Quote from Lee Smolin in Scientific American:

There are some lazy ideas about unification that reflect uncritical thinking, such as the idea that the more fundamental a phenomena [sic] is the more symmetry it must have. When you think seriously about the problem you realize it must be exactly the opposite. Roger Penrose use to say this, and indeed the insight that the most fundamental theory can have no symmetries goes back to Leibniz.

Also does anyone know what exactly Leibniz had to say on the matter?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know what Leibniz thought about the matter and I am not sure it is particularly relevant in a modern context, since he certainly didn't have the strong restriction on mathematical models of reality in mind that are emerging from relativity and quantum mechanics. The fundamental question goes much further than even Smolin drives it in this excerpt. Before you can even place THIS left of THAT and imagine that it could be the other way round, you have to find a way to establish how THIS is even different from THAT. At the current level of physics that's an axiom that needs an explanation. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne May 16 '15 at 4:27
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    $\begingroup$ what leibniz though is relevant to understanding that quote $\endgroup$ – innisfree Jul 6 '15 at 15:50

Lee Smolin doesn't mean that the most fundemental physical theory can have no symmetry. What he means is that symmetry shouldn't be the guiding principle in discerning fundemental physical theories. While symmetry is mathematically useful, it doesn't provide a sufficient reason to accept a theory, this goes back to Leibniz's principle of sufficient reason. Smolin wants physicists to abondon trying to find timeless laws and symmetries, and like biology understand how laws evolve; he advocates a theory of cosmological evolution. Note: I don't agree or disagree with Smolin, I am just stating what he believes. This blog site should help you. Here, Leibniz's other principles of network relations, indiscernables, etc. are used to explain Smolin's argument.


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