Charles Krauthammer gets science wrong

Well, the conservative Krauthammer usually gets most stuff wrong, but he’s especially annoying in his new Washington Post column, “Gone in 60 nanoseconds.”

It’s all about the faster-than-light neutrinos discovered recently at CERN.  Krauthammer, trying to be funny (I think), starts his column by claiming that this is an apocalyptic discovery.

The world as we know it is on the brink of disintegration, on the verge of dissolution. No, I’m not talking about the collapse of the euro, of international finance, of the Western economies, of the democratic future, of the unipolar moment, of the American dream, of French banks, of Greece as a going concern, of Europe as an idea, of Pax Americana — the sinews of a postwar world that feels today to be unraveling.

I am talking about something far more important. Which is why it made only the back pages of your newspaper, if it made it at all. Scientists at CERN, the European high-energy physics consortium, have announced the discovery of a particle that can travel faster than light.

This is of course an exciting finding, one that could possibly revise all of 20th century physics.  The likelihood is, though, that’s it’s wrong, and even the scientists who found this have strong doubts about its veracity and have called for replication.  In a move that would do credit to a creationist, though, Krauthammer uses this doubt as an attack on scientists themselves—that our doubt comes not from the confidence that has accrued, though experiment and observation, to Einstein’s theory, but from scientists’ dogged refusal to even consider that relativity might be wrong, leading to their conclusion that the experiment itself must be wrong.

The implications of such a discovery are so mind-boggling, however, that these same scientists immediately requested that other labs around the world try to replicate the experiment. Something must have been wrong — some faulty measurement, some overlooked contaminant — to account for a result that, if we know anything about the universe, is impossible.

And that’s the problem. It has to be impossible because, if not, if that did happen on this Orient Express hurtling between Switzerland and Italy, then everything we know about the universe is wrong. [JAC:  not everything, of course. Stellar evolution, classical mechanics, and much of cosmology and quantum mechanics would still be ok.]

. . . This will not just overthrow physics. Astronomy and cosmology measure time and distance in the universe on the assumption of light speed as the cosmic limit. Their foundations will shake as well.

It cannot be. Yet, this is not a couple of guys in a garage peddling cold fusion. This is no crank wheeling a perpetual motion machine into the patent office. These are the best researchers in the world using the finest measuring instruments, having subjected their data to the highest levels of scrutiny, including six months of cross-checking by 160 scientists from 11 countries.

But there must be some error. Because otherwise everything changes. We shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies.

Why? Because we can’t have neutrinos getting kicked out of taverns they have not yet entered.

This all sounds good to the non-scientist, and yes, we scientists suspect that something was wrong with the CERN experiment, but Krauthammer is right for the wrong reasons.  We are doubtful not because we desperately need to cling to a paradigm that has seemed successful, but simply because overthrowing such a paradigm requires very strong evidence.  Scientists love findings that overturn what we thought we knew, for that opens up whole new areas of research and understanding. It’s what keeps us interested in the world. But before we put what we thought we knew into the dustbin, we must be very careful.

Krauthammer’s editorial, which sounds so reasonable, actually profoundly mischaracterizes the nature of science.  And I think he’s saying these things because he’s trying to diss scientists as adherents to a form of faith.  Ten to one he’s either religious or an accommodationist. (I’m just guessing here; I have no idea.)

81 Comments

  1. Cass Bettinger
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Krauthammer is a devoted follower of a faith-based ideology, conservatism, and is therefore incapable of comprehending science, which is neither faith-based nor an ideology.

    • Kevin
      Posted October 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      I was going to call him a mush-brained idiot…but you beat me to it.

  2. Somite
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Is there a single credible conservative pundit? This is true on any field that conservatives want to frame to their needs; biology, climate, economics – you name it. There are certainly no true experts in conservative news channels. To make it even worse a significant fraction of what conservative pundits do is deride the actual experts.

  3. Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    And it’s not as if there has long (i.e. since 1905) been a reputable community of physicists working on testing relativity and working out what we would see if it weren’t exactly true.

    • Llwddythlw
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      Are you missing a “not” somewhere, or have I misunderstood your sentence?

