Update: I submitted the following response to the comments over on Lubos’s blog. Since it has some bits of general interest, I thought I’d crosspost it here while it awaits Lubos’s moderation.
Since Lubos “officially invited” me to respond to the comments here, let me now do so.
1. On “loopholes” in quantum mechanics: I completely agree with Lubos’s observation that the actual contents of my book are “conservative” about the truth of QM. Indeed, I predict that, when Lubos reads his free copy, he’ll agree with (or at least, have no objections to) the vast majority of what’s in the book. On the other hand, because I was guest-blogging about “the story of me and Lubos,” I found it interesting to highlight one area of disagreement regarding QM, rather than the larger areas of agreement.
2. On Gene Day’s patronizing accusation that I don’t “get the basics of QM or even comprehend the role of mathematics in physics”: his misreading of what I wrote is so off-base that I don’t know whether a response is even necessary. Briefly, though: of course two formulations of QM are mathematically equivalent if they’re mathematically equivalent! I wasn’t asking why we don’t use different mathematical structures (quaternions, the 3-norm, etc.) to describe the same physical world. I was asking why the physical world itself shouldn’t have been different, in such a way that those other mathematical structures would have described it. In other words: if you were God, and you tried to invent a theory that was like QM but based on those other structures, would the result necessarily be less “nice” than QM? Would you have to give up various desirable properties of QM? Yes? Can you prove it? The ball’s in your court, Mr. Day — or else you can just read my book!
3. On Lord Nelson’s accusation that I’m a “poseur”: on reflection, someone who only knew me from blog stunts like this one could easily be forgiven for getting that impression! So it might be worth pointing out for the record that I also have a “day job” outside the blogosphere, whose results you can see here if you care.
4. On my political views: I wish to clarify for Tom Vonk that I despise not only “Communists,” but the ideology of Communism itself. One of the formative experiences of my life occurred when I was an 8-year-old at Wingate Kirkland summer camp, and all the campers had to relinquish whatever candy they’d brought into a communal “bunk trunk.” The theory was that all the campers, rich and poor alike, would then share the candy equally during occasional “bunk parties.” What actually happened was that the counselors stole the candy. So, during a meeting of the entire camp, I got up and gave a speech denouncing the bunk trunk as Communism. The next day, the camp director (who had apparently been a fellow-traveler in the 1950s) sat with me at lunchtime, and told me about a very evil man named Joe McCarthy who I was in danger of becoming like. But the truth was that I’d never even heard of McCarthy at that point — I just wanted to eat candy. And I’d give exactly the same speech today.
Like (I suppose) several billion of the world’s people, I believe in a dynamic market-based capitalist society, and also in strong environmental and other regulations to safeguard that society’s continued existence. And I don’t merely believe in that as a cynical compromise, since I can’t get the “dictatorship of the proletariat” that I want in my heart of hearts. Were I emperor of the world, progressive capitalism is precisely what I would institute. In return, perhaps, for paying a “candy tax” to keep the bunk functioning smoothly, campers could keep their remaining candy and eat or trade it to their heart’s delight.
5. On climate change: I’m not a professional climatologist, but neither is Lubos, and nor (correct me if I’m wrong) is anyone else commenting here. Accordingly, I refuse to get drawn into a debate about ice cores and tree rings and hockey sticks, since my experience is that such debates tend to be profoundly unilluminating when not conducted by experts. My position is an incredibly simple one: just like with the link between smoking and cancer, or the lack of a link between vaccines and autism, or any other issue where I lack the expertise to evaluate the evidence myself, I’ll go with what certainly looks like an overwhelming consensus among the scientists who’ve studied the matter carefully. Period. If the climate skeptics want to win me over, then the way for them to do so is straightforward: they should ignore me, and try instead to win over the academic climatology community, majorities of chemists and physicists, Nobel laureates, the IPCC, National Academies of Science, etc. with superior research and arguments.
To this, the skeptics might respond: but of course we can’t win over the mainstream scientific community, since they’re all in the grip of an evil left-wing conspiracy or delusion! Now, that response is precisely where “the buck stops” for me, and further discussion becomes useless. If I’m asked which of the following two groups is more likely to be in the grip of a delusion — (a) Senate Republicans, Freeman Dyson, and a certain excitable string-theory blogger, or (b) virtually every single expert in the relevant fields, and virtually every other chemist and physicist who I’ve ever respected or heard of — well then, it comes down to a judgment call, but I’m 100% comfortable with my judgment.