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    Refusal Of Neutrino Results Supports Global Warming Denial As Predicted
    By Sascha Vongehr | October 13th 2011 09:40 AM | 29 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    While people are busy with their own knee-jerk reactions trying to stifle my criticizing the scientific community, the Wall Street Journal did what was predicted by that very criticism, namely turning the way that the scientific community deals with the faster than light neutrino results into an asset for global warming denial:


    Robert Bryce in “Five Truths About Climate Change”:


    “The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might —repeat, might— travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere.”


    Of course, science cheerleaders have their own interpretation and charge that Robert Bryce thinks

    “a report on one as-yet unreproduced finding in a completely different area of science that might — repeat, might — mean one well-known theory needs modification means we should call into question everything we know about everything.”


    Calling the very confirmation of an earlier finding (OPERA confirming MINOS) “unreproduced” is proving how little these 'defenders' of science understand, so is the endlessly repeated fallacy about that Einstein’s relativity needs modifications because of superluminal particles, which it does not. It is not surprising that they cannot and of course want not grasp the deeper level of Bryce’s argument, the basis on which it arose.


    Bryce pointing out that “serious scientists can question Einstein’s theory of relativity” means that serious science does indeed way too often disprove what previously has been sold to us by scientists as being irrefutable ‘scientific consensus’. “Einstein’s theory of relativity” is Robert Bryce’s valid example for such a scientific consensus. Bryce is probably not even aware of how very good the choice of his example is: Scientists have sold a certain, distorted view of relativity and defended it partially as an orthodoxy that more critical scientists have only dared to touch on punishment of career suicide, similar to what happens to those criticizing global warming alarmism.


    Bryce is not an expert on physics, but he gets it correct certainly in the sense of that Einstein’s relativity as it has been popularly presented (by outreach efforts aimed at people like Bryce after all!) and as it is usually misunderstood by mediocre scientists is indeed an example of science again discrediting itself by putting up dogmatic orthodoxy on very weak grounds and in the end being thus likely wrong.


    Science awesome, problems only in the sciences?

    Science cheerleaders mostly argue that science as a whole is beyond marvelous, which makes it remarkable that “completely different area of science” is pointed out whenever there is a problem – see quote above and also the claim that CERN statistical significance is separate from other scientists’, although significance levels make only sense if they allow comparison across disciplines, but I get back to that later in detail. If forced consensus is characteristic for the only existing science, the one scientific method, why should global warming skeptics and people concerned about vaccines not point this out? Of course they would – that is why I could tell you so. ;-)


    They are in a sense quite correct, and if scientists would have refrained from selling relativity theory the way they did in the first place and secondly would have reacted more intelligently to the recent six-sigma confirmation of high energy neutrinos arriving faster than light over short distances through dense matter, then we would not be having this discussion, and in fact, Bryce would not be able to argue the way he did, the one that scientists presented to him on a silver platter.


    But no – scientistic apologists everywhere dig themselves deeper and deeper in instead of plainly starting to see where this leads: Science Wars! They are not over, they are beginning! I will not be caught colluding with the most arrogant combatants, which are as of now squarely the scientists.


    Mister Bryce has hit the nail on the head (unwittingly maybe): If science is unreliable and too much is sold on false arguments, how can you trust science? You should not! With sadness I see that people like Woit, who have previously shown some promise with their own criticisms of the modern ‘science industrial complex’, call it "a flagrant attempt to score apolitical point by misrepresenting science (not exactly unknown in the climate change business)." Not even wrong!


    Let me go into a few specifics that came up in the discussions after I criticized many scientists’ particular way of rejecting the neutrino results.


    Some sciences more equal than others?

    One odd thing is the claim that while in a vaccine study, a confidence of around two sigma is perfectly fine, in certain experiments where it is convenient, even a six sigma significance is plainly not ‘significant’. Just savor the significance (pun intended) of this for science generally.


    Some justify it with Bayesian statistics, namely that expectation (the real “significance” if you want to place a bet) depends on the prior assumptions. I fully support this as any good scientist would, but not if the prior assumption is a flawed consensus of groups that have been basically self-selected (via peer review getting rid of dissent, career and funding decisions weeding out whistle blowers and suchlike). If such is allowed, then why should others not take the consensus reached in conservative think tanks with Exxon and Shell selected experts and come to their own Bayesian updating about global warming?


