Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Michael Behe and Astrology.

If you want to comment on Michael Behe’s desire to see Astrology in every science lesson please read the following before doing so.

Other links:
Behe believes in astrology
What's a Theory? Part II
Miller Misrepresents Behe Again
500 years ago

New Scientist reported the incident like this:



“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.”

Actually the truth is more interesting.

In Behe’s deposition he had made a careful argument using evidence from PubMed that the word “theory” is actually used in a variety of ways in scientific discourse.

He makes the point that if the NAS definition is used rigorously it would require quite a significant shift in the way the word is used by many scientists in their published work.

This was an important point in the whole debate and an important point relevant to the trial. When IDers argue that ID is a scientific theory in what sense are we using the relevant term “scientific theory”? When anti-IDers argue that ID is not a scientific theory in what sense are they using the term.

In his expert witness submission Behe argued that there are basically four different senses in which the word “theory” is used in modern peer reviewed scientific discourse.

He then went on to argue that the best sense for describing accurately ID as a scientific theory is “a proposed explanation for a set of facts.” He sets this as the alternative explanation to Ernst Mayr’s fifth claim of Evolution - natural selection as the cause of biological complexity.

The expert witness submission itself (as far as I can see- it is a set of images rather than searchable text) says nothing about astrology.
Link to expert witness

*The deposition does include the statement regarding astrology:



17 Q. Using your definition of theory, is Creationism -- using
18 your
definition of scientific theory, is Creationism a
19 scientific theory?
20
Behe. No.
21 Q. What about creation science?
22 Behe. No.
23 Q. Is astrology
a theory under that definition?
24 Behe. Is astrology? It could be, yes.

Link to deposition.


The astrology section comes up on Day 11 in the afternoon session
Link to court transcript




Q
But the way you are using it (“scientific theory”) is synonymous with the
definition of hypothesis?
Behe-
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?
Behe
Yes.
Q
Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your
definition, correct?
Behe 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?
Behe
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?
Behe
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?
Behe
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?
Behe
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?
Behe
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.
So this was the famous section of the court transcript that shows that Behe is a scientific illiterate who wants modern astrology in science lessons!
Note Behe is not arguing that Astrology as it is understood today is a scientific theory but that possibly when it was in a hopelessy tangled state with Astronomy there may have been justification for calling it a scientific theory. He argues that the ether theory of light propagation was also an example of this kind of theory from the history of science.

Note-I am not in the habit of praising the NCSE but I think that they have done an excellent job of making all the documents available online - Thankyou!
* Updated with the correct link to the deposition - thanks to Annonymous commenter.

33 Comments:

Anonymous Brian said...

Andrew,

This is another straw-man in the making. Behe may have been right in his initial contention that astrology was once part of contemporary thinking and hence 'science of the day' but I think it is stretching credibility to suggest even he advocates it being taught in modern science classes.

Times have changed. It's no longer acceptable to have science-by-association which is why astrology has now been relegated from the science of astronomy. As I see it, the reason Behe comes unstuck is his insistence on adding the phrase "..and logical inferences" to his definition of a theory. This appends a metaphysical opt-out to an adequate definition. You could infer from a logical standing that astrology is a scientific discipline but common sense tells you it isn't. Ditto with ID.

You refer to Behe calling ID a "proposed explanation for a set of facts". Unfortunately for ID the facts have only ever been explained BY evolution. ID is one of the great mysteries of life. It doesn't explain anything. It posits a suggestion that there is a detectable intelligent agency out there in the universe, somewhere, maybe? How, where, when and why it does this have yet to be explained in simple terms or is that pathetic level of detail too much to ask for.

Behe brought ridicule on himself by foregoing his scientific credibility in deference to a politically motivated affirmation of his faith. (Have you read the disclaimer his colleagues have put on their website?)

The court was right to assert that the vacuous assumption of ID, masquerading as an alternative to 150 years of scientific endeavour, be considered in the same light as astrology. Both have their novelty value but neither have stood up to scientific scrutiny. What credibility does ID have to warrant inclusion in any school class?

1:16 am  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

I think your lengthy post obfuscates the three crucial questions in this matter:

1) Did Behe propose a definition of "scientific theory"?

The answer appears to be "yes."

2) Does this definition encompass Astrology as a "scientific theory"?

Behe's own answer appears to be "yes."

3) Is a definition of "scientific theory" that encompasses Astrology as a "scientific theory" a good definition?

Most would agree that the answer is an emphatic "no."

A subsidiary matter is whether Behe's testimony meets the Daubert standard. An issue which you have dodged every time I have raised it.

