Monday, June 22, 2009

Strictly for Physics Geeks and 'Basic Questions' Philosophizers

OK, so sue me and yawn and forget about this blog, but I do have interests that some may find...well, let me call them 'obscure'. But there was a reason why, some years back, I studied Astrophysics and Physics and all that jazz—before I became disenchanted with them and the prospects of them helping me to answer the really important questions; because I realized that ultimately, being an academic scientist, being any kind of 'academic' for that matter, is about as much of an existential dead-end as being, to pick just a few examples that leap to mind, an orthodontist, a drain-layer, a butcher, a film star, a concert pianist or a serial killer.

I've been thinking about 'fundamentals' of existence off and on for years. Many years. A lot of things emerging from both physics and the life-sciences—areas which somehow must be connected; for me that's almost an article of faith—and also the cognitive sciences simply don't hang together, not even by hairs. For that matter, things don't hang together inside those different disciplines!

Recently, something directed me back to an article by Lee Smolin from 2006, as well as his recent book, The Trouble with Physics, which I'll really have to read sometime soon. As sometimes happens, something got nudged this way and that, and I ended up looking over some stuff that's been bouncing around in my head for a number of years, and it was like "hmmfff..." and "interesting..." and "maybe..."

Thing is that—and if this isn't irony, I don't know what is!—that, at the very least in physics, we may be in a position that isn't unlike that existing prior to Copernicus coming on the scene—with the able assistance of Galileo about a century afterward.

The notion that today's fundamental physics—including cosmology, particle physics, quantum theory and especially its extension to quantum gravity, if that's a meaningful concept at all!—is in a state equivalent to Ptolemean geocentricity and the ad hoc-ery of epicycle-dom...

...there surely will be those who'd consider it preposterous. But history, as Peggy Noonan wrote, is an irony factory; and why should the history of science, replete as it is with the political, religious and other ideological follies of its practitioners—long past, recent and present—be any different?

And don't get me started on anything to do with the 'mental' sciences! At least physics can try to stand back from the thing it looks as—unsuccessful as the attempt has proved to be, but the illusion of it still is deeply entrenched in many of those who practice it. But cognitive science? Does anybody really think that there's a single person working in the field or seriously thinking about it, who hasn't got an axe to grind, an agenda to follow, a faith to defend against those who would assault it?

No, cognitive science also is still deeply immersed in its own pre-Copernicanism. And with it goes, inevitably, all of biology, the science of 'life'; still laboring under a total cluelessness about what 'life' actually is—or if it is anything at all distinct from whatever non-life is.

You know, with so many fascinating questions floating around, why does anybody actually bother to waste intelletcual time on stupid pursuits like 'theology'?

Theology is [...] searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there. R.A.Heinlein

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