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Astrology is scientific theory
October 19, 2005 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Creationist author Michael Behe: "Astrology is a scientific theory". If, that is, you use his definition of theory. Behe, you may recall, is the grand high poobah of "intelligent design", the theory that states that somebody (who totally doesn't have to be God) created designed all life on Earth. It seems the latest iteration of the Scopes Monkey Trial isn't going so well for Mr. Behe. Even the courtroom audience is laughing at him.
posted by darukaru (62 comments total)

 
Does it really matter whether it's one mystical mumbo-jumbo theory or another? This *is* a debate of reason versus unreason after all.
posted by clevershark at 10:13 AM on October 19, 2005


Exactly. A theory is either a refutable explanation supported by logic and data or it is not. There's no room in science for "theories" that can't be tested because /that's not science/. Duh.
posted by muppetboy at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2005


Does the Grand High Poobah get a turban and a scepter? And is he brought around his miraculous palace garden in an elephant found in the mysterious Orient?
posted by solistrato at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2005


See, here's the thing. Everytime one of these idiots gets airtime to spout their particular brand of stupid, they get a few more people who nod their heads and agree with him. I'd hope that it balances out with just as many people thinking he's batshitinsane.

But he gets more people to at least consider his "arguments" and the spreading of shit like this makes us all stink.

The pseudoscience tag should be anti-science.
posted by fenriq at 10:19 AM on October 19, 2005


Another Behe quote: "I am not a very good biochemist and I don't understand my field very well; ergo, God designed all species."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2005


I'd hope that it balances out with just as many people thinking he's batshitinsane.

Considering the state of science education in the country, I kind of doubt it.

I wish the media would stop playing up the "debate" over the validity of "evolution" 'cause there ain't one. Then again, if wishes were fishes... they'd... bump their ass a hoppin'.... or something...
posted by brundlefly at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2005


Oh yeah, and before someone says "b-b-b-but ID isn't creationism!", please show me one promiment atheist ID supporter.
posted by darukaru at 10:27 AM on October 19, 2005


Now, darukaru, Behe doesn't talk about Adam & Eve or the flood or anything... in public.
posted by brundlefly at 10:30 AM on October 19, 2005


Next you'll be telling me I should thow out my phrenology charts!
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:31 AM on October 19, 2005


It may be that the old astrologers had the truth exactly reversed, when they believed that the stars controlled the destinies of men. The time may come when men control the destinies of stars. - Arthur C. Clarke
posted by blue_beetle at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2005


Hey, if it's good enough for Nancy Reagan...
posted by alumshubby at 10:34 AM on October 19, 2005


The Card Cheat: No point. That prominent bump on the side tells us that you won't.
posted by Gyan at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2005


Fuck creationism and fuck intelligent design and if you believe in such things then you're a fucking moron. There I've said it. I feel better now...
posted by ob at 10:38 AM on October 19, 2005


Unfortunately, ID is winning in the court of popular opinion and is being taught in more and more schools.
posted by troutfishing at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2005


More resources and links about the trial in this thread.
posted by OmieWise at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2005


From American Scientist a few days back:


posted by numlok at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2005


troutfishing: Hell, they've got the Prez on their side. Then again, that might be a liability nowadays.
posted by brundlefly at 10:45 AM on October 19, 2005


Here is a Philly Inquirer article about his testimony. (Stupid reg. req.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:49 AM on October 19, 2005


You know, given the amount of people that actually believe in astrology, I don't think this does any damage to the legitmacy of intelligent design in the public eye.
posted by david wester at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2005


All I can say is, I hope all these people take their "theories" to their natural conclusions. I mean, hell...if they really want to turn back the clock to the good ole times before, you know, the Enlightenment, then they should at least have the balls to take it all the way. So when Bush gets bird flu, he should have himself bled with leeches. So as to rid himself of bad humours. The twat.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:56 AM on October 19, 2005


Modern medical science actually uses leeches. Not to mention maggots.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:01 AM on October 19, 2005


Reordering the article's main points for clarity:

[T]he 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.”

