RE: Behe testimony at Dover trial

From: Hofmann, Jim <>
Date: Wed Oct 19 2005 - 14:40:46 EDT


Behe's 15th-century science


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

HARRISBURG - Dr. Michael Behe, leading intellectual light of the
intelligent design movement, faced a dilemma.

In order to call intelligent design a "scientific theory," he had to
change the definition of the term. It seemed the definition offered by
the National Academy of Science, the largest and most prestigious
organization of scientists in the Western world, was inadequate to
contain the scope and splendor and just plain gee-willigerness of
intelligent design.

So he devised his own definition of theory, expanding upon the
definition of those stuck-in-the-21st-century scientists, those
scientists who ridicule him and call his "theory" creationism in a cheap

He'd show them. He'd come up with his own definition.

Details aside, his definition was broader and more inclusive of ideas
that are "outside the box."

So, as we learned Tuesday, during Day 11 of the Dover Panda Trial, under
his definition of a scientific theory, astrology would be a scientific


Who knew that Jacqueline Bigar, syndicated astrology columnist, was on
par with Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe?

Eric Rothschild, attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Behe about whether
astrology was science. And Behe, after hemming and hawing and launching
into an abbreviated history of astrology and science, said, under his
definition, it is. He said he wasn't a science historian, but the
definition of astrology in the dictionary referred to its 15th-century
roots, when it was equated with astronomy, which, according to the
National Academy of Science, is a science.

So, taking a short logical leap, something Behe would certainly endorse
since he does it a lot himself, you could say that intelligent design is
on par with 15th-century science.

Sounds about right.

Actually, that's not quite fair. It shortchanges astrology. For example,
my personal horoscope for Tuesday, formulated by the aforementioned
famous scientist Bigar, said, "Confusion could be your middle name, but
many other people feel confused too."

Nailed it.

Most of the confusion - and it just wasn't me - was brought on by Behe's
second day on the witness stand. He talked about blood clotting - it's
pretty complicated - and some guy named Dr. Doolittle and some other
stuff dealing with Cytochrome c and gene duplication and exon transfer.

I don't think he was referring to the Dr. Doolittle who spoke to the
animals. Or maybe he was. It's not exactly clear. As he referred to one
of Dr. Doolittle's claims - and I'm pretty positive it had nothing to do
with the Push-Me-Pull-You - he said, "If you think about it for a
minute, it's easy to see what's going on here."

And then, in case you had no idea what he was talking about, he
explained in terms that made it even more impenetrable.

After a while, he set into a pattern.

He'd say critics of his idea always misunderstand him, take things out
of context and misrepresent what he means.

And then, to respond to them, he misunderstood what they said, took
their words out of context and misrepresented what they said.

He would point to studies that seemed to support the evolutionary view
of how things developed - articles written by scientists who accept the
theory of evolution and who, consequently, don't think much of Behe -
and say they support his views.

He'd expound at great length and then, as he would wind down, he'd say,
"Now, here's the point ..."

And whatever his point was would be wrapped in so much verbiage you
needed a backhoe to get to it.

By the time you kind of grasped what he was saying - I think,
essentially, that Dr. Doolittle didn't know anything about talking to
animals - he was off talking about what a wingnut Francis Crick turned
out to be. Crick was one of two scientists who discovered the
double-helix structure of DNA, winning a Nobel Prize. Later, Crick came
up with a notion about how life started on this planet called "Directed
Panspermia." His idea was that aliens reduced life to its smallest
components, or something like that, and shot them to Earth via rocket

I guess the point is being a scientist and a wingnut are not mutually

As the cross-examination continued, another pattern developed.
Rothschild would show Behe, on a big screen in the courtroom, a quote
from "Of Pandas and People" and ask him a simple question about it.

The quote said, "Intelligent design means that various forms of life
began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive
features already intact - fish with fins and scales, birds with feather,
beaks and wings, etc."

Rothschild asked him whether he believed that statement said intelligent
design meant life began abruptly on this planet.

It apparently was a trick question because Behe had a hard time
answering it.

"I disagree," the scientist said.

And then, he explained what he thought the quotation meant, which wasn't
what it said.

This went on for a while. Every time Rothschild would ask Behe about a
statement, some he wrote himself, he'd say he'd have to disagree that it
said what it said.

I expected Rothschild to ask Behe whether he was able to read and
understand the English language.

At one point during Rothschild's cross-examination, the lawyer asked the
scientist whether he was co-authoring a book, a follow-up to "Of Pandas
and People," with several other intelligent esign moolahs. He said he

The lawyer showed him depositions and reports to the court, quoting two
of the other authors as saying he was a co-author.

Behe said that he wasn't a co-author of the book but that the statements
by those guys weren't false. He said one of the authors was "seeing into
the future."

Rothschild asked, "Is seeing into the future one of the powers of the
intelligent-design movement?"

Behe didn't answer.

He didn't have to.

Seeing into the future is the province of that other science - you know,

Mike Argento, whose column appears Mondays and Thursdays in Living and
Sundays in Viewpoints, can be reached at 771-2046 or at more Argento columns at




From: [] On
Behalf Of Charles Carrigan
Sent: Wednesday, October 19, 2005 9:44 AM
Subject: Behe testimony at Dover trial


Dear All,


I received this message from the Sigma Xi "Science in the News" daily
email. Does anyone have any additional knowledge of Behe's testimony?
The article leaves several puzzling questions unanswered.



from the New York Times (Registration Required)


HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 18 - A leading architect of the intelligent-design
movement defended his ideas in a federal courtroom on Tuesday and
acknowledged that under his definition of a scientific theory, astrology
would fit as neatly as intelligent design.


Prof. Michael J. Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University, is the first
expert witness for the school board of Dover, Pa., which is requiring
students to hear a statement about intelligent design in biology class.


Under sharp cross-examination by a lawyer for parents who have sued the
school district, he said he was untroubled by the broadness of his
definition of science and likened intelligent design to the Big Bang
of the origins of the universe because both initially faced rejection
scientists who objected for religious and philosophical reasons.



Best Regards,



Charles W. Carrigan, Ph.D.
Olivet Nazarene University
Dept. of Geology
One University Ave.
Bourbonnais, IL 60914
PH: (815) 939-5346
FX: (815) 939-5071


Received on Wed Oct 19 14:41:19 2005

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