“Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence”

I was asked a few minutes ago about the following claim by a team of scientists at CERN.

CERN reported that a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab 454 miles (730 kilometers) away in Italy traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds. (A nanosecond is one-billionth of a second.) –AP

As we know, nothing travels faster than the speed of light. So I immediately responded by quoting Carl Sagan, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

I then said that I am obviously highly skeptical of the claim.  I said that there really isn’t much more for me to say until we have other scientists repeat this experiment.  I also said that Science Blogs should have at least one post on this very shortly.  In fact, by the time my phone call ended and I refreshed the page, this was posted by Ethan Siegel:

This Extraordinary Claim Requires Extraordinary Evidence!

Yes, the title is essentially word-for-word what I said.  He also agrees to be highly skeptical and finishes with this.

Now, something fishy and possibly very interesting is going on, and there will certainly be scientists weighing in with new analysis in the coming weeks. But in all the excitement of this group declaring that they observe neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light, don’t forget what we’ve already observed to much greater precision! And be skeptical of this result, and of the interpretation that neutrinos are moving faster than light, until we know more.

His article is worth the read and it is fairly short.

Now, there are science writers who will likely run with this story. It is necessary to note that they are often writers, not scientists and sensationalism does play a role in their reporting. That is not to say that all science writers are bad, there are many very good ones. But remember the rule of thumb, an extraordinary claim requires an extraordinary amount of evidence.  I am highly skeptical.  We will have to wait for more evidence.

Science and Spirituality Intersect. Um, No They Don’t!

In Gadadhara Pandit Dasa’s article over at the HuffPo, he tries to claim that spirituality and science intersect.  His article is met with many errors and blatant ignorance with regards to science, scientific theories, and peer-review.

This is my response:

You start off by complaining that you were treated badly at Columbia University. Well, that is because you are terribly ignorant and do not belong there. You even admitted this yourself.

“Not having a background in science, I was a bit uncomfortable with participating, but the group organizing the event really wanted an Eastern/Hindu perspective on how science fits into the Hindu philosophy and tradition. Hesitatingly, I agreed.”

But, since you read a little bit on science, you now claim to be an expert. This does not mean that you have a place at Columbia University.

You also imply there is a difference between spirituality and religion. This is not true. They are both comprised of fairy tales (you might say “metaphors” –same thing) and irrational thinking. They are the same. You then show that you don’t have any knowledge on what science is by saying it didn’t prove the atoms existence. Science does not prove things, it disproves things. Now, we do have pictures of individual atoms. Try searching on Google. There are many results. If you are not capable of this, as is the case thus far, click here. You also go on to attack people for having “faith” in a “few” scientists. Clearly you do not understand the peer-review process.  Furthermore, you do not understand that other scientists repeat these experiments.

You also do not understand that in science, nothing is 100%. This is an important concept. Gravity is not 100% nor is it 100% that our planet is not flat. What scientists do is they look at the evidence and get to the point where there is no reasonable doubt. And that is what we call a scientific fact. Then you attack other things like the Big Bang. You cite an article by Roger Penrose to back you up. This just shows your ignorance, for he is an atheist. Moreover, you admit that there is evidence. That is how we test to see if something exists, occurred, etc.. We look for evidence, religion makes it up. Duh.

You then go on to claim that Carl Sagan supports your view. Again, this is not the least bit true, and surely he would have condemned you for doing this. Carl Sagan was a non-believer. One of his more famous quotes is this.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”

You claims are certainly extraordinary.

Next you claim that the Vedic already talked about the multiverse. This doesn’t mean anything. And furthermore, you cite two movies, Contact, and Men in Black. Does this not indicate that you have no evidence, so you need to cite fictional movies? (I’ll get to Carl Sagan in a bit) The Vedic is faith, and hence, has no evidence or anything to back it up. Here is a quote by the world renowned biologist, Jerry Coyne, that elegantly explains my point.

