19 October 2005

Astrology and ID both scientific, claims Pennsylvania prof

A trial facing the US courts is over whether K-12 teachers in Dover, PA, should read a statement to their students questioning Darwinian evolution before teaching the content. Eleven parents are sueing the school board saying that the statment is tantamount to promoting religious creationism, while the school board claims that they are only making the students aware of the controversy in an unestablished claim. In the quote below, Rothschild is the attourney for the plaintiffs (the 11 pro-evolution parents), while Behe is a witness for the defense (pro-intelligent design school board). Behe is a biochem prof at University, Bethlehem, PA.

Rothschild told the court that the US National Academy of Sciences supplies a definition for what constitutes a scientific theory: “Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.”

Because ID has been rejected by virtually every scientist and science organisation, and has never once passed the muster of a peer-reviewed journal paper, Behe admitted that the controversial theory would not be included in the NAS definition. “I can’t point to an external community that would agree that this was well substantiated,” he said.

Behe said he had come up with his own “broader” definition of a theory, claiming that this more accurately describes the way theories are actually used by scientists. “The word is used a lot more loosely than the NAS defined it,” he says.

Hypothesis or theory?

Rothschild suggested that Behe’s definition was so loose that astrology would come under this definition as well. He also pointed out that Behe’s definition of theory was almost identical to the NAS’s definition of a hypothesis. Behe agreed with both assertions.

The exchange prompted laughter from the court, which was packed with local members of the public and the school board.

Behe maintains that ID is science: “Under my definition, scientific theory is a proposed explanation which points to physical data and logical inferences.”

“You've got to admire the guy. It’s Daniel in the lion’s den,” says Robert Slade, a local retiree who has been attending the trial because he is interested in science. "But I can’t believe he teaches a college biology class."

(New Scientist)

See also my post on science words.

1 comment:

Nervous Rodent said...

If the defense wins this one, I'm going to cry. "Scientific theory is a proposed explanation which points to physical data and logical inferences.” I may have slept through a lot of my college science classes, but that's not a theory.

I have three friends. Two are tall. The short one is stupid. Ergo, my theory is all short people are stupid. Right?

No. It's a hypothesis. It is not well-substantiated. Although it is testable, it has not been tested -- and would fail if it were tested. But it meet's Behe's definition, and by his logic, ought to be taught as an alternative to genetics and behaviorial sciences. After all, it's equally valid.