Is Science Just a New Religion? is authored by Cara L. Santa Maria and appears at the Huffington Post website. A read of this is timely in the wake of Climate Gate which shows that scientists are not immune to unethical impulses which sometimes plague mere mortals as well. Cara seeks to explain "two enormous differences between science and religion: doubt and faith." Cara gets off course almost immediately by asserting that religious certainty quickly dwindles when doubt is present. Her point is tautological for one could remove the adjective religious and insert almost anything and come out with the same result. Certainty about the correctness of U.S. policy toward Iran quickly dwindles when doubt is inserted. Certainty about global warming quickly dwindles when doubt is inserted. Certainty about RNA world proposals quickly dwindles when doubt is inserted…
Cara no doubt associates religious beliefs with faith and likely thinks faith means an absence of evidence; a common misperception. Faith is a belief in what is unseen i.e. not confirmed by sensory experience. If one wishes to empirically confirm a hypothesis that experiment x will lead to outcome y he can be described as having an unconfirmed belief until confirming empirical results are produced. In the general sense of the word faith is not a phenomenon exclusively experienced in the context of religion.
Neither must faith be blind i.e. held without any supporting evidence. In a Judeo-Christian context faith is associated with action. One does what is right, even when one's self-interests do not incline one to do so because of faith in a divine law giver. It is the doing that reveals the faith.
Cara exhibits an artificially heightened sense of alarm when she indicates that intelligent design is analogous to
abiogenesis alchemy. ID is not about to be added to biology textbooks but unlike alchemy ID inferences reveal open ended questions that have not been falsified by scientific data.
Cara correctly notes that science is falsifiable; a point I've tried to stress when discussing predictions related to global warming statutes. If predictions are that measures will cut CO2 emissions by x per cent within time frame y then a sunset provision would allow for either confirmation or falsification and subsequent adjustments. Yet Cara's essay is a mixture of valid points with an acceptance of common but erroneous contemporary fashions. She states that most religious Americans have a belief system that "originated prior to the Middle Ages, when bloodletting and exorcism were typical treatments for disease." The allusion to a pre-science era is clear but what this has to do with religious beliefs, which are mostly centered around behavioral norms rather than physical systems, is not clear. Incidentally bloodletting was practiced well beyond the Middle Ages. It was administered to George Washington at the end of the 18th century.
In noting Cara's point about nearly half of the American people thinking evolution is baloney, it merits mentioning that a belief in evolution's incompatibility with design is prevalent among mainstream advocates of evolution. Cara implies the same by making an analogy between ID and alchemy. A scientific claim (evolution) is equated to a denial of design. Arguing that a design inference is empirically superfluous is not the same as negating it as a plausible belief. An inability to understand this is an indicator that science has acquired a religious aspect for those so afflicted with this misunderstanding.