No matter what the issue you can find scientists to support any view. Is this a failing of science? or is something else at work here?

First off I would like to point out that the sometimes combative nature of science is a good thing. When new data is published the the authenticity and reliability should be closely examined and criticized if found wanting. Despite public perception scientific quality assurance does not stop with peer reviewed publishing, that is just the beginning. In addition the willingness of researchers to question established knowledge is also good, this is how progress is made.

Concerning my original assertion, that a scientist can be found to uphold any view, one thing to remember is that science is performed by scientists. That may seem an obvious statement but my point is that science is not a simple monolithic block of knowledge, it is contributed to by human beings and human beings have failings. We are all susceptible to biases, some of them are cultural and some of them are a by-product of how our mind works, we are more likely to accept information that confirms our preconceptions for instance. But part of science is the effort to overcome these biases, we perform controlled experiments, we use reliable sources, we replicate others’ experiments, in short we try to remove the human component as much as possible.

All of this means that individual scientists can fall on a spectrum of how well they divorce the outcomes of their work from their personal biases. In certain cases there are those that embrace their personal ideologies in their work, they let it inform and guide the course of research. Sometimes this can be a boon, leading research to new places with novel conclusions but all too often it leads to confounding factors and unreliable data.

A contributing factor is the concept of “balance” in the media, to the point that dissenting opinions will be put forward whether or not they constitute a legitimate scientific controversy. All are presented as equally valid even though some are simply wrong. Not all opinions are equal, not all conclusions valid and not all sources reliable. Consider the Evolution vs Creationism debate, this is an extreme case and so it is easy to see that it is a political debate not one based on actual scientific conclusions. Evolution is a corner stone of biological science, in light of which everything else makes sense. Creationism arises from literal adherence to certain religious traditions. Add to this that is an almost uniquely American phenomenon and the claim that it is science based practically refutes itself.

For the public presented with these opposing view points it can be difficult to separate the real controversy from the manufactroversy, or the tendency to create a debate where none exists. The general public does not usually have the tools to uncover the true state of affairs and so is left with the impression that science is unreliable or can be bent however you wish and is therefore useless. This is unfortunate as science is the most powerful way yet devised to discover the nature of the world around us, from Neutron stars to hydrothermal vents, Dark matter and DNA, all of these things can be studied by science and slowly but surely they are yielding their secrets.