  4. Simon
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Krauthammer describes himself as Jewish but “not religious.” In a Jerusalem Post interview he reflected on how he had been influenced by his study of Maimonides at McGill with Rabbi David Hartman, head of Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute and professor of philosophy at McGill during Krauthammer’s student days, to see the grandeur of Jewish culture

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Krauthammer

    • david
      Posted October 18, 2011 at 3:44 am | Permalink

      wiki is not a source until properly vetted

      • Dan L.
        Posted October 19, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        wikipedia (there are many wikis that are not wikipedia — it doesn’t hurt to be specific) is a 90% solution. The only reason I would trust it is a really sketchy article or if there’s other evidence that directly contradicts it.

        In this case, the wikipedia article cites a particular newspaper interview which you are free to track down on your own and confirm that it says what wikipedia says it says. Unless you’re terribly paranoid I can’t really see what there is to doubt here.

        • Dan L.
          Posted October 19, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

          I seem to be having trouble with would/n’t today. “The only reason I wouldn’t trust it.”

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Interesting guy. Extracts from WIKI

    Ideology:

    Within the American political spectrum, Krauthammer has been called a conservative, However, on domestic issues, Krauthammer is a supporter of legalized abortion; an opponent of the death penalty; an intelligent design critic and an advocate for the scientific consensus on evolution, calling the religion-science controversy a “false conflict;” a supporter of embryonic stem cell research using embryos discarded by fertility clinics with restrictions in its applications; and a long time advocate of radically higher energy taxes to induce conservation. Meg Greenfield, editorial page editor for The Washington Post who edited Krauthammer’s columns for 15 years, called his weekly column “independent and hard to peg politically. It’s a very tough column. There’s no ‘trendy’ in it. You never know what is going to happen next”

    Religion:

    …describes himself as Jewish but “not religious.” In a Jerusalem Post interview he reflected on how he had been influenced by his study of Maimonides at McGill with Rabbi David Hartman, head of Jerusalem’s Hartman Institute and professor of philosophy at McGill during Krauthammer’s student days, to see the grandeur of Jewish culture.

    Krauthammer is a critic of intelligent design, and wrote several articles in 2005 likening it to “tarted-up creationism.”

    He has received a number of awards for his commentary related to religion, including the People for the American Way’s First Amendment Award for his New Republic essay “America’s Holy Wars”[50] in 1985, and the Guardian of Zion Award of Bar-Ilan University in 2002.[51]

    Krauthammer opposed the Park51 Islamic community center project in Manhattan for “reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz – and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there”

  6. Llwddythlw
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Krauthammer wrote the article linked below towards the end of the Kitzmiller v Dover case.

    Based on what I’ve read elsewhere, he describes himself as agnostic.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/17/AR2005111701304.html

    • Mike McCants
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      And that article has near its end:
      “bring ridicule to religion, gratuitously discrediting a great human endeavor and our deepest source of wisdom precisely about those questions — arguably, the most important questions in life — that lie beyond the material.”
      Deepest source of wisdom??? Lie beyond the material???

      • Llwddythlw
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        I had to read the paragraph a few times, but he seems to be saying that religion is a useful tool for describing things that do not lie in the real world, and by implication, science is the best method of describing the real world. I can’t disagree with him on this, except to ask whether one can say anything at all useful about what lies beyond the real world (as opposed to the many things in the real world that we don’t currently know). Karl Popper emphatically said that he could not do this, even if Kant and Schopenhauer believed they could.

        • Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

          And Wittgenstein famously said we must not:

          „Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.“

          Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

  7. Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Stephen “DarkSyde” Andrew has posted on his blog that the answer has probably been worked out here

    It looks like the calculations for the start and end time of the neutrinos was determined using the clock signals from the GPS, but did not take into account relativity as the GSP satellites were orbiting past the observatories. The difference is 32ns at each end.

    So I guess it is a moot point then 🙂

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

      I was going to mention this, yes. Too early to know if this is the answer, but of the many many many possibilities that have been proposed, this one seems to be gaining momentum. The math appears to work out.

      Science is so freaking cool!

      • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

        Tjorborn’s maths seemed sound too.

        /@

        • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
          Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Oh right, I didn’t get back here on that.

          Re-reading the auxiliary paper that derives the emitter – detector distance they do explicitly go from geodesic coordinates to cartesian. Or at least they (implicitly) claim the program they used does.

          So maybe that was an interesting coincidence. Still warrants checking out, along with these other potential error sources.

          I dunno about arxiv paper since you have to account for both the SR (velocity) and the GR (gravity) effects, the GR overpowering the SR.

          It is said to be _80_ papers out there. (And I didn’t help, silly me. :-/) So I am bailing on this one for now.

        • Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          Oh, I must apologise for misspelling your name, Torbjorn*! A ytpnig error, of course, but since I’m so sensitive about mine being spelled correctly, I should be more careful about others’.

          *Or is it actually Torbjörn or Torbjørn?

          /@

          • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
            Posted October 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            No worries. And it doesn’t jump out to an english speaker, since you spell the Asa god ‘Thor’.

            * It is Torbjörn. “Thor’s bear.” Sorry, no kittehs.

            The latter spelling would be danish, norwegian or faroe letters, while swedes goes for the umlauts: å, ä, ö. (A first order pronunciation: aa, ae, oe.)

            The simplest pronunciation/spelling/mnemonic for an english would simply be “Torbjorn” though. You usually don’t do “oe” (ö).

  8. independent thinker
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Yes, Jerry is right on about Krauthammer being wrong most of the time -not to say, opinonated, arrogant, condescending at times almost bigoted of any thing he considered ‘liberal’. But these are characteristics of ALL or at least almost all conservative columnists from William F. Buckley Jr., Krauthammer, fellow columnist George F. Will and other execrable conservative columinists which makes the arrogance of Buckley, Will and Krauthammer to be ‘mild’ (NO compliment at all on them or in any way that they are even in comparison with these execresences whose names I will not mention) or ‘humble’ or ‘compassionate’ .

    Having said that I have read an article where Krauthammer was critical of the Intelligent design argument. So Jerry’s point that Krauthammer may be a creationist may not necessarily be conclusive.

    • Matt G
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      He is indeed a first rate jackass, in addition to being wrong most of the time.

  9. Neil
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Ironic, but the puzzle appears to have been solved by taking into account the relativistic effects of moving GPS satellites.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27260/

    Try that with faith and superstitition.

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      Well, I’m not so sure. See, I wondered about this FTL neutrino result. So I folded my arms in front of me (on my laptop keyboard) and bowed my head (over the screen) and earnestly asked in the name of our lord and savior Google , if I might find wisdom. Lo, the truth was revealed to me in a cloud of light, almost as if by magic.

      Teh intertubez iz ceiling cat.

    • Matt Penfold
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      I would be very surprised if relativistic effects of GPS satellites turned out to be the explanation.

      Such effects are known about, and have to be taken into account when calculating a global position via GPS.

      It would be extraordinary if such effects had not already been taken into consideration.

      • neil
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        History shows that such mistakes are made–Einstein himself made a similar mistake in criticising quantum theory, and Bohr corrected him with his own relativity theory.

        In any case, unlike with religion, we will eventually know.

  10. Llwddythlw
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    This may already have been cited, but Andrew Cohen and Sheldon Glashow wrote this paper about the results of the OPERA collaboration.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6562

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Another solution that has solid physicists as backup is Tamburini’s. (A great astrophysisist and person, I’ve met him twice visiting Uppsala University working on topological twists of EM wavefronts for astronomical observation and telecommunication.)

      He makes one neutrino species out as a sterile Majorana neutrino (MN). This is entertained by some since it explains neutrino mass without supersymmetry. (Neutrino mass is outside the SM Higgs mechanism anyway).

      Anyway, MN behave differently with CPT than “SM” Dirac neutrinos and can have imaginary mass components like tachyons, behaving like tachyons “lite”.

      Now, that means we leave the world of real particles. Usually imaginary masses and energies are considered being theoretical bookkeeping devices for quantum field theory local effects, going between the field and the particle view.

      (There have been recent experiments hinting at Majorana neutrinos in some exotic decays. It is the perfect storm. =D)

      But it is a perfectly good hypothesis, as these things go.

  11. Michael Fisher
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Physics Prof. Chad Orzel (& tutor to Queen of Niskayuna) who writes the Uncertain Principles blog has quibbles regarding the GPS clocks solution:

    I think the author of the preprint is also confused about the way the experiment worked. That is, he seems to be assuming that all of the timing information comes from the GPS clocks, which are moving relative to the experiment, when in fact the actual event timing comes from clocks on the ground that are at rest with respect to the source and detector. GPS is used to synchronize the ground-based clocks, and to measure the distance between source and detector, but the clocks doing the actual time measurement are in the same moving frame as the experiment itself. But I could be misreading his argument.

    (There’s still an issue here, of course, as Matt McIrivn reminded me on Google+, because it’s impossible to perfectly synchronize clocks in a rotating frame, but that doesn’t seem to be what this attempted explanation is about)

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but Orzel has as much relevance to this as I have as particle physics isn’t our fields. I.e. we can criticize and suggest obvious problems as physicists, never really swing a paper.