“In science, a falsified hypothesis gets tossed on the scrap heap; in religion, a falsified hypothesis becomes a metaphor.” (Jerry Coyne, WEIT)

Now, you claim that Einstein was not the first to come up with the Theory of Relativity, because a Puranic text did. This is the quote you cite.

“… One’s life endures for only one hundred years, in terms of the times in the different planets… Eternal time is certainly the controller of different dimensions, from that of the atom up to the super-divisions of the duration of Brahmā’s life; but, nevertheless, it is controlled by the Supreme. Time can control only those who are body conscious, even up to the Satyaloka or the other higher planets of the universe.”

Bhagavat Purana

This is not Einstein’s theory. It never has been, and it never will be. This quote is completely irrational.  Someone living 100 years in terms of different planets? What? How does that have to do with sending someone in space and they don’t age as much? We can do that on this planet too, there is no need to travel to other planets. How else would we have done the experiments to show this? We put clocks in a supersonic jet and note the time. You can also do this in space. The point is that you age slower when you go faster and viola! Then it mentions that time is controlled by the Supreme being. Um, no. Where is there any evidence at all for that? Sorry, but this “Original Theory of Relativity” is in no way close to Einstein’s, nor is it a theory.

Next, you say the following.

There is also a story from the Puranas which parallels Einstein’s hypothetical experiment. A yogi, upon exiting the earthly realm for the higher planetary realms, was informed by the inhabitants of these higher realms that millions of years had instantly passed on Earth in the mere moments since he had entered the higher realms. They also told him that all of his relatives and everyone he had ever known was deceased.

You are again claiming that this talks about the “twin paradox.” I see no connection. It talks about a Yogi going from an earthly realm (whatever that is) to a higher planetary realm (again, whatever that is). Then it says millions of years have passed instantaneously on Earth the moment he entered the higher realm. Ok, go do an experiment and get a yogi in space and onto another planet and make millions of years pass on Earth instantaneously.  If you successfully do this and get it peer-reviewed and published in Science (which should be very easy if you did the experiment and the results turned out like I wrote), I will gladly give you $5,000. You will likely even win a Nobel Prize, assuming of course, that your results are reproducible. You next claim,

 We can pass this off as myth or fable, but one should ponder how these texts of ancient India are coming up with concepts that are so close to modern scientific theories.

Yes, we should pass them off as myth or fable, that is what they are. Furthermore, if these ancient texts do indeed bring up concepts of modern scientific theories, how come India is not the most advanced country in the world? After all, you claim they beat Einstein to the chance by hundreds of years. I am not sure how you do not see how ridiculous your claims are.

In your last paragraph, you claim the following.

There is a wonderful synergy between science and spirituality within the Vedic tradition, and I don’t believe there is a real border dividing them. It’s all just wisdom and knowledge, which is what the term Veda means.

This is not true. At all. There is no synergy between spirituality and science. Science shows that spirituality is made up. It has gotten us nowhere, except for a bunch of churches, temples, etc. which attempt to slow the progress of science and oppress minorities. Science has brought us every advancement in the past 400 or so years. From medicine, to cars, to light bulbs, to computers, to airplanes, to spaceships, to yachts, etc. etc. Oh, and for the work Veda meaning knowledge or wisdom, who cares? So a word means that, it doesn’t mean the story contains either. Take for instance, Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue, was she really going rogue? No, she was trying to capitalize on her undue fame and make a fortune. The last two sentences don’t really mean anything except that you say,

These truths help us to ultimately transcend the realm of matter, shed the material body we inhabit and endeavor to re-enter the spiritual realm.

This doesn’t mean anything to any logical person. Transcend the realm of matter? How? What? Then you want us to re-enter the spiritual realm. Well, none have us have ever been there in the first place, so it would be terribly difficult to re-enter.

Well, I think I’ve done enough damage on this article for one day. I’m out.

Edit: Yes, I did notice that he claims the universe is 15-20 billion years old.  Usually we say it is about 13.7 ± 0.13 billion. See here.