Nobody likes to be put on the spot. When someone is asked an uncomfortable question, how they react will speak volumes. Langmuir’s fifth test is:
Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment.
I would rewrite the rule to be more applicable to the present day:
Criticisms are met by direct attacks on the critic. Attacks may include, but are not limited, to questioning the critic’s motives, expertise, and lineage. The facts of the criticism will never be addressed.
Back in the day, there was a practiced civility. The authority would somewhat politely imply that the questioner was an idiot for not understanding even the most basic science (“Well, Mr. Bond, if you were at all familiar with the research of Blofeld, et. al., you would understand that in his seminal paper on…”). Over the years, with the level of science education improving (or at least the number of people who are forced against their will to take some science classes), this has changed dramatically.
For example, a few years ago in a heated discussion someone who was not a “climate scientist” directly attacked me by stating that since I was not a “climate scientist” I had no right to question the so-called “legitimate climate scientists” (if there really is such a thing). But, even though he was not a “climate scientist”, he had the right to deem their position as the truth, so shut up! The double standard still amazes
Instead of a veneer of civility, the authority comes right out and bluntly calls the questioner stupid (“What would you know, you only majored in gender studies?”). Or he impugns their motives (“So how much did company X pay you to spread their lies?”). Or he attacks their credentials (“Big deal, you have a PhD in X, but this is topic Y and obviously you know nothing.”). You get the idea.
The “excuses” of past times are now the “attack mode” of the present. People who are naturally skeptical are accused of being anti-science, Neanderthals, religious nutcases, and the like. There is no room for reasoned discussion or debate because “The science is settled and WE settled it.”
“Shut up!” is not an argument, although some people behave as though it is. If anyone is anti-science, it is the group that feels the need to so strongly defend their ideas that any form of dissent is intolerable. It has gotten to the point that some of the enlightened have called for jailing, firing, and otherwise destroying those with opposing viewpoints.
Which is not science, it is an inquisition.