The evidence crisis

I reviewed Jim Baggott’s book a while back, saying that I thought he had made many crucial points that I hoped the theoretical physics community would heed. Science, by getting away from evidence, risks entering a kind of Neoplatonic phase. I still say speculation is fine, as long as it’s clearly labeled, but when the speculation starts to be called “discoveries”, there is a problem. In this post at Scientia, Baggott covers many of the same points.

Scientia Salon

220px-Calabi-Yau-alternateJim Baggott

Thanks to a kind invitation from the Simons and John Templeton Foundations and the World Science Festival, last Friday (30 May) I participated in a public discussion on ‘Evidence in the Natural Sciences’ with Professors Brian Greene and Peter Galison.

This discussion was the final act in a one-day symposium of the same name, held at the Simons Foundation’s Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium on 5th Avenue, in New York City. These were comfortable, well-appointed surroundings. But the overwhelming message from the symposium was actually quite discomfiting. In its 300-year maturity, it seems that science is confronted with nothing less than a crisis of evidence.

The crisis takes many forms. I learned that mathematicians are increasingly resorting to computer-based proofs that signal a loss of certainty and the ‘end of conviction.’ Efforts are underway to develop computer-based algorithms that will soon provide the only way to review such…

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Sam Harris, the fact-value distinction, and the problem with a science of morality

A few years ago, Sam Harris published a book, 'The Moral Landscape', which argued that science could determine moral values.  To say that it received substantial criticism, from scientists, philosophers, and others, would be an understatement. Late last year, Harris issued a challenge for people to submit 1000 word essays challenging the thesis of his book.  He … Continue reading Sam Harris, the fact-value distinction, and the problem with a science of morality