      (Well, if we work up an inordinate amount of experience in some small theoretical sub-sector perhaps, or happen to get into a collaboration. (Orzel has a solid state physics background IIRC, so parts of detector work would be a near field.) Even then, the first paper would be out on its own as it were.)

      See, here I go off critiquing again. =D

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Also, the Queen is his dog AFAIK.

      See how good discrimination he have. Case closed. =D

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Chad’s account seems to be absolutely right. The time dilation due to satellite motion is such a well understood effect it probably didn’t even merit mention in the discussion. In any case, the GPS is not used for direct timing but for clock synchronization.

      Where the GPS does come into things directly in the CERN-to-Gran Sasso distance measurement, and this is one of the places that people think an error is most likely to have occurred. However, as we pore over the data, any likely errors that have so far been pointed out appear to be much too small to explain the result.

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Oh, he could be right.

        But FWIW the experiment is time stamping data based on GPS, not “synchronizing clocks” directly. So that puts the ball back in the GPS court.

  12. Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Scientists at CERN, the European high-energy physics consortium, have announced the discovery of a particle that can travel faster than light.

    See, that’s just a plain wrong way to describe the experiment’s results. No particles were ‘discovered’. The neutrinos used for the experiments have been known for quite some time. And the people at CERN who ran the experiment have never claimed to have demonstrated that neutrinos can move faster than light, only that they appeared to arrive earlier than they should have, and that they don’t know why.

    And second, the accusation that science won’t even consider the possibility that they might need to adjust their theories is demonstrably wrong too. It was easy enough to find scientists in the media happily speculating out loud about what sort of new physics could explain these results.

    Indeed, calls for replication weren’t made because the orthodoxy was challenged, but because the results are in contradiction to all sorts of other evidence we have – such as neutrino emissions from supernova’s, which, if they would travel as fast as the neutrinos in this experiment, would arrive several years ahead of the supernova light – which they don’t.

    • Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Also a minor point of contention is that the scientists who did this experiment were not actually with CERN. They were part of the OPERA experiment which is located in Italy. The connection to CERN is that the neutrons originated from CERN, and the scientists first presented their results at a seminar at CERN.

      • Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Oops, you’re right, I stand corrected.

  13. Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Yeah the standard trick is:
    – People have different views of things and belief systems
    – So everything is about people just having different beliefs, like tastes in ethic food.
    – “Science” (a false construct to begin with) is just another personal belief system.

    So it’s my belief system against yours and don’t be rude and try to disprove mine or be polite and respect it.

    This works because our brain defaults to projecting personalized explanations to everything and hyper-prioritizing emotions of the moment.

    Knowledge however, is all about principals and not personalities.

  14. Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    This is too familiar.

    Something happened that science didn’t predict. Therefore science is wrong and evolution is refuted. Therefore ID and creationism are true.

    I must be spending too much time reading those absurd ID blogs.

  15. Ken Pidcock
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    In the past, I’ve enjoyed reading Krauthammer’s perspective on various issues. More recently, however, he, along with George Will, seems to be working hard to keep himself relevant in an increasingly unhinged conservative movement, and has consequently become less honest.

  16. Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    How dare they demand confirmation from independent third parties before accepting the implications of their own experiments!

    Imagine how far more advanced science would be today if we just declared things true en-fiat and then accepted them….such as the Catholic idea that Mary was raised into heaven simply being declared to be true for no reason other than that it was popular at the time.

  17. Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Krauthammer is no friend of so-called (Young Earth) “Scientific Creationism” or of [supernatural] Intelligent Design as science, and he has on occasions gotten science right (as “Llwddythlw” above notes); see:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/11/17/AR2005111701304.html

    Thus it is surprising (to me) and disappointing to read Krauthammer’s latest respecting CERN’s experimental data that suggests the possibility of super-c “travel;” perhaps he was waxing facetiously and just did TOO good a job of it…

    …and maybe not.

    It will be interesting to see how Krauthammer reacts if/when (as has already started) explanations for and further investigation into the CERN experimental results that produced the current — um, “excitement” — shape-up into a consensus of physicists on the matter. Hopefully Krauthammer will explain himself redeemingly as generally a reasonably good friend of physical science…

    …or maybe not.

  18. gr8hands
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Oh the hypocrisy of a medical doctor, from Harvard no less, trying to suggest that it is unusual for scientists to request verification of test results.

