Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Michael Behe and astrology

In the Dover trials, where intelligent design was found not to be science, ID proponent Michael Behe stated that astrology could be considered science under his definition of it. It now seems that Michael wants to clarify what he actually meant.

From deposition statement:

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.

Michael Behe clarifies:

I was not thinking of the modern superstition of astrology, but of the idea of astrology in the middle ages, when people were trying to discern what forces actually were in play in nature.
No, not modern astrology, as practiced by card readers with bandanas on their heads and such. I had in mind astrology of centuries ago, when educated people thought it might really have explanatory power.

Are we to believe that Behe considers something science just because it was considered science centuries ago. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and examine that claim by looking at the court transcript from above. There, Behe claims that creationism is not science. But, centuries ago when astrology was considered science, creationism was also considered science (in the sense than "
people were trying to discern what forces actually were in play in nature. "). So, logically, creationism should also be considered science (at least, that is what he should have said in the trials - or he should have said that neither were). The fact that he didn't speaks volumes.

The Behe crowd are now eager to point out that Behe does not support astrology. They claim that more careful reading of the court transcripts not only show that not only does he does not support astrology, he never meant that modern astrology is to be considered science in the first place. In the trials, Behe stated:
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.
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.

Discarded scientific theories are, as Michael points out still theories. But, modern science would not call these old astrology theories scientific in the first place, while under Behe's definition they actually would be. And this opens up a whole can of worms. The thrust of the questions asked to Michael was not whether or not he believes in astrology - it's in the type of research that is considered valid under his definition. Astrology would be. And presumably ghost-hunting, Reiki and faith-healing as well.


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