Sometimes I am amazed how many falsehoods Matt Strassler can fit in a sentence. Below he is attempting to give us lessons on the history and philosophy of science but all we get is some physics propaganda.
First let’s read what he writes and then expose his falsehoods:
Epicycles or a revolution?
There were various attempts to make sense of Michelson and Morley’s experiment. Some interpretations involved tweaks of the notion of the ether.
Tweaks of this type, in which some original idea (here, the ether) is retained, but adjusted somehow to explain the data, are often referred to as “epicycles” by scientists. (This is analogous to the way an epicycle was used by Ptolemy to explain the complex motions of the planets in the sky, in order to retain an earth-centered universe; the sun-centered solar system requires no such epicycles.)
Dear Doctor Strassler,
Congratulations on yet another masterful use of sophistry and casuistry to support your physics doctrines.
This proves once again that you are a master of sophistry and you can assert any falsehood as absolute truth in such a way that none of your readers will suspect that you are spreading falsehoods.
Let’s start by noting some things in your profession that you do not understand or pretend not to understand:
1. You don’t realize that the Standard Model is an epicyclic model no different than Ptolemy’s model.
2. You don’t realize that what is “tweaked” in the Ptolemaic model is not the “original idea” but the mathematical model. In other words, you do not understand the difference between adding an epicycle to the mathematical model to explain a new observation and tweaking the axiom of the model.
3. You don’t realize that only fools prove what they assumed.
We’ll talk about your misunderstandings in more detail later but now let’s look at falsehoods and historical misrepresentations you present with such authority.
You claim that physicists have a shorthand way of dismissing ad hoc modifications of the initial assumptions of a theory by calling such ad hoc suggestions “epicycles”. You say that “this is analogous to the way an epicycle was used by Ptolemy to explain the complex motions of the planets in the sky, in order to retain an earth-centered universe; the sun-centered solar system requires no such epicycles.”
This is a big misrepresentation of historical facts. The sun-centered solar system developed by Copernicus had more epicycles than Ptolemy’s model. All you have to do is to count epicycles in both models. You cannot change this historical fact.
Physics is a legal discipline
There is nothing wrong in not knowing a historical fact. But what is wrong is to try to overrule historical facts by arrogance and authority. You are a proud professor of physics and you will never ever admit that you made a mistake and that Copernicus’ model had more epicycles than Ptolemy’s model; at best you will dismiss this as a “historical detail” that does not change your “physical” argument. And what is your physical argument? There’s none.
I would never blame you for not knowing the history of your own field; physics is a legal field, you don’t need to know the history, but only what is legal. That’s why you are supposed to know the literature — what is legal — but not the history. Physicists are proudly ignorant of the history of physics, their knowledge of history of physics is limited with the historical platitudes repeated in physics textbooks. Physicists repeat physics mythology and lore as historical truth. Your writing is full of such falsehoods.
Furthermore, your understanding of the role of epicycles in the Ptolemaic theory is wrong. You are just repeating official physics propaganda as if it were a historical truth. You may have heard a colleague mention it and you are repeating it without checking its truth.
The Standard Model is an epicyclic model
The Standard Model marketed by physicists as the most wonderful theory ever invented by mankind is nothing more than a collection of epicycles… but instead of using geometric epicycles of Ptolemy you use analytical epicycles called Fourier transforms. Do you deny this fact too? Both geometric and analytical epicycles fit data to sine waves. Spend some time to understand this reality. Your Standard Model is a glorified fit using epicycles to save the observations… just like the Ptolemaic model. And there is nothing wrong with adding epicycles to fit new observations into a model… this is how data is fit into a model even today.
Here’s one of your serious errors. You do not realize that the Standard Model is not a theory but a fit. Both Standard Model and Ptolemaic model fit data to a mathematical model using epicycles.
But there is a lesson to be learned from the Ptolemaic model. First of all, the original Ptolemaic model is a beautiful mathematical model. The theory has been corrupted long after Ptolemy by Doctors of Philosophy — your professional ancestors — working in the Middle Ages in the European universities.
How did these Learned Doctors corrupt the model? Not by adding new epicycles. When there’s a new observations you add new epicycles new epicycles to explain it. But these academic doctors who owned the Ptolemaic model used the mathematical algorithm of the model to prove its fundamental axiom, namely, the geocentric model. You are guilty of the same scientific crime, you routinely prove what you assumed.
Let me explain. As an academic doctor of philosophy you uphold the authority of the algorithm over the axioms of the theory. The algorithm is simply the mathematical methods used to fit the data; physicists call this data reduction algorithm “equations”. For you as a physicist, the algorithm (remember, you call the algorithm “equations”) comes before your axioms and you believe that the algorithm can prove your fundamental assumptions. In other words, you are proud to prove what you already assumed by using mathematical fitting methods. But only fools prove what they assumed. This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.
You don’t realize that it is foolish to prove what you assumed.
You can see with hindsight that Doctors of Philosophy of the Medieval Europe — your professional ancestors, do you deny your ancestors too? — who used Ptolemaic model tried to prove their assumption of a geocentric planetary system because they said the algorithm worked and gave correct results. These doctors said “we assume that the earth is at the center of the universe and we predict correctly the positions of the planets, therefore, the earth must be at the center of the universe”. Then comes Copernicus and uses the same algorithm by assuming the sun at the center, and he makes good predictions too.
