Rebuttal of “Particles of Justice” criticism of Strumia

Preface by ScienceCensored
It is telling that the author of this rebuttal of the paper against Strumia – a graduate student of physics – has chosen to remain anonymous – for fear of endangering his Ph.D. that he is currently working on. I have quoted the first two paragraphs here and provided a link to the full paper, which is detailed (estimated reading time 20-25 minutes).

Justice for Strumia

On the 4th of October, a blog post titled “Particles for Justice” was published by a group of physicists (henceforth referred to as “the authors”) condemning the views of professor Alessandro Strumia as “morally reprehensible”. They claim that the presentation he gave at a CERN conference on “High Energy Theory and Gender” was incorrect in asserting, that the degree of sexism in physics is overestimated, that biological factors adequately explain the observed performance disparity between men and women in science. He further claimed that there exists a widespread, ideologically motivated push to hire people based on factors other than merit. Strumia is accused of “mining” and “misrepresenting” data to support his claims, and “belittling” the legitimacy of female scientists.
In this piece, I will review the claims and sources presented by the authors. My findings lead me to believe that their outrage is misplaced and unsupported by the data they themselves cite. Furthermore, I will attempt to analyze the philosophical underpinnings of contemporary equality movements and explain why their intellectual foundations make controversies like the present one inevitable. It is my hope that this piece will help physics remain (as it should be) a field where the nature of reality can be investigated rationally without the distracting influence of moral outrage, unjustified accusations of bias, and impetuous campaigns to fix what is not demonstrably broken.

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3 Replies to “Rebuttal of “Particles of Justice” criticism of Strumia”

  1. Regarding your statement “According to the aforementioned Falsification Principle (perhaps more accurately: “Disprovability Principle”) a scientific theory must make concrete predictions that allow experiments to prove it false. For example, Newtonian mechanics is scientific, because it makes highly specific claims about the behavior of light near massive objects, which upon inspection turn out to be false.”

    I would have phrased it differently

    A theory only needs to make predictions, and preferably, these predictions can be TESTED. That’s the main requirement. You added on an extra piece “to prove it false” which is not actually needed. Suppose we did actually find the much sought after unified theory of everything, which always made correct predictions. You might note that you could never prove it false. You could only think of new tests, each of which would always verify its correctness.

    Newtonian mechanics makes predictions, and in the domain of applicability of Newtonian mechanics the theory is quite successful. If you restrict yourself to the macroscopic, non-relativistic, and inertial frames, then Newton is King. It is not required that Newtonian Mechanics makes a bad prediction for it to be a scientific theory.

    One can trivially state that Newtonian mechanics does not apply to light, since photons have a rest mass of zero and travel at the speed of light. Soldner anticipated at least some of this in his 1804 work that calculated the deflection of light, since he states “Hopefully no one finds it problematic, that I treat a light ray almost as a ponderable body.” You must add something outside of Newtonian Mechanics, the equivalence principle of Einstein.

    Larry Musa

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