"We like to pretend that our experiments define the truth for us. But that's often not the case. Just because an idea is true doesn't mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn't mean it's true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe." from "The Truth Wears Off," The New Yorker, December 2010.
Over the last few centuries, our society has come to believe that there exists a fundamental incompatibility between faith and science. Fueled by the works of polemics like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Maher (the proud Unholy Trinity) there now reigns an assumption that people who believe in God are intellectually primitive, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who have failed to evolve beyond the superstitions of the past. Faith, the substance of things hoped for, is pitted against science, the substance of things measured, tested, and proven.
The dogma of the Unholy Trinity maintains that religious faith represents more than mere ignorance; it is a grave threat to civilized society. With its medieval notions of divine providence, original sin, and moral absolutes, religion stymies social progress and threatens to undermine the liberation of the human spirit from the oppressive bonds of the past. Religious leaders aren't merely misguided, they are a dangerous influence on society. Apart from being so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good, the Shepherds of the Sheep are peddlers of lies and hatred. They lead their bleating followers in pursuit of what can best be described as a "diabolical" agenda (a purely metaphorical term, of course, since el Diablo doesn't really exist) and they toil endlessly to shape public policy to reflect their pernicious world view.
Scientists, on the other hand, are defined by their objective dedication to the pursuit of truth and an uncompromising adherence to The Method. Their motives are pure and their integrity unimpeachable. They are the trailblazers of progress, the torchbearers of enlightenment, and the representatives of mankind's continual evolution. In short, they have the best interests of humanity at heart.
Unfortunately for Science and its disciples, this paradigm is beginning to crumble. As it turns out, scientists are just as fallible and flawed as the rest of humanity, and this fallibility impacts their work. The New Yorker addressed this emerging phenomenon in December 2010 article: