Yesterday common sense had an astonishing comeback to the Italian court, and the case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito was finally closed. In my book I compared this case to the invention of QCD. Below you can read the last paragraphs of the chapter “From Dirac to the Sixties Crisis”. These paragraphs follow a scientific description of the birth of QCD which was invented based on the fact that the quarks are the only massive sub-particles in the proton. Since this assumption led to contradictions, scientists invented QCD – a fantastic theory with no similarity to any other working theory in science. But when scientists found that the protons contain significant mass beside the quarks – they kept QCD even though the “contradiction” which was the basis of QCD was not a contradiction anymore.
The Case of Meredith Kercher and Amanda Knox
In societies that subscribe to a common religion, there is almost no event imaginable that might convince them that they are wrong. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe died, his many followers who did not believe that such a thing might happen to their revered Rebbe should have admitted they were wrong. That, however, was not the case. On the contrary, since his death they been even busier trying to convince everyone that the Rebbe is not dead, and that he is about to come back. Instead of shaking their faith, his death made it even stronger.
Such behavior is characteristic of any human society. On many occasions the wisest experts in their fields would present the world with a theory, and, after evidence that contradicts it is found, they simply adjust it instead of replacing it, and succeed in convincing the public that it is still true. This is a natural phenomenon that takes place almost without anyone noticing, and it applies to every aspect of human life. When it does happen, the public may place blind faith in experts, thereby abandoning their critical reasoning abilities altogether. In order to illustrate this phenomenon I present a completely unrelated example, and I apologize if anyone is offended by my reference to this tragedy.
In November 2007 an appalling murder took place at a student’s apartment in Italy. Evidence found at the scene indicates that it involved breaking and entering, rape, and murder. Using DNA samples taken from the body and the apartment where the student Meredith Kercher was murdered, and by comparing the fingerprints found at the scene, the police were quickly able to locate Rudy Guede, a young man who had been kicked out of his foster family’s home, where he had lived until several months before the murder. Guede had been arrested several times for breaking and entering and was an active drug dealer. He also fled to Germany immediately after the murder. He was eventually convicted of murder in 2008 and sentenced to thirty years in prison.
So that’s it, then, right? Not quite. As usual, I tend to present the facts not necessarily in chronological order. During the first few days after the murder the police suspected Kercher’s roommate, the student Amanda Knox. Italian investigators had conjured up a narrative whereby Knox and her boyfriend were, in fact, the ones who murdered Meredith. Several days later the police investigator announced that Amanda Knox was the murderer, and that the case was closed. When it turned out that the murderer was actually Rudy Guede, investigators refused to let go of their original theory and claimed that both the random criminal and Knox and her boyfriend were involved in the murder.
The story was widely covered by the media, which, for some reason, took the side of the investigators. Italy has a jury-based justice system, and Knox and her boyfriend were convicted of murder in 2009, but they were then acquitted by the Italian supreme court in 2011.
Whoever wants to learn more about the subject can take a look at the Wikipedia article and examine the arguments presented by the judges at the time for convicting Knox and her boyfriend.
As far as human behavior is concerned, this story is actually very similar to the behavior associated with the birth of QCD, as the following table shows:
Table 2. A comparison of human behaviors in two cases that require solving a mystery.
|QCD||The Murder of Meredith Kercher|
|The investigators had uncovered a contradiction in their theories, and were facing a seemingly difficult problem.||The investigators were facing a difficult problem—namely, identifying the murderer.|
|The investigators created a theory that looked fantastical, but at the time there was no other suitable theory in existence.||The investigators fabricated a fantastical theory because they did not have any viable suspect.|
|When it turned out that protons contain an additional mass not carried by quarks, the investigators made no effort to accept the necessary solution.||When it turned out that the case had a simple explanation, the investigators refused to let go of their original theory.|
|The public believed the investigators as it was unable to examine the underlying logic of their claims.||The public believed the investigators and didn’t bother to study the details of the case or the “evidence” on which the conviction was based.|
|Once a certain theory is accepted, it is very hard to let it go.|
|When new facts that fail to match the original theory are found, the natural response is to simply adjust the theory. It is likely that such adjustments are almost always based on the belief that the theory is correct.|
|A large group of intelligent people may subscribe to a theory that, to almost every objective viewer capable of critical thinking, would seem at odds with reality.|
Remember the chronological evidence test? Try to imagine that Guede had been discovered on the very first day, along with all the evidence he had left at the crime scene. Now, try to imagine that during his first interrogation he hadn’t mentioned the presence of Knox and her boyfriend at the apartment (as he did in real life, when he mentioned them only after having learned that the two were suspected of the crime). Would one as an investigator choose to interrogate them, then? Would one ascribe any significance to what was later described as “strange behavior” indicating that Knox and her boyfriend were involved in that terrible crime?
Let’s get back to our present discussion. Is QCD at odds with reality as well? The fact that QCD is founded on a flawed premise does not discredit it entirely, although it does weaken it to a considerable extent. Indeed, there is only a very small chance that a theory that rests on countless ideas hitherto unknown to physics, and that is based on erroneous premises, will eventually turn out to be correct, but it is nevertheless possible.
In the following sections we will see how QCD and the C, D, and E models account for the known experimental data obtained so far.