San José State University
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

Theories in Physics and False Logic

There are a number of prominent theories in physics that have not had experimental confirmation yet their proponents continue to pursue them on a theoretical level. The justification for this continued effort is in case after case that the theory is so beautiful, so mathematically rigorous and explains so much that it must be true. There are two false syllogisms involved in this position.

First consider the matter of the mathematical beauty of the theory. While it is plausible that a theory which explains some element of the physical world must be beautiful it is not necessarily true that any beautiful theory even if it is mathematically rigorous must be true of the physical world. The following Venn diagram says it all.

Now consider the matter of a theory explaining empirical facts. Claiming that the fact that a theory provides an explanation establishes its truth rests on the following syllogism.

This is a false syllogism. To establish the truth of Proposition A would need to know that Proposition A is the only thing that implies B.

This issue is especially important when B represents known facts and theorist set about constructing something that would explain those facts. If B is a prediction from A that is not known before hand then the truth of B does lend considerably more creditability to the truth of A.

There is an amazing amount intellectual effort and financial funding that goes into research based upon these two false syllogisms. The fields that come to mind are string theory, supersymmetry theory and astronomical dark matter and energy.

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