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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Behe and Astrology

One of the common criticisms of Behe is that he claimed that Astrology fits his definition of science. And of course he claims he was taken out of context. And you know what I agree with him. In fact I have to wonder how many people have read the transcripts to see what he actually said. This seems like one of the cases where a marketing opportunity ("Behe says that astrology is science!") has gotten out of hand and just gives him a justified opportunity to claim that he's being taken out of context. I have no sympathy for the man, but let's not hand them ammunition. Am I missing something? Here's the relevant part as far as I can tell:

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.

Q Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory, Professor Behe?

A 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.


Q And archaically it was astronomy; right, that's what it says there?

A 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?

A 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.

Q I didn't take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?

A I'm sorry?

Q I did not take your deposition in the 1500s, correct?

A It seems like that.

Q Okay. It seems like that since we started yesterday. But could you turn to page 132 of your deposition?

A Yes.

Q And if you could turn to the bottom of the page 132, to line 23.

A I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

Q Page 132, line 23.

A Yes.

Q And I asked you, "Is astrology a theory under that definition?" And you answered, "Is astrology? It could be, yes." Right?

A That's correct.

Q Not, it used to be, right?

A Well, that's what I was thinking. I was thinking of astrology when it was first proposed. I'm not thinking of tarot cards and little mind readers and so on that you might see along the highway. I was thinking of it in its historical sense.

Q I couldn't be a mind reader either.

A I'm sorry?

Q I couldn't be a mind reader either, correct?

A Yes, yes, but I'm sure it would be useful.

Q It would make this exchange go much more quickly.

THE COURT: You d have to include me, though.


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.

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Blogger nullifidian said...

I read them. He's still an idiot.

Thu Jun 21, 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger evtujo said...

First of all it's IDiot. Second of all.... There is no second point.

Fri Jun 22, 09:58:00 PM  

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