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Of course we would all love to know of the fate of the Universe, just as we'd love to know if God exists. If we expect science to provide the answers though, we may have to be very patient - and literally wait for eternity. Alas professional cosmologists cannot afford to wait that long. For that reason the word `cosmologist' should be expunged from the scientific dictionary and returned to the priesthood where it properly belongs.

I'm not suggesting that cosmology itself should be abandoned. Mostly by accident it has made some fascinating, if faltering progress over the centuries. And if we are patient and build our instruments to explore the Universe in all the crevices of parameter space, new clues will surely come to hand, as they have in the past, largely by accident. But we should not spend too many of our astronomical resources in trying to answer grandiose questions which may, in all probability, be unanswerable. For instance we must not build the Next Generation Space Telescope as if it was solely a cosmological machine. We should only do that if we are confident of converging on ``the truth''. If we build it to look through many windows we may yet find the surprising clues which lead us off on a new path along the way.

Above all we must not overclaim for this fascinating subject which, it can be argued, is not a proper science at all. Rutherford for instance said ``Don't let me hear anyone use the word `Universe' in my department''. Shouldn't we scientists be saying something like this to the general public:

``It is not likely that we primates gazing through bits of glass for a century or two will dissemble the architecture and history of infinity. But if we don't try we won't get anywhere. Therefore we professionals do the best we can to fit the odd clues we have into some kind of plausible story. That is how science works, and that is the spirit in which our cosmological speculations should be treated. Don't be impressed by our complex machines or our arcane mathematics. They have been used to build plausible cosmic stories before - which we had to discard afterwards in the face of improving evidence. The likelihood must be that such revisions will have to occur again and again and again.''

I apologise for such a highly opinionated attack, but it does appear to me that the pendulum has swung much too far the other way. Surely the `burden of proof' ought to rest squarely on the proponents of what will always be a fascinating but suspect subject.

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