Re: Behe testimony at Dover trial

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Thu Oct 20 2005 - 17:09:07 EDT

On Thu, 20 Oct 2005 15:52:01 -0400 "George Murphy" <>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Denyse O'Leary" <>
> To: "'Pim van Meurs'" <>; "'Charles Carrigan'"
> <>; <>
> Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 11:30 AM
> Subject: RE: Behe testimony at Dover trial
> > "Seems that Behe indeed accepted astrology as a science under his
> > definitions.I can't wait to see the transcripts."
> >
> > You don't need to wait to see the transcripts. You can ask for
> > clarification, as I have done:
> >
> > - 0 -
> >
> > Here is a link, with excerpts pasted below:
> >
> >
> >
> > Reported: "Astrology would be considered a scientific theory if
> judged by
> > the same criteria used by a well-known advocate of Intelligent
> Design to
> > justify his claim that ID is science, a landmark US trial heard on
> > Tuesday.
> > Under cross examination, ID proponent Michael Behe, a biochemist
> at Lehigh
> > University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, admitted his definition of
> "theory"
> > was so broad it would also include astrology."
> >
> > Factual background:
> >
> > The line of questions came when Eric Rothschild, counsel for the
> > plaintiffs,
> > asked Behe about the definition of the term "theory." Behe
> explained that
> > the National Academy of Science's (NAS) definition of a theory is
> not one
> > typically used by scientists. The NAS defines "theory" as:
> >
> > "In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of
> the
> > natural
> > world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses.
> The
> > contention that evolution should be taught as "theory, not as
> fact"
> > confuses
> > the common use of these words through the accumulation of
> evidence.
> > Rather,
> > theories are the end points of science. They are understandings
> that
> > develop
> > from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative
> reflection. They
> > incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested
> hypotheses, and
> > logical inferences."
> >
> > (Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of
> Sciences,
> > 2nd
> > Ed. (1999), pg. 2)
> >
> > This definition does not actually represent how scientists usually
> use the
> > word in their technical writing. To witness this fact, perform a
> PubMed
> > search for the phrase "new theory" (go to pub med and type " "new
> theory"
> > "
> > [leave in the double quotes]) and you'll find hundreds of hits
> showing
> > scientists using the word "theory" to describe a "new" idea which
> can
> > explain a lot of things, but may not yet be "well-substantiated"
> and may
> > not
> > yet enjoy evidentiary support from many scientific studies.
> >
> > Many scientists who have used the phrase "new theory" use the term
> based
> > upon the new findings of a single study. The phrase "new theory"
> is
> > antithetical to the idea of "extensive observation,
> experimentation, and
> > creative reflection" and the phrase should not exist in
> scientific
> > literature if the NAS is correct in its definition.
> I have to agree that the NAS definition of "theory" represents a
> stricter
> view of the word than that used (usually implicitly) by scientists,
> &
> especially by theoretical physics - the tribe I'm most familiar
> with. We
> don't have any problem with referring to "Einstein's last unified
> field
> theory" in spite of the fact that there have been NO observational
> confirmations of the distinctive claims of the theory (i.e., beyond
> those
> that apply to its limiting cases in general relativity for vacuum
> and
> Maxwell's electrodynamics), & in fact there are some serious
> challenges to
> it. Similarly, no cosmologist that I know of 50 years ago objected
> to
> talking about the big bang "theory" or steady state "theory" even if
> they
> were strongly opposed to one or the other, & in spite of the fact
> that
> neither at that time could be called "well-substantiated."
> This problem doesn't really come up in discourse among scientists -
> at least
> in my experience. I.e., no scientist objects to calling someone
> else's
> views a "theory" even if he/she considers them wrong. Where the
> problem
> occurs is at the popular level where "theory" is sometimes taken to
> mean -
> especially by anti-evolutionists - to mean pure guesswork or
> speculation.
> That's why it's usually accompanied with the word "just" - i.e.,
> "evolution
> is just a theory." & the implication is that one guess is as good
> as
> another. & evolution is not "just a theory" in that sense.
> Shalom
> George
I think there is another reason why both Steady State Theory and Big Bang
Theory were so labelled: they had potential observational consequences,
though at the time of presentation no one knew how to make the
measurements. Gamow predicted that there would be remanent radiation from
the origin. Goldi, Bond and Hoyle prohibited such radiation from every
direction is space. The guys at Bell Labs thought of all kinds of things
to check to explain the noise before somebody clued them in that they
were seeing what Gamow had predicted.

I readily understand the opposition of some scientists to the Big Bang.
It could fit the theological and metaphysical notion of a creation.
Steady State had no such possibility. But now that the notion of a
multiverse has been discovered, a non-theistic possibility for the Big
Bang allows them to be comfortable with materialism. The question remains
why there is something rather than nothing. But if someone raises that
question, it is possible to tell them to quit asking non-scientific
questions and to just stick with the equations.

Even the wildest of hypotheses in the scientific realm involve
predictions or a clear empirical fit to data. Though preliminary, they
are given "theory" as a courtesy title. However, ID has not made any such
definite predictions. The best I've heard is the claim that "junk DNA"
would have a function. But this is no more than an informal tag being
corrected by further work in standard science. "Intron" was the formal
term. It contains no evaluation of relevance. Another correction had to
be made to the "one gene, one protein" view. So far as anything I have
seen, the genomes sequenced so far fit nicely into the evolutionary
pattern. Viewing the end product in isolation allows the claim that we
don't see how it could have been produced by known natural processes.
However, several intermediate steps naturally produced have already been
noted. Of course, there are some people so gifted that they can
confidently predict that none of the remaining gaps will ever be filled.
Surely we must bow before their superior intellectual or prophetic

I recall a chap who said he had the gift of prophecy. Enrolled in Bible
institute, he came out of the first exam with the statement, "That test
was so difficult I couldn't even prophesy the answers." He dropped out.
Is there an analogy?
Received on Thu Oct 20 17:14:46 2005

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