The education system has largely failed to get this concept ingrained - all science is tentative. All descriptions and explanations of physical observation are tentative. The scientific method, if properly followed, is nothing but a way of most honestly describing the physical world around us based on the limited data available. Every physical description accrued using the scientific method is open to modification (or supplantation) in the face of new data.
When science is politicized, this natural process (good theories persisting with modification, and poor theories dying off and being replaced outright) is threatened, and poor theories end up being insulated from criticism, preventing improvement which would naturally arise from the scientific method. It is more like a welfare-state for bad science than science "turning into religion" (though the latter can also happen - see global warming).
I liked your line:
“When science is politicized, this natural process (good theories persisting with modification, and poor theories dying off and being replaced outright) is threatened, and poor theories end up being insulated from criticism, preventing improvement which would naturally arise from the scientific method.”
Should anyone think this exact chain of events has not happened, consider the debacle visited upon Russia thanks to Lysenko.
The GoreBull Warming hypothesis is another example.
The global warming issue demonstrates political efforts to control science. “All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists—a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.
Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.
And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest.”