Actually, R is a real (Turing-complete) programming language like Perl, Python, Ruby, etc. It just happens to have lots of statistical libraries and matrix-oriented functions.
You put #!/usr/bin/Rscript in your first line and it can work just like any other scripting language, with command-line arguments, etc. I use it all the time as a replacement for other scripting languages (think PDL+Perl or Numpy+Python).
R is an excellent language for any scientist. The sytax and semantics of the language are very well thought-out.