2:31 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,
Thank you for your observation that Behe was not advocating that Astrology be taught in science lessons and for your agreement that Behe was talking in a history of science context when he is speaking about astrology as a scientific theory. He is clearly not talking about what is understood as astrology today. He was only happy with the Archaic definition of astrology.


You said:
"the facts have only ever been explained BY evolution"
This is incorrect. Prior to Darwin many scientists interpreted the data by special creation.

"The court was right to assert that the vacuous assumption of ID, masquerading as an alternative to 150 years of scientific endeavour, be considered in the same light as astrology."

As far as I am aware the "court" did not make this assertion.

7:31 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

My post was long because I wanted to include the relevant part of the court transcript so that other readers can read the whole exchange.

(1)It is clear that Behe did propose a definition for "scientific theory" which includes ID.

(2) It is the definition of astrology which is crucial here. He is talking about astrology entangled with early astronomy. He is only happy with the archaic definition of astrology. He is talking in the context of the history of science and his other analogy is the ether theory of light propagation. So the answer is only a very heavily qualified yes.
(3) I think most scientists who know something of the history of science would accept that astrology when used in the way that Behe used it was very important in the early stages of astronomy. Lots of excellent scientific work went on under the general heading of astrology.

The serious point which Behe was making in his deposition has not been addressed... this simple definition of "scientific theory" provided by the NAS is inadequate and needs to be replaced by a series of definitions.

7:40 am  
Anonymous Brian said...

Andrew,

The whole problem with what you are arguing here (I think) is that you have to revert to the archaic definitions of 'theory' in order to include ID as an associated idea. A theory is more than a political ideal. It is an explanation supported by evidence and it's claims are independently testable. You can dispute a theory but it has to be based on the same criteria you would use to prove it - evidence. This is ID's achilles heel. They disagree with (some) evolutionary conclusions but use deliberate misinterpretation of evidence and scientific knowledge to argue their case. It's analogous to using astrology to explain the cosmos and explains ID's juxtaposition to science rather than its inclusion.

Theories that have been discredited do not retain credibility because they once reflected contemporary thinking. That's a semantic argument. I also cannot think of any good science that came from astrology?

Creationist interpretations of evolutionary evidence do not explain anything just as the FSM doesn't explain anything. It's a viewpoint that is subjective and one that is prone to failure when objectively scrutinised. So, whilst it may not be the only viewpoint, evolution IS currently the only theory that explains the natural world.

Semantically, Behe may have had a point but you cannot ressurect archaic definitions to validate your ideas when the whole scientific community has moved on. Behe only objects to current definitions of 'theory' because they rightly exclude supernatural explanations. Science deals with objective reality, which excludes novelties such as astrology and ID.

My reference to the court's 'assertion' about ID's vacuity was a generalisation rather than a specific claim, but a valid one?

10:17 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,
You said:
"The whole problem with what you are arguing here (I think) is that you have to revert to the archaic definitions of 'theory' in order to include ID as an associated idea."

I am not reverting toanything. I was simply explaining what Behe argued in his deposition- namely that the NAS definition of "scientific theory" is too narrow given its current usage in published scientific discourse.

He proposes a broader definition for one sense of the words and obviously more things are swept in by the broader definition. There are two options either we change the way the words are used in scientific discourse in line with the NAS definition in which case ID is out or we have a broader definition and argue about whether ID is in or not. That was Behe's point which was deliberately trivialised and turned into a sound bite point of ridicule by deliberately misreading his point.

10:59 am  
Anonymous tempus fugit said...

Andrew was right to remind us of the context of Behe’s testimony on astrology. The point that needs to be stressed is that many of the findings associated with astronomy today – not least a keen interest in star charts – came from astrology. Kepler is one of the last examples of someone whose work was motivated by astrological concerns. Astrologers weren’t just deluded astronomers. They were among the main people trying to make a connection between astronomy and physics, which remained largely separate disciplines until the 17th century. They didn’t get the connection right, but they deserve a prominent place in the history of science.

I’m surprised no one has asked why anyone should take what the US National Academy of Sciences says seriously, since it’s primarily a political body: i.e. even though scientists select the members, the NAS functions mainly in an advisory capacity to the government. It’s not the American version of the Royal Society, which is a truly independent scientific body. (There is no such thing.) The fact that the NAS comes up with a definition of a scientific theory that quite explicitly excludes creationism and intelligent design should lead you people to conclude that it’s at least as political as anything ID is doing.

