So, this is a rather boring bit of news about the announcement earlier this year regarding observations of neutrinos that seemed to be going faster than the speed of light:
“According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed. Since this time is subtracted from the overall time of flight, it appears to explain the early arrival of the neutrinos. New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.”
Assuming this is the reason for the results, and it does seem likely, because it’s a lot easier to believe a bad wire than all of Relativity needing to be overthrown; we can chalk this up to science. Cause this is how science works… An odd result is announced, studied and then explained.
I wonder if there’s a similar analog to this sort of process in Theology. I suppose it would be declaring a certain view to be a “dead-end” – what is technically termed “heresy”. But that process hardly goes as quickly as this scientific process has. And the consensus will probably never be as broad in theology as it tends to be in science either.
So, it was a loose wire in the end after all.
I wonder if there’s a similar analog to this sort of process in Theology. I suppose it would be declaring a certain view to be a “dead-end” – what is technically termed “heresy”. But that process hardly goes as quickly as this scientific process has.
The FTL neutrino saga offers some useful comparisons with theology. The OPERA team’s initial neutrino observations suggested that something utterly new had happened — something startling, unprecedented, and contrary to all previous experience.
The OPERA team didn’t go out and proclaim their initial observations as a final, unchallengeable revelation. On the contrary, the team announced its observations with great caution, and relentlessly subjected them to critical scrutiny. The team actively sought out alternative explanations; it also encouraged others to do likewise, and to check whether their initial results could be replicated. And when that didn’t happen, the team didn’t insist that their followers should keep the faith because vindication would come any day now.
Sure, the team members might well have indulged themselves in wishful thinking, a desire for recognition, etc. But they didn’t let those completely-human longings override their (putatively) highest commitment: to the truth, whatever the truth turned out to be (hat tip: the Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor).
It’s not clear that the institutional church works that way — or ever has.