    Others find it unproblematic that six sigma in high energy particle (HEP) physics are not the same as those in medicine. They are even proud of that for crying out loud! Did I miss the publication of a long list showing for which type of science how many sigma are 'actually truly significant' under some sort of metaphysical truth? This is an epic fail, because the whole point of using statistical significance is that it allows to agree inter-subjectively and across disciplines without a need for further philosophy or political considerations!


    Every scientist must study error/accuracy estimation as an undergraduate, because it vitally belongs to the very foundation of the scientific method. Are CERN physicists not up to this basic level so we cannot trust their error estimates, or did I miss the introduction of some novel ways? And what could such novel ways be:


    If I combine a measurement gotten from the nanotechnology literature with one from HEP in order to figure out whether a certain experiment may be a good test for some property, how do I propagate the statistical errors through my calculation depending on that the two involved relative errors are fundamentally different since one is nano but the other HEP? Guys, seriously, let us stick with the old ways, shall we?


    Some HEP guys tell us now that their experiment is so extremely difficult that extra-scientific standards should come in. Firstly, this is strictly an affront to all other scientists doing just as difficult experiments. Most experiments are out there on the cutting edge of just about hopefully testable (if not, somebody would have done it already). However difficult an experiment, the reliability (including all difficulties) is precisely what is taken care off by presenting all measurements with their uncertainty. Uncertain about difficult stuff? Increase the uncertainty accordingly.


    You cannot on one hand tell people that a particular study yet again shows global warming with statistical significance (= rigorous) but on the other hand dismiss the whole concept of significance as highly malleable (= not rigorous).


    The tale of the unconfirmed fluke

    Several experiments show that, dependent on the neutrino energy and travel distance (as pointed out here) plus density of passed matter (as Tamburini points out here), neutrinos arrive earlier than expected. Look at Tamburini’s graph:



    Do you see a single unconfirmed fluke result or do you see five (ok - three of those are correlated since they are all OPERA but still) with not a single one being so out of line that the error bar does not hit the dotted line? And the dotted line you see is not gotten after preparing the y axis with some outrageously crazy model that was fixed artificially by putting in four or five arbitrarily adjustable parameters.


    Experts scream around about that this must be a systematic error leading to an unconfirmed rogue result because they learned their relativity theory from popular science magazines. We are talking about a six sigma confirmation resulting in a set of measurements where not a single one disagrees. Try to get that in drug studies (without pharmaceutical companies not publishing unwanted results).


    I do not mean to say that thus Tamburini or my proposals are correct! What I mean to say is that if something is just some error like they always happen with our oh-so-awesomely difficult HEP stuff, you expect the five points to be perhaps all over the place, some faster than light, some slower, but certainly not all being well in line with relatively simple and natural models (like large V>c over small distances dx as the data and their uncertainty and emergent gravity all propose).

    This looks like some sort of effect, not a systematic error, even if HEP error estimation is much worse than other scientists’. If this were for example energy non-conservation inside an experiment where such is absolutely unexpected, then the effect may well be not energy non-conservation but still an effect. On what grounds would you demand and insist that the measurements as such are due to systematic error? Since when are unexpected physical effects called systematic errors?


    Most importantly: rejection on grounds of merely not understanding relativity leaves one interpretation that we as scientists have to avoid like the pest if we are later to talk to the public about global warming, vaccines, etc: That we are cheerleading some consensus that is not founded on proper science but on our ignorance and stupidity mixed with conformity and silencing dissent systematically via the hidden rules of our discourse.

    Comments

    Hank
    Generally speaking, kicking around Joe Romm on science is like picking on a handicapped kid in a fight - you're going to win, but there also isn't much of a challenge.

    As always, your philosophy of science is keen and your logic well done but, boy, you sure do like to punch people in the face.  :)
    MikeCrow
    Well, IMO Joe deserves it.

    I wonder how many sigma CGM results are?
    Never is a long time.
    vongehr
    It is not so much Romm but that the whole "scene" (well known science bloggers) is jumping in trying to outdo each other with being witty hitting this Robert Bryce guy before even spending a second on deeper analysis. It is no wonder that right wing people look at science bloggers etc with the same disgust as do left wing people look at FOX news: plainly not to be taken seriously.

    I do not see where I "punch people in the face" even half as much as these people, except for if you mean to say that I aim for the face rather than do knee jerks that hit under the belt.
    Hank
    I don't read science bloggers other than here because of the reasons you cite.  Well, rarely.  When this began in 2006 they were much worse and they were all there was.  At least now we have a more science-y science site people can read.
    This post is way more polemic than informative.