    Krauthammer absolutely knows he’s lying about science.

  19. Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I glance at Krauthammer when his column appears in the Daily News. “Glance,” because he’s too irritating to read. I was told that once he was a liberal, or at least a liberal centrist.
    So here’s my theory about people like this: we all understand that neo-cons are angry, nasty people. Some of us wonder why. I think that when certain liberals reach some success, as well as a point in their lives at which it is incumbent upon them to delve deeper into ideas–as most of us do–they get pissed off and/or become aware that their intellectual capacity isn’t up to the task.
    So they become neo-cons out of intellectual laziness or a sense of inferiority, and then go on through life defending their superficiality…while waiting uneasily for someone to expose them.
    That’s why they’re angry.
    They’re blitzing the quarterback to disguise the fact that they don’t have a downfield.

  20. Observer
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I’ll admit that Krauthammer’s tone is glib, but I’m not convinced that he’s trying to dissolved science. I think he is scolding the media a little for not covering the story sufficiently, and his seeming dismissal of science may be simply the result of bad writing. He’s always been pretty self-important and seldom writes in a lighter tone.

    I may be wrong, of course. But why attribute to ignorance what can be easily explained by incompetence.

    • Observer
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Arrg: dissolved=dismissed. Autocorrect error.

  21. Flounder99
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    “Charles Krauthammer gets science not even wrong”
    Fixed you headline.

  22. Flounder99
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    s/you/your/

  23. BradW
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Hmmmmm; I suspect that c.k. had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when he wrote the article.

    In reading the article twice, I didn’t find where c.k. accused scientists of not being willing to change. Quite the contrary since he clearly agrees with all of the scientists saying there must be an error in the experiment.

    There are times when it is necessary to go to “general quarters”, but this, IMO, certainly is not one of them.

    • Llwddythlw
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      There’s some padding, hype and attempted humour to give the article popular appeal, but I agree with you that he does seem to be advocating the view that there is an experimental error.

  24. Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    “We are doubtful not because we desperately need to cling to a paradigm that has seemed successful, but simply because overthrowing such a paradigm requires very strong evidence.”

    And because one of the best ways to figure out if the finding was right is to try really hard to see if there’s some way it could be wrong.

  25. Gayle Stone
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I’ll stick with you and Vic Stenger. Krauthammer should take two anxiety pills and call y’all in the morning.

  26. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Ah, accommodationist bashing! Who ordered that!? =D =D =D

    [I just did on another thread, that is why I am so happy.]

    So now we have WRINT (Why Relativity Is Not True). Egad!

  27. Posted October 17, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Be sure and check out “Can apparent superluminal neutrino speeds be explained as a quantum weak measurement?” at…

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1110/1110.2832.pdf

    …for a subject-relevant article whose abstract is THE BEST ABSTRACT EVER according to the IgNobel guys at Improbable Research.

  28. Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    So where is the science that Krauthammer got wrong? Jerry gets “paradigm” wrong. Kuhn said that paradigm shifts were not based on strong evidence. They are caused by a change in the view of the same evidence.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      I didn’t say he got the science wrong; I said he distorted the meaning of why physicists were concerned about why this experiment gave the results it did.

      Quantum mechanics began with a novel observation by Planck: that of black-body radiation. That was new evidence, not a reinterpretation of old evidence.

      • Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        You said “Charles Krauthammer gets science wrong”. Yes, the black-body radiation experiment was new evidence, but Thomas Kuhn never said that was a paradigm shift.

        • MadScientist
          Posted October 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

          Why the interest in Kuhn? He’s of no relevance whatsoever to science – you may as well quote Thomas Aquinas. The vast majority of people who have contributed to modern science didn’t give a hoot about Kuhn or meaningless phrases like “paradigm shift”.

          • Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            When Jerry talks about overthrowing the paradigm, he is using Kuhn’s terms and his philosophy of science. If the phrase is irrelevant, then so is Jerry’s entire post.

      • neil
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        I’ve read over Krauthammer’s piece (the parts quoted here) several times now, and I still cannot see how he gets anything wrong or distorts anything. Superluminal particles to physicists are like precambrian rabbit fossils to evolutionists. The implications for theory are so great that one’s reaction is simply that the evidence must be wrong–lets find the mistake. Isn’t that what Krauthammer is saying?

        • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
          Posted October 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          He is saying that science is but a faith, which Coyne points out.

          How can you not read Coyne’s text before you comment?

          • Observer
            Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

            But Krauthammer never actually equated science with faith. That is a conclusion Jerry inferred from Krauthammer’s tone.

