John Beddington, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, said earlier this month that scientists should be “grossly intolerant” towards “pseudoscience” and suggested that the media gives too much space to non-scientific commenters on science. But how intolerant can science afford to be? Andy Stirling, co-director of STEPS, has joined the debate in a piece for the Research Research blog:

“The point is that the basic aspirational principles of science offer the best means to challenge the ubiquitously human distorting pressures of self-serving privilege, hubris, prejudice and power. Among these principles are exactly the scepticism and tolerance against which Beddington is railing (ironically) so emotionally! Of course, scientific practices like peer review, open publication and acknowledgement of uncertainty all help reinforce the positive impacts of these underlying qualities. But, in the real world, any rational observer has to note that these practices are themselves imperfect. Although rarely achieved, it is inspirational ideals of universal, communitarian scepticism—guided by progressive principles of reasoned argument, integrity, pluralism, openness and, of course, empirical experiment—that best embody the great civilising potential of science itself.”

>> Full post: Let’s hear it for scepticism: its suppression is one of the principal threats to science (Research Blogs)