Betsy Speicher

The Theory of Elementary Waves

234 posts in this topic

Let the experiments do the talking!
You're right, of course. Unfortunately, sometimes in physics there is a gap between technology and theory, such as after Einstein's prediction that light would be bent by gravity. Until then, we're left with handwaving which is just so dissatisfying :wacko:.

Einstein completed his Theory of General Relativity in 1915 and it correctly predicted the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury right out of the box. His prediction of the bending of light near a massive body was tested and convirmed in the year 1919, four years after publication. A short wait.

Atoms were predicted in the mid 19th century (the law of definte proportions) and were further refined by Mendele'ev in the 1860s (periodic table). It was Einstein's 1905 paper on Brownian Motion that nailed it shut. Even Ernst Mach had to agree atoms were real. The speculation of atomic structure by Demokritos 2300 years ago was just that, speculation. The Greeks had no means to test or refute the hypothesis.

Einstein's prediction that light is particulate was convirmed by Robert Milikan in 1924, a wait of 19 years. This is the work for which Einsein won a Nobel Prize.

Mazwell's explanation of electromagnetic wave propogation was tested in 1885 by Hertz. That was a wait of nine years.

It took about 20 years to verify th neutrino hypothesis.

Some theories or hypotheses cannot be verified instantenously.

ruveyn

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Let the experiments do the talking!
You're right, of course. Unfortunately, sometimes in physics there is a gap between technology and theory, such as after Einstein's prediction that light would be bent by gravity. Until then, we're left with handwaving which is just so dissatisfying :wacko:.

Einstein completed his Theory of General Relativity in 1915 and it correctly predicted the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury right out of the box. His prediction of the bending of light near a massive body was tested and convirmed in the year 1919, four years after publication. A short wait.

Atoms were predicted in the mid 19th century (the law of definte proportions) and were further refined by Mendele'ev in the 1860s (periodic table). It was Einstein's 1905 paper on Brownian Motion that nailed it shut. Even Ernst Mach had to agree atoms were real. The speculation of atomic structure by Demokritos 2300 years ago was just that, speculation. The Greeks had no means to test or refute the hypothesis.

Einstein's prediction that light is particulate was convirmed by Robert Milikan in 1924, a wait of 19 years. This is the work for which Einsein won a Nobel Prize.

Mazwell's explanation of electromagnetic wave propogation was tested in 1885 by Hertz. That was a wait of nine years.

It took about 20 years to verify th neutrino hypothesis.

Some theories or hypotheses cannot be verified instantenously.

ruveyn

Well, that's not so long. Thank you, ruveyn.

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On HBL, Dr. Binswanger has endorsed the criticism of TEW by Dr. Norsen stated on Objectivism Online.

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Atoms were predicted in the mid 19th century (the law of definte proportions) and were further refined by Mendele'ev in the 1860s (periodic table). It was Einstein's 1905 paper on Brownian Motion that nailed it shut. Even Ernst Mach had to agree atoms were real. The speculation of atomic structure by Demokritos 2300 years ago was just that, speculation. The Greeks had no means to test or refute the hypothesis.

David Harriman argues in his article "Proof of the Atomic Theory" (The Objective Standard, Vol 3 No 2 Summer 2008) that the atomic theory can be regarded as proven at least by 1875 following the integration of Maxwell's Kinetic Theory in 1866 with gaseous transport phenomena and the integration of physical and chemical data by the time of the 1875 confirmation of Mendeleev's prediction of gallium. The article covers the major experiments and theories with extensive discussion of how they met the criterion of scientific proof. (The discussion of gaseous transport is not always correct, but can be corrected to make the same point.)

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Regardless of whether TEW is correct or not, what I simply do not understand is the repeated rejecting of TEW by appealing to non-locality.

The concept of non-locality is non-physical!

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On HBL, Dr. Binswanger has endorsed the criticism of TEW by Dr. Norsen stated on Objectivism Online.

I have submitted the following post to HBL in response:

Rather than respond to Harry’s endorsement of Travis Norsen's review of the Lewis Little's "Theory of Elementary Waves," I'll let the TEW’s best advocate, my late husband Stephen Speicher, do it. I refer HBLers to Stephen's hundreds of answers to questions about the TEW on the TEWLIP Yahoo group (link) in response to questions from supporters, critics, physicists, layman, and interested Objectivists.

