Scientific skepticism seems to be on the rise in the past few decades (postmodernism, the climate change debate, controversy surrounding genetics & cognitive sciences, creationism, alternative medicine, etc). Some say scientific discoveries are relative; others say they are false; others say they are a conspiracy by special interest groups to sway public opinion, or keep people in the dark.
This has raised a question I think we need to answer, as a society, if we are to draw the line between science, pseudoscience and charlatanism, and to move forwards into the future: what good reasons are there for trusting in scientists and their theories? What makes trusting what a scientist says about his or her specialty, or trusting a scientific journal or article or experiment on some specific theme, when we know little about it from experience, any different from trusting a member of the clergy or a holy text? All this, of course, from the point of view of a person who is neither a scientist nor knows intimately the ways in which scientists work (the hypothetical lay person). I know the two are somehow different, but I find it hard to articulate, besides saying "faith in education and the peer review system", which won't satisfy any skeptics. What do you think?