Light Speed, Climate and Evolution. It’s All Science. By Adam Frank
The news traveled at … well … light speed. On Thursday afternoon the AP reported scientists’ claim of a possible violation of Einstein’s famous second postulate – nothing travels faster than light. Within hours every news outlet had a piece running on their homepage. I did an early version of the reporting for NPR, punching the story together before I went to teach my Milky Way course. This news was that big, that important.
Now the world is waiting for science to do its thing. We wait for more experiments; we wait for the checks, the double check and the triple checks. In the end the process will shine a brighter light on the world’s foundations just as it did when Einstein overturned centuries of Newtonian physics.
All of us are waiting together: Republicans and Democrats; Evangelical Christians and the “Spiritual but Not Religious”; Economic Doves and Social Policy Hawks. We are all waiting for science to answer the question. We are all waiting for the process of science to run its course and we all trust science to determine the right answer.
So why then are we sill arguing about Climate Change where science has already answered the question? Likewise, how can any presidential candidate still publically challenge Evolution and not be booed off the stage? The same process we all agree will get us closer to the truth for relativity lies at the root of our understanding of Climate and Evolution.
Yes, the science of oceans and atmosphere has a more complex system to deal with than relativity. But the methods, checks and balances are all the same. Ditto for evolution. Science works because over the last 500 years we have learned how to enter into an authentic discussion with nature. It does not matter whether the topic is relativity or ribosomes, climate change or the change of moving reference frames.
As I have written before there is a difference between skepticism and denial. Unless the climate deniers and the evolution deniers want to claim this whole “speed of light” thing is just another hoax then they are changing their tune depending on their audience.
So how should we think about climate, evolution and relativity? To paraphrase the great philosopher Muddy Waters (though he wasn’t talking ’bout science) “Its all that same ol thing”