Also, many of you bang on about what ‘the whole scientific community’ believes. Have you any evidence for this body of opinion? I’ve looked at some of the polls often cited, and their methodology is about as credible as one would expect of the average market research survey.

12:27 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"He is talking about astrology entangled with early astronomy."

Only because Behe himself chose to entangle it. The ONLY reason he would have for doing this was because he knew that modern astrology, disentangled from modern astronomy would also be encompassed by his definition. Therefore dragging early astronomy in gave him some vestigial cover. If modern astrology would not have been encompassed, he would have simply answered "no."

Behe's response clearly indicates that, under his definition, astrology is NOW a "scientific theory."

This renders it a bad definition.

1:03 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

Do you think Behe's Dover testimony met SCOTUS's Daubert Standard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daubert)?

If so, why?

1:10 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"I was simply explaining what Behe argued in his deposition- namely that the NAS definition of "scientific theory" is too narrow given its current usage in published scientific discourse."

Look at any word and you will find the occasional divergent usage of it. People occasionally use words in a loose, bad and/or incorrect ways. Attempting to broaden every word's definition to the extent that it encompasses every (mis)use of it would simply destroy the meaning of a language.

Behe was simply playing word games. He is, after all, neither a linguist nor a Philosopher of Science -- so had no legitimate reason to be setting up his own definition. As it turns out, his definition was illegitimately broad in that it encompassed (modern) Astrology.

1:18 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

"Only because Behe himself chose to entangle it."

Behe did not entangle astrology with Astronomy- this was historical.
It would have helped to clarify the argument at that point for the questioner to specify which sense of the word astrology he was using. If he had clarified to the modern sense we know that Behe would have said that astrology is not a scientific theory. That is clear from the later exchange.

Behe's definition in "Biology and Philosophy" journal which is in his deposition is: "A theory constructed solely on the foundation of empirical facts about the natural world and logical inferences." This would exclude modern astrology in my view.

I think it is clear from his answers that he excludes modern astrology but is reluctant to exclude ancient astrology.

Are you saying that Behe is wrong in his analysis of the current professional usage of "scientific theory" or are you saying that those scientists and their reviewers need to tighten up their usage of the term?

1:38 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

With regard to the point in Behe's deposition concerning the definition of "scientific theory" I would argue he did meet the Daubert standard.

With regard to his testimony as to whether astrology is or is not within that definition he as far as I am aware was outside of the Daubert standard...though he seems to make that clear in his testimony. It would have been better from a procedural point of view for him to have said that that would be best answered by an expert on the history of science who had published on astrology in the history of science. However I am convinced that he was actually right from a history of science perspective.

1:47 pm  
Anonymous tempus fugit said...

Hrafn said...
Andrew:

Do you think Behe's Dover testimony met SCOTUS's Daubert Standard (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daubert)?

If so, why?


It seems to me that it doesn't matter what Andrew thinks, since the judge actually allowed Behe to answer the question posed by the lawyer. At the beginning of each expert testimony in the trial, both sides had the opportunity to disqualify witnesses. No one succeeded. Legal scholars have commented on this liberal policy, which is indeed against the spirit of Daubert. The judge allowed everyone to respond to all questions, unless (sometimes) a lawyer objected. If anyone deserves this question, if not the judge, then it's Behe's lawyer for allowing him to answer a question outside his expertise, which may have prejudiced the judge's thinking about Behe's views on other maters.

2:03 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Behe did not entangle astrology with Astronomy- this was historical."

Andrew: is Behe living several centuries ago?

Andrew: was Behe testifying as a Historian of Science?

Andrew: was Behe asked about the history of astrology?

The answer is no, no and NO!

So tell me how the history of astrology came into the discussion, other than the fact that Behe decided to entangle it in.

"It would have helped to clarify the argument at that point for the questioner to specify which sense of the word astrology he was using."

The sense that the lawyer was using it was perfectly clear. It was Behe himself who was obfuscating by dragging in history.

Behe dragged in history! The lawyer was not asking about history!

Yet again you are performing logical contortions to defend a Creationist's dishonesty Andrew. You seem to make a habit of this.

"Behe's definition in "Biology and Philosophy" journal which is in his deposition is: "A theory constructed solely on the foundation of empirical facts about the natural world and logical inferences." This would exclude modern astrology in my view."

How? Astrology is "constructed solely on the foundation of empirical facts" -- star positions and movements. Astrology then makes "logical inferences" from the postulated influences of these positions and movements.

"I think it is clear from his answers that he excludes modern astrology..."

No, the EXACT OPPOSITE is clear:
"But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?
Behe: Yes, that's correct."