Behe said he had come up with his own “broader” definition of a theory[...]: “Under my definition, scientific theory is a proposed explanation which points to physical data and logical inferences.”

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.


IOW, Behe has now acknowledged that ID "theory" is no more than a "hypothesis". So I fully support teaching it in our schools alongside other hypotheses, such as FSM "theory", the Green Cheese "theory" of Lunar Geology, the gerbils-on-treadmills "theory" of auto mechanics, and the Jesus-was-a-Martian theory of biblical history.

Glad to have Behe on our side!
posted by purple_frogs at 11:06 AM on October 19, 2005


I dislike the ID argument but only because could have been an interesting religious/spiritual/philosophical viewpoint on science but instead the people pushing it try to warp the definition of scientific theory to "make" it science. They probably do this because they don't feel like they are getting enough attention, and or respect, because science has taken gained such a prominent role today.

Science is constantly asking how things work but it never gets beyond processes and outcomes etc. Religion in all its forms has one goal: it is trying to help us explain the unexplainable. It follows that many of religion's past explanations have been replaced scientific explanations. That doesn't mean that religion is obsolete its just that people have to find explanations in religion for things science can't answer.

Stephen Hawking was being interviewed about peoples' reactions to the "Big Bang Theory" and he brings up the fact that people thought he was saying that it wasn't God who created the universe but rather the "Big Bang." His response was that "the theory didn't deny the existence of God but rather showed when and how He had gone about his task."
posted by graham1881 at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2005


I'd hope that it balances out with just as many people thinking he's batshitinsane.

Considering the state of science education in the country, I kind of doubt it.

Bingo. Here's how the it's going to go down in Peoria.

Behe will just throw out epithets about evolution with no substantiation, and these epithets will be accepted. Bene's the scientific version of tourette's syndrome. Just repeat "irreducible complexity" over and over again thousands of times. What an embarrassment to Lehigh.
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:19 AM on October 19, 2005


I kind of doubt that it will all balance out as well. But I wish it would.

All this because people are unwilling to accept the definition of a scientific theory. Instead people assume they know what a theory is and dismiss evolution out of hand. Which, of course, makes them look like ignoramuses.
posted by fenriq at 11:39 AM on October 19, 2005


4 8 15 16 23 42
posted by iamck at 11:39 AM on October 19, 2005


108
posted by darukaru at 11:41 AM on October 19, 2005


On the first night "The Steve Carrell Show," he did a great bit about how what was important in America is not what is right, but what feels right. Very funny bit, actually.

Of course, what feels right, sometimes known as common sense, is provably wrong. Doesn't the anecdote go that for years people thought that since a feather was lighter than a rock that a rock fell faster than a feather? Observation eventually proved that they fall at the same rate.

Of course, we all know why they fall at the same rate. Intelligent Falling.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:06 PM on October 19, 2005


What graham1881 said. Id'ers quest for scientific certainty is endemic of a lack of true faith. In a way I find it harder to believe that a truly religious person pursues this line of inquiry than a trained scientist. Scientists are interesting (broadly) in causal connections and regularities. Religion is interested in faith and placing humankind in the cosmos.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:08 PM on October 19, 2005


The best way for scientifically-minded Americans to discredit the ID movement is to enthusiastically agree with it...with the slight modification of attributing creation to Allah.
posted by you just lost the game at 12:10 PM on October 19, 2005


You know, if I had to decide the truth of physics based on my college Teaching Assistants, I'd reject it. ID has buffoons but there is a question that Dempksi raises indirectly that is an interesting question. In a billion years, would megacorporations from earth be planting and mining life on other planets, for some sort of profit? Aside from their current short-run planning horizon, the idea wouldn't be out of line. So, flip that around. The universe is 15 billion years old. Earth is 5 billion years old. Someone out there could have started with a billion year head start on us. If they did, are they here now? If they were, would we know it?

