But maybe here we can have some intelligent conversation for a change.
it is amazing that you went so far in science without (apparently) understanding the most basic premise of science that it generates models used as prediction and are empirically adequate for our understanding
If you don't mind my comment, I think what you said there is extremely relevant. See, I went to engineering school so I learned a lot of physics; even if I can't call myself a physicist the basic approach is the same as far as I can tell.
The problem is, from my experience at college, is that you don't have to understand any of it. Strange as that may sound, that's how the more advanced aspects of physics are, and I will give you two cases in point.
I seldom flunked any subjects in school, ever, but electromagnetism gave me the hardest time of my life. I flunked it twice. Those Maxwell equations are just beyond me, I have no idea what they mean. That talk of divergent, convergent, gradient, just gives me a bad feeling in the stomach. How did I manage to pass EM? I did something simple which I equate to cheating: I gave up trying to understand what it means and just focussed on the math, which is rather simple. Then it was like a breeze.
Another case: relativity. I never got it. Space and time being the same thing? Come on, everyone knows they're not. You can't use a clock to measure space and you can't use a ruler to measure time. Besides, no absolute space or time? That's nonsense, even if it's true nobody can possibly understand the universe on a cognitive level without relying on some absolutes. That's why I couldn't swallowed Einstein. And then, I discovered, Relativity is just like electromagnetism, it's not supposed to make sense, it's all about math.
So don't think this problem is exclusive to Stafford; being abstract as it is, advanced physics cannot possibly be understood, it's all about math and nothing else. That's why Alex says things are "mathematical objects", leaves it at that, and sees no contradiction. Good physicists think like that. And good thinkers don't bother much with the meaning of physics, for there isn't any.
Just my two cents.