Saturday, October 24, 2009

Inherit the Myth, Part II

This week Celeste Biever, writing for the NewScientist, perpetuated the Inherit the Wind myth. Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee wrote the play to illustrate the threat to intellectual freedom posed by the anti-communist hysteria of the 1940s McCarthy era. They used as their platform a highly fictionalized version of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 which relied heavily on the discredited warfare thesis (which holds that science and religion are locked in a deep conflict). Inherit the Wind has now become a propaganda instrument in the hands of evolutionists and Biever further propagated the lie this week when she informed her readers that the play rightly illustrates opposition to evolution as ignorant and fundamentalist.

But Biever did not stop there. She then added some propaganda of her own as she recounted what has become yet another evolution propaganda instrument: the 2005 Dover trial on the teaching of intelligent design.

In that trial lawyer Eric Rothschild asked Michael Behe about the definition of science. Wasn't Behe's definition of science too broad? Biever erronously recounted that Behe had to agree that astrology would come under his definition of science, and the court erupted in laughter. That is as false and misleading as is her interpretation of Inherit the Wind.

When I pointed this out evolutionists came rushing to her defense. One evolutionist in the know, who was at the trial, asked about my source. He writes:

There were no recordings allowed of the trial, but I know for sure that I and several others laughed, or at least giggled, when the astrology thing from Behe's deposition (where Behe had said, flat out, that astrology qualified as a scientific theory under his definition of theory) came up. If I recall correctly the astrology thing was included in the newspaper stories the reporters wrote that night for the next morning. It definitely made an impression on the audience, and the reporters sitting over in the jury box.

PS: The right answer answer to the astrology question was "no, it's not science."

My source was at the trial and tells me that Biever is engaging in Whig history. My source did not tell me there was dead silence. Were there a few people in the back row giggling? That certainly is possible, but the courtroom did not erupt in laughter. That simply is a false, self-serving misrepresentation.

But this giggling evolutionist does not stop there. He says that the reason for the eruption of laughter (which didn't happen) is that Behe "said, flat out, that astrology qualified as a scientific theory" (which didn't happen).

In this case the evolutionary lie cannot hide behind hearsay. Fortunately we have the transcipts of precisely what was said. Rothschild was pursuing another one of his absurd line of questionings and Behe was trying to set him straight.

Rothschild asked if astrology qualifies as science according to Behe. Rothschild, who probably never heard of the Chaldeans, was entering foreign territory. He may have thought he had cleverly made his case, but in fact he was revealing how sophmoric is evolutionary thought. This is not about angry fundamentalist mobs with pitchforks and torches.

Behe made it clear that tarot cards and mind readers don't cut it. But he also explained what historians and philosophers already know: whether astrology qualifies as science is a question that is more subtle than simply rejecting this morning's horoscope. Behe did not "flat out" say anything--he gave extended responses which were appropriate given the questions posed to him.

For instance, what if (as some claim) there are significant statistical correlations between the celestial objects and earthly events? Should we disallow, a priori, any such empirically-based conclusion? Should we smear any such investigation as non scientific? Behe makes it clear that his definition of science allows for such empirically-based approaches.

I have difficulty believing that such correlations exist (though I have never looked at the data) but, with Behe, it is also not clear to me that such an investigation must be considered as non scientific simply because we do not have a causal mechanism. If that were the case then Darwin and Wallace were not doing science either.

Of course there are examples of astrology that do make religious assumptions up front (such as with the Chaldeans). In these cases the astrology is no different than evolution, and the evolutionist's rebuke to astrology becomes hypocritical.

The bottom line is that questions of astrology immediately raise more questions. It is not particularly amenable to black/white answers as evolutionists would have it. For instance, how much up front restriction should we place on the answer? Should empirical investigation be allowed even if a causal mechanism is not known? Should we allow ourselves to ask dangerous questions? Here is the part of questioning where Behe reiterates his empiricism:

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.

Rothschild next undercuts his line of inquiry when he asked Behe "Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory," apparently oblivious to the actual history of astrology.

Do lawyers know about Kepler? Apparently not. Rothschild later pursued the ridiculous line of reasoning that design, like geocentrism, it is based merely on appearances:

Q 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?

The notion that we should exclude from science theories that are based on appearances is silly. If, on the other hand, Rothschild's point was merely that ID might be false, then so what? No one has claimed otherwise. It is naturalistic evolution, not ID, that is not falsifiable.

I once asked Rothschild about the problem that evolution entails religious premises. Does that make the teaching of evolution unconstitutional? Would he like to learn more? Not a chance.


  1. hm, I don't know, this sure sounds like Behe said flat out that astrology qualifies as a scientific theory:
    Q:"But you are clear, under your definition..astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?
    A: Yes, that's correct."

    if you think what Behe says afterwards changes that statement, please let me know how. what you wrote about the lawyer's ignorance of ths history of astrology, etc is irrelevant.

  2. What Khan said. And the whole discussion in courtroom was based on this exchange in the pretrial sworn deposition (which I was also at):

    Q. Using your definition of theory, is Creationism -- using your definition of scientific theory, is Creationism a scientific theory?

    A. No.

    Q. What about creation science?

    A. No.

    Q. Is astrology a theory under that definition?

    A. Is astrology? It could be, yes.

    [...desposition moved on to other questions...]