Those are interesting questions, although not for high school biology students.

There are way smaller versions of the "intervention detection" question that are worth attention. Is Iran actually messing with Iraq's election? Is the US? How would we know? Where do we look? How do we look?

The quest for "invisible hands" to be made visible is a worthy question. After we get really good at it, we could come back to Dempski and look at his question again.
posted by ticula at 12:30 PM on October 19, 2005


Yes, Dempski seems to have interesting ideas, and his getting the boot from this trial (by the defense) shows that he's at least not an idiot out toeing the party line (apparently he actually said ID ought not to be taught in HS biology classes)

Interesting ideas can come from non-scientists, if their statements can be tested. I don't think that he's right, but he's as much of a hack as some people make him out to be. At least, that's my impression. I don't follow all of this fully.

His arguments about the NFL theory 'disproving' evolution were ridiculous on he surface for this Computer Science graduate, however.
posted by delmoi at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2005


Unfortunately, ID is winning in the court of popular opinion and is being taught in more and more schools.
posted by troutfishing at 12:42 PM CST on October 19 [!]


Uh, what? Some lunatic granny on a school board wants to turkey baste the Holy Spirit into public school curriculum, and now ID is "winning the "court of popular opinion?"
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:56 PM on October 19, 2005


That's nothing. Ketchup is a vegetable.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:02 PM on October 19, 2005


Bingo. Here's how the it's going to go down in Peoria.

3.2.3: The linked article from this previous comment was really disconcerting... News outlets can be so incredibly biased and selective in their presentation of information these days--especially when it comes to highly-politicized technical and/or scientific issues--it's troubling. Nothing else to add here, really, just couldn't believe how clear the bias seemed in this particular case.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 1:25 PM on October 19, 2005


Someone out there could have started with a billion year head start on us. If they did, are they here now? If they were, would we know it?
That's just the Fermi Paradox all over again. Oddly enough, you could create a testable hypothesis out of this, though—are there messages in our "junk DNA"? There are biotech companies right now that encode their names into the genome of their product; if we analyzed the human genome or a mouse genome, could we find a maker's mark?
Creationists aren't interested in pursuing this because the existence of the 'designer' is taken as a given and other facts are twisted to fix it. But it could be an interesting experiment. Call it "SETI@Gene".

Anyway, by 'Dempski' do you mean 'Dembski'? Yeah, he's a Discovery Institute flack and he's explicitly said that the goal of the ID movement is to discredit science and materialism.
Dismantling materialism is a good thing. Not only does intelligent design rid us of this ideology, which suffocates the human spirit, but, in my personal experience, I've found that it opens the path for people to come to Christ. Indeed, once materialism is no longer an option, Christianity again becomes an option. True, there are then also other options. But Christianity is more than able to hold its own once it is seen as a live option. The problem with materialism is that it rules out Christianity so completely that it is not even a live option. Thus, in its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration.
posted by darukaru at 1:57 PM on October 19, 2005


The more opinions I read about this, the more I get this feeling that the vocal anti-ID folks are turning this into a Darwin vs. God debate. Faith in Darwin or evolutionary theory is just as dangerous in the classroom as putting God in the textbooks. It is the scientific method—the rigorous and objective search for evidence and experimentation—which deserves our support and should dictate what’s taught in our school. It is that methodology which says evolution is probably right and ID is probably wrong.

While unlikely, it is possible that a new piece of scientific evidence come along which disproves evolution and opens up an entirely new and previously unconsidered scientific theory. I’d hate to see the ensuing circus the ID or creationist crowd (hey, at that point they wouldn’t even try to hide behind ID) could raise due to so many people’s steadfast devotion to evolution (as oppose to the methodology that gave us evolution).
posted by pathighgate at 2:19 PM on October 19, 2005



Modern medical science actually uses leeches. Not to mention maggots.