On that list Stephen contended that Norsen was arguing against a straw man and not the actual theory. Worst of all, was basing his criticism on the notion of non-locality which, Stephen argued on HBL and elsewhere, reduces to NON-CAUSALITY.

You can read Stephen's response to Norsen's 2004 critique of the TEW at (link).

For additional responses to Norsen by Stephen and others, see the posts at (link).

Since newer HBLers may not know Stephen and since Harry endorsed Norsen as an expert on physics citing his credentials, I should do the same for Stephen.

Stephen earned his BS and MS from Columbia University in Structural Mechanics and then worked for the Defense Nuclear Agency. Accepted into the PhD program at CalTech, he studied with Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and studying further on his own, Stephen became, and was an internationally recognized authority on, Einstein and relativity. He contributed to the Einstein Papers Project at Caltech, was chosen by CalTech to explain relativity for a PBS science special, and refereed several professional disputes among physicists, notably the historic Kopeikin-Fomalont experiment measuring the speed of gravity.

For the last 14 years of his career, Stephen was a Scientific Researcher on the Computational Biology staff at CalTech and he had a weekly radio feature as "Mr. Science from CalTech" explaining everyday science -- which he also did as a frequent contributor here on HBL.

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That's a great post, Betsy. Hopefully, it will make it to HBL.

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On HBL, Dr. Binswanger has endorsed the criticism of TEW by Dr. Norsen stated on Objectivism Online.

I have submitted the following post to HBL in response:

Rather than respond to Harry’s endorsement of Travis Norsen's review of the Lewis Little's "Theory of Elementary Waves," I'll let the TEW’s best advocate, my late husband Stephen Speicher, do it. I refer HBLers to Stephen's hundreds of answers to questions about the TEW on the TEWLIP Yahoo group (link) in response to questions from supporters, critics, physicists, layman, and interested Objectivists....

Out of curiousity, why is it claimed that Harry Binswanger's "endorsement" matters? He had an undergraduate science degree from MIT then switched to philosophy, where he remained, aside from an amateur interest in physics. What matters is correct explanations of the theory and, over time, experimental confirmation or refutation. Stephen gave his explanations, which stand or fall on their own. Who cares about "prominent endorsements" of someone else's critique, which also must stand or fall on its own merits, including whether or not it addresses TEW or a strawman, and not whether anyone else with an interest in the subject endorses them.

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A very strong criticism of TEW appears here.

I don't see it as a strong criticism. In glancing at it, he seems to be repeating arguments made a few years back, to which Stephen and others responded sufficiently. I don't plan to waste more time on it.

Nor I. The intellectually challenging and exciting matter here -- the reason for this discussion thread -- is Dr. Little's book. Agenda-driven hit-pieces (and honest, respectful, well informed criticisms as well) are beside the point for any of us, before we've gained a basic understanding for ourselves of what the TEW consists of.

The way to understand the TEW is to start with that book, and to reasonably master the basic ideas. That's not a horrendous prospect. Dr. Little leads us through them clearly, and, as he says, the basics of the TEW could be successfully taught to 8th graders. (No, he’s not perpetrating an Argument from Intimidation, he’s being straightforward! :wacko: And I say he’s right.)

It’s a mistake to let rabid opponents of the TEW sidetrack us with curtains of flack intended to shoot down the first-hand efforts of people to comprehend the TEW. (Heavens, people might then understand it for themselves and not need the priests to interpret it for them in all their inescapable ignorance.) That would be an injustice to Dr. Little and the TEW – and to ourselves.

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Good point, Dean M. Sandin.

By the way, I didn't see a link to an awesome article by Stephen that introduces TEW here:

http://speicher.com/tew.html

I've not read the book yet, but this article was very good in explaining the theory in simple and clear terms.

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On the Objectivism Online thread, I posted a followup since Travis Norsen replied to my earlier post on this forum. I would have responsed to this, but an Objectivism Online administrator has disallowed further "meta-discussion about tone and polemics" and only allowing "physics and TEW" discussion (even though the character of TEW supporters was part of the thesis of the original post). Although he allowed members to start a new thread to discuss it, I don't believe this is fair, as the moderators are apparently allowing violations of the forum's own rule against personal attacks to stand (even if one ignores the initial post--it is further happening directly against posters in the thread). I'd rather not start a new thread to simply (I hope) close out my participation. But here is what I wanted to say:

The support of some Objectivists, whom I respect, for TEW has, epistemologically, placed TEW into the "maybe" category for me. Arguments against it by other Objectivists have also placed the proposition that "TEW is false" into the "maybe" epistemological category for me. Until I have enough physics background, and study the theory and the arguments against it in depth, both the correctness, and incorrectness, of TEW will remain "maybe" for me.