    As Dorigo has explained well, a 1.8 sigma observation is not meaningful. I don't know if it is meaningful in any science, but in Physics it's not, by overwhelming consensus on appropriate methodology, certainly not set up as a scheme to reject this discovery. Can you live with that?

    Tamburini analysis is certainly very interesting, but it is only relevant if we buy the underlying hypotesis that neutrino is a Majorana particle, otherwise the Majorana mass is physically meaningless, and finding a correlation over five data points under some arbitrarily chosen parameter is something very far from being compelling, to put it mildly. Therefore, either you embrace Tamburini hypoteses (but you don't, do you?), in which case Majorana mass is a meaningful observable, or you cannot use this as an evidence of something.

    In the end, yes, many people, even among those who understand relativity and are not irreparably stupid, think it is really likely that this result is the outcome of a systematic error in a complex experimental setup that, according to my understanding, could not really be calibrated due to the very nature of the experiment. Therefore, the only way to really confirm this result (which, as it stands, is unconfirmed, which is not the same as unreliable) is to run a similar experiment in an entirely different facility. All of us who are skeptic will then be happy to join you in a discussion about how right you were from day one.

    vongehr
    Wow - it always amazes me that people with high bare IQ have so little reading comprehension. Again "only 1.8 sigma" precisely under an article that showed the flaw with this idiotic statement? Fail! "in Physics it is not" under an article that discusses significance being either cross disciplinary or useless? Fail! 'Tamburini is hypothesis' after an author explained with italics and bold print "I do not mean to say that thus Tamburini or my proposals are correct! ..."? Fail! Again just looking at the bare physics under an article that is specifically about the perception of science in the public? Fail!
    Summary: Epic Fail Filippo. You seriously need to work on your reading comprehension.
    lumidek
    Dear Sascha, the exchange in between two of us has disappeared - someone reduced the average IQ of the debater in this thread by 40 points or so - but let me post the last answer I had for you, anyway: indeed, I am convinced that this is ultimately an apolitical question. 
    Any person who likes genuine science must eventually realize that low standards in certain disciplines or certain contexts are driving the credibility of all of science (among ordinary people but also among superficially looking scientists from other disciplines) to the bottom of the ocean for the same reason why heavily indebted and undisciplined countries of the eurozone may drag the whole eurozone under water if the eurozone justifies, legitimizes, or even adopts their fiscal habits. 

    So if we are admitting that disciplines with low standards will always exist, the only solution is for everyone - scientists and the public - to learn and to be taught that certain disciplines or classes of scientific insights are more reliable and substantiated because they were achieved by following a more rigorous methodology. That's also why they can have "greater certainty" when it comes to certain principles and why they can require cleaner proofs that are needed to overthrow the old insights. In principle, these standards could be applied in any discipline because the laws of probability ultimately don't care about the "visual content" of the propositions but they haven't been yet.

    The claimed black-and-white egalitarianism - everyone is a non-scientist or a scientist and all scientists do exactly the same way with the same standards - should simply be debunked because it's a threat for the role of science in our society. This doesn't mean that everyone like you must instantly admit that climate alarmism is wrong; but people including you should admit and openly spread the knowledge of the fact that e.g. particle physics has followed more stringent standards than climatology, medical sciences, and other life&Earth sciences.
    vongehr
    First off - I clearly remember there were 31 comments yesterday, this morning there are 28. So somebody indeed deleted comments, and it was not me! So I am pissed here about that, especially since I am very welcoming of your commenting here (and I hold that your comment was basically supportive of my main points). So this sucks!