This is one of the things that keeps me solidly in the science camp: a willingness to return to ancient, once-disproven medical treatments when experimentation and novel application shows they actually work.

still gross, though.

posted by you just lost the game

Dammit dammit dammit dammit dammit. Hadn't thought about it in MONTHS.
posted by davejay at 2:33 PM on October 19, 2005


A short, well written critique of "Pandas and People" (The Intelligent Design Handbook) by a Proffesor of Biology at Brown can be found here.
posted by sophist at 2:35 PM on October 19, 2005


The more opinions I read about this, the more I get this feeling that the vocal anti-ID folks are turning this into a Darwin vs. God debate.

Yeah, let's not blame the ID people for inventing a bunch of obfuscatory terminology to hide the fact that they all coincidentally happen to want Christianity taught in the schools.
posted by darukaru at 3:00 PM on October 19, 2005


Theories require evidence. There is no strong, verifiable or repeatable evidence whatsoever of intelligent design. I merely wish bevets was here to quote stuff at us.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:11 PM on October 19, 2005


New topic: Should scientology be taught in Kansas schools?
posted by muppetboy at 3:13 PM on October 19, 2005


Yes, that's a happy accident that merely occurs over and over and over again.

darakaru ( "the goal of the ID movement is to discredit science and materialism" ) - From the Flat Earthers over to the ID folks, they're all convinced that they at at war with the Enlightenment.

Truly. The Flat Earthers hate Copernicus, but the less primitive strains of anti-scientism nonetheless are more a less a cultural continuation of the anti-Enlightenment tradition here described by Princeton historian Richard Wolin in "The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism" :

"A new breed of anti-philosophe emerged to contest the epistemological and political heresies proposed by the Party of Reason--the apostles of Counter-Enlightenment. Relying mainly on theological arguments, the anti-philosophes cautioned against the spirit of critical inquiry, intellectual hubris, and the misuse of reason. Instead, they emphasized the need to preserve order at all costs. They viewed altar and throne as the twin pillars of political stability. They believed that any challenge to their unquestioned primacy threatened to undermine the entire social edifice. They considered self-evident the view--one in effect shared by many of the philosophes themselves--that men and women were fundamentally incapable of self-governance. Sin was the alpha and omega of the human condition. One needed both unquestioned authority and the threat of eternal damnation to prevent humanity from overreaching its inherently fallible nature. Unfettered employment of reason as recommended by the philosophes was an invitation to catastrophe. As one of the leading spokesmen of the Counter-Enlightenment, Antoine de Rivarol (one of the major sources for Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France), remarked in 1789, "From the day when the monarch consults his subjects, sovereignty is as though suspended . . . When people cease to esteem, they cease to obey. A general rule: peoples whom the king consults begin with vows and end with wills of their own."2

Rivarol and company held "philosophy" responsible for the corruption of morals, carnal licentiousness, depravity, political decay, economic decline, poor harvests, and the precipitous rise in food prices. The social cataclysms of revolutionary France--mob violence, dechristianization, anarchy, civil war, terror, and political dictatorship--convinced the anti-philosophes of their uncanny clairvoyance."

Speaking of "unreason" ...... Hey, I like to have a bit of fun now and then. I thought "TeslaFinger™" was a giveaway that I was somewhat less than serious.
posted by troutfishing at 3:19 PM on October 19, 2005


Ideed, Jonas Rushdoony - the intellectual father of the new Christian right ( the Dominionist strain ) - held Democracy to be a heresy.
posted by troutfishing at 3:22 PM on October 19, 2005


the jesse helms ( "Uh, what? Some lunatic granny on a school board wants to turkey baste the Holy Spirit into public school curriculum, and now ID is "winning the "court of popular opinion?" ) Do you know how many Americans believe in Evolution vs how may believe in Creationism ?

ID was crafted to seem self-evidently "reasonable" and intended as a wedge to bring religious concepts into schools. Its proponents have said just that.