I believe that a "maybe" status is justification to casually mention TEW to people I personally know. Of course, if I mentioned the connection to Objectivism, I would, in fairness, also state that some Objectivists were opposed to it. Depending on my level of knowledge at the time, I would elaborate on the viewpoints of each, and give my opinions on those viewpoints. The only thing that this reflects on Objectivism, even if TEW is wrong (or heck, even supposing it is crackpottery, as alleged), is that there is a physics debate among Objectivists, and that certain Objectivists, but not necessarily others, are wrong (or even dishonest as alleged). It would not be a damaging blow to Objectivism as a philosophy.

Only when I have studied the physics enough that either the correctness, or incorrectness, of TEW becomes "probable" or "certain" does it erase the "maybe" status of the opposite proposition.

(Verifying Travis's assessment of the character of other Objectivists (such that I might dismiss their support) also requires more in-depth physics and TEW study than I have yet done, despite the TEWLIP post he linked to--as well as a strong burden of proof--so it doesn't change my argument for continuing to regard TEW as maybe true.)

That is why I opposed the second-to-last paragraph of Travis's essay, despite not having initially read the bulk of the physics argument (incidentally, I have since read the whole thing). It expects us to dismiss the opinions of certain people he expects we might otherwise respect, prior to, or in lieu of, understanding his argument.

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On the Objectivism Online thread, I posted a followup since Travis Norsen replied to my earlier post on this forum. I would have responsed to this, but an Objectivism Online administrator has disallowed further "meta-discussion about tone and polemics" and only allowing "physics and TEW" discussion (even though the character of TEW supporters was part of the thesis of the original post). Although he allowed members to start a new thread to discuss it, I don't believe this is fair, as the moderators are apparently allowing violations of the forum's own rule against personal attacks to stand (even if one ignores the initial post--it is further happening directly against posters in the thread).

Thanks for sharing this. Sounds like yet another reason why we should be thankful to have THE FORUM :wacko:

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I attempted to follow the discussion of TEW on HBL when it occurred. I also followed TEWLIP briefly, but the discussion quickly went over my head, so I stopped. I'm a layman on physics and have no idea if TEW is valid or not.

One thing I do not recall from the HBL or other discussions was anyone claiming that TEW was an Objectivist theory of physics. Nor do I recall Lewis Little claiming himself to be either an Objectivist intellectual or spokesman for Objectivism. Can anyone point out where these things did occur? I ask because it bears on the larger issue of whether Dr. Little's book (or the man himself) is somehow a threat to Objectivism, as is being claimed.

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One thing I do not recall from the HBL or other discussions was anyone claiming that TEW was an Objectivist theory of physics. Nor do I recall Lewis Little claiming himself to be either an Objectivist intellectual or spokesman for Objectivism. Can anyone point out where these things did occur? I ask because it bears on the larger issue of whether Dr. Little's book (or the man himself) is somehow a threat to Objectivism, as is being claimed.

I can hardly imagine anyone claiming that the TEW is an Objectivist theory. Objectivism is philosophy, not physics. And in particular it's the philosophy of Ayn Rand. She of course died long before Dr. Little created the TEW, so it's not as if she weighed in when it came out. Furthermore, the words "Objectivism" and "Ayn Rand" are not used or implied by any references in the book. He does cite the law of identity and Aristotle -- but then so does Ayn Rand!

Next question. :wacko:

What I can imagine is a detractor of the TEW saying something that would lead others to the impression that Dr. Little claims some imprimatur of Objectivism. Has this happened?

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I can hardly imagine anyone claiming that the TEW is an Objectivist theory.
Nevertheless, some supporters of TEW do make philosophic arguments. For instance, people reject Heisenberg's uncertainty principle because of its false philosophical base and illogical "acausal" premises. That is essentially a philosophical argument. I'll grant that it is a valid argument; but, that does not change my point. It is still a philosophical argument. And, one might add, if physics actually does go against a true philosophical idea, why not reject it on those terms?

Or consider Einstein saying that "action at a distance" is "spooky". This connotes the suggestion of something mystical: something beyond just "not something we've seen before", but more like "something that is not possible in principle". Once again, basically a philosophic argument. Similarly, the idea that something has a so called "hidden variable" is sometimes portrayed as if it is a philosophically problematic issue. Ideas from metaphysics and epistemology are behind these arguments.

