Something struck me while casually surfing some of my favourite ScienceBlogs today. Namely a phrase by John Wilkings after defending the ridiculous decision to award Al Gore the nobel peace price:
Of course, the MSM is also spinning in their mental graves on account of the fact that there were supposedly nine errors in An Inconvenient Truth, according to a British judge. James Hrynyshyn at Island of Doubt shows that there were two and a half errors, and all were justified at the time of the making of the film. But don't expect that to stop the slathering pitbulls of antiscience...
There's an eerie echo of some of the less savoury versions of religions (or secular ersatz religions like Marxism) in that last phrase. Now, of course John Wilkings may have been engaging in humorous hyperbole here - but a quick googling of the term "antiscience" shows the attitude is alive and well. I posted about the use of the loaded term "denialism" before.
Chesterton at one point remarked something to the extent that when people stop believing in God, the problem is that they'll start believing in everything else. And in some ways "science" in the Scienceblogosphere is mutating precisely in some kind of surrogate religion. It's seen as a source of values, a guide to political action, and most importantly, a tribal epithet distinguishing allies from enemies (nefarious Republicans, suspiciously francophone intellectuals and the like).
One could make the provocative point that, rather than arguing whether religion can even co-exist with a scientific attitude, religious beliefs (of the classical rather than the fundamentalist variety) may actually be of great benefit to a working scientist as they force her to distinguish values and metaphysical beliefs from science as a method.