Or are you going to throw a Clinton and claim that you don't know what "is" means?

"Are you saying that Behe is wrong in his analysis of the current professional usage of "scientific theory" or are you saying that those scientists and their reviewers need to tighten up their usage of the term?"

Both.

3:20 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

Are you claiming that Behe's definition of "scientific theory" has either:

1) been subject to peer review; or

2) generally accepted by a relevant scientific community,

as required by the Daubert standard?

3:27 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"It seems to me that it doesn't matter what Andrew thinks, since the judge actually allowed Behe to answer the question posed by the lawyer."

Actually it did matter, as Charles Kitcher pointed out in Lawful Design: A New Standard for Evaluating Establishment Clause Challenges to School Science Curricula (http://scit.us/~reed/kitchner06.pdf):
"Though the opinion makes no mention of Daubert, observe that the three factors Judge Jones focused on – testability, peer review, and general acceptance – are precisely the applicable three factors from the Daubert analysis."

3:36 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
You said:
"I think it is clear from his answers that he excludes modern astrology..." No, the EXACT OPPOSITE is clear:

Behe says:
"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."

Later he insists that it is the Archaic definition that is the only one which is relevant to his argument.

I cannot see how you understand this transcript to mean that Behe makes it clear that modern astrology is within his definition of "scientific theory"

3:53 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

Andrew,

(I wasn't inferring you personally but ID proponents in general)

I've just re-read the relevant parts of Behe's exp. wit. statement in which Behe states "[ID] is a "scientific" theory because...it is based entirely on empirical observable facts about biology plus logical inferences" He then 'reasons' (sect 1.2.3.2) that ID is feasible as an 'inductive argument' on the basis that it offers AN explanation where science has failed to provide one. He also states "ID theory focuses exclusively on the proposed mechanism of how complex biological structures arose"

Let's apply this blue-sky thinking to astrology.

1. There are heavenly bodies out there (empirical observable fact) and when they are in certain alignments I feel good (logical inference)

2. (Perhaps) millions of people around the world read their horoscope every day and feel the benefit of their predictions. I assert this is evidence that astrology affects people (inductive argument). Science hasn't conclusively proved me wrong?

3. I don't need to go into a pathetic level of detail (I only need to focus on a 'proposed' mechanism)

Well, as far as Behe would have it, astrology can be considered a theory?

As ludicrous as this sounds, astrology probably has more explanatory mechanisms than ID? I conceded the point that Behe wasn't advocating including astrology in the classroom but his belief that ID should be fails every test of common sense. For more than ten years the 'proposed' mechanism' of ID has yet to see the light of day?

His arguments about the incoherent use of the word 'theory' is as relevant as arguing that the pronunciation of 'neither' or 'tomato' alters it's context. it's very easy to use terminology in strictly non-technical ways but the meaning is generally understood unless one chooses to misinterpret it to validate a counter-argument. That's politics.

4:00 pm  
Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

hrafn: Are you Tim Hague who commented on my post? You seem to share his approach to spin.

Does Michael Behe think that astrology should be in science classes? No.

Does he think that astrology is good science - today? No - "nobody -- well, not nobody, but certainly the educated community has not accepted astrology as a science for a long long time".

Anything you hear that argues to the contrary is spin.

4:03 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not Behe's deposition you linked to, it's his written expert witness statement. The depositions are over in the "depo" folder on the NCSE website, and the astrology thing is very clear.

4:20 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

The passage of Behe's that you quoted is non-responsive, and thus irrelevant. He was not asked about what the "educated community" accepted as "science," but about what his definition accepted. That question, framed in the present tense, Behe answered in the affirmative. All else is window-dressing!

4:22 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
You said:
"Are you claiming that Behe's definition of "scientific theory" has either:
1) been subject to peer review; or
2) generally accepted by a relevant scientific community,
as required by the Daubert standard?"

1) Behe has published this view in Biology and Philosophy but having looked this up in more detail it is part of a response to the reviews of his book so I am unsure as to whether this fulfills the first prong.

2) Behe presents detailed evidence that the NAS definition does not describe the actual usage of the term in the scientific literature. We may think this is deplorable sloppiness but it is a fact none the less. Presumably therefore there are a selection of journals and reviewers who do not object to this usage of the term.

4:23 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"hrafn: Are you Tim Hague who commented on my post? You seem to share his approach to spin."

No.

"Does Michael Behe think that astrology should be in science classes? No.

Does he think that astrology is good science - today? No - "nobody -- well, not nobody, but certainly the educated community has not accepted astrology as a science for a long long time"."