And I am not talking about "lunatic grannies" : the Christian right has been methodically taking over school boards to change ( "Christianize" ) school curricula. I have an acquaintance, mother of 2, caught up in such a local political struggle right now.
posted by troutfishing at 3:34 PM on October 19, 2005


Yeah, let's not blame the ID people for inventing a bunch of obfuscatory terminology to hide the fact that they all coincidentally happen to want Christianity taught in the schools.

In a way you’re proving my point. The danger from ID folks isn’t in them putting Christianity in science class (which certainly is a bad idea). The real danger, the one that scares the heck out of me, is the ID folk changing science curriculum--for any reason--to support wild ideas that are not based in science and don’t follow the scientific method.

If our only objection to ID is due to it being faith based, we’re putting ourselves in a tricky position. Under those criteria the ID folk need only to prove in court that their ‘theory’ is sufficiently divorced from religion to satisfy any church/state separation requirements. That’s going to be a lot easier for them to do then if we said quite simply ‘Intelligent Design shouldn’t be taught in schools because it lacks scientific merit’ and forced the ID folks to defend their ‘theory’ on scientific grounds alone (something I doubt they could pull off).
posted by pathighgate at 4:05 PM on October 19, 2005


On the first night "The Steve Carrell Show," he did a great bit about how what was important in America is not what is right, but what feels right. Very funny bit, actually.

Of course, what feels right, sometimes known as common sense, is provably wrong. Doesn't the anecdote go that for years people thought that since a feather was lighter than a rock that a rock fell faster than a feather? Observation eventually proved that they fall at the same rate.

Of course, we all know why they fall at the same rate. Intelligent Falling.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:06 PM PST on October 19 [!]


Uh, actually his name is Steve Colbert.
posted by angry modem at 4:27 PM on October 19, 2005


and it's the 'Colbert Report'
posted by angry modem at 4:27 PM on October 19, 2005


That would explain why I couldn't find the show with a google search.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2005


I usually don't care for court dramas but this is one I can't get enough of. This will almost certainly go all the way to the supreme court, and with Bush's new appointments who knows what the result will be?

This isn't the first step on a slippery slope that can turn the US into a theocratic state, yet it can serve as a good indicator of what direction we're heading in.

Without leading science and technology, will the US be able to maintain its economic and military position?
posted by spazzm at 5:26 PM on October 19, 2005


Doesn't the anecdote go that for years people thought that since a feather was lighter than a rock that a rock fell faster than a feather? Observation eventually proved that they fall at the same rate.

Not in air, they don't.
posted by spazzm at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2005


Without leading science and technology, will the US be able to maintain its economic and military position?

Biotechnology is the future and quite honestly I see us winding up the laughingstock of the world. I have this nightmare scenario where the fundies and the anti-GM protesters band together, form the Green Christian party, and outlaw all research in genetics, embryology, and biotech as sins against both Mother Nature and the Heavenly Father.

There is no doubt in my mind biotech/geneering really will become enough of an issue to enable previously orthogonal factions to find common ground and unite against it.
posted by darukaru at 5:48 PM on October 19, 2005


Astrology and evolutionism are both taught in the university. Why not Intelligent Design?
posted by bevets at 7:54 PM on October 19, 2005


Bevets, you had to link to a bunch of universities in India to find astrology taught as course work. At this point, parodying you would be redundant.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 8:14 PM on October 19, 2005


spazzm: Indeed, I was oversimplifying.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:25 PM on October 19, 2005


Not only that, Bevets, I followed your link, and established from its supporting arguments that astrology is taught at the University of Southampton. This is a very strong institution here in the UK, so I searched their web pages for the keyword "astrology", and found that it is indeed taught there - as a component of a history module dealing with magic.
posted by gene_machine at 3:31 AM on October 20, 2005


Joey Michaels: Sorry if that came across as snarky. I long for precision.