            • neil
              Posted October 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

              PS Krauthammer is a professed atheist and has written articles attacking intelligent design.

      • neil
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        LOL. Only Jerry Coyne would have the balls to say “I did not say he got the science wrong” for a post that he headlines “Krauthammer gets science wrong”

        • Ichthyic
          Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

          actually, while you try to laugh it up, those two phrases are not contradictory.

          One can indeed get “the science right” meaning any specific instance of the application of science one cares to examine, while getting “science wrong” in general, meaning to mischaracterize how the enterprise of science itself works. Creationists also do this all the time, in fact.

          Moreover, looking at exactly what Jerry wrote, this is indeed what Jerry did. He points out that Krathammer did not get the details of the CERN findings incorrect, but instead mischaracterized what those MEAN for science as an enterprise.

          so, laugh yourself silly, boy, because that’s exactly how I view your conclusion here.

          silly and laughable.

        • whyevolutionistrue
          Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          Do you understand the difference between “getting science wrong” (i.e., misrepresenting the way scientists work) and “getting THE science wrong” (i.e., misunderstanding a scientific finding)? That is what Icthyic notes below, and Icthyic is correct in the interpretation.

          • neil
            Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I do. But surely you can appreciate the irony.

            • neil
              Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

              …instead of being defensive.

              • neil
                Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

                And, yes, I will stop calling you “Shirley” (Airplane, 1980)

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

              no, because the “irony” was all in your head, as I pointed out.

              do you find yourself amusing, I wonder?

              • Neil
                Posted October 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

                Well, I consider myself more amusing than you.

      • Posted November 10, 2011 at 4:16 am | Permalink

        > I didn’t say he got the science wrong

        “Charles Krauthammer gets the science wrong”

        Seriously?

        > Quantum mechanics began with a novel observation by Planck: that of black-body radiation. That was new evidence, not a reinterpretation of old evidence.

        Kirchoff (not Planck) and his coworkers in Berlin observed black body radiation, and had done since 1859. Plank’s contribution was to solve the ultra-violet catastrophe by positing quantized energy levels.

        • Posted November 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          your opponent will always reveal their weakness as they attack, grasshopper…

          so this screed plays into a chore rhetorical and dishonest tactic that plays on the emotions triggers when uncertainty is evoked.

          as we understand it, always uncertain, is that all animals brains (like ours) are uncertainty averse.

          Not risk averse, since life is actually the mastering of risk. If your brain ain’t instinctively and unconsciously a real good Bayesian computer — you don’t eat.

          So, like all charlatans, CK’s strategy and tactics are predictable:
          – Generate uncertainty and doubt > fear
          – Sooth the emotions, you have generated, with fake certainties and pretend stuff.

          Bingo! Homeostasis returned, for the moment. All pop culture/media is based on this equation.

          It is the default mode of our brains, inherited from other animals, but is so bloody unreliable that “science” had to be invented.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      Define “paradigm shifts”. I hear Kuhn used 20 different definitions, i.e. he made up the usual “just so” story.

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        And of course, we need a testable definition and an account for the tests Kuhn used to validate his model.

    • gr8hands
      Posted October 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Roger, where Krauthammer “got the science wrong” is that in science, even when you get the answer you suspect, you do multiple experiments to verify that you haven’t done the experiment incorrectly.

      The most basic thing is to repeat the experiment to verify. THAT is where Krauthammer was wrong — by suggesting that wanting verification was somehow inappropriate.

    • Posted October 18, 2011 at 6:14 am | Permalink

      I think that Paradigm shifts (shifts in which NEW interpretations of old evidence replace old interpretations of old evidence) are generally INITIATED by NEW evidence which generates compelling NEW REASONS for replacing old interpretations of old evidence with NEW interpretations of old evidence.

      Yes? No???

      • Posted October 18, 2011 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        To the extent that discussions of paradigm shifts are meaningful at all, yes.

      • Posted October 18, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        Philosophers use the term “paradigm shift” to mean things like the 1543 Copernicus book. That was not initiated by any new evidence, and the evidence did not give compelling new reasons.

  29. MadScientist
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Krauthammer should stick to pounding fermented cabbage.

  30. j_silent
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    If I had to guess, I would say Krauthammer’s article is a function of his global warming denialism.

    E.g., see:
    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2008/05/30/202681/krauthammers-strange-denier-talk-points-part-1-newtons-laws-were-overthrown/


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