Instead of getting any public support, increasingly the mob starts to get out their pitchforks. Now I came across this gem over at the FQXi site – it is down on the comment thread, but it is written by the author of the article there, a technical writer and editor by trade (consistent with the terrible state of science writing for sure), Thomas Howard Ray:

As predicted, the posts from Sascha Vongehr's site have disppeared. What has not disappeared, is the reason why one should care about whether Vongehr's idea of science is rational -- and whether it is important that the scientific enterprise should continue to be based on rationalism.

Vongehr advocates a postmodern social constructivist view. I would bet that most scientists are not even aware of what that is, for mainstream science has for 300 years followed the "fingo non hypotheses" philosophy of Newton-- that is, an objective model is not interpreted into existence by the language of the observer, nor is it dependent on such language for objective validity. As my collaborator Pat Frank and I wrote for an article in "Free Inquiry" in 2004, " ... the meaning of empirical data is found only within the context of a falsifiable theory. This is true, even if the meaning is that the data contradict the prediction and refute the theory. Only a falsifiable physical theory distinguishes the meaning of lightning away fromthe hand of god. Only the capacity of falsification produces a unique prediction and provides an unambiguous meaning to the data."

Vongehr's strawman argument -- in which he asserts with absolutely no support that most scientists are naive realists -- would have us believe that there is no unambiguous meaning. That the message is in the eye of the beholder and truth is constructed by consensus. In trying to fit his philosophy to the scientific enterprise, he has managed to profoundly misinterpret the same John Wheeler who said, "No phenomenon is a physical phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon,"* into saying that Wheeler's utterly simple idea is to assume the quantum and accept nonlocality as physical law. Wrong -- Wheeler assumed nothing -- the comparison of Wheeler's idea to Einstein's elevator gedanken experiment requires an actual physical analogue. Vongehr's proposal does not only fail to meet that standard, it bypasses and subverts the rationalist enterprise entirely.

What would Randi do? Assuredly, not this.


There are other such comments and even the main article cites Science2.0 and distorts the Quantum Randi Challenge. But this one I like especially, because next to telling the world that “one should care about whether Vongehr's idea of science is rational” (thank you Tom, you go boy), he calls me a “postmodern social constructivist” (did he talk to Hank?).

It pretty much confirms what I claim: quantum physics is partially rejected (Tom is one of those silly Joy Christian fanboys who outright reject it) because of such silly fears as that relativism in physics triggers cultural relativism – teach Everett relativity and people stop working; society decays into a drug addicted homosexual orgy-heap or something. We had this before of course, with Einstein’s relativity, and you know the result: Nothing! Because nobody cares about science anyway, especially if it is not telling them what they want to believe. The determinism of totality not only laughs about your "responsible agent" illusions but also determines that you keep them anyway.

Perhaps I do somewhat advocate a social constructivist view, but Tom actually claims that I do so in my essay! Well, there is no social component to the ultimate limits of descriptions, or if there is, I have not invoked it. It is fine if Tom is not intelligent enough to understand that physics is a fundamental description and thus limited by what can be described (e.g.: by a description that describes totality and therefore itself). That is in fact my (partially Wittgenstein’s) postmodern update of the hallmark of (non-post) modern physics, namely observers being limited by the constraints of observation. Kant already said something very similar. So I say that describers are limited by the constraints of description. Where do we mention “social consensus”?

Tom adds such strawmen as:

“an objective model is not interpreted into existence by the language of the observer, nor is it dependent on such language for objective validity.”

Nor did I ever claim such nonsense!

”Vongehr's strawman argument -- in which he asserts with absolutely no support that most scientists are naive realists”
Never claimed that either. A double strawman! I wrote that there is a tacit direct realism for example in the concept of “actualization” and that many scientists do not properly distinguish different realisms, which two persons who even published on the nonlocality-versus-realism issue admitted to me actually committing themselves! Tom perhaps projects his own silly arrogance claiming that most scientists do not know social constructivism.

Tom tells people I claim that

“Wheeler's utterly simple idea is to assume the quantum … ”

Wow! Given the smallness of the paragraph about what my suggestion for Wheeler’s idea is, this would be the reading comprehension of a ten year old (remember, he is writer and editor by trade for crying out loud!). Moreover, it is the “simple idea that demands the quantum”. How could it possibly just assume the quantum?

“… and accept nonlocality as physical law.”

I explicitly defined “apparent non-locality” and described it as emergent from something strictly Einstein-local. Here perhaps one can see most clearly that some of those who rant against my ideas are not just mistaken but outright malicious and out to smear people with idiotic lies.

I wonder why. Does it at least make them happy? You Joys and Toms and Motls out there: Prozac is not for everyone, but it may well be for you!