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Letsbereasonable's Avatar Jump to comment 69 by Letsbereasonable

Comment 68 by Alex, adv. diab.

People like Brian Cox are in kind of a conundrum here.

Indeed they are. In Brian Cox's case I was struck by his open-mindedness about the OPERA findings. He kept saying things like 'If the results are true', 'If the findings are accurate', and so on. This suggested to me that Cox was not one of the summary 'impossible' scientists, a boxer short-eating type.

I think the public have been conditioned somewhat by the controversial climate change issue. It is imagined that for truth to be valid all scientists must be in agreement at all times. Thus we have the truth of climate change because so many scientists proclaim its truth. If some scientists disagree they are either renegades, incompetents, deniers or worse - just plain corrupt. The public don't realise that the history of science charts the progress of disagreement, which continues to this day.

In the case of the speed of light issue the public saw the morning headlines as 'Speed of Light Exceeded' - and the news came from the site of one of the most colossally expensive experimental set-ups in scientific history - or any history - over which a halo of public awe had descended and from which physics-busting revelations (the newspapers are replete with the anticipated 'new physics') had been eagerly anticipated. Yet as soon as a phenomenal result is achieved high-profile spokesmen from among the rest of the scientific community summarily flag it down - apparently because a natural truth must be presumed to have been negated - which cannot be contemplated. The results were therefore probably an error. All that money. All that fabulous set-up. All those PhDs - and no one believes them. So who are the bone-fide truth seekers and who are the deniers in the speed of light controversy? (I realise this can't be answered because the results have not yet been universally re-examined. It is science-in-progress rather than science-in-crisis.)

My post was simply the airing of a lay observation that, like the religious dogmatists who brook no disagreements with the self-evident truths of their revealed wisdoms, the speed-of-light-is-sacred scientists seemed to be answering the call of a parallel dogma. Foundational truth is a natural human predilection, and scientists are only human. It the speed of light is able to serve in that role then the summary negative reaction of the many scientists I read in the press, who had not participated in the OPERA program, is understandable. What time-served physicist wants it all undone before his (or her of course) very eyes, thrilling though it must promise to the young turks?

Wed, 23 Nov 2011 00:40:49 UTC | #892471