BTW, bevets == behe?
posted by spazzm at 6:13 AM on October 20, 2005


Astrology and evolutionism are both taught in the university. Why not Intelligent Design?
posted by bevets at 7:54 PM PST on October 19


Please get off the internet, bevets. This is the worst "evidence" I've seen from you yet, and that is pretty astounding.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:43 AM on October 20, 2005


> Not in air, they don't.

True, but they do on the Moon.
posted by spincycle at 9:27 AM on October 20, 2005


Yeah, bevets. There are universities that teach basket weaving, too. That doesn't mean it's a science.
posted by brundlefly at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2005


I can't imagine bevets feels proud about that latest post. Poor bevets.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:32 PM on October 20, 2005


Boldface is mine:
Review of "Obstacles to gene duplication as an explanation for complex biochemical systems" by Michael Behe.

In the section "Meaning of explanation," the author harps on the extreme difficulty of elucidating complicated cellular interaction systems and of tracing the evolution of biological complexity. It is ironic that he should voice his concerns just as technical as well as conceptual progress has opened the door to investigating on a much larger scale than heretofore the mechanisms of development, and the increase in gene interaction complexity along certain lines of descent. Michael Behe is depicting a hopeless situation for the biological sciences, or at least for their evolutionary aspects, just as biology is proceeding through a glorious age.

A classical error of people who believe that complex gene interaction systems and other complex biological systems present an insuperable difficulty to evolutionary science is to imply that every component of the system has or has had only one function. In reality, every gene, or its ancestors, or its duplicated brothers and cousins, or all of these, usually exert multiple functions and can be re-mobilized for building up new complex systems or can be dropped from a complex system without being dropped from the functioning genome. The function of the system itself may change (an oft quoted morphological example: folds that act as gliders related to wings); intermediate stages function differently from the terminal stage considered, but do function, indeed. If evolutionary pathways were difficult to find, nature faced these difficulties and solved them. The scientist's job is just to follow nature, and that he believes he can do.

It is interesting to show--Behe examines this claim--that by knocking two genes out of this cascade, the resulting organisms are less abnormal than those that have lost only one of two genes. Yet, it is by no means necessary to be able to provide such a demonstration. Not being able to provide it does not authorize anyone to consider the system as "irreducibly" complex, in Behe's metaphysical sense of irreducible.

On the other hand, the mutational acquisition of modified or new functions by duplicated genes has been witnessed many times by sequence comparisons and other approaches, and there is no trace of an "irreducible" difficulty here either, despite Behe's claims.

This reviewer is no authority on the blood clotting cascade, but if a plausible model for its evolutionary development, compatible with all known facts, has indeed not been generated so far, the remaining question marks are not threat to science--on the contrary, they are a challenge added to thousands of other challenges that science met and meets. In this instance, too, science will be successful.

Is that too bold a prediction? On the contrary, it is not bold. If science, in the modern sense of the word (defined by its method), were only just beginning its career, onlookers would naturally be divided into optimists and pessimists. But, as young as science still is, its accomplishments have verified over and over again that the world of the observable and the measurable is understandable in terms of the observed and measured. Pessimism in this respect has come to lack intellectual status.

In the face of this evidence, Dr. Behe's stance is quasi-heroic, but it is heroism at the service of a lost and mistaken cause. He is not deterred by the fact that molecular biology is only about 50 years old, that during this period it has generated an almost overwhelming amount of fundamental understanding, that more understanding is obviously on its way; further, that the study of the molecular bases of development had to wait for its turn: it was able to take off seriously only within the last decade. All of these studies will be amplified if there is peace in the world, and many biological problems that Dr. Behe today uses as drums to proclaim his faith will be solved in ways that cannot be but disappointing to him.

The trust expressed by the present referee is based on the lessons of several hundred years of history of science. It is really a very short history judged in terms of human history in general, and, considering the recorded accomplishments, it takes a fair amount of intellectual "chuzpah" to reproach science for the understanding that it has not yet achieved.