It's one thing to say: all our observations about these experiments, with all our calculations show us that super-luminary effects are not at work, that hidden variables are not involved, and that action at a distance is not a factor. Fair enough: let the physicists debate that. However, to claim that these would contradict a rational philosophy, is to change the argument and to make it a philosophical one.

I can see no reason to think that any of those things are in the least philosophically problematic as such. (Except in the sense that "x+5x=6, implies that x=1" is philosophic) When some physics theory is rejected on philosophical grounds, and if that is an invalid philosophical rejection, one runs the danger of rejecting the truth about physics because of a mistaken idea about what philosophy implies. Even if the idea in physics is false, if one rejects it primarily because of an improper philosophical objection, then one is not following the right epistemological approach. This is where many of TEW's critic make their main objections: that it is fair to propound TEW as a theory in physics, but not to claim that it gets around some philosophical issues that are present in the alternatives. In particular, since TEW has so many Objectivist supporters, the fear is that people might think it is more consistent with Objectivism than other theories.

Consider this: if supporters of TEW were to say that their theory is no more nor less consistent with philosophy than theories that presume hidden variables, super-luminary effects or action at a distance, this debate would basically not be taking place in its current form. It is TEW, therefore, that introduces the element of being more consistent with rational philosophy; it's opponents are merely reacting.

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In particular, since TEW has so many Objectivist supporters, the fear is that people might think it is more consistent with Objectivism than other theories.

Why be concerned with what second-handers think? I personally have not read the book and do not understand the theory well enough to even have an opinion on it, so I have refrained from expressing one. But if I thought it was philosophically consistent with Objectivism, I would be 100% justified in saying so publicly, so long as I did not purport to be an official source on Objectivism. And if someone were to disagree with that judgment they would be equally free to refute the claim. But I'm not going to be intimidated into silence with some ridiculous guilt-trip, that by making judgments someone else disagrees with I am hurting the Objectivist movement. The movement is carried by reason, not group-think. I won't censor my opinions for the benefit of consensus and I expect no one else to either.

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In particular, since TEW has so many Objectivist supporters, the fear is that people might think it is more consistent with Objectivism than other theories.

Why be concerned with what second-handers think? I personally have not read the book and do not understand the theory well enough to even have an opinion on it, so I have refrained from expressing one. But if I thought it was philosophically consistent with Objectivism, I would be 100% justified in saying so publicly, so long as I did not purport to be an official source on Objectivism. And if someone were to disagree with that judgment they would be equally free to refute the claim. But I'm not going to be intimidated into silence with some ridiculous guilt-trip, that by making judgments someone else disagrees with I am hurting the Objectivist movement. The movement is carried by reason, not group-think. I won't censor my opinions for the benefit of consensus and I expect no one else to either.

It is always a concern when someone package-deals Objectivism with some other beliefs, if only because such a falsehood, i.e., the package-dealing itself, can mistakenly drive people away for the wrong reasons and false reputation, without ever realizing what they missed. It is important to maintain the position that physics is not philosophy and that there is no such thing as "Objectivist physics" or "Objectivist mathematics" or any other science. We can appreciate it when someone tries to use more rational principles in any science -- like adhering to causality and rational explanation -- but the success of the endeavor does not depend on that alone. Anyone can find Lewis Little's attempts to be well-motivated and interesting, but anyone who does not understand quantum physics and this theory in particular should honestly acknowledge that (beginning, as always, to himself) and not become a fan or proponent, as seems to be largely the case.

TEW is not the only example in which this broader issue has come up. In recent years we have seen Objectivist proponents of something called "entity based physics" which claims on the basis of philosophical plausibility to provide a new and superior understanding of aerodynamics based on "Newton", as if classical aerodynamics and fluid dynamics are somehow not Newtonian. The "theory" is utterly incorrect and shows no grasp of the science, including its history, theoretical formulation and factual basis. Likewise we have seen a supposed Objectivist claiming to have written a new chapter for Ayn Rand's Introduction of Objectivist Epistemology consisting of claims to have applied her work in mathematics to come up with a theory of "numbers". And then, sigh, in the science of economics we have had Greenspan.