    vongehr
    low standards in certain disciplines or certain contexts are driving the credibility of all of science ... to learn and to be taught that certain disciplines or classes of scientific insights are more reliable and substantiated because they were achieved by following a more rigorous methodology.
    This admits that my criticism of science cheerleaders portraying science as one to be trusted entity. What you suggest leads to total chaos. Firstly: which disciplines are bad? I work in nanotechnology now and I can assure you it is very bad. Do the many six sigma nonsense results out of HEP prove HEP is actually one of the worst? Which discipline will admit to be a lesser? The politicizing will become worse, as people will start to claim that say evolution is not to be believed because biology is inferior. You are too focused on making your own branch of science stand out. The topic is not whether Lubos is a smart man in the superior science; the topic here is Lubos dying earlier than necessary because people do not trust vaccinations and herd immunity is gone and so on.
    In principle, these standards could be applied in any discipline because the laws of probability ultimately don't care about the "visual content"
    Yes - we need to defend confidence levels (and significance) as something that is cross disciplinary agreed upon. Without, they do not make sense in the first place.
    particle physics has followed more stringent standards than climatology, medical sciences, and other life&Earth sciences.
    How convenient you work in particle physics. ;-)
    The recent use of half knowledge about relativity (v>c time travels and kills grandma as a prior in Bayesian updating) in order to outright dismiss the confirmation of neutrino data is certainly one indication for that the standards may not be all that great. HEP people have also contributed to the appearance of a religious interpretation (of perhaps emergent SO(d,1) symmetry) that should never be an established consensus among scientists. Such from what you deem the best science out there is precisely what we must be allowed to address via criticism. If criticism is silenced instead of reforming peer review and so on, it is double bad for the trustworthiness of science and the public is justified to distrust.
    lumidek
    Dear Sascha, I would love to endorse confidence levels as interdisciplinary standards and I actually do. But I am also a realist so it's clear to me that this won't succeed. People are simply different and what you call "chaos" is the actual reality. Maybe it's time to get used to it and this message applies to you, too.
    Don't forget that the mankind was able to survive even before it knew the scientific method as we understand it today. The scientific reasoning ultimately penetrated to people's attitudes and behavior but the speed of penetration is different in various disciplines, for many reasons. So the doctors are doing things 80% scientifically and 20% of them are still shamans and supernatural healers who try and err and use various rules-of-thumb all the time even though the validity of these rules is not supported by fully controlled evidence etc.

    It wasn't my primary goal to defend fundamental physics (or boast: I may be viewed as an impartial observer in some sense) but I do think it's probably the highest-standard discipline - but I don't believe that nanotechnology is among the weakest ones, either, despite various things that may irritate you. The fact that people ignore the "6-sigma claim" isn't an indication that statistics or standards don't work: it's an indication that the calculation leading to the result "6 sigma" has a flaw somewhere and when the flaw is corrected, one gets much less than 6 sigma. Of course that if the 6-sigma claim were right, one would have to sacrifice either relativity or the scientific method or both. ;-)

    Our previous conversation could have been erased by Tommaso who couldn't see more than 1 person who kind of disagreed with him.

    Cheers
    LM
    vongehr
    "chaos" is the actual reality. Maybe it's time to get used to it
    Lubos - this is part of what I am saying - namely that science cheerleaders wake up to the reality that science is indeed chaos and that the public distrust is at least partially due to that, and that their refusal of criticism backfires, because more and more people do realize and the silencing of critic is perceived as establishment conspiracy.
    The fact that people ignore the "6-sigma claim" isn't an indication that statistics or standards don't work:
    Look - I really do not care about this 6 sigma neutrino claim - no single person can analyze it anyway - the point is not that it was rejected but how it was rejected.
    if the 6-sigma claim were right, one would have to sacrifice either relativity
    Your math is perfect as far as I can tell, but your physics is really just so so. You do not have to abandon relativity because of superluminal particles - look at my articles where I explain.
    Our previous conversation could have been erased by Tommaso ...
    Don't get ridiculous - probably some server hick up.
    Hank
    I'll look into this comment stuff.  Unless things are obvious spam (boots, pills, Russian URLs) nothing ever gets deleted but a comment on an article of Tommaso's also got deleted a day or so ago.  Deletions are done manually so it shouldn't ever happen that something just disappears...but we also shouldn't go faster than light.
    I am surprised to find that several comments here reveal a strong skepticism about the reality of global warming. On the other hand, my best attempts to understand that issue lead me to believe that we do have a serious anthropomorphically-driven global warming under way. Could one of you refer me to a serious scientific discussion indicating no such warming? No Fox News please.

