I've noticed this tendency, you see, for people to think that science questioning itself is something that weakens the discipline. The ignorati brought up from birth with a respect for a 'science' that is distant from and uncomprehended by them. Science as an authority. When science begins to question itself, these people think that this is a sign that science may have been wrong all along, and that there may be things outside of science that can be accepted too. This is almost true, but in order to avoid the many pitfalls it creates you have to understand a bit more about science.

Science has always questioned itself - it grew out of a method of questioning when people began to become dissatisfied with the received wisdom that had held sway for almost 2000 years; a mixture of Aristotelian philosophy/physics, the Bible's teachings, and all sorts of other things. Reality from authority, in other words. Science began when people stopped accepting the bullshit they'd been told, in the words of my Philosophy of Science lecturer Philip Catton. In the absence of an authority from which the nature of reality could be obtained, the scientific method was invented as another route to the 'truth'. Details on the scientific method can be found at the approprite node (and if they're wrong (or non-existent) rest assured I'll get to them sooner or later), but here all that need be said is that you don't make claims that aren't backed up by some heavy-duty evidence. It is this principle to that is used to discern between science and pseudo-science - the subjective nature of human experience necessitates a rigourous practice of error-removal and quantification that removes scientific knowledge from the realm of fabrication or personal experience, but this does not mean that scientific knowledge is 'true'. Science does not just question this 'bullshit', however. It also questions itself, and it always has, and it is this that makes it so great. Part of the scientific method is not being afraid to doubt and test established knowledge in the light of new evidence - what we consider to be knowledge is probably best thought of as being the best current explanation, theories may always be superseded by something better. I give a paradigm example of this in the theory of relativity, when Einstein replaced Newton's idea of time and space with spacetime.

This is very important, as it shows something odd about science. Both Newton's and Einstein's ideas are considered to be scientific 'knowledge', yet one has replaced the other. What this means is that the 'knowledge' obtained by the scientific method must never be dogmatically considered true. Science proper does not consider what it produces true, it is the method that creates science and science is not immune from this method.

Perhaps when I said "In a real sense, science doesn't have any answers" the stress should have been on the answers. fondue, I just found it odd that you thought of science questioning itself as some sort of Bad Thing. What I found sad about the observations you made, as I agree with a lot of them, is that after all this time reality from authority still prevails, and science, that wonderful way, has become a tool of it. Misunderstanding science is all that makes it seem weak enough for pseudo-science to be an acceptable substitute, and I hope I've shown why 'weakness' is not an accurate word to use for the description.

Originally I gave in to the temptation to put the following text, a reply to fondue's node, at the top of my node. However, said text has been rendered less relevant by the sterling additions of TheLady and Halcyon&on. So I have moved it down here, as it still contains points which (I hope) are interesting.

OK, I am pissed off with the slack-jawed, Daily Mail reading idiots who populate this country, as always. And the spectacularly clueless media.

Indeedy-doody. Onwards!

Here's why : In recent times, people have started to use the imbecilic phrase "perhaps science doesn't hold all the answers".

Science doesn't hold all the answers. In fact, it deliberately doesn't claim to, which is what makes it so much stronger than the pseudo-science dogma you begin railing against. In a real sense, science doesn't have any answers. More on this later.

Worse than the knuckle-headed acceptance of alternative(s to) medicine is the attitude toward genetic modification of food organisms, and genetics in general, even. The last straw was seeing a poster for The Science Museum (yes, the Fucking Science Museum) which contained the blurb : "Cloning : How is it done? What are the implications? And is it right?"

I also found this sign disturbing, but not because it questions the 'rightness' of scientific advancement. This sign is disturbing because it implies that the three questions it asks actually have answers, and, moreover, that science can give those answers in one convenient 45-minute walk-through display.

Jesus Fucking Christ. How about rephrasing the question : "Finding a cure for cancer and terminal diseases : Ooh, is it right?"

You see, that's just manipulation of public consciousness - you are guilty of the same stunning oversimplification that probably gets to you about that media thing. Scientific advancement has always been difficult to apply morality too, because of its multifarious implications. Bringing the issue down to 'helping sick kids: good or bad?' is as fallacious as 'growing three-headed hyper-intelligent llamas and conducting bizarre sexual experiments on them: good or bad?' What I hope the display concerned itself with was an examination of the many uses for genetic technology, both those the public are comfortable with (medical uses) and those many are uncomfortable with (transgenic crop modification and suchlike). The 'good or bad?' question just gets to me because you can't dictate these things through respected institutions, but that's another node altogether.

Don't be such pussies, come out of the lab and brandish your monkey forceps with pride, you're a scientist. Dammit, man, A SCIENTIST! BE PROUD! It's the fucking political-correctness nutjobs that are the real villains.

I... well, yeah, nutjobs tend to be villains, and political correctness is something of a pet peeve for me, but I get the disturbing feeling that you would class me as just such a nutjob, because I am in favour of anti-GM protest. I suspect many of you will be dismissing me as one of the villain nutjob types, but others will have noticed the odd wording. I am vehemently opposed, not to genetic engineering itself, but to its universal application. This aplication of the technology has been proceeding by stealth for many years now, and many people today who are not comfortable eating or using transgenic products are being denied the ability to easily refuse these products. Whether they are justified in their queasiness is debatable, but the fact is it's there and you can't get rid of it without restricting humanity;s diversity (for no good reason, too). These PC nutjobs you referred to are acting as an extremely necessary brake on the application of a technology that significant number sof people disagree with for whatever reason. Ok, so on with the writeup I meant to do.