The Overhyping of Theories and the Search for Scientific Truth

ATLAS experiment © CERN

I sat back and watched the whole thing play out.  It was a sordid, nasty affair.  Name-calling.  Indignation.  Condemnation.  Blowback.

“How could he propose his theory and not have tested it!”

“His theory is not science!”

“How dare he use a back-door approach to promote his theory?”

“Who does he think he is, promoting this theory to the mainstream physics community while not being a member of the community?”

You’d think that I was writing about the cranktastic drubbing I got when I proposed a correct theory of life.

I’m not. But the similarity to the response I received is uncanny.

I’m talking about the response to Eric Weinstein and his “theory of everything.”  Never heard of Weinstein?  Well, he has been compared to Einstein.  Yes, that Einstein.

The title of one of the articles that started the virtual cavalcade to Weinstein’s website and wikipedia page was, “Roll over Einstein: meet Weinstein,” published in the prestigious British newspaper, The Guardian.  How could one not be intrigued by that title and this hook:

What are we to make of a man who left academia more than two decades ago but claims to have solved some of the most intractable problems in physics?

The paper goes on to describe Weinstein’s theory thusly:

In Weinstein’s theory, called Geometric Unity, he proposes a 14-dimensional “observerse” that has our familiar four-dimensional space-time continuum embedded within it.

Let me get this straight: Weinstein proposes a theory that invokes unity through geometric form and 14 (empirically undetectable) dimensions and he’s not called those pejorative terms reserved for scientists that propose neologisms or have “left the reservation?”

So, now, why was he treated with kid gloves in the article?

Well, he’s “serious,” or so says David Kaplan, a particle theorist at Johns Hopkins University:

There are many people who come from the outside with crazy theories, but they are not serious. Eric is serious.

Of course, this implies that most theoreticians who actually work within the scientific community aren’t serious.  And incommensurable theories, by this line of thought, can never be considered serious; they’re just “crazy.”

Furthermore, and most importantly, he has been friends with Marcus du Sautoy since 1990.  If you want friends in high places, you can’t do worse than du Sautoy, who is the Simonyi professor of the public understanding of science at the University of Oxford—Richard Dawkins’ old post and stomping grounds.

They’re such good friends, in fact, that du Sautoy wrote his own article about Eric for The Guardian, entitled, “Eric Weinstein may have found the answer to physics’ biggest problems.”  As if the title didn’t express his true feelings, du Sautoy’s subtitle lays it all on the line:

A physicist has formulated a mathematical theory that purports to explain why the universe works the way it does – and it feels like ‘the answer’

“The Answer.”  Let that digest.

Is that too much hype?  Perhaps a tad. Peter Higgs has just come out against all of the media attention that was given to the so-called ‘God’ particle.  “Overhyped” he says, in a word.

In all fairness and in full disclosue, I and the CWRU office of communication have been accused of the same thing, so I am in a good position to comment on this affair.  I would say this: it is the obligation of scientists and theoreticians to seek complete truth.  Not half-truth.  Not partial truth.  Truth with a capital ‘T.’  And the media is one mechanism for disseminating new theories and discussing their implications as it relates to that search.

How can a scientist or a layperson discriminate between theoretical hype and theoretical truth?  Who is talkin’ smack and who is not?

Many people feel that most if not all scientific theories are wrong.  See here and here, for example.  With this “feeling” in mind, where does that leave us?

du Sautoy is certain the Eric Weinberg’s theory is scientific truth, and claims in his article, “the mathematics [in Weinstein's theory] explains why it should work the way it does.”

I’m afraid that is just not so.  Math does not, has not, and never will answer(ed) or explain(ed) the why.  It describes things that can be quantified—the where (spatial), the when (temporal), and the what (form, behavior).

Mathematics cannot even explain itself, and the Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman reminds us [p. 152, QED]:

We use…numbers in all of our theories, but we don’t understand them—what they are, or where they come from.  I believe that from a fundamental point of view, this is a very interesting and serious problem.