None of this has anything to do with Objectivism and can only mislead others who are more knowledgeable about the subjects into believing that Objectivists are scientific crackpots, in the league of Scientologists, who try to bypass science and knowledge to derive a reality replacing the real one, or at best, don't think that expertise is necessary. Ayn Rand carefully guarded the integrity of her ideas against such package dealing with other ideas or presentations, even by the "well meaning". She expected and wanted those agreeing with her ideas to properly apply them after becoming experts in their fields, not as a substitute for that, and to make their success or failure in their own names, not hers.

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We can appreciate it when someone tries to use more rational principles in any science -- like adhering to causality and rational explanation -- but the success of the endeavor does not depend on that alone. Anyone can find Lewis Little's attempts to be well-motivated and interesting, but anyone who does not understand quantum physics and this theory in particular should honestly acknowledge that (beginning, as always, to himself) and not become a fan or proponent, as seems to be largely the case.

Is it largely the case? I assume you mean offline, because outside of this forum I've only noticed criticism of TEW. And even here I don't see unqualified "fans". People are interested, and excited even, but this is based partly on TEW being a new theory not based on bad philosophy and the fact that Stephen Speicher had a high regard for it. That's frankly why I ordered the book, and not because I'm a proponent.

'TEW is not the only example in which this broader issue has come up. In recent years we have seen Objectivist proponents of something called "entity based physics" which claims on the basis of philosophical plausibility to provide a new and superior understanding of aerodynamics based on "Newton", as if classical aerodynamics and fluid dynamics are somehow not Newtonian. The "theory" is utterly incorrect and shows no grasp of the science, including its history, theoretical formulation and factual basis. Likewise we have seen a supposed Objectivist claiming to have written a new chapter for Ayn Rand's Introduction of Objectivist Epistemology consisting of claims to have applied her work in mathematics to come up with a theory of "numbers". And then, sigh, in the science of economics we have had Greenspan.

Greenspan's economics are not even remotely based on principles of Objectivism, so I don't agree with this example. As for "entity based physics", the problem you identify here is not one of claiming consistency with Objectivism, but rationalism. What you've said essentially, and what I agree with, is that you cannot deduce good science from philosophic principles. But someone who merely appreciates a theory for its good philosophic foundation is not guilty of this until or unless he claims that it is true by virtue of that foundation. And even if the theory is proven wrong, it may still be deserving of some praise because it helped to propagate the right ideas with which to develop better theories. Greenspan didn't do that because he betrayed his principles long ago; there's nothing of Objectivism in what he does today. "Entity based physics" as you described it doesn't, because it isn't tied to reality, and therefore also is not based on Objectivism. But an honest attempt to apply rational principles, even if the attempt goes wrong, deserves to be recognized for that, especially today. Why wouldn't it?

None of this has anything to do with Objectivism and can only mislead others who are more knowledgeable about the subjects into believing that Objectivists are scientific crackpots, in the league of Scientologists, who try to bypass science and knowledge to derive a reality replacing the real one, or at best, don't think that expertise is necessary. Ayn Rand carefully guarded the integrity of her ideas against such package dealing with other ideas or presentations, even by the "well meaning". She expected and wanted those agreeing with her ideas to properly apply them after becoming experts in their fields, not as a substitute for that, and to make their success or failure in their own names, not hers.

And if any TEW "fans" are doing this - co-opting the name of Objectivism in order to advocate for the theory - they'd be wrong. But I think saying that the theory is consistent with Objectivism is different from calling it an "Objectivist theory", because the latter implies endorsement by Ayn Rand and the former does not. Now, if people are worried because they see TEW being described as an "Objectivist theory", then fine. But if the fear is that "people might think it is more consistent with Objectivism than other theories" then, well, what if it is? You've identified the error of confusing philosophic validity and scientific validity. But there's another error, of divorcing science from philosophy. The metaphysical foundation of a theory is important, and the role of philosophy in science is to disqualify those theories with ideas that contradict reality. The only reason we consider it a big deal if a quantum theory passes the test of metaphysics is because of the state of physics today. But if the field were more rational than it is, we'd have 2, 3 or more philosophically sound competing theories. Let me assume that TEW is philosophically sound, and no other quantum theory today is. Does this mean that Objectivists need to shut up about TEW, because to say it is consistent with Objectivism implies an endorsement by Objectivism? Or rather, is the problem that every other theory is based on positivism or rationalism - in which case the solution is for the rest of the scientists out there to catch up?

