What would happen if Glenn Beck, Alex Jones and the Drudge Report, along with a cadre of conservative religious leaders, all started a campaign to expose the cover-up of the "fact" that the earth is really flat. How many people could they convince? I believe there might be a minimum of one fourth of the population. Think about that! Do not scoff, a large minority of our fellow citizens have now been conditioned to not just be skeptical of scientific pronouncements, but instead to view the scientific community as an evil cabal, whose mission is to fool and control the people of the world.
I want to be clear that skepticism of prevailing scientific opinions is to be encouraged. The mirror image of the "know-nothing" wing of the conservative movement are those who treat scientists as the new gods of our age. The essence of the scientific method is self criticism and self doubt, the ability to be open minded to the possibility that one is wrong. Those who worship at the altar of science are just as much ditto heads as Rush Limbaugh's mind numbed robots. One pertinent example from todays news; it was not too long ago that we believed that antibiotics would transform the world into a disease free paradise. But antibiotics have also become one of evolution's greatest tools in pressuring bacteria to mutate and possibly become the next great plague.
But there is even a dark side to scientist's reticence about making bold pronouncements. In a world that is dominated by loud voices, who proclaim their views are the absolute truth, the voice of the cautious is often drowned out.