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Journal mburns's Journal: New Alchemy 2

There was the old search for the magic formula. Isaac Newton was one of the many to look for this style of truth. His success in physics was actually compatible with the alchemical ethos. This was according to his conviction that God had blessed and and continues to enforce certain arbitrary mathematical designs for the universe while actively suppressing the other possibilities.

Consider how Spinoza emphatically avoided this kind of putative truth. He only contemplated designs for the universe that do not require cosmic censors and cosmic enforcers in order to have a chance at being. Alas, he did not succeed in doing physics. A priori mathematics was not ready for the task then, but it is now.

But falsificationism now enforces the old ethos of alchemy. It requires physical theories to conform to the pattern of magic, the reliable coincidence or intersection of two different mathematical objects. But these intersections are necessarily rare in the absence of divine intervention, as Spinoza explained. Falsificationism rejects the better mathematics as not falsifiable, the mathematics that does not consist of coincidences, and that can be commonplace without the need for special blessing.

Truisms, high principles, and unitary mathematics are being rejected as unscientific by many powerful academic physicists in a spirit of covert anti-intellectualism. A schism out of academic physics may be needed to revive the science.

Michael J. Burns

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New Alchemy

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  • I would be inclined to the view that the phenomenon that you describe is more an artifact of human psychology than a philosophical position. That is, academics of all stripes tend to be empire-builders - so they look for ideologies that can be used to extend their power, whether the actual position is tenable or not.

    I can't speak to the prevalence or potency of falsificationism, partly because I am not sure exactly what you mean. I also am not familiar with the physics world.

    There will be a schism out of

    • by mburns ( 246458 )

      I am happy with your analysis. Human motivation does underlie the philosophical covering, which itself mainly helps with additional confusion.

      Falsificationism is hard to pin down in a sense, since one of its importance properties is its hypocritical application. Sometimes it criticizes refusals by adherents of a theory to accept evidence to the contrary. And again it denounces mathematics as not a science, since no test can reasonably refute a mathematical theorem when the premises are in range.

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