FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF LIGHT?

From THE LOCAL (Switzerland):

Physicists reported on Thursday that sub-atomic particles called neutrinos can travel faster than light. In experiments conducted between the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland and a laboratory in Italy, the tiny particles were clocked at 300,006 kilometres per second, about six km/sec faster that the speed of light, the researchers said.

Scientists spent nearly six months "checking, testing, controlling and rechecking everything" before making an announcement. The findings, they said, could potentially reshape our understanding of the physical world. Under Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity, however, a physical object cannot travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

COMMENT: It wouldn't surprise me if the findings are correct. I have long had a suspicion that Einstein may have been wrong about what happens if a particle was to travel faster than the speed of light. Perhaps all that happens is that the particle becomes invisible.

Of course, there are other possible explanations for the results. Maybe the neutrinos took a more direct route than the light took. Maybe they jumped part of the way (popping in and out of existence). Or, as the scientists themselves suggest, "It could simply mean that the speed of light is not the speed limit we thought it was."

Whatever, if these results are not just the product of a measurement error, they will highlight what I perceive to be a methodological error at the heart of modern science. In my opinion, science should be about observance first and explanation should come after. But, nowadays, especially within the discipline of physics, the mathematics come first and then scientists try to prove the mathematics by observation (the, so far unsuccessful, search for the Higgs Boson being a prime example of this method). There are two problems with doing science this way. Firstly, the public (and, no matter what they might say, many scientists as well) start believing the possibility to be a reality before there is any physical evidence. Secondly, theories can become so revered by the scientific community that any challenges to them are viewed as heresy (and even the Spanish Inquisition couldn't compare in savagery to academia when it comes to making people follow the party line). This second problem means that possible discoveries are delayed, or even never happen. For example, I believe that random matings cannot be the only mechanism for evolutionary change, that we are missing something really big because scientists are scared to challenge this shibboleth of secular scientism.

But it's not only scientists who are guilty of putting the cart before the horse. I think this practice is also a methodological error within the discipline of theology. Most of what religious people claim to be the attributes of the gods are just based on theories. The problem is that humans, who have a strong tendency to seek immediate definition, can easily fall into the error of revering the theories of their religions so much that they never discover new and/or true things about their gods. The Bible is full of theories about God. By giving the Bible the status of God (the fourth person of the Trinity), evangelicals have caged God and have made it nearly impossible for theologians to find out new things about God through observation. When they do discover something about God, if it contradicts the theories of the Biblical writers, their discoveries are ignored and great effort is put into disparaging the theologians concerned. It is the same within Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism except that the Bible is replaced, to a large part, by the traditions of the churches.

We cannot see if we refuse to look. We will never discover the truth unless we allow those brave enough to gaze outside of the box of orthodoxy (theological and/or scientific) full permission to do so. Above all, we should trust our eyes, so to speak. If neutrinos appear to be traveling faster than the speed of light, they probably are. If God appears to bless loving relationships between two people of the same sex, God probably does.

Comments

FASTER THAN THE SPEED OF LIGHT? — 11 Comments

  1. I must disagree with “In my opinion, science should be about observance first and explanation should come after”. Science is a cycle and when one has an explanation, a hypothesis, a theory, one then directs the observation to trying to disprove the explanation.

    Good scientists do look to disprove what is accepted. However unusual observations will be looked at extra carefully for errors.

  2. Very well said MP. It is the human error to begin with the conclusion and science is as liable to err as any other endeavor.

    FWIW
    jimB

  3. I think you need a combination of maths (or whatever, depending on the science) and observation. If observation says that the planets are quite following the ‘proper’ orbits as predicted by the maths, say, and some more maths suggests that there’s an extra planet out there affecting them, you can then turn your telescope to the predicted spot, and behold! You’ve discovered Neptune.

    When it comes to evolution, try adding genetic drift to the equation. I’m not saying it’s the whole answer, but it’s certainly part of it.

  4. I would suggest that in that case maths is part of observation. Newton worked on the maths of gravity after he had observed its effect. But, my point is that there is an imbalance in science at the moment and that, interesting as speculation can be, everything is theory until everything is known. The same should go for theology.

  5. If God appears to bless loving relationships between two people of the same sex, God probably does.

    While I don’t think the scientific method will sign on to this (because of the first 3 words), this Christian says “Amen!”