Readers may recall that columnist to the world Mark Steyn commented recently on the faster-than-light neutrinos conundrum:
… when a scientist, of all people, stands up at one of these climate change conferences and says the science is settled, and calls people who disagree with him deniers, that man is not a scientist. That man is a member of a religious cult. He’s worshipping at the temple of Al Gore or whatever, and that’s fine if he wants to do that. But when a man stands up and says the science is settled, he is everything but a scientist.
Or as some of us would say, “We know physics is science because Einstein can be wrong.”
And, wouldn’t you know, a scientist of the school we are all-too-familiar with around here blundered into Steyn’s mailbox, spouting,
I’m a scientist. Experiments aren’t like you people’s voices from the almighty. They are messy, difficult, complicated, full of problems. Their meaning is never simply manifest. Get a grip, mate. Spend a year in a lab. Your reaction is the typical one of someone who hasn’t tinkered around in a shed and tried to work something out.
A word of advice. You really need to stop bringing on the stupid. In your last appearance in these pages, you accused me of “avoiding the big issues” like “lack of civilizational confidence”. I responded that that’s a phrase I all but singlehandedly introduced to public discourse, that the only bestselling books that use the phrase are both by me, and that 30 per cent of all literary deployments of the phrase on the planet are by me. I pointed out your foolishness very gently, considering the generally boorish tone of your letter.
Yes, but Mark, he proves he is a real scientist by never checking into stuff like that before sounding off. Non-scientists check into stuff because we can’t just “bring on the stupid,” confident that deference, even reverence, will follow.
Now you’re back, entirely unspoilt by progress. Is that what makes you a scientist? The willingness to repeat the same experiment over and over? Well, bully for you: You’ve got exactly the same result!
We deal with ‘em all the time here, actually. It was a sad day for science when people who are unhinged by uncertainty or by findings contrary to expectation came to dominate.
Boldness, curiosity, and a questioning spirit became vices, then career-limiting moves.
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