We write about a lot of things on Mermaid's Tale. All of us who contribute to this blog try to be thought-provoking in interesting and hopefully non-standard ways. We don't have all the answers, and indeed we tend to write about things for which nobody has the answers.
We try to see the various (often more than the proverbial two) sides or facets to important problems in genetics, epidemiology, and evolution--and its philosophical and societal aspects. What is clear is that many aspects of these areas, not least being the search for or even the notion of causation, are elusive and that in many ways our science in these areas has only the crudest forms of theoretical understanding. Or, perhaps, we need some theory that differs from the physical sciences, in which the same things--electrons, oxygen molecules, gravitation attractions--are either completely replicable or deterministic.
In this context, we do use our modest forum to criticize the widespread claiming of having answers, and to examine why such claims are usually, like reports of Mark Twain's death, greatly exaggerated. Our society tends to reward those who claim and proclaim their work, and we try to temper that.
We try to be polite in what we write, and hope we don't go over the Snark line too often. Sometimes a nerve (or an ideology) will be hit, and in our experience the response can be vehement to say the least, because our society currently doesn't give much respect to decorum. The uninhibited nature of the web brings out the worst in people, sometimes. Our society, our academics, selfish aspects of capitalism, adversarial advertising culture, competitive careerism and our built-in systems of advocacy, too often don't lend themselves to better discussions. In our lifetime it certainly has become less self-restrained, though perhaps every generation thinks the past was better than the present.
Nonetheless, there is far more that we (people in general, and scientists in particular) do not know than we care to acknowledge, and this leads to competition for attention and resources that we think should be resisted. Criticism if properly placed can at least hope to nudge things in a better direction. Acceptance is a form of acquiescence.
Unfortunately, often neither we nor other critics have magic answers and "tell us what to do instead" is the retort of last resort from those who agree with the problems but want, conveniently, to carry on until someone instructs them to do otherwise--provides some new fad by which grants can be sought, and so on. That's not how science should be done. If there are problems, and they are generally acknowledged, those who agree with the issues, and who are working in the area, should pause and try themselves to figure out truly better ways. Isn't that supposed to be the job of science? Unfortunately, doing that involves thinking, and the demands of writing grant applications for doing more of the same doesn't always leave time for that.
In addition, we think that searching for strange or perplexing results, even amidst claims of understanding, is a way we can try to stimulate more creative work, to the extent that anyone's listening.
In particular, it is young people, who want a career in science, philosophy, or other thinking professions, who need to take the baton and run with it. That's the only way that change will happen. We think this starts with asking "If the standard explanations aren't really right, what might be right instead? If what is alleged to be true is not true, could the opposite be true in some way instead?"
In an often notoriously stiflingly institutional environment of universities, every stimulus to creative thought is, we think, worth the effort. Even if we ourselves personally never know any answers to anything. If young people don't try to cut through the spider web of institutional inertia, they will be the spider's next meal--a 50-year, career-long meal.