To clarify, that quote comes from John Peacock, the reviewer of The Cosmic Landscape for American Scientist.
What he's saying is that physics, like art, is partly a function of the human aesthetic response, because empirical evidence only constrains theories allowed in physics, but does not determine it. I would agree with him only partly, because a large part of what Peacock includes under "aesthetics" is a common preference for simplicity, which can be formalized in various ways (e.g. Kolmogorov complexity).
But even taking into account the formalizable common preference for simplicity, I think there is still a role for aesthetics to play in physics. I can think of two arguments for this. One is to say that the general preference for simplicity in our aesthetic response is a result of the limited complexity of our minds. In other words, everything we consider beautiful must be relatively simple, but not everything simple has to be considered beautiful. Thus the most beautiful theory is not necessarily the simplest one.
The other argument is that all of the formalizations of complexity leave a free parameter, for example the choice of universal Turing machine in algorithmic information theory. Our aesthetic choices can therefore be encoded into this free parameter.
----- Original Message -----
From: Kim Jones
To: Wei Dai
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2006 10:40 PM
Subject: Re: Multiverse concepts in string theory


So it used to be "science and religion."

In fact it should have been all along "science and religion and art".

Is it possible that we've been missing an important part of the discussion here?

Art (painting, music - whatever) is the revelation of 1st person experience; the 'word of the creator'.

Take it from there

Kim Jones

On 14/02/2006, at 11:06 AM, Wei Dai wrote:

In short, physics is a human creative art on the same level as painting and music, and that is reason enough to be proud of what the subject has achieved.

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