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It's interesting that Ayn Rand didn't advocate Darwin's theory of evolution because she was not an expert on that matter. I'm amazed that some Objectivists feel qualified to pontificate on a theory requiring even more study to gain a sufficient context. Whether they are for or against a theory, how can they take a position without really understanding it?

Furthermore, I disagree with appeals to authority. Just because an expert endorses or condemns something doesn't make it true. More fundamentally, how does one decide who is and is not an expert when one is not himself an expert? What is the standard of judgement in that case?

And, what do you do if two experts disagree about a technical detail in a complex theory?

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It's interesting that Ayn Rand didn't advocate Darwin's theory of evolution because she was not an expert on that matter. I'm amazed that some Objectivists feel qualified to pontificate on a theory requiring even more study to gain a sufficient context. Whether they are for or against a theory, how can they take a position without really understanding it?

Furthermore, I disagree with appeals to authority. Just because an expert endorses or condemns something doesn't make it true. More fundamentally, how does one decide who is and is not an expert when one is not himself an expert? What is the standard of judgement in that case?

And, what do you do if two experts disagree about a technical detail in a complex theory?

I agree, and share ewv's sentiments when he said

Out of curiousity, why is it claimed that Harry Binswanger's "endorsement" matters?

Of the 1000 opinions that get expressed on TEW, probably only a few actually have the necessary qualifications to even make a meaningful judgment, and even then it looks like there is nothing more to be said until some experiments can be performed to test the theory.

And I'm sure that for lots of people not involved in the scientific world, seeing the title "MS/BA/PhD Physics" next to a name can lend the false impression that this person will be imminently knowledgeable and capable of issuing a highly substantive judgment of TEW when this is not always the case. Physics is so highly specialized now that it is quite possible for someone to have a PhD and specialize in some sub-field while having a surprisingly sparse knowledge of other fields of Physics.

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More fundamentally, how does one decide who is and is not an expert when one is not himself an expert? What is the standard of judgement in that case?

I think a non-expert can often easily tell which experts he should trust and shouldn't by observing their methodology.

Usually it's as simple as noting that one side appeals only to reality whereas the other often invokes character attacks or dishonest tactics. This is especially the case with climate science, where many scientifically untrained but honest laymen can easily distinguish between the crackpot global warming promoters and the trustworthy global warming skeptics.

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None of this has anything to do with Objectivism and can only mislead others who are more knowledgeable about the subjects into believing that Objectivists are scientific crackpots, in the league of Scientologists, who try to bypass science and knowledge to derive a reality replacing the real one, or at best, don't think that expertise is necessary. Ayn Rand carefully guarded the integrity of her ideas against such package dealing with other ideas or presentations, even by the "well meaning". She expected and wanted those agreeing with her ideas to properly apply them after becoming experts in their fields, not as a substitute for that, and to make their success or failure in their own names, not hers.

And if any TEW "fans" are doing this - co-opting the name of Objectivism in order to advocate for the theory - they'd be wrong.

I agree. My original question was asking for evidence that Dr. Little or any other proponent of TEW actually did this. I think this point is crucial in judging whether he and his theory are the actual threats to Objectivism that is being claimed. So far, no one has pointed to any such evidence, which calls in to question the claim of threat. Additionally, it's arguable that even an explicit attempt to co-opt Objectivism to support the theory constitutes a real or serious threat. Such an attempt would be dishonest, wrong, and deserving of the harshest criticism. But I'd be quite confident that such a "threat" would be easily overcome by Objectivism, even without explicit criticism of the theory. Perhaps that's a discussion for another day. In the mean time, maybe some evidence of such an attempt to co-opt Objectivism to support TEW will be forthcoming.

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We can appreciate it when someone tries to use more rational
principles in any science -- like adhering to causality and rational explanation -- but the success of the endeavor does not depend on that alone. Anyone can find Lewis Little's attempts to be well-motivated and interesting, but anyone who does not understand quantum physics and this theory in particular should honestly acknowledge that (beginning, as always, to himself) and not become a fan or proponent, as seems to be largely the case.

Is it largely the case? I assume you mean offline, because outside of this forum I've only noticed criticism of TEW. And even here I don't see unqualified "fans".

I wrote that Objectivists seem for the most part to not be ideologically-based fans. Some were, especially in the beginning, who knew nothing about quantum physics, but I don't think that is now prevelant. Most are like what you expressed -- wait and see what the science turns out to be as discovered and confirmed by experts who can rationally explain it.

