I wish these regular episodes of 'yah boo' between anti-detecting archaeologists and detectorists on here could be a little more rooted in reality than they are. This is my personal view of the matter as someone who works as an FLO (in Kent).
Firstly I think some people are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill (and if anyone has found any finds on a molehill I am of course very happy to record them ;-) ) with the PAStexplorers site. The detector survey is, as has been pointed out, one field survey technique, along with fieldwalking and geophysics, used on the example (labelled by Paul as 'romantic') of an Anglo-Saxon village. I would say it is trying to show that responsible detecting can be a valid field survey technique. But it is one minor aspect of the site, and should not be made to stand for the whole scheme.
Should we promote metal detecting? Look, if metal detecting under any circumstances is wrong, and damaging to the archaeological resource, then it should be banned. But this is actually a ludicrous position. Most archaeological units now use detectors on excavations, and they'd be mad not to. English Heritage has just produced a code of practice for detecting on its sites, and of course there is the new national code of practice backed by the CBA, English Heritage and others. Responsibly done it is a perfectly valid landscape survey technique, along with fieldwalking, geophysics etc. Furthermore, it is the only practical method for large scale examination of material contained within (as opposed to on the surface of) the disturbed ploughsoils that actually make up so much of Britain's archaeological resource. Metal artefacts in these horizons are not resting safely in situ in a stable context, they are subject to continual threat from weathering, agri-chemicals and damage from agricultural machinery. They are also of course, vulnerable to detection by criminals armed with metal detectors who will never record their finds. Therefore, recovery by responsible detectorists who will recored their finds with the PAS is probably the best result.
Somebody in this debate (was it Rob?) suggested that unstratified artefacts have nothing to tell us archaeologically. So why the fuss about digging them up? But actually that view is completely wrong. These artefacts do have important things to tell us about the material culture of past societies. If you can't imagine what, then you clearly haven't given the matter enough thought. I'm working on a study of early Anglo-Saxon brooches recorded by the PAS in southern England that is producing some pretty profound results, notably the contrast between brooches deposited in graves and brooches deposited as a result of loss or discard. In this instance, metal detected finds are opening a new window on early Anglo-Saxon material culture, one which traditional archaeological methods had failed to open.
Furthermore, in Kent I do have contact with Archaeological Groups and Societies, as do the county's responsible detectorists. Indeed, the divisions between detectorists and archaeologists in the county are rapidly evaporating. There has long been a detecting representative on the Fieldwork Committee of the Kent Archaeological Society (of which I am now chairman) and many clubs are affiliated members of the KAS. Further direct linkage with the KAS is under discussion. The local clubs have also formed the Kent Archaeological Metal Detecting Support Unit (KAMSU) which provides volunteers for archaeological projects across the county, and this has been very well received. Volunteers participating in such projects are happy to do so, with no expectation that they will keep the finds.
I could go on, but this post is already too long really. But I'd just appeal for people not to always focus on the negative. If you have issues with the PAS why not talk to some FLO's; it will help you get a clearer picture of what is actaully happening than any amount of official statistics ever will.