Re: [asa] Denyse's advice

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Fri May 04 2007 - 12:22:05 EDT

Rich, thanks for providing that additional testimony, but I think it
supports my point. I don't agree that it was appropriate for the trial
judge simply to adopt a brief definition of "science" provided by the NAS or
anyone else. I don't think it is the role of a trial court to make that
kind of adjudication. Moreover, if a court is going to adjudicate that kind
of issue, it's duty is to consider a broad range of evidence, and not merely
to accept an argument from authority.

You could conduct a year-long trial merely on the issue of whether the NAS
represents a meaningful consensus on the question of defining "science," or
whether people from other disciplines, including HOS-POS itself, should
represent the appropriate "authoritative" community -- and at the end of
that, it's unlikely you'd be able to reach any resolution of that question,
if you could even define a coherent "consensus" view of what "science"
means. Trial courts are not the proper place for a graduate seminar on the
philosophy of science, and courts cannot adjudicate broad
philosophical questions -- period.

In addition, I don't think Behe's testimony that you cite below is anywhere
near as dismissive of the NAS definition as you suggest. It's rather
equivocal testimony. Behe's main point seems to be that something should
not be defined as a "scientific" theory primarily based on whether a
substantial number of people in the scientific community currently think the
theory is true. What constitutes "science" is not demarcated by mere
consensus. Is it heresy to question consensus in Science?

But most significantly, the resulting spin was grossly unfair because it
suggested Behe's definition would render astrology a workable, useful and
perhaps true view of the world today and that it might therefore be taught
in public schools if Behe's views about ID as "science" were accepted. This
is what the judge' opinion suggests, and that is exactly how anti-ID
advocates have spun it. But iIt is NOT what Behe testified to. He was
clear that astrology as a useful and workable theory has long since gone by
the boards; that astrology has been soundly falsified. The place where Behe
would demarcate "science" might not be the best one; it might not be the
demarcation which most working scientists would make; it might not be the
right one for public school curricula; but it is manifestly unfair to
suggest from this testimony that Behe would open the doors to the teaching
of astrology as a legitimate scientific theory today.

