I have been a stranger in a strange land.
Of course the scientist always had his (not her this time, it would be an anachronism and an interesting subject to talk about later) place in the society, sometimes dark and fearsome (Faust) and sometimes almost angelic (Pasteur), but always a source of rational (and proverbial) wisdom to the non-scientist people.
During the conflicts of ideologies in 19th century, science was one of the intellectual safe havens that provided its occupants with a neutral position in the war that was fought by culture and education. This contributed to its growth and strength. This neutrality was destroyed after the world wars in which a major recipient of science, technology, was the winner.
After the transfiguration of arts into an oblivious form (if not into barbarism), science once again assumed its position of power in the society: space travel, telecommunications, computers and nuclear weapons became the new wonders of the world. Science was victorious in its apparent objectivity, absoluteness and usefulness. The three building blocks of any religion are indeed in place and Nature (but in fact technology) would be God.
But what will stop us now? If we believe in science as a religion? Since we are made of stars ...
The fact is we are not made of stars. Science as religion isn't different from other religions. Its objectivity is only on the surface but from inside it is a world of people, interpretations and styles. Science might be useful but many other things are also and none have caused that many sufferings of humankind directly. As a matter of practice, usefulness of science has always rested with the user and ironically science and religion both have bloodstained hands when it comes to practical applications.
Absoluteness is at best a lie about science: Even the most conservative supporters of science and scientific method agree, science is good because it can be wrong and can be corrected! This point is not shared by religion, religion is always right, cannot be corrected. While it is still the same physics that is being corrected, it is not the same Islam that is being reformed, many clerics would tell you that; it is something else, just a new religion, a source of eternal schism.
My personal disappointment with science as religion comes from the fact that science is very incomplete and its wisdom is always subject to doubts, but it is still used by many in arguments that have little, if any, relevance to science itself. I will try to bring up examples of the unjust and pathetic use of science and scientific methods in the upcoming posts.