Science and Neutrinos

Is there any better demonstration of scientific culture, and the ways it differs from other fields, than the faster-than-light neutrino flap? Consider:

  1. Some scientists notice a pattern in their data that looks a little odd.

  2. They are unable to explain the pattern using existing laws of physics, and come up with a new theory to model the pattern. The new theory contradicts some of the foundations of modern physics.

  3. This new theory is shared with the scientific community.

  4. Other scientists are extremely skeptical of the new result, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.

  5. The community considers how the experiment could be replicated, what weaknesses and sources of error exist, and how those issues could be addressed with further experiments.

  6. The follow-ups demonstrate that the original data was probably flawed, and identify the likely cause.

  7. Experimentalists learn a little bit more about avoiding similar sources of error in the future.

This is precisely the process that happens every day in scientific research. The ideological commitments, grandstanding, and rhetoric that are the hallmarks of both political debate and the humanities are the exception in the sciences, not the norm.