People are interested, and excited even, but this is based partly on TEW being a new theory not based on bad philosophy and the fact that Stephen Speicher had a high regard for it. That's frankly why I ordered the book, and not because I'm a proponent.

You have a right to read whatever you want for whatever reason (We'll have to check to see if that is still true :wacko: ). Stephen was certainly a good source of recommendations. But do be careful not to overestimate what you understand in what is a very complex subject.

'TEW is not the only example in which this broader issue has come up. In recent years we have seen Objectivist proponents of something called "entity based physics" which claims on the basis of philosophical plausibility to provide a new and superior understanding of aerodynamics based on "Newton", as if classical aerodynamics and fluid dynamics are somehow not Newtonian. The "theory" is utterly incorrect and shows no grasp of the science, including its history, theoretical formulation and factual basis. Likewise we have seen a supposed Objectivist claiming to have written a new chapter for Ayn Rand's Introduction of Objectivist Epistemology consisting of claims to have applied her work in mathematics to come up with a theory of "numbers". And then, sigh, in the science of economics we have had Greenspan.

Greenspan's economics are not even remotely based on principles of Objectivism, so I don't agree with this example.

No science is based on Objectivism. But Greenspan's irrelevancy to Objectivism in even basic fundamentals is not how it has been portrayed both in the press and by those who claimed him as one of their own for far too long, giving Objectivism a false reputation.

As for "entity based physics", the problem you identify here is not one of claiming consistency with Objectivism, but rationalism. What you've said essentially, and what I agree with, is that you cannot deduce good science from philosophic principles. But someone who merely appreciates a theory for its good philosophic foundation is not guilty of this until or unless he claims that it is true by virtue of that foundation. And even if the theory is proven wrong, it may still be deserving of some praise because it helped to propagate the right ideas with which to develop better theories. Greenspan didn't do that because he betrayed his principles long ago; there's nothing of Objectivism in what he does today. "Entity based physics" as you described it doesn't, because it isn't tied to reality, and therefore also is not based on Objectivism. But an honest attempt to apply rational principles, even if the attempt goes wrong, deserves to be recognized for that, especially today. Why wouldn't it?

Some individuals promoting this "physics" and certain other discussions in physics and mathematics are Objectivist amateurs doing so in the context of their support for Objectivism. Of course they are rationalists, but more specifically they act (which dramatic pronouncements of their conclusions) as if their "superior philosophical approach" is all they need, and don't bother with scientific knowledge that would show how foolish their assertions are. They lack the most basic scientific small-o objectivity even to the point of not bothering to understand the science they ridicule. Wanting to be rational and recognizing the value of a rational philosophy are not the same as either Ayn Rand's reality-based thinking or legitimate science.

None of this has anything to do with Objectivism and can only mislead others who are more knowledgeable about the subjects into believing that Objectivists are scientific crackpots, in the league of Scientologists, who try to bypass science and knowledge to derive a reality replacing the real one, or at best, don't think that expertise is necessary. Ayn Rand carefully guarded the integrity of her ideas against such package dealing with other ideas or presentations, even by the "well meaning". She expected and wanted those agreeing with her ideas to properly apply them after becoming experts in their fields, not as a substitute for that, and to make their success or failure in their own names, not hers.

And if any TEW "fans" are doing this - co-opting the name of Objectivism in order to advocate for the theory - they'd be wrong. But I think saying that the theory is consistent with Objectivism is different from calling it an "Objectivist theory", because the latter implies endorsement by Ayn Rand and the former does not. Now, if people are worried because they see TEW being described as an "Objectivist theory", then fine. But if the fear is that "people might think it is more consistent with Objectivism than other theories" then, well, what if it is? You've identified the error of confusing philosophic validity and scientific validity. But there's another error, of divorcing science from philosophy. The metaphysical foundation of a theory is important, and the role of philosophy in science is to disqualify those theories with ideas that contradict reality. The only reason we consider it a big deal if a quantum theory passes the test of metaphysics is because of the state of physics today. But if the field were more rational than it is, we'd have 2, 3 or more philosophically sound competing theories. Let me assume that TEW is philosophically sound, and no other quantum theory today is. Does this mean that Objectivists need to shut up about TEW, because to say it is consistent with Objectivism implies an endorsement by Objectivism? Or rather, is the problem that every other theory is based on positivism or rationalism - in which case the solution is for the rest of the scientists out there to catch up?

I didn't say anything about fears that any science is more consistent with Objectivism. No science can progress without a rational, reality-based view of the world. A scientific revolution in the Dark Ages or primitive tribes in Africa was impossible.