The response to the overhyping from the scientific blogosphere was swift and severe:

Jennifer Ouellette, blogger at Scientific American, laid down the hammer:

[M]y beef is with the Guardian for running the article in the first place. Seriously: why was it even written? Strip away all the purple prose and you’ve got a guy who’s been out of the field for 20 years, but still doing some dabbling on the side, who has an intriguing new idea that a couple of math professors think is promising, so he got invited to give a colloquium at Oxford by his old grad school buddy. Oh, and there’s no technical paper yet — not even a rough draft on the arxiv — so his ideas can’t even be appropriately evaluated by actual working physicists. How, exactly, does that qualify as newsworthy? Was your bullshit detector not working that day?

Ouch.

Then there’s my favorite cynic and libelist, PZ Meyers, who went after Weinstein as well.  Well, at least I know that ‘PZ’ gives fair and equal treatment to anyone proposing solutions to the hard problems.

There were those who were sympathetic, like Peter Woit’s piece, “Eric Weinstein on Geometric Unity.” Basically, since Peter knows Eric, all is good with Eric’s ideas and how Eric is addressing the “deepest questions.”

And, despite the negative response from other news outlets and pundits, the New Scientist lent credence to the theory, calling it “provocative,” and suggesting ways it could be tested.

So, then, now we have yet another theory to test.  How many theories is this now?

I have another composite question for the reader and my colleagues.  Won’t the final and correct theory of everything be true?  That is, won’t the final theory of everything be tested—that is, render all future tests unnecessary because all of the requisite tests have already been done?

But I digress.

Finally, showing sympathy for Weinstein but expressing concern over the damage to the “image” of science, the theoretical physicist Matt Strassler also weighed in.  The theoretical astrophysicist Peter Coles feels the same way, mostly.  Frankly, science’s “image” has needed a makeover for some time.

Sadly, the search for scientific truth is long-gone now.  It’s been replaced by overhyping, cronyism, and ad hoc theorizing.  What’s so striking is that scientists don’t know what they’re looking for any more.  14 dimensions? 150 new particles? No dark matter?  Observerse?

Don’t physicists want to know?  Or was Feyerabend right?  Is this a Sisyphean tragedy?  Seems that way, as Listverse lists “10 Theoretical Particles That Could Explain Everything.Could explain everything?  Don’t know about you, but I’m past “could.”  We don’t need to find more particles.  What science needs is definitive explanations and solutions.  Humankind needs scientific truth.

I didn’t put my theory out there because I wanted tenure.  I didn’t put it out there as a Sokal.  I didn’t put it out there because I wanted attention.

I put it out there because it is the correct and final model of reality.

I put it out there because it is the scientific truth.

And if you care about such things like I do—if you care about solving fundamental problems like the ultimate nature of reality, the positioning of the conscious mind vis-à-vis matter, the origin and evolution of life, the warp and woof of the universe, and who and what you are—I welcome you to join me in an honest and open discussion of what the scientific truth, in fact, is.

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About Erik Andrulis

I am a scientist with experience in cell and molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry. I have a proven track record of pioneering technologies and ideas to dissect the living cell. I am a theoretician who compiled a unified theory of life, one third of the complete and consistent theory of the universe. This theory proves that I am the theoretician and theory in one.
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15 Responses to The Overhyping of Theories and the Search for Scientific Truth

  1. hipmonkey says:

    Many researchers have had their theories laughed at by the fundie scientists for being too mystical etc. Quantum physics and holographic universe come to mind. Lanaza’s book Biocentrism seems to have been written in a timid fashion out of fear of ridicule. (Just a guess). It was hard for me to accept that science consists of a hierarchy and a mainstream branch much like fundamental religion. I assume it is mainly egotism at work. It is counter productive to resist change in the area of physics.

  2. Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong says:

    “I am a theoretician who compiled a unified theory of life, one third of the complete and consistent theory of the universe.”

