The one thing I have never seen science (or rather scientist and scientific method advocates) question is its own validity as a tool for examination.

This infuriates atheists with a scientific bend to their minds, but if science is held to be the only true way of searching for truth in the world, then how is it materially different from religion?

Who is to say that the subjective view of an experience is not the true experience itself? After all, that is the only thing about any experience that cannot be reproduced, it is in a way its essence. But no, scientists with brain scan machines and statistics will insist on stripping everything, from dreams to flavours, to their "true" constituent parts, be they wave patterns in the brain or matter molecules in the flavourings.

And another consideration - who is to say that progress, the way forward, is the best direction to push in? Decay is a progress, demolition is a progress, cancerous tumours live, grow and die in a linear fashion - all of our time is linear, but that doesn't mean that the natural progression forward is inherently good. In the same way scientific progress is not an ethical imperative.

Take the use of genetic engineering in medicine, for example. As Halcyon&on points out, that is big business these days - the equipment needed is extremely expensive, as well as the access to some of the patented knowledge (such as gene sequences and their functions). Most of us here in the west can expect to receive the fruits of this knowledge as part and parcel of our medical insurance when it becomes widely used, but others around the world will probably be denied access to the medical advances for many generations to come, through lack of funds or political unrest which inhibits local research.

Unlike vaccination, genetic treatment is liable to eradicate certain complaints (say, C.F.) in a matter of a few generations. We cannot foretell which genetic side effects this treatment will have, but we can be pretty sure that it will have some. So, a hundred years down the line we have a population which exhibits the absence of C.F., but also certain non-malignant mutations or diversities that come from interference with the disease-carrying gene, and another population - probably most of the world's inhabitants - which does not. We become genetically different.

On the proverbial road paved with good intentions, and with no malicious design of creating super-human specimens, we are met by a divergence of the human genome based on geographical and socio-economical factors. The poor of the world will not only be getting poorer, they will (by standing still and moving backwards) be getting weaker.

Add to that the effects of all other medication used to suppress or eradicate genetically transmitted defects, and all their infinitesimally small side-effects, plus the effects of a diet based on genetically modified foods, and we can be talking about quite large differences indeed.

Is this a doomsday scenario? I don't know. It might be, or it might just be a rational analysis of the possible effects years of genetic treatment on populations might have. The validity of my assesment is not the issue here.

The issue is whether or not we should blithely trust in a relatively small group of people with highly specialised and, to most of us, incomprehensible sets of skills, who stand to gain much by way of money and prestige from the current obsession with scientific progress, to dictate our attitudes to our bodies. The answer many people are coming up with these days is quite obviously "no".

The objections to GM foods, the organic craze, the alternative medicine fads are not scientific matters and are not there to poke scientists in the eye. They are political issues through which people manifest their growing mistrust of a system which questions everything but its own right to question.