    Hank
    You're on a different issue - stating that the confidence interval for one science is far higher than another, and comparing examples, is not 'denial' ... yet you ironically do the exact thing he claims people are doing, in going straight to calling people deniers if they note the methodological flaws in one field you happen to believe in, versus another where you might be more skeptical.  
    Hank, with all due respect, I didn't call anyone a "denier." I sincerely asked for a reference since some of you seem to know reasons to doubt anthropomorphic global warming that I haven't seen.
    Reference anyone?

    vongehr
    I am surprised to find that several comments here reveal a strong skepticism about the reality of global warming.
    Welcome to my column Wendell. If you read my previous articles, you could have expected comments that reveal skepticism about global warming, for example those in the Wall Street Journal now referring to FTL neutrinos, because I predicted precisely such arguments to show up. So, while you are surprised, I am not at all. Anything unclear - just ask, but please first try to understand the article, otherwise it wastes people's time.
    Guys, what level of certainty is significant depends on prior probability. A 1.8 sigma result is significant if the result isn't controversial. An 8 sigma result can be questioned if the claim is extraordinary enough. And if you aren't confident that systemic error has been quantified well then the sigma of the results is irrelevant anyway. Cold fusion anybody?

    This will inevitably be seen as "the priesthood" protecting the status quo. Well extraordinary claims need to be questioned very closely. Deal with it. The only way this becomes a bad thing is if nobody is allowed to look at the extraordinary claims. I see criticism of the claims and I see people working out theory if the claims pan out. So I don't really see any evidence of a priesthood. They made the same "priesthood" charges with the cold fusion claims for much the same reason.

    If the claims turn out to be in error then the source of the error needs to be found. If it was a simple error that they should have caught then they deserve criticism. If they prove to be right then they get to do the criticizing.

    vongehr
    what level of certainty is significant depends on prior probability.
    Has been discussed already in the article. Go read once more carefully starting with
    Some justify it with Bayesian statistics, namely that expectation (the real “significance” if you want to place a bet) depends on the prior assumptions. I fully support this as any good scientist would, ...
    Read carefully, think before you comment.
    I understand that you support a Bayesian view. But you don't seem to understand what that implies.

    A Bayesian view means you start out assuming that the results are wrong. It is far more productive to look at all the ways the results can be wrong. To embattled researchers trying to defend their work this will seem like an attack. It isn't it is just a process of looking in the most obvious and most likely place for a solution.

    The inevitable result of this is that the process will generate claims of a scientific priesthood defending their turf. The first time I saw the "scientific priesthood" claim was with cold fusion. It is an easy claim to make and one you should really think about before making. It is a claim that every internet science crank makes on a daily basis. You do science a disservice by adopting the language of cranks except under the most extreme circumstances.

    As far as I can make out the review of the neutrino results are proceeding pretty well. Who has called them incompetent? Are there not conferences on how to adjust theory to facts if these results turn out to be fact? Exactly what more do you want? If anything I would say these kinds of unexpected results get far more than their fair share of attention given that the vast majority do not pan out.

    I am content with the process.

    vongehr
    A Bayesian view means you start out assuming that the results are wrong.
    That is the craziest statement I have seen today. But I get that you perhaps mean that all real Scotsmen will put in the wrong prior of basically zero because they do not understand relativity theory. Good point, that is how all good Christians put in the proper prior in front of the total amount of evolution studies and AGW deniers put the prior that a few parts per gazillion CO2 cannot possibly do anything bad.

    Bayesian updating - when I discovered it, I loved it, though it made life a little more complex. But now the morons discovered it too, and all of a sudden, probability theory becomes the easiest there ever was. Start out with what you firmly believe in as the prior, i.e. set what you do not like close to zero, adjust downwards in case you still did not kill the evidence you do not like with it, do until you have what looks acceptable to you, finished.

    Perfect! Welcome to the complete corrosion of science. Contact me - I am your new science advisor - 1000 bucks per well argued prior fine with your financial backers?
    I don't understand. When solving a puzzle you start with the most likely solutions. The most likely solution to the neutrino result is that they made a mistake. So you start by assuming a mistake and look at all the possible ways that it could be mistaken.

    By assuming a mistake you are not reducing the Bayesian prior to zero. You are only acknowledging that it is pretty small so you put it aside for the moment and focus on the larger probability.

    I really don't think the truth of relativity is relevant here. It really depends on what you mean by true. Relativity makes many predictions that are true and will remain true no matter what the neutrino results show. But our understanding of the implications of relativity will surely shift if the neutrino results hold. But then Newtonian physics had to shift in order to make way for relativity. Do we say that Newtonian physics is wrong? Well often we do but we could also say that it is merely incomplete.

