Re: [asa] Denyse's advice

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Fri May 04 2007 - 09:01:19 EDT

Rich said: * Here's how the judge characterized it -- and he was certainly
in the room -- and it matched almost word-for-word what Dave S.
said.....[Quoting Judge Jone's Opinion] "Professor Behe admitted that his
broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace
astrology."
*
Rich, you have to be very careful about a judge's characterization of the
record when the judge doesn't quote the record itself. In this instance,
Judge Jones' characterization of the record was incorrect. Note that I am
not suggesting that Judge Jones was dishonest or an "activist judge" or any
such thing. But the reality is that judges frequently interpret or
characterize the record, when they craft opinions, in ways that are not
always nuanced of faithful to the actual record -- which is one reason we
have appellate courts. A trial court's opinion, much like a Biblical
historical narrative, is not a word-for-word literalistic scientific account
of the trial; it's an impressionistic document written for the purpose of
supporting a unique conclusion. There's nothing improper about that; it's
just the "genre" of opinion-writing.

I'm pasting in below a relevant portion of Behe's actual testimony from the
trial record (available here:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/day11pm.html) Here, I think, is the
key testimony on the "astrology" question. Behe said:

*"Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which
focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There
are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be
incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that
definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the
propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well."*

He then went on to say:
*"things like astrology, and the history of science is replete with ideas
that we now think to be wrong headed, nonetheless giving way to better ways
or more accurate ways of describing the world. And simply because an idea
is old, and simply because in our time we see it to be foolish, does not
mean when it was being discussed as a live possibility, that it was not
actually a real scientific theory." *
*
*I think it should be clear from this that Judge Jones' characterization of
this testimony is inaccurate. Behe was NOT testifying that supernatural
forces are properly part of "science" and that, therefore, astrology is
properly part of "science." Behe was testifying that an ancient form of
astrology, in his opinion, was a way of drawing inferences from observations
of the natural world -- inferences that turned out to be wrong.* *(And BTW,
if you could read the testimony carefully with the eye of a seasoned
litigator, you'd see that the cross-examiner was a bit frustrated because he
thought he'd* *gotten an "ID = astrology" admission in Behe's pre-trial
deposition, but Behe was able to qualify his deposition testimony under
cross-examination* *at trial. In other words, far from being a "gotcha"
moment, this appears to have been a moment in which the trial lawyer* didn't
* get exactly what he wanted -- though he was able to use what he got
skillfully in his post-trial arguments to the court.)

More specifically, reading the testimony as a whole (and also reading it
light of Behe's published work), I think any fair-minded person should agree
that Behe is NOT equating ID with astrology, but that he is rather trying to
make several related points: (1) science is based on observations of the
natural world and inferences drawn therefrom; (2) scientific theories change
when observational data no longer support them (as with astrology, aether,
etc.); (3) in his (Behe's) opinion, ID is based only on observations of the
natural world and inferences drawn therefrom; and (4) ID shouldn't be
written off as a "scientific" theory merely because there presently are
contrary theories in place -- those contrary theories may one day go the way
of astrology and phlogiston.

One may disagree with premise (3), and one may also disagree that ID offers
enough of a positive program itself to be characterized as a possible
replacement for Neodawrwinism under (4). Neither of these points of
disagreement, however, rise to the level of *"Behe admitted ID = astrology!"
*

One might also suggest that Behe's philosophy of science reflected in this
testimony is a bit shallow and thin, in that many people tend to think of a
"theory" in the context of a Kuhnian "paradigm" or a Lakatosian "research
program" or some such idea -- as something more robust than just any wild
inference based on some isolated bit of observational data. I'd suggest
that the artificial nature of trial testimony -- which is necessarily brief
and constrained by the efforts of the cross-examiner -- probably accounts
for some of that "thinness" in Behe's testimony. But even if Behe's overall
philosophy of science isn't very robust, that still isn't the same as *"Behe
admitted ID = astrology!"
*
I really despise how some ID popularizers twist the words and views of TE's;
but I despise equally how some ID opponents twist the words and views of ID
folks, which is what happened with Behe's "astrology" testimony IMHO.

Excerpt from trial testimony:

Q And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory,
correct?

A Yes.

Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your
definition, correct?

A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which
focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There
are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be
incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that
definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the
propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

Q The ether theory of light has been discarded, correct?

A That is correct.

Q But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in
intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?

A Yes, that's correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word
"theory," it is -- a sense of the word "theory" does not include the theory
being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain
some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout
the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress
has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can't go back and say that
because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many many things that
we now realized to be incorrect, incorrect theories, are nonetheless
theories.

Q Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct
or valid scientific theory, Professor Behe?

A Well, I am not a historian of science. And certainly nobody -- well, not
nobody, but certainly the educated community has not accepted astrology as a
science for a long long time. But if you go back, you know, Middle Ages and
before that, when people were struggling to describe the natural world, some
people might indeed think that it is not a priori -- a priori ruled out that
what we -- that motions in the earth could affect things on the earth, or
motions in the sky could affect things on the earth.

Q And just to be clear, why don't we pull up the definition of astrology
from Merriam-Webster.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: If you would highlight that.

BY MR. ROTHSCHILD:

Q And archaically it was astronomy; right, that's what it says there?

A Yes.

Q And now the term is used, "The divination of the supposed influences of
the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their
positions and aspects."

That's the scientific theory of astrology?

A That's what it says right there, but let me direct your attention to the
archaic definition, because the archaic definition is the one which was in
effect when astrology was actually thought to perhaps describe real events,
at least by the educated community.

