The debate over beauty and theories is perhaps really about string theory which is no doubt ultra elegant but somehow a dilemma now for physics.
I remain suspicious about such downright science heresies as Platonic Ideas, and there the issue of aesthetics comes to the fore…It is hard to conclude anything about string theory (which I don’t understand) but it is curious to note the way that pure mathematics in parallel to physics so often spawned a future foundation in a new paradigm shift, the example of general relativity being a spectacular example…
I would be wary of using an aesthetic principle in relation to theories of science, but please note the ugliness of the theory of natural selection (although some like Dawkins find it elegant and its ‘elegant’ simplicity, entirely false and misleading). In any case it is a gross oversimplification, almost an hallucination.
By comparison look at the elegance of the eonic model with its compelling exhibition of historical directionality/teleology, free agency versus system action, historical creativity, stream and sequence duality, the evolution of freedom and self-consciousness, and much else.
Attacking a figure like Feynman on this issue is a bit of an attack of the Lilliputians. The aesthetic reaction to much of physics is more an exclamation than hard philosophy of science, and the sentiment is frequent when confronting the elegance of much of modern physics. The idea is certainly open to challenge if made into a definite heuristic principle but as an emotional reaction it remains significant. That elegance remains even after the theories become falsified…
In any case Pugliucci is a notorious muddlehead about darwinism and natural selection and makes a mockery of his essay with nonsense about the evolution of an aesthetic sense via natural selection, a proposition that makes Feynman’s errors seem trivial. Anyone confused about darwinism is going to have a hard time with the aesthetics of science theories.
And of course, beauty is, notoriously, in the eye of the beholder. What struck Feynman as beautiful might not be beautiful to other physicists or mathematicians. Beauty is a human value, not something out there in the cosmos. Biologists here know better. The capacity for aesthetic appreciation in our species is the result of a process of biological evolution, possibly involving natural selection. And there is absolutely no reason to think that we evolved an aesthetic sense that somehow happens to be tailored for the discovery of the ultimate theory of everything.
How did humans get to be so much fatter than our closest primate relatives, despite sharing 99% of the same DNA? A new study suggests that part of the answer may have to do with an ancient molecular shift in how DNA is packaged inside fat cells, which curbed our body’s ability to turn ‘bad’ white fat into ‘good’ brown fat.