don’t classify multiverse physicists as entertainers, do we? Not even Brian Cox.

We leave them in the physicist box, presumably because otherwise it would spoil the entertainment. Does it matter if they can’t support their speculations with experiments? Is the work of multiverse physicists still more scientific than that of astrologers?

If we apply the above rule then no – obviously not. But although astrologers make falsifiable predictions, physicists can be more entertaining.

Sources. My post may not be too serious, but modern physics does have issues with verifiability. These two books on the subject are well worth reading.

Roger Schlafly – How Einstein Ruined Physics.

Lee Smolin – The Trouble With Physics.

11 comments for “Physics versus astrology

  1. Voice of Reason
    September 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Sorry – doesn’t wash.

    It isn’t just Popper’s falsifiability criterion that matters. The theory should explain _all_ available data better than competing theories, and make predictions. The multiverse concept will have (eventually) observable consequences. Astrology has been tested and failed every single time.

    Referencing Roger Schlafly is probably a mistake. Based on the debates in which he was engaged on talk.origins years ago, his understanding of science is about nil.

  2. Mark
    September 4, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Yeah, what VoR said

  3. Greg Tingey
    September 4, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Geology too.

    And, if you think Physics is a “comfy box” … YOU try to get even a first-degree in the subject.
    It’s damned hard work, I can tell you.

    Schafly is associated with the book of deliberate lies called “conservapedia” isn’t he?
    NOT a clever move.

  4. ivan
    September 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    In fact, according to Einstein himself, his theories should be dismissed because, contrary to what the ‘keepers of the scientific faith’ say the Michelson-Morley experiment did show a positive result, albeit not what they were looking for (8km/s and not the 30km/s they expected). This result was later verified by Miller.

  5. David A. Evans
    September 4, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Think I’ll listen to some Eels. (The band.)

    DaveE.

  6. September 5, 2012 at 2:36 am

    Voice of Reason should be called Voice of Faith. The “eventually” observable consequences of his multiverse ideology amount to hope, not certainty. And astrology has not failed every single test – not that there have been many – despite his veiled wish to the contrary.

    Once upon a time the church was intolerant and bigoted towards science. The priesthood of scientific quackery is intolerant and bigoted too, and I am not impressed by their “antics”, to use AKH’s disparaging expression with regard to a much older system of belief, astrology.

    For instance, modern alchemists preach belief in the ether, or Higgs field, which being everywhere is, of course, undetectable. This amazing stuff is supposed to spawn a particle – but this can’t be detected either, because a soon as you try, it disappears. Rather like multiverses in that you can never find one when you want one.

    Just as the church has declined, so too will scientific quackery, as people realise that the new priesthood’s mathematical logic might be impeccable, but its alchemical premises are grounded in medieval fantasy. And that alternative universes are the stuff of escapism, just as Hollywood musicals were to the depressed masses of the 1930s.

    Astrology will outlive both the church and quack science.

    • September 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      “alternative universes are the stuff of escapism”

      I agree – they have more value as entertainment than science.

  7. September 5, 2012 at 7:16 am

    My reply is coming up as a post.

  8. Greg Tingey
    September 5, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Ian Hills
    Plainly out of touch

    Many churches deny the FACT of evolution …
    And what is this …”priesthood of scientific quackery” of which you speak?
    I think you are being deluded by the usual suspects (who have LOTS of money) to try to persuade people that some, erm inconvenient, results should be ignored.
    Show, please?

    ivan
    If Einstein wrong, how come nuclear power stations work, then?
    Converting matter to energy, a basic part of special releativity, is necessary to extract the energy, remember?

    • ivan
      September 6, 2012 at 12:20 am

      Greg,
      You are putting the cart before the horse with that statement.

      If you were correct then the natural reactors at Okio in Gabon could not have been working for the estimated few thousand years they did and long before Einstein came along.

      In fact all the Einstein equations you are referring to are only an attempt to explain what happens in an atomic reaction and were postulated before Einstein.

  9. David A. Evans
    September 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    Pity, no-one seemed to get my comment about Eels. 🙁

    DaveE.

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