First I will thank Kate for her lovely compliment. I always cherish the words of praise from one that would challenge me just as easily. I mean that whole heartedly. There are quite a few here that I respect for debate and you are among them. Jude is another who I must say has only gotten better and better with every meeting. Now, onto the matter at hand.
I will attempt to address the “God of the gaps” statement which Doomsday was quip enough to put on the boards. I am not saying by any stretch that God is explained where science is not. Truth is I would make the argument, as many have in classical science and philosophy, that God is best explained through science. The statement I make is that science cannot refuse one explanation with lack of another. As Will addressed, science indeed continues to look at things but also refuse the explanation of the divine simply because it does not fit into their paradigm. Out of hand all explanations are dismissed that do not fit into their preconceptions and designs. Science at its most rudimentary and pure does not weigh in on the debate of miracles, God or any other subject. Hemmingway accurately pointed out that science is a tool of mankind to adapt and use the natural world around them.
That is where the statement science as a religion comes into play. Hemmingway is wrong that the faithful use this argument, because it stems entirely from those that do not have belief in the supernatural. In place of God they hold up science with the belief that all things are explained through these institutions. Priests are replaced with doctorates in all manner of subjects, sacred texts and writings are replaced with scientific journals and ritual has fallen to method. Do I make the statement that science is religion, no more than I say that faith is religion. Yet the institutions that grew around science act a great deal as the religious ones that address with such contempt. These institutions believe their word untouchable because of the education its members have received and the publications they have released. A wedge is driven between science and religion here, because those without belief in the supernatural need science to explain what is supernatural and to give them that structure. Where faith in religion or in the supernatural gave people hope, others look to science to give them that hope. This is not the purpose of science.
I have seen people continually say that science does not accept the uncritiqued or the unsubstantiated without pause. Science as a tool does not, but the institutions do because it serves their purpose.(Note: I am not attempting to open debate on these topics.) The start of life is one topic where science has used their power and people’s faith to have far reaching consequences. Science feels comfortable making a statement of when life begins, but does not actually believe it knows what indicates this start. The beginning of life by science is arbitrarily dictated with some criteria that mean almost nothing under scrutiny. This is one reason why feminists have often abandoned the argument of when life begins, because under a closer look the argument loses water. Global warming is a current favorite among the scientific community, but a lot of its postulations are not coming to pass. Many within the community are voicing opposition and then, according to their statements, being silenced and refused publication. My personal experience is regarding hurricanes which the Global warming paradigm continues to predict will grow worse and worse until my home is removed from the face of the world. Yet by accepting the global warming paradigm, the other models which worked just as well if not better are rejected.
Jude once brought up the belief of Therapeutic Touch which was advocated by a nursing researcher decades ago. Therapeutic Touch has two contexts, one which is accepted and another that is not by the nursing community. The accepted one is that by touching a person, by giving physical contact that a deeper bond of caregiver to patient can be formed and trust earned. This is for communication purposes and to help alleviate anxiety by connecting with a “real” human being as opposed to the medical machine. The other is in regards to energy fields and using the hands to heal. There are many that believe in the unaccepted version of Therapeutic Touch, but one medical journal did print an article refuting Therapeutic Touch by a girl in elementary school. That article was then torn apart because the girl did not use the scientific method with all the rigors required and did not adhere to the model of an experiment well enough to make this anything more than a science project. The journal was then criticized for failing to publish experiments where the hypothesis of Therapeutic Touch were proven and the scientific methods and research models were used. The editor of the journal used his position to attack another theory.
These institutions are the ones who publish articles, who open debate and who allow peer review to be expanded into a global event. Policy makers take these articles and ideas to forge rules of society around them, people read these articles or gain what is filtered through the media and twist them into their own beliefs and even the morality is shifted to fit into these paradigms. People replace their own beliefs with what science proposes and often times these ideas are presented because they fit. Another article I remember was an experiment done regarding Life After Death experiences. The experiment was conducted by qualified individuals, did not reach into the supernatural and fit the research model. They were denied publication. The conclusion they drew did not explicitly point to an afterlife, but gave credence to Life After Death as a valid experience to be researched.
Do I bring these instances up to knock down science, not in the least. I bring them up so that the statement science as religion might be better understood. The institutions of the scientific community are presenting popular theory without the criticisms. Popular science is affecting policy change while being unproven and untested by peers. Experiments are being done once with people running through the streets making wild claims from them. This is the rampant nature that science has taken and it is slowly being eroded by more supernatural explanations and homespun remedies. Science was never meant to be a belief system, but a tool. That is the warning of science as religion.