in my continuing quest to kill physics, let me speculate about what has gone so terribly wrong and led to routine claims such as these.
reality is observer-dependent
the principle of non-contradiction is false
the universe has every possible history
truth is what works in prediction
the unobserved past is indefinite
and so on. not that every physicist accepts these particular claims, though they are all asserted by hawking, e.g. but it is also the style of the claims: metaphysical, entirely non-empirical, sweepingly philosophical, wildly paradoxical, and so on. i am going to flatly assert this: no experimental data and no mathematical equation can serve as any evidence at all for any of these claims. you did not get to these claims scientifically; you could not have, and that is obvious.
i speculate that a lot of the super-genius physicists of the twentieth century had a philosophy course or two before they decided on their major, and i speculate that these were often taught by last-gasp german neo-kantians or late-blooming hegelian idealists. these were big metaphysical doctrines that they brought to their research.
then they presented their research as supporting these claims. on a generous reading, they are trying to express difficult science and reaching for big metaphors or something. and what i'd suggest there is: go back and develop another vocabulary, one that more literally or flatly or without hyperbole expresses what you're observing, perhaps. gravitate toward the minimal rather than the maximal formulation, the clearest rather than the coolest statement; surely this is what your own supposed method would supposedly suggest?
but they were also creating a sensation. every kid who has been exposed to these interpretations of quantum mechanics or string theory has thought that is so super-cool and trippy! and the claims cannot be challenged, because you supposedly have to be a mathematical super-genius even to understand how they got there. but i would propose to demonstrate this, prove it every which way and as decisively as anything can be proven: they didn't get there at all, couldn't have.
here's what i might mean by my claim that i can prove these things false or unmeaning, or demonstrate that you do not have evidence for them: when i'm done you will have to revise them extremely; you will quickly reach the point at which you will admit, perhaps with a tight smile, that you never meant any such thing, and that once we re-interpret all the terms in which the claims are couched, they turn out to be, for example, meaningful and internally coherent, which, as they stand, they so palpably are not. that, to anticipate the endgame, is what i mean by refutation; you couldn't defend what you said, or you didn't mean it at all because then you'd be talking nonsense. if you mean something else, then i will have go at that, but something tells me that just here things are going to sink into deep obscurity. what at first seemd bold and wild and clear will suddenly be shrouded in mathematical murk. at this point it will turn out that we just don't understand what you're saying, but we should rest assured that, if we did, we'd see something or other. just not the sort of stuff you hooked us with.
it is no wonder that people have connected twentieth-century physics to taoist or buddhist mysticism, for you are going to have to shatter your rational mind for good and all even to take a stab at believing it. on the other hand, one very badly misunderstands taoism if one thinks it holds that space and time are forms of consciousness or whatever it is that heisenberg declared. however, dropping a cat in a box and then asserting that it's neither alive nor not alive and both alive and not alive and neither dead nor not dead and both dead and not dead does have the quality of koan. one purpose of a koan is to break your affiliation with reason completely. you'd think it would be hard to keep doing physics after that repudiation. and then, your zen master is going to break open the black box of your skull with a stick and let the cat out.
i don't doubt that the universe is wild and surprising; i just doubt that it is so wild and so surprising that it is logically impossible. but once you've proven mathematically that it is, you have surely relieved yourself of the task of inquiring into it empirically. pick up your nobel and go home, bro.
one thing that i think will end up being a theme when we look back on the intellectual history of this period is that people really did start doing 'science' a priori. to discover continents or planets people had to move around and look. to conclude that there are 11 dimensions or infinitely many actual histories or exactly 44 universes, it's now enough to sit at home scribbling symbols. i wonder whether, looking back on it, we will believe again that actual universes can only actually be discovered through exploration out there. perhaps we just went through an ironic period in physics, an anti-scientific period. "abstract considerations of logic lead to a unique theory that predicts and describes a vast universe", write hawking and mlodinow. now, that is an example of the sort of approach that had to be overcome in order for science to be possible. also i don't think the logic is workable.
really it is quite amazing how smoothly this has apparently gone down for a century; when fichte made such claims, schelling refuted him 48 hours later. but plenty of people who could not possibly believe this stuff or even understand what it would mean to believe it, just start nodding along as soon as you say 'physics'. the super-specialization of the hands-on scientists and the genius image of the high-end theorists kind of stupefy dissent: they know what we cannot. it is a bad epistemic situation for people like hawking: there really isn't enough of an external critical community to put a check on the flights of fancy.
in particular, it is shocking that the great analytic philoosophers of the period just looked at sentences like that and tried to nod along. when heidegger issued gnomic triple-contradictions or t.h. green traced the whole universe to mind or something, g.e. moore and a.j. ayer gave them nothing back but ridicule: look here are pseudo-propositions addressing pseudo-problems that vanish like a poisonous mist if you start clarifying the terms. but they'd look at the same sentences produced by physicists and defer to their degrees. hawking has declared philosophy dead. awww, sometimes you just don't want to talk smack.