First of all, the author starts off by saying this bit of sophistry,
"Structural realism—in its metaphysical version, championed by the philosopher of science James Ladyman—is the deepest explanation I know, because it serves as a kind of meta-explanation, one that explains the nature of reality and the nature of scientific explanations."
You know it's sophistry because she uses the term "explanation" which means to any reasonable person, "An account of why or how something happened." and yet in the very next sentence, she takes all of the "things" out of the world and leaves you with... what?
"The idea behind structural realism is pretty simple: the world isn't made of things, it's made of mathematical relationships, or structure."
Mathematical relationships. This definitely begs the question, "relationships between what?" How can you have a relationship without two or more things to relate? And isn't "structure" a synonym for "thing"? My cells have structure, the Earth has structure... structure is something that evokes objects by definition. But, let's continue on and see if it is clarified.
"When the philosopher John Worrall first introduced structural realism... he was trying to explain...: how was it possible that a scientific theory that would later turn out to be wrong could still manage to make accurate predictions?"
I would imagine that is because pattern recognition is instinctual and that we naturally project the past on the future. Prediction requires no understanding of the mechanisms involved. It is no more than guessing the outcome of an event. Science is about explanation, telling how an event occurred, and prediction has nothing to do with that.
"Newton said that gravity was a force that masses exert on one another from a distance. That idea was overthrown by Einstein, who showed that gravity was the curvature of spacetime. Given how wrong Newton was about gravity, it seems almost miraculous that he was able to accurately predict the motions of the planets."
Two irrational, unimaginable, absurd and childish explanations for gravity, both using the religiously reified pseudo-objects called "force" and "spacetime" are not even close to being rational physics theories. It is miraculous that the author of this article can even tie her shoelaces. All she's doing is arguing my point that predictions are not part of Science because they do not explain any phenomena. They are not theories.
"Newton may have gotten the physical interpretation of gravity wrong, but he got a piece of the math right...The problem, Worrall pointed out, was that we mistook an interpretation of the theory for the theory itself. The fact is, in physics, theories are sets of equations, and nothing more. "Quantum field theory" is a group of mathematical structures. "Electrons" are little stories we tell ourselves."
And there it is, finally honest and open, these guys are not interested in visualizing the physical objects responsible for phenomena of reality. It's taken the entire history of mankind to try to explain these events rationally, but nobody's been able to, so they're just giving up. It's all math from here on out. Nobody wants to imagine what an electron really looks like, nobody wants to really visualize how the sun sends it's light to us or how it keeps us swinging around it's belly.
But why not just admit you can't figure it out the *actual* structure of reality, not the mathematical one, but the one of physical form and space and motion? Why not just say, "we're stumped"?
Why say this?: "These days, believing in the reality of objects—of physical things like particles, fields, forces, even spacetime geometries—can quickly lead to profound existential crises. Quantum theory, for instance, strips particles of any sense of "thingness"."
But you just said that Quantum's objects were just "little stories we tell ourselves." Now those "little stories" are stripping supposedly real objects of their "thingness"? But what makes a thing a thing? A thing is defined by it's form. Even Aristotle said the essence of a thing is it's form, i.e. it's shape. Not all objects exist. Some objects are imaginary, like Superman, and some are ideal, like a circle. But, exist can only refer to objects. Specifically, those objects with location. If it exists, there should be a distance between the edge of the object and the tip of your nose.
So, it's no surprise when she goes on to say,
"forces aren't physical things in the world, but discrepancies in different descriptions of the world"
"Gravity is a gauge force too, which means you can make it blink out of existence just by changing your frame of reference. In fact, that was Einstein's "happiest thought": a person in freefall can't feel their weight."
Of course "forces" aren't physical things! Of course, "gravity" doesn't "exist"! They don't meet the requirements to be qualified with such terms. Physical things & exist are terms that refer to objects with form & location. That's the definition because that can be used consistently, without contradiction, circularity or ambiguity.
And Einstein's "happiest thought" is another instance of this article making my argument for me. This is why we don't include observers or observation in our scientific theories. Observation is dependent on the viewer and is therefore subjective by definition.
"The holographic principle tells us that our four-dimensional spacetime and everything in it is exactly equivalent to physics taking place on the two-dimensional boundary of the universe."
Form has been a key concept in this discussion so far, but I don't think the author of this understands that. Yet, here it is again with the term 'dimension'. Dimensions refer to the architecture (form) of an object. Mathematicians have redefined the word to mean, "coordinates" but in physics dimensions still refer to architecture. Length, width, and height. Each points a certain direction orthogonal to one another.
No axis could possible be oriented at a right angle to length, width, and height simultaneously. Therefore, no 4th dimension is possible. Furthermore, two dimensional objects do not exist. They are always imaginary. The only objects which can possibly exist in reality are three dimensional. There is no such thing as a two-dimensional boundary or 4 dimensional "spacetime" so this part is complete nonsense.