Whether or not TEW turns out to be correct, it isn't required as a substitute in order to know what else in QM is wrong or incomprehensible. You don't have to replace an irrational explanation with a correct one before you know it is unsupportable. More fundamental than having a better theory of QM is the recognition that, as with religion, the irrational is not the default fall-back position when you don't understand something.

Objectivists don't need to shut up about TEW, but do need to keep straight in their own minds what they know and what they don't, especially in specialized fields of knowledge.

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It's interesting that Ayn Rand didn't advocate Darwin's theory of evolution because she was not an expert on that matter. I'm amazed that some Objectivists feel qualified to pontificate on a theory requiring even more study to gain a sufficient context. Whether they are for or against a theory, how can they take a position without really understanding it?

Furthermore, I disagree with appeals to authority. Just because an expert endorses or condemns something doesn't make it true. More fundamentally, how does one decide who is and is not an expert when one is not himself an expert? What is the standard of judgement in that case?

And, what do you do if two experts disagree about a technical detail in a complex theory?

I agree, and share ewv's sentiments when he said

Out of curiousity, why is it claimed that Harry Binswanger's "endorsement" matters?

Of the 1000 opinions that get expressed on TEW, probably only a few actually have the necessary qualifications to even make a meaningful judgment, and even then it looks like there is nothing more to be said until some experiments can be performed to test the theory.

And I'm sure that for lots of people not involved in the scientific world, seeing the title "MS/BA/PhD Physics" next to a name can lend the false impression that this person will be imminently knowledgeable and capable of issuing a highly substantive judgment of TEW when this is not always the case. Physics is so highly specialized now that it is quite possible for someone to have a PhD and specialize in some sub-field while having a surprisingly sparse knowledge of other fields of Physics.

As a continuation of this I genuinely don't understand what value Objectivists like Travis Norsen get out of continuing this intellectual sparring match over TEW for so long. 99.99% of Objectivists don't and will never understand Physics on an advanced level, so repeatedly publicly releasing scientific criticisms of TEW is just about completely pointless, as nearly no one will get any value out of the arguments you make.

All it really boils down to is which experts do you trust more, which experts have earned your distrust and for what reasons. Travis Norsen can publish volumes of criticisms against TEW but it probably can have zero effect on whether "Laymen Person A" more highly regards the scientific judgment of Stephen or Travis.

If some Objectivist really is preposterously wrong in promoting some Physics theory, all another Objectivist can do make public his criticisms in some definitive way, then move on, drop the issue and let them be. I see no point in continuing a flame war over the span of ten years.

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As a continuation of this I genuinely don't understand what value Objectivists like Travis Norsen get out of continuing this intellectual sparring match over TEW for so long. 99.99% of Objectivists don't and will never understand Physics on an advanced level, so repeatedly publicly releasing scientific criticisms of TEW is just about completely pointless, as nearly no one will get any value out of the arguments you make.

He answers this himself:

Given all that, why am I bothering to spend my Sunday morning writing a (rather long, I expect) review of the book? The answer here is that Little has described himself as an Objectivist, and those interested in or sympathetic to the theory have been (as far as I know, exclusively) Objectivists or Objectivism-sympathizers. As an Objectivist myself, I want to go on record as saying that (and explaining in detail why) TEW is crackpot garbage which (despite Little’s occasionally plagiarizing sentences from Rand or paragraphs from Peikoff in the book) has nothing to do with Rand or Objectivism, should not be supported by Objectivists, and should not be shared with respectable scientists (including students) under an Objectivist banner.

Norsen is writing because he is frustrated at the support the theory has gained from Objectivists. He states his motive clearly, which is to get other Objectivists to withdraw their support. He says there's no reason for him to worry about non-Objectivists, because "no serious people will have even the slightest possible reason to consider buying [the book] in the first place." Considering that he refers to Little as "dishonest" several times, and his theory as "crackpot garbage", I don't think it's a stretch to suggest that he regards this whole debate as beneath him professionally. Nor does this evaluation of the theory reflect well on Objectivists who have supported it. Am I reading too much into his post to call it condescending?

In any event, I don't know what the source of concern is that TEW is being shared "under an Objectivist banner", but until that is dispelled I imagine he will continue to debate on the subject. Doesn't really matter to me. If TEW is right, it will be vindicated by experiment. If not, it's not going to be a forum post that does it in.

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