Bear with me... I'll get to the title of this posting in a moment.
I was reading my RSS feeds on Bloglines.com as I do every day and I came upon feed item that pointed me to a Slashdot.org posting about the death of Martin Gardner (a great writer about science and maths - I had one of his excellent books when I was 16, but seem to have lost it now). This lead me, as many interesting things do, to James Randi's post on the same subject - they were close friends apparently. And finally we get to the subject of this post: there was a small link at the bottom of James Randi's blog for a site called 'Sense About Science'.
I must admit, I'd never heard of these folks before, but just had to link to them from here because I completely agree that scientific debate must be free of 'he-said, she-said' argument and the chilling effect of the threat of libel action being taken when two scientists disagree. Just think what would have happened if British Chiropractic Association had won their case for libel against Simon Singh (what a coincidence: the Sense about Science guys were also supporting Simon Singh). Would you want to try to de-bunk bad science if the supporters of the bunkum could silence you with a libel suit? Can you afford to get caught out like that? Of course, this works both ways. If we want to be able to de-bunk poor science, we have to allow what we think of as poor scientists to question the science we judge good. However, the key difference between good and bad science is that good science is supported by independently, objectively reproducible proof, where poor science tries to hide behind waffle and important sounding names.
So there you have it, a trail of internet wanderings: from RSS feeds to a rant about the importance of free science. And there ends the lesson for today. ;-)