"Neither description is more "real" "
The author puts "real" in quotes because she understands that she has no rational definition of the term. She's used the terms, "real", "exist", "physical" but hasn't defined a single one of them.
"The physical nature of reality has been further eroded by M-theory...strings can look like particles. Virtually any object you can think of will be transformed into something totally different as you move from one theory to the next—and yet, somehow, all of the theories are equally true."
They learned this trick from the old Quantum magicians who turned particles into waves. Now those waves are "strings". But look, thankfully this only happens "Virtually" with any particle. This brings me back to when she said that the electron was just a 'little story' they told themselves. I'm going to assume it's the same way with strings and particles. So, if these are all just "interpretations" and not representative of reality, then how is it supposed to "erode the physical nature of reality"? You know what's eroding the physical nature of reality? Oceans, air, dust, people, the sun, ect. Those are some things which erode physical nature.
B-b-but Stephen Hawking says,
"Stephen Hawking says that while our theoretical models offer possible descriptions of the world, we'll simply never know the true reality that lies beneath. Perhaps there is no reality at all."
The leap from "we'll never know" to "there is no reality" is so fantastical that it really makes you wonder what the actual thought-process was for these folks to come to this conclusion. It reminds me of how an idiot thinks when they get dumped in a bad relationship. It usually goes from, "How can I understand and fix my problems?" to "I never had any problems at all!"
Perhaps there can be competing theories for how things work in Science, and we can never with 100% certainty declare that one theory is "proven" or "validated" but we can at least determine when a theory is completely incoherent nonsense. It's so simple to understand why M-theory and Quantum theory and Relativity or really anything math-based is irrational, and I have explained a few reasons within this article analysis already. These "theories" are not just improbable, weird, or outlandish... they are incoherent babble. The objects are unimaginable and the reasoning is contradictory. Nothing about mathematical physics has to do with physical objects like the Earth, the Moon or stars. This is obviously troubling for mathemagicians, they need a way out.
"But structural realism offers a way out. An explanation. A reality. The only catch is that it's not made of physical objects."
The author then reiterates. Electrons are not real, forces are not real, 1d strings are not real, ect .and I agree with her, but for a different reason. These things aren't real because they have no form and so they cannot possibly have location. They cannot even be described by mathematics because they ARE mathematical descriptions in and of themselves, reified into objects. In math physics, they turned mathematical descriptions into objects and called them real, now they are trying to make these false objects vanish again in place of a new "real".. The "real" of math itself.
"Of course, it's only human to want to interpret mathematical structure. There's a reason that "42" is hardly a satisfying answer to life, the universe and everything."
The phrase "mathematical structure" is contradictory. Structure has form and form refers to objects. Yet, she is supposed to be taking out all of the physical objects from the Universe. This contradictory language only serves to confuse. Then she goes on to talk about '42' which is a reference to a Sci-fi novel. This whole thing reads like Sci-fi for hardcore nerds who project their fantasies on reality.
Next the author says,
"We want to know what the world is really like, but we want it in a form that fits our intuitions. A form that means something."
No, but we need a form that will perform the actual function that we claim it does. Form is the only cause of function and so form is central to explaining HOW things function as they do in physics. Any other type of explanation of phenomena is irrational or incomplete. But the author thinks these explanations are just "stories".
"And for our narrative-driven brains, meaning comes in the form of stories, stories about things. I doubt we'll ever stop telling stories about how the universe works, and I, for one, am glad. We just have to remember not to mistake the stories for reality."
Like I said above, we can never "know for sure" how things work, but our explanations need to be rationally reasoned at least. If you can't give a reasoned account for how something works, then you're not even trying to do Science. This is the minimum requirement for any Science theory and this article has failed miserably at that. Also, this might sound nitpicky but no Scientist can explain "how the Universe works" because the Universe is a concept. It is the concept of all matter and space. It is a collection, an abstraction, and has no form to imagine or function to explain in reality.
"[Structural realism] also provides a powerful explanation for some of the most mystifying aspects of physics."
How does it explain the speed of light? Or the reason that the Earth pulls on the Moon? Or how two magnets push or pull at a distance? Mathematical descriptions are not explanations. In fact, the author just got done arguing that since we'll "never stop telling stories about how the universe works," we should "remember not to mistake the stories for reality". But now mathematical descriptions become reality? How many times can you contradict yourself in a single article?
This is the backwards, confused state of mathematical physics today. It's all relationships and nothing to relate. It's all number and no thing. Any child understands that numbers are completely pointless if they aren't applied in reference to THINGS. Don't believe me? Go up to a person and tell them you have 3. "Three of what?" is inevitably the answer you'll get because these common people can think more clearly and rationally than these super-nerds who get lost in conceptual nightmares like "Structural Realism". Attempting to explain how reality works is off-limits, but when you ask them, they'll tell you whole-heartedly that they want nothing more than to explain reality. Complete foolishness if you ask me.