Therefore, the lesson to be learned from the Ptolemaic theory is this:
You shall not prove your axiom with your algorithm.
Why? Because algorithm is independent of the axiom.
I don’t think you will ever agree with this law because you are doing the same thing with your Standard Model and market it as the greatest scientific achievement of humankind. You don’t realize that the Standard Model is simply a fit, nothing more. You then market this fit full of epicycles as the greatest scientific achievement of humankind. This is a grotesque double standard: you dismiss Ptolemy’s beautiful mathematical model as a bunch of epicycles and you glorify your own epicyclic model as the greatest theory ever graced this earth.
Why don’t you call yourself a “field physicist?”
The Ptolemaic theory placed the earth at the center of the universe and took this as its fundamental axiom. Your fundamental axiom is the doctrine of the atomic materialism. You are a “particle” physicist and you see the world as made up of particles and your job is to fit nature which is not matterful and not made of particles into your materialist dogma. Do you agree? Of course, you don’t. You will now tell me how you think the world is made of fields, not particle… but you cannot fool us with your sophistry… because we know that you call fields particles when you feel like it. This proves that your fundamental method of investigation is casuistry. You load words with several meanings and use them case by case to save your doctrine.
Why don’t you call yourself a “field physicist” since you claim that there are no particles but fields?
You always fit nature into your doctrine by using casuistry and sophistry and wordplay calling anything and everything particles when it suits you and not-particles when it suits you, case by case, as needed. I have analyzed several of your articles and gave examples of your casuistry.
Nothing changed in the world of academic scholasticism since the Medieval times. European academics who added epicycles to the Ptolemaic model to save data were Doctors of Philosophy and you are also a Doctor of Philosophy working in the same academic hierarchy; you are all in the same profession — this profession is the academic scholasticism — you just call yourself physicist… and you call your epicyclic model “Standard Model” and instead of planetary system you model the “atomic” world.
Learned Doctors corrupt languages
All doctors of philosophy are philosophers who work with languages; either they invent new languages or corrupt the existing ones. Doctors of Philosophy such as yourself are philosophical sophists who vehemently deny that they are philosophers. Take another look at your article about “vacua”, it is a standard linguistic analysis of the word vacuum. Doctors of Philosophy create new words by splitting meanings of existing words and by writing commentary on their new words. For example, they take a word without a plural and invent a plural of it (universe becomes universes, vacuum becomes vacua) and they associate some “equations” to these newly split words and claim to do physics. You recognize this method of splitting meanings as the oldest method of argument in the book of scholasticism. It used to be called hair-splitting, and you are a masterful splitter of hair.
If know that you will never admit that you corrupted a historical fact about epicycles to fit your physics doctrine into nature. You will never admit that you were wrong. You will just dismiss the historical record as a detail which is overruled by your physics. What is your physics in this case? There is none.
Here are a few more issues that you don’t understand.
You write that “tweaks of this type, in which some original idea (here the ether) is retained, but adjusted somehow to explain the data, are often referred to as ‘epicycles’…”
In the Ptolemaic model the original idea or the axiom is not adjusted. Only the algorithm is adjusted. This is a very important distinction.
As new observations become available, the model is adjusted by adding new elements into the mathematical model. Some of these elements can be epicycles. This is how data fitting works. Even today the same method is used. NASA uses numerical integration to fit data and they continuously adjust their algorithm to make their ephemerides more and more accurate.
But what do physicists do? Physicists are Doctors of Philosophy they do not adjust the algorithm, they “tweak” the axiom by defining new amendments. This is the legal method, it is the opposite of the mathematical method.
In the legal method, or legal logic, the practitioner adds an amendment to modify the original law or the axiom. That’s why we say that physics is legal. Physics uses the legal method to modify or “tweak” as you say, the original axiom.
Do you understand the difference? I am not sure that you do. When you add a new epicycles to the model, you are applying a scientific method by fitting the new observation to the model. The model gets more accurate. When you tweak the axiom with a new amendment you are using legal sophistry to save your doctrine and make it fit to the new observation. The original axiom is now loaded with several meanings and becomes sophistry.
You are a legal sophist because you continuously add new amendments to your doctrine of atomic materialism. Your observations routinely contradict your sacred doctrine of atomic materialism by telling you that there is no absolute indivisible, so you tweak your doctrine with a new amendment and you call field “particles”. This way you save your doctrine and you save the observations contradicting your sacred doctrine. This is legal sophistry. This is academic scholasticism. When your field amendments break down, you call probabilities “particles”. When that breaks down you tweak even further and invent new particles and new forces… You use sophistry and casuistry to fit contradicting observations to save your doctrine. You didn’t believe me when I told you that you were a Doctor of Philosophy continuing the scholastic tradition of your medieval ancestors.
Let me know when you understand the difference between adding a new epicycle to the model (a perfectly scientific method) and inventing a new amendment to save the doctrine (a legal sophistry and the fundamental method of academic scholasticism and physicists).
You exposed yourself without realizing as an academic doctor of philosophy using legal logic while pretending to use mathematical logic.