Naturalness in physics: just a matter of aesthetics?
Sabine Hossenfelder, a physicist by training, has made herself a name as a prolific blogger, criticizing recent developments in theoretical physics, such as the idea of the multiverse, supersymmetry, and string theory. She has also argued that the grounds for funding successors of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are weak. In her book Lost in Math she channels some of her criticisms. Her focus is on aesthetical motivations for developing successors to the standard model in particle physics, and in particular the curious property of “naturalness”.
Philosophers of science are well aware that non-empirical properties of theories, like simplicity and unification, can play a role in scientists’ choice of theories. The “naturalness” of theories, however, is not yet a property much discussed by philosophers of science as a general criterion of theory choice. Hossenfelder describes naturalness as the requirement that theories should not contain too large or too small numbers (14), or “ugly...
I thank Richard Dawid for valuable comments.