Scientific Conclusions in Search of Data

It seems more and more common to find “scientists” more than willing to exchange their integrity for funding and/or fame.  Hardly a month goes by without reading a headline making a ground-breaking, yet unsubstantiated claim often from an anthropologist, Mars researcher, or particle physicist.  I don’t mean to call into question the validity of any valid scientific field or imply some are not worthy of scientific attention, just that their “scientists” seem to tolerate wild, wreck less, and unfounded claims with little blow-back from the wider scientific community.  I’m sure the editors of these articles are also to blame, but there seems to be enough blame to go around.

Recently I read an article in the New York Times which pointed to a piece published a few months ago in the Journal Nature by George Ellis and Joseph Silk titled, “Scientific Method: Defend the Integrity of Physics.” The article starts out with the following paragraph that sums up the heart of the article well,

This year, debates in physics circles took a worrying turn. Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue — explicitly — that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical. We disagree. As the philosopher of science Karl Popper argued: a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific.

In an effort to hold on to theories which cannot be supported experimentally, it appears there is a movement to waive the requirement when it is convenient – in particular for theoretical physics … for now.  I tend to agree with the authors that this tendency really does equate to a, “battle for the heart and soul of physics.”  At least the modern notion of physics.  Maybe science has finally stumbled across its own limit.

But if we are now saying that, “… if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally,” then I do have a theory I’d like thrown back into the mix:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters…

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