    I think mostly what we have here is a language barrier.

    vongehr
    The most likely solution to the neutrino result is that they made a mistake. So you start by assuming a mistake
    From what do you derive that the most likely is a mistake?
    1) Circular Argument: Assume a mistake, thus put in a prior of almost zero into the Bayesian method, then get out a probability of still almost zero, now use that to argue that the proper assumption is a mistake.
    2) Argument from Authority: Establishment consensus demands a no (would uproot everything, violate causality, travel time and kill grandma), thus put in a prior of almost zero, therefore get out a Bayesian expectation of almost zero no matter how many sigma MINOS and OPERA have.

    Both are bad, but 2) is especially bad when considering public outreach efforts, because the consensus not only may be controversial, but in this case and in too many cases it is mistaken and eventually found out to be mistaken while people are keeping score, and if 2) stays the default nevertheless, the trust in science generally is out of the window. Now one could demand better established consensus, but that would need aliens instead of human primates doing science, so why not do it more intelligently:

    3) Open Mind Approach: If the prior is controversial, use an unbiased one (50%).
    4) Data Based Approach: E.g., Take Supernova and MINOS as priors and OPERA as confirmation
    5) ...
    In light of the public distrust in science, 3), which is practically forgoing Bayesian updating in the initial step if the prior is controversial, may be the best.
    1)Again I don't understand. You yourself said that the results are very likely to be wrong. You yourself said that the Bayesian prior is small. If the prior probability of the results being correct is small then you start by assuming that they are wrong. Nothing circular about that. And you don't use that to argue that the results are wrong. You use that to focus on where the solution is most likely and find how the results are wrong.

    2) Argument from authority? Really? The only argument to authority I may have made is to your authority when you said that the results are probably wrong.

    3)False balance. If evolution is controversial then teach the controversy right? No. Almost all new and controversial results are wrong and the easiest person to fool is yourself. You yourself said the results are probably wrong and the results should be treated that way. Assuming an idea is wrong is the first step in proving it correct.

    4)Again most new controversial results are wrong. The supernova data was correct but for every result like that I could list hundreds that did not work out. They started out looking for every possible way that the supernova data could be wrong and by failing to find it shifted the Bayesian prior. Most were confident that it was wrong somehow. It was proved correct in the crucible of a thousand people trying to prove it wrong. It survived by being the last idea standing. That is how it must be.

    Arguments to the "scientific priesthood" are an attempt to subvert that gladiatorial conflict between ideas.

    vongehr
    You yourself said that the results are very likely to be wrong. You yourself said that the Bayesian prior is small.
    A personal feeling based on experience with scientists' lack of care these days. Not however based on "superluminal kills grandma".
    3)False balance. If evolution is controversial then teach the controversy right? No.
    I do not say teach the controversy, I say take the 50/50 prior and then the data in order to show evolution is correct. Why? In order to avoid being defenseless to the charge of having been biased and in order to justifiably reject your enemies putting in their own bias as a prior.
    4)Again most new controversial results are wrong.
    True - so have been historically most of the 'totally obviously correct' established consensuses.
    "Good point, that is how all good Christians put in the proper prior in front of the total amount of evolution studies and AGW deniers put the prior that a few parts per gazillion CO2 cannot possibly do anything bad.."

    And its comments like this which bring much joy to those who level the accusation of "the priesthood" protecting the status quo.

    Keep up the great work. The climate deniers have already won.

    cheers

    The apparent problem of scientists is that they loath to admit that they don't know something for sure, good style. Even assuming that systematic error is responsible for the OPERA result with 88% confidence constitutes as well not even close to "sure"... And neither does 98% assumption... Therefore, even 12% (hell, 2% or even 0.1%)should be treated as more or less valid outcomes and explored at least theoretically... Well, maybe something like 0.0000000001% should be treated as ridicuos indeed, but still...

    Hank
    should be treated as more or less valid outcomes and explored at least theoretically
    Who said it was never explored theoretically?  
    But were those discussions treated seriously enough? And in any case, if the probablities are even 99% vs 1%, aren't both explanations technically "unconfirmed"? Or "unreliable" with a different degree of surety?

    Hank
    If you read a lot of theory, much of it sounds like it is made up, so if anything it may be that theoretical physicists are taken too seriously.

    I get your point but you have to compare apples to apples - if three sigma was allowed in manufacturing, no PC would work, so it would be 'unreliable' the way you use the term, but that would not mean that Maxwell's Equations are 'unconfirmed', the way you use the term.