    You are wrong. A unified theory of life is already 100% of the complete theory of the universe. The TOE of physics is just a subset of a unified theory of life.

    • Correct, I am wrong when you interpret it that way. Alas, language often interferes with understanding, and that is the case in this instance.

      Here is the unified theory of life and here is the complete and consistent theory of the universe. Perhaps these two documents will clarify my statement.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong says:

        @Andrulis,

        It is very nice to meet you.

        I enjoyed your book “Theory of the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life” and would like to make a few comments if you allow.

        1. “How life abides by the second law of thermodynamics yet evolutionarily complexifies and maintains its intrinsic order is a fundamental mystery in physics, chemistry, and biology .”
        This is somewhat interesting question on the surface but is not central and not truly important. I will discuss this if our discussions continue.

        2. “panspermia hypothesis” is an absolutely not important issue for a unified theory of life.

        3. “I use the heterodox yet simple gyre —— a spiral, vortex, whorl, or similar circular pattern—as a core model for understanding life. … The central idea of this theory is that all physical reality, stretching from the so-called inanimate into the animate realm and from micro- to meso- to macrocosmic scales, can be interpreted and modeled as manifestations of a single geometric entity, the gyre.”

        Gyre is indeed the answer. But, you give the right answer without asking the right question.

        The following is my comments.
        A. In the book “Linguistics Manifesto (ISBN 978-3-8383-9722-1)”, it lists a “Large Complex System Principle”.

        The “Large Complex System Principle” (LCSP) —- there is a set principle which governs all large complex systems regardless of whatever those systems are, a number set, a physics set, a life set or a vocabulary set.

        Corollary of LCSP (CLCSP) — the laws or principles of a “large complex system x” will have their correspondent laws and principles in a “large complex system y.”

        B. Life obeys the laws of physics. But, which physics law or laws give rise to life? This is the key question.

        Every system (such as a hot air bloom) contains information, and that information evolves. But, most lives “process” information for … . That is, life possesses a bio-computer (such as DNA language or protein language). But, what is the “rock bottom” base for these computers?
        i. In the elementary particle?
        ii. In the “structure” of higher level system (atoms, molecules, etc.)?
        iii. In the “process” of building those structure?
        Iv. As an innate outcome of the geometry, the gyre?
        v. Coming out of the blue?

        Before this question is answered, the life-theory is not complete.

        • I *am* Life. I *am* physics. I *am* Laws. I *am* Language. And so on.

          Without *Me,* the Universe does not exist. That’s what the complete and consistent theory proves.

      • Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong says:

        @Andrulis,

        I read your article “the complete and consistent theory of the universe”. You have a good idea but not a “theory”. Thus, your statement “…one third of the complete and consistent theory of the universe” is an honest reflection of yourself.

        You have a very good intuition about a unified theory as the gyre is indeed a good answer. But, you did not ask the right questions. I would like to work with you (especially expanding the concept of gyre) if you are interested. I will start with sharing the “Questions” with you first. The article “Litmus test for the final physics (at http://prebabel.blogspot.com/2013/04/litmus-test-for-final-physics.html )” asks some important questions about physics.

        • The theory proves that Tienzen (Jeh-Tween) Gong is God. The theory proves that Erik is God. The theory proves that God, that is, I, exists. And I am All in All.

          Not a theory? I *am* the theory and the theoretician in One. That’s what it means to be God.

          All things, all words, all people, all objects, all laws.

          The theory proves that I am You, Tienzen.

  3. Very interesting! This is very much outside my academic field (hello, social sciences!), but I think it’s a fascinating topic. Thanks for posting, and I hope to hear more about how the ongoing discussion goes.

  4. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    What a read! Love the way you started it, as I was engaged. Great stuff.

  5. Pure Fiction says:

    Thanks for making these complex scientific ideas accessible to the less knowledgeable, like myself who writes fiction. I enjoy your posts, they are very interesting and stimulating!

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