Physicist and science popularizer Sean Carroll argues that the idea of falsifiability as a way of defining science needs to be retired. But his argument for this rejection leaves the door wide open to the scientist-proponents of intelligent design.
Carroll, a physicist at California Institute of Technology and the Santa Fe Institute, is one of the most respected voices in physical science communication. His book Something Deeply Hidden is a highly regarded effort to make sense out of quantum mechanics by appealing to Hugh Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation.
The Edge brings together top thinkers from a variety of disciplines and has them answer intriguing questions. In 2014 the question was: What scientific idea is ready for retirement. A large number of respected thinkers answered that question and an overview of the topics selected is inspiring and suggests that our science world is very much in ferment. Sean Carroll was one of those answering that question. He chose Sir Karl Popper’s idea of defining science by “falsifiability.”
Given that Carroll and other proponents of ideas like string/M theory, the multiverse, eternal inflation have come under attack from a number of other scientists and philosophers for promoting ideas and theories that can never be submitted to the established methods of empirical science, it is understandable that he would want to defend his work as scientific. After all, to be accused of being unscientific, or worse, of engagin in pseudoscience, is a career and grant-ender for sure. This is the accusation against Michael Behe, William Dembski and Stephen Meyer who propose Intelligent Design (ID) as a scientific endeavor, as well as scientists like Rupert Sheldrake who take telepathy seriously.
But a close look at Carroll’s attempt to finagle Many Worlds and the multiple hidden dimensions of M theory into legitimate science opens the door to the same claim for ID and other “alternative” or non-conforming science. Carroll argues:
“Modern physics stretches into realms far removed from everyday experience, and sometimes the connection to experiment becomes tenuous at best. String theory and other approaches to quantum gravity involve phenomena that are likely to manifest themselves only at energies enormously…