    Re: laughing, gee, I guess I'll just have to take my own direct personal experience rather than the testimony of some anonymous source.

  3. PS: Dr. Hunter, do you think astrology qualifies as a scientific theory?

  4. Khan:

    "this sure sounds like Behe said flat out that astrology qualifies as a scientific theory"

    I think you're correct on this point. Cornelius Hunter is interpreting "flat out" in a different way. But there is a reasonable interpretation of the phrase - one we can presume Nick Matzke meant, and I think the more precise one - which makes the sentence true. So - at the very least under the principle of charity, I think more emphatically than that - we can say that Matzke's assertion ("Behe had said, flat out, that astrology qualified as a scientific theory") was literally true. But that scarcely makes Mr. Matzke look any better here.

  5. NickM:

    "Re: laughing, gee, I guess I'll just have to take my own direct personal experience rather than the testimony of some anonymous source."

    I don't think it is an either/or, as there does not seem to be a discrepancy. As you said: "I know for sure that I and several others laughed, or at least giggled."

    The point is the courtroom did not erupt in laughter as Biever recounts.

    "do you think astrology qualifies as a scientific theory?"

    That's going to depend on two things: how you define astrology and how you define science. The former has a tremendous range. As for the latter, unlike you evolutionists, I am a tad bit conservative in areas where philosophers have toiled for centuries and failed to come up with an answer.

    So I think it unwise to latch onto simplistic, black/white conclusions on such philosophical questions.

    One opinion that I do have is that axioms need to be acknowledged and the empirical scientific evidence needs to be honestly evaluated.

    Regardless of what kind of label or smear you want to apply to positions you don't hold, I think that all sides need to have the courage to admit to their axioms and to their evidential problems, no matter who the audience is.

    I really don't care if creationism, or astrology, etc, are labeled as science, not science, or whatever. It makes no difference to me.

    But if a creationist stands up and says "well we believe Genesis must be interpreted this way, and we've got these scientific problems currently," how does that compare with the evolutionist who labels creationism as non science while denying his own religious claims and denying his own scientific problems?

    Instead of playing propaganda games, let's be honest for a change.

  6. Cornelius,
    by "honest" do you mean posting as "anonym" and then changing the text of your post to eliminate the part where you said Nick "lied" about Behe saying that astrology is a scientific theory?

  7. ps if you dont care what's labeled science i guess you won't mind if your kids are taught sorcery and alchemy in science class?

  8. " by "honest" do you mean posting as "anonym" and then changing the text of your post ... "

    I didn't know you could change the text of a post. In any case, I don't have a problem with people retracting or modifying what they have written. And I don't have a problem with posting as anonym. I, however, do not post as anomym.

  9. faair enough, given your history (e.g. thylacine-wolf), i thought it was a good guess. it would be nice if you at least acknowledged what you'd done, i.e. baselessly callng someone a liar. for the 2nd time in as many days.

  10. and now i will acknowledge that i misread your post, you didn't change it. apologies.

  11. Propaganda and darwin worshippers go hand in hand.

    "Ida" (you know, the 'missing link') which was promoted by a media blitz that rivaled "Who shot J.R" has turned out to be just another fossil. Imagine that! There was even a 'documentary' on the History Channel and a book propagandizing 'Ida'...but now, Wired magazine states:

    “[f]ar from spawning the ancestors of humans, the 47 million-year-old Darwinius seems merely to have gone extinct, leaving no descendants,”

    I wonder when the documentary and book exposing the UNscientific rush to promote this fossil as the 'missing link' will be airing on the History Channel??? Hope Sir David Attenborough is available to narrate.

    Evolutionists constantly claim there are 'mountains of evidence' for their 'theory' so it makes one wonder why they practically wet themselves over such mere fossils like "ida"..especially in light of the new evidence. It's almost as if they are still trying to find something concrete to support their darwinian MYTH. ;-)

    Most evolutionists do not care about the truth or scientific integrity...they only care about getting the public to believe their darwinian MYTH at whatever cost.

  12. A theory can be scientific without being true. So, if people do a study to see if the stars do influnce what happens to people, why doesn't that qualify as scientific?

  13. There is a basic ambiguity in the term 'scientific theory'. It can mean 'a theory which is patent of scientific investigation, and thus of verification or falsification': or it can mean 'a theory which has survived scientific investigation'. On the first definition, astrology is clearly a nexus of theory which is patent of scientific investigation [the application of which results in its falsification]. On the second definition, astrology is not a scientific theory, as it has not survived scientific investigation.
    Dawkins has even said at times that divine creation is a scientific theory: one that - in his view - has been falsified by evolution.

  14. One cannot follow any line of reasoning or scientific investigation unless something appears to be something(seems to be) even with the possibility of it being falsified. So hanging the import of the question on whether something appears to be so with the hint that appearances can be decieving is as Hunter has said, a so what irrelevancy.

    A person who wishes to be accurate must follow apparent leads which show forth a "seeming" probability of being explanatory, which is all one has to go on. In the end it can be said that all of that which is called scientific depends on appearances which leads us to our first investigations and those appearances can be proven true and if not it is still other post appearances which lead one away from the one by way of another.

  15. In other words there are true appearances and false appearances. Classifying somethign as an appearance really says nothing about its validity, unless one defines appearance as deception. In that case we must define terms.
    In the end it seems that Dr. Behe stepped right into that one unecessarily.