Astrology -- I think astronomy began in, and things like astrology, and the
history of science is replete with ideas that we now think to be wrong
headed, nonetheless giving way to better ways or more accurate ways of
describing the world.

And simply because an idea is old, and simply because in our time we see it
to be foolish, does not mean when it was being discussed as a live
possibility, that it was not actually a real scientific theory.

Q I didn't take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?

A I'm sorry?

Q I did not take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?

A It seems like that.

Q Okay. It seems like that since we started yesterday. But could you turn to
page 132 of your deposition?

A Yes.

Q And if you could turn to the bottom of the page 132, to line 23.

A I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

Q Page 132, line 23.

A Yes.

Q And I asked you, "Is astrology a theory under that definition?" And you
answered, "Is astrology? It could be, yes." Right?

A That's correct.

Q Not, it used to be, right?

A Well, that's what I was thinking. I was thinking of astrology when it was
first proposed. I'm not thinking of tarot cards and little mind readers and
so on that you might see along the highway. I was thinking of it in its
historical sense.

************

Now, you gave examples of some theories that were discarded?

A Yes.

Q One was the ether theory?

A Yes.

Q And the other was the theory of geocentrism, right?

A That's correct.

Q And what you said yesterday was that there was some pretty compelling
evidence for observers of that time that that was good theory, right?

A Yes, sure.

Q Look up in the sky, and it looked like the sun was going around us,
correct?

A That's right.

Q And we know now that those appearances were deceiving, right?

A That's correct.

Q So what we thought we knew from just looking at the sky, that's not in
fact what was happening, right?

A That's right.

Q So the theory was discarded?

A That's correct.

Q And intelligent design, also based on appearance, isn't it, Professor
Behe?

A All sciences is based on appearances. That's -- what else can one go with
except on appearances? Appearances can be interpreted from a number of
different frameworks, and you have to worry that the one that you're
interpreting it from is going to turn out to be correct. But in fact since
science is based on observation, now that's just another word for
appearance. So intelligent design is science, and so intelligent design is
based on observation; that is appearance.

On 5/4/07, Rich Blinne <rich.blinne@gmail.com> wrote:
>
>
>
>
> On May 3, 2007, at 8:57 PM, David Opderbeck wrote:
>
>
> Behe, in sworn testimony
> at Dover, said that the definition of science which will include ID also
> includes astrology. Do you have a problem with this?
>
> This particular criticism of Behe is unfair. I read the transcripts of
that testimony carefully when the brouhaha over it first arose shortly after
the trial. The context of the testimony was that science is a progressive
endeavor; theories such as astrology, spontaneous generation,
alchemy, luminiferous aether, etc. eventually are replaced when they are
falsified or when stronger, more coherent and descriptive theories come
along. Behe did NOT testify that astrology constitutes a valid scientific
theory today. Moreover, Behe's testimony did NOT relate to the pop
astrology found in newspaper horoscopes.
>
> Rather, the testimony was that long ago people who studied nature believed
the movements and positions of the stars exercised some causative effect on
human affairs. In the sense that this theory provided explanations about
causation in nature, his testimony was that he would call that a
"scientific" theory. However, he was quite clear that this theory was
falsified long ago, along with things like alchemy and spontaneous
generation.
>
> In addition, the transcript does not read as though the lawyer
cross-examining Behe wrangled some sort of admission that ID essentially
equals astrology in terms of scientific merit, which is how popular reports
seem to play it (like a sort of " You want the truth? You can't handle the
truth!" moment). It was part of a more mundane sequence of questions about
the progressive nature of scientific theories. (If Ted was present during
this testimony, I'd be curious to hear how it came across in the
courtroom).
>
>
>
>
>
> It is notable that defense experts' own mission, which mirrors that of the
> IDM itself, is to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural
causation
> of the natural world, which the Supreme Court in Edwards and the court in
> McLean correctly recognized as an inherently religious concept. Edwards,
482
>
> U.S. at 591-92; McLean, 529 F. Supp. at 1267. First, defense expert
Professor
> Fuller agreed that ID aspires to "change the ground rules" of science and
lead
> defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of
science,
> which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. (28:26 (Fuller);
21:37-42
> (Behe)). Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for
ID to
> be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to
allow
> consideration of supernatural forces. (38:97 (Minnich)).
>
> While that was probably mundane as David O. noted, the following admission
again recorded in the judge's opinion is nothing short of stunning and backs
George's contention that Behe really discredited himself on the stand:
>
>
>
> Although in Darwin's Black Box,
> Professor Behe wrote that not only were there no natural explanations for
the
> immune system at the time, but that natural explanations were impossible
> regarding its origin. (P-647 at 139; 2:26-27 (Miller)). However, Dr.
Miller
> presented peer-reviewed studies refuting Professor Behe's claim that the
immune
> system was irreducibly complex. Between 1996 and 2002, various studies
> confirmed each element of the evolutionary hypothesis explaining the
origin of the
> immune system. (2:31 (Miller)). In fact, on cross-examination, Professor
Behe
> was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that science would never find an
> evolutionary explanation for the immune system. He was presented with
fifty eight
> peer-reviewed publications, nine books, and several immunology textbook
> chapters about the evolution of the immune system; however, he simply
insisted
> that this was still not sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was
not "good
> enough." (23:19 (Behe)).
>
> In this case Behe truly and literally had a "you cannot handle the truth"
moment.

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Received on Fri May 4 09:01:49 2007

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