On 5/4/07, Rich Blinne <> wrote:
> On 5/4/07, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > 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.
> >
> >
> >
> First off, let me stipulate a few things so that we are clear.
> 1. Michael Behe does not believe in astrology.
> 2. Michael Behe does not consider astrology "good" science either in the
> past or currently.
> 3. Belief in ID does not require or even suggest belief in astrology. That
> is, belief in supernatural causation is not indicative of being
> superstitious.
> 4. The judge did not conclude any of the above.
> What is being discussed is whether the loosening the definition of
> scientific theory to not insist on testable hypotheses, where Behe replaces
> his personal opinion for the NAS definition, not only takes in ID as science
> but also astrology. I also violently disagree with his characterization that
> his "loose" view of scientific theory is representative of the larger
> scientific community. Judge Jones was good to call him on it. In another
> post, David, you alluded that the Judge did not understand the history or
> philosophy of science. Fine. But, your beef really is with the NAS because
> all the judge did was adopt their view -- which I believe is altogether
> appropriate for a trial rather than appellate judge (or law professor like
> yourself). David, you failed to include the preceding context in the
> testimony. As as the old saw says, a text without a context is a pretext.
> Therefore, I will provide it for you:
> Q <> Now, you
> claim that intelligent design is a scientific theory.
> A <> Yes.
> Q <> But when
> you call it a scientific theory, you're not defining that term the same way
> that the National Academy of Sciences does.
> A <> Yes,
> that's correct.
> Q <> You
> don't always see eye to eye with the National Academy?
> A <>Sometimes not.
> Q <> And the
> definition by the National Academy, as I think you testified is, a
> well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can
> incorporate facts, laws, inferences and tested hypotheses, correct?
> A <> Yes.
> Q <> Using
> that definition, you agree intelligent design is not a scientific theory,
> correct?
> A <> Well, as
> I think I made clear in my deposition, I'm a little bit of two minds of
> that. I, in fact, do think that intelligent design is well substantiated for
> some of the reasons that I made clear during my testimony. But again, when
> you say well substantiated, sometimes a person would think that there must
> be a large number of people then who would agree with that. And so, frankly,
> I, like I said, I am of two minds of that.
> Q <> And
> actually you said at your deposition, I don't think intelligent design falls
> under this definition. Correct?
> A <> Yeah,
> and that's after I said -- if I may see where in my deposition that is? I'm
> sorry.
> Q <> It's on
> pages 134 and 135.
> A <> And
> where are you -- where are you reading from?
> Q <> I'll be
> happy to read the question and answer to you. I asked you whether
> intelligent design -- I asked actually on the top of 133, I asked you
> whether intelligent design qualifies as a scientific theory using the
> National Academy of Sciences definition.
> A <> What
> line is that, I'm sorry?
> Q <> That's
> 133, line 18.
> A <> Is that
> going -- question beginning, "Going back to the National Academy of
> Science?"
> Q <> Yes. And
> you first said, "I m going to say that I would argue that in fact it is."
> And that's 134, line ten.
> A <> Yes.
> Q <> Okay.
> And I said, "Intelligent design does meet that?" And you said, "It's well
> substantiated, yes." And I said, "Let's be clear here, I'm asking -- looking
> at the definition of a scientific theory in its entirety, is it your
> position that intelligent design is a scientific theory?" And you said,
> going down to line 23, "I think one can argue these a variety of ways. For
> purposes of an answer to the -- relatively brief answer to the question, I
> will say that I don't think it falls under this." And I asked you, "What
> about this definition; what is it in this definition that ID can't satisfy
> to be called a scientific theory under these terms?" And you answer, "Well,
> implicit in this definition it seems to me that there would be an agreed
> upon way to decide something was well substantiated. And although I do think
> that intelligent design is well substantiated, I think there's not -- I
> can't point to external -- an external community that would agree that it
> was well substantiated."
> A <> Yes.
> Q <> So for
> those reasons you said it's not -- doesn't meet the National Academy of
> Sciences definition.
> A <> I think
> this text makes clear what I just said a minute or two ago, that I'm of
> several minds on this question. I started off saying one thing and changing
> my mind and then I explicitly said, "I think one can argue these things a
> variety of ways. For purposes of a relatively brief answer to the question,
> I'll say this." But I think if I were going to give a more complete answer,
> I would go into a lot more issues about this.
> <>So I
> disagree that that's what I said -- or that's what I intended to say.
> Q <> In any
> event, in your expert report, and in your testimony over the last two days,
> you used a looser definition of "theory," correct?
> A <> I think
> I used a broader definition, which is more reflective of how the word is
> actually used in the scientific community.
> Q <> But the
> way you define scientific theory, you said it's just based on your own
> experience; it's not a dictionary definition, it's not one issued by a
> scientific organization.
> A <> It is
> based on my experience of how the word is used in the scientific community.
> Q <> And as
> you said, your definition is a lot broader than the NAS definition?
> A <> That's
> right, intentionally broader to encompass the way that the word is used in
> the scientific community.
> Q <> Sweeps
> in a lot more propositions.
> A <> It
> recognizes that the word is used a lot more broadly than the National
> Academy of Sciences defined it.
> Q <> In fact,
> your definition of scientific theory is synonymous with hypothesis, correct?
> A <> Partly
> -- it can be synonymous with hypothesis, it can also include the National
> Academy's definition. But in fact, the scientific community uses the word
> "theory" in many times as synonymous with the word "hypothesis," other times
> it uses the word as a synonym for the definition reached by the National
> Academy, and at other times it uses it in other ways.
> Q <> But the
> way you are using it is synonymous with the definition of hypothesis?
> A <> No, I
> would disagree. It can be used to cover hypotheses, but it can also include
> ideas that are in fact well substantiated and so on. So while it does
> include ideas that are synonymous or in fact are hypotheses, it also
> includes stronger senses of that term.
> 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?...

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Received on Fri May 4 12:22:21 2007

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