This reviewer thinks that there is a great deal of misunderstanding around the role of intelligence in the world. The world itself, through the interactions that take place under the reign of natural law, manifests a sort of intelligence--an intelligence much greater than our intelligence--out of which our intelligence has very likely arisen as a product. No wonder, then, that, to our intelligence, the universe appears intelligent: there is a close kinship between the universe and our mind--as one would expect, since our intelligence is shaped so as to permit us to get along in the world. (". . . So as to permit us . . .": language often induces us to seem to express the presence of an intent when none is implied; none is here.) Consistently to use the phrase "intelligent design" instead of God is almost cheating, since this use has an ambiguous relation to the presence in the universe of a sort of intelligence that, except perhaps in a pantheistic sense if one wishes to think so, has no implication regarding the existence of a God. God, here, stands for a being that combines consciousness, will, and universal power.

Of course science has its limits, but they are surely not where Behe places them; they are not, indeed, in the realm of biological evolution. The perception of science's limits will evolve as science itself evolves, and the limits won't furnish an argument in favor of intelligent design in the sense of a design imagines by a universal "person." The argument will be in favor of the finiteness of the analytical powers of the human mind. The limits of science will probably be recognized as being, in part, imposed by the position in the universe of the intelligent (human) observer. Whatever God's role in the universe, if any, biology will be understood without reference to him. That is implied by the essence of science.

Behe wants to be able to say that this is not so, and he needs to say it very quickly, because every day any conceivable ground for making his statement shrinks further. The faith of scientists is that the world of phenomena can be understood, and that the transformations of this world leading up to the present state of affairs can be understood. Developments conform every day that, progressively, scientists are winning this bet. Whatever is discovered, the most surprising as well as the less surprising, will be part of nature: the supernatural has no place in the observable and measurable.

Metaphysicians who want science to speak out in favor of their beliefs, if not demonstrate them, are already put in a tight spot by the science of yesterday and have nothing to fear more than the science of tomorrow.

In this referee's judgment, the manuscript of Michael Behe does not contribute anything useful to evolutionary science. The arguments presented are weak.

Incidentally, publication in a scientific journal of this article could not be construed as anything resembling a First Amendment right. Naysayers such as Michael Behe have not been muzzled. They have repeatedly aired their point of view, and so be it.

If Behe were right in spite of all, it would become apparent in due time through failures of science. It would be very much out of place to denounce such failures now, since they have not occurred. Having not yet understood all of biology is not a failure after just 200 years, given the amount of understanding already achieved. Let us speak about it again in 1000 years. Meanwhile, metaphysicians should spare scientists their metaphysics and just let the scientists do their work--or join them in doing it.
Web Archive of Unnamed Reputable Science Journal's response to an article submitted by Behe
I think what the public fails to realize is this truth:

What makes science work is simply this: Scientists hate theories. Because what scientists love are facts.

Facts are nice and solid and predictable. You know where you are with them. They don't explode unpredictably or liquify your liver or unexpectedly change colour. Facts are reliable, and help you come up with neat new things. They're kinda like math: 1 + 1 = 2 is comforting, because it allows you to end up with chaos. You can't predict the latter but you know why it is.

Theories, not so nice. When they're wrong, people can get hurt. The building falls down or the reaction blows up or the virus really is lethal.

So scientists do their utmost to kill theories dead. They apply the Raid® of Cold Hard Truth to them: when the facts show the theory to be wrong, the theory must change.

A whole lot has happened in the past couple hundred years of scientific advancement. Everything from alchemy and phrenology, to genetic modification and supercolliders. Entire disciplines have been turned on their head by new, brilliant insights that explain The Truth (ie. facts) better than previously those previously thought to be correct. Heck, entire disciplines have been discarded because they ended up not being scientific at all -- no facts could support them!

Strangely enough, despite all that's been done to prove it wrong, evolution remains the acknowledged leading theory of Life (if not the Universe, and Everything).

Good luck, IDers.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:50 PM on October 23, 2005


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