The Losers Take It All

but only for a while...



In the two main scientific fights of the 20th century on the foundations of mathematics and physics, the scientific losers effectively won by politically taking over the academic departments. However, science can be expected to win over politics in the long run.

Monocultures of Mathematics and Physics

The academic disciplines of mathematics and physics present themselves as the foundations of natural sciences and as models for all of science. As foundations mathematics and physics are monocultures, where only one truth is possible at any given time. Like cockfights, academic fights in mathematics and physics can only end with the complete elimination of one of the two combatants. Compromise or co-existence is impossible, in the same department or discipline. The loser can cease to exist or flee to form a new department or discipline.

The two main fights in 20th century culminating in the 1920s were:
  • formalists/logicists vs constructivists on the foundations of mathematics
  • particle/probability vs wave/determinism in quantum mechanics

involving the following key combatants:

  • formalists/logicists: Cantor/Russell/Hilbert
  • constructivists: Kronecker/Brouwer
  • particle/probability: Bohr/Born/Heisenberg
  • wave/determinism: Schrödinger/Einstein.

We describe these fights in the knols

Scientific Losers

The loser of the scientific mathematics match was the 
  • formalist/logiscist school of Cantor/Russell/Hilbert
because Gödel showed in the 1930s in his incompleteness theorems that their program was untenable. 

                           Cantor, Russell and Hilbert as mature men after losing.
The loser of the scientific physics match was the
  • particle/probability school of Bohr/Born/Heisenberg
because the only person claiming to understand it was Bohr, expressed by the celebrated Nobel Laurate Richard Feynman as:
  • I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

But the difference between science and religion is that science can be understood; a theory which nobody understands, is not a scientific theory only magics.

                                     Bohr, Born and Heisenberg as young men before losing.

Political Winners

The winner of the political mathematics match became 
  • the formalist/logiscist school of Cantor/Russell/Hilbert
because they kicked out all constructivists from the mathematics departments, and the expelled constructivists then constructed new departments of computer science. The destruction of the formalist/logicist illusion by Gödel was too hard to accept and complete denial became a politically successful resolution.
You can test if you are a formalist/logicist or constructivist by answering yes or no to the following question formulated by Brouwer:
  • Do you believe that the set of real numbers exists?
The winner of the scientific physics match became 
  • the particle/probability school of Bohr/Born/Heisenberg
because they declared Einstein/Schrödinger to be senile, and offered solace by not requiring any understanding of the quantum world, since understanding was left to Bohr alone.
You can test if you fit into the particle/probability or wave/determinism school by answering the following question formulated by Schrödinger:
  • Do you believe that an electron hops about like a flea?


Politics can be more important than science in academics. Mathematics and physics as foundations of science are monocultures with only one truth allowed at any given time. Scientific losers can become political winners, because the trauma of losing faith in a certain scientific doctrine can appear to be unacceptable, while complete denial is not. 
However, preventing scientific winners from forming the politics of science can only work for a limited period of time…Maybe the time has now come to let the winners take it all and not the losers…see the knols

                                          The winners to be: Brouwer and Schrödinger