Was Behe asked either of these questions? NO!

Was Behe asked if under his definition, astrology IS (i.e. current tense, in the present, NOT historically) a "scientific theory"? Yes, and he answered in the affirmative.

All else is spin.

4:31 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Annonymous,

You are quite right.

Thank you for pointing this out.

I will correct the text above.

Thanks.

4:32 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew, I agree that the B&P article does not appear to have been peer-reviewed and is thus of highly doubtful value for the first prong.

That many do not follow the NAS definition does not necessarily imply that it is a bad, or not "generally accepted" definition (it could merely imply sloppiness among scientific authors). However, even if it is a bad definition, this does not imply that Behe's definition is good, nor that it is "generally accepted."

4:43 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

The understood sense of the word astrology is crucial here. Was it legitimate for Behe to take the work in its Archaic sense?

I don't know.

Was that the sense in which he actually took the word?

That seems to me from the context in the trial to be clear that he did take astrology in that sense.

Even in his deposition it seems that he is thinking along those lines...he says "It could be. Yes"

From the whole context do you understand Behe to have been thinking that modern astrology is a scientific theory according to his definition? ie You think he is convinced in his own mind that astrology (as it is practiced now) should be included as equivalent in status to ID according to his definition.

4:54 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

I was not arguing (and I do not think Behe was arguing) that the NAS definition is wrong. I think he was arguing that the term theory can be used with varying strengths in different contexts in scientific discourse. We perhaps have a problem which needs terminological clarification. I think to be fair that is what the NAS were trying to achieve. However it has not yet become established... maybe it needs a bit more work on how to clarify the multiple meanings.

4:58 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Was it legitimate for Behe to take the work in its Archaic sense?"

Unless "is" now means "was many centuries ago", then the answer is an emphatic NO!

Behe was not asked about "was".

Behe was not asked about history.

Behe was not asked about archaic meanings.

Behe was asked if astrology IS encompassed under his definition of a "scientific theory." He answered in the affirmative.

How much clearer does it need to be?

5:08 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew:

Words frequently have colloquial meanings that are broader and fuzzier than their formal (scientific, legal, mathematical, etc) meanings.

Attempting to blur the difference between the formal and the colloquial, as Behe appears to be attempting to do, is simply not legitimate -- and results in an obviously flawed definition, that has no "general acceptance."

5:16 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

If we only had the deposition statement then I agree that your interpretation of what Behe said is legitimate.

However given his answers to the questions in the trial we must either conclude that
(a) he chnaged his mind between the deposition and the trial
(b) he was thinking of the word "astrology" in its archaic sense at the deposition as well as at the trial.

Do you think that if we were to ask him now whether he currently thinks that his definition should include astrology (as it is practiced in horoscopes etc) he would say yes?

5:17 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"However given his answers to the questions in the trial..."

Andrew, for the umpteenth time, his TRIAL testimony was:
Question: "But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?"
Behe: "Yes, that's correct."

"Is" not "was"!

"Do you think that if we were to ask him now whether he currently thinks that his definition should include astrology (as it is practiced in horoscopes etc) he would say yes?"

Andrew, I have no interest in "should" I am interested only in what his definition does include.

5:25 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

OK are you at all interested in what his convictions are and were?

5:34 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"OK are you at all interested in what his convictions are and were?"

Not particularly. Behe had supplied a definition of "scientific theory" of doubtful provenance. The lawyer was attempting to test it by seeing if it would exclude something, astrology, which would be generally agreed should be excluded from the definition. This was a fairly standard piece of cross-examination.

It was Behe himself who muddied the waters: first by bringing in the history of science, and ether theory - neither of which issues were responsive to the lawyer's question: "Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?"

The lawyer then forced a straight answer out of Behe to this question, and got an affirmative answer.

Thereafter, as Behe himself had brought up the issue of history of science, and theories that had been disgarded, the lawyer asked a follow-up question on the issue:
"Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory, Professor Behe?"

At which point Behe denies knowledge of history of science (the subject that he had himself inserted, unasked, into his testimony).

Thereafter the lawyer asks a clarification question about the dictionary definition of astrology. In this exchange it is clear that the lawyer is interested in how "the term is now used," but that Behe wants to drag attention to the "archaic definition."

For somebody who disclaims being a Historian of Science, Behe seems far more interested in the past than in the present.

But regardless of this obfuscation, his testimony clearly states that he believes that astrology (as it is presently defined) is encompassed by his definition.

His (non-responsive) comments about past definitions of astrology cannot alter this matter.

1:35 am  

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