The question in our title was crushingly answered in the negative in the Kitzmiller case, after the advocates of Intelligent Design (ID) testified under oath. We wrote about it here: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Is ID Science? We will briefly quote a portion of Judge Jone’s opinion:
We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are:
(1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980′s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.
Judge Jones goes into considerable detail, all of which is quoted in our earlier post. But the fiction that ID is science continues to be proclaimed by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).
We see this in their latest post — So, If “Psychology Isn’t Science”…. It’s by Bruce Chapman, whom we affectionately call “Chappy.” He’s the founder and president of the Discovery Institute. Chappy’s position makes him Lord High Keeper of the Discoveroids’ Wedge strategy, and the ultimate leader of all Discoveroids. Chappy says, with bold font added by us:
Every so often an article appears taking psychologists to task for claiming the purple mantle of “science.” As Alex B. Berezow explains in the Los Angeles Times, in the latest of such articles, the rules of science are strict.
“Psychology isn’t science,” he contends, “because psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability.”
That’s interesting, and it’s not a bad description of the requirements of laboratory science, but it doesn’t define science. In fact, the article Chappy’s talking about doesn’t present it as a definition of science — it’s about “rigor,” which can be present in varying degrees. In fact, far from being a definition of science, the article’s really about some faculty rivalries, and it says:
There has long been snobbery in the sciences, with the ‘hard’ ones (physics, chemistry, biology) considering themselves to be more legitimate than the ‘soft’ ones (psychology, sociology).
That’s not much of an authoritative source, but it’s good enough for Chappy. He then asks:
Are those, in fact, the agreed requirements of science?
Shouldn’t Chappy know that? It doesn’t take much Googling around to find some workable definitions: See these provided by the National Academy of Sciences: Definitions of Evolutionary Terms. They define “science” as:
The use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.
That sounds better than what Chappy found in the newspaper. Anyway, having found a definition he likes, which isn’t much of a definition, he continues:
Sometimes one sees them [the newspaper's five requirements] applied in similar fashion to intelligent design. But, strangely, they don’t seem to get applied to evolutionary biology, and specifically to neo-Darwinism.
Maybe that’s because the status of the theory of evolution isn’t in question in legitimate scientific circles. Anyway, we know where Chappy’s going with this, but let’s watch him get there:
In that field ["neo-Darwinism"], terms’ definitions often change depending on the audience (“evolution” itself being an example). Quantifiability? (How?) Highly controlled experimental conditions? (You’ve got to be kidding.) Reproducibility? (Name one.) And, “finally, predictability and testability.” You can get a lot of hand waving over this topic, but no precision.
Observe, dear reader, that Chappy doesn’t even try to claim that ID meets any of those five requirements for scientific rigor. As for evolutionary biology, given the nature of the science it does just fine where the data permits (for quantifiability, see Mouse to Elephant in 24 Million Generations). What about predictability? No problem (see The Lessons of Tiktaalik).
So while Chappy is relying on an article in the Los Angeles Times to claim that evolution isn’t science (while ignoring the screamingly obvious shortcomings of ID), we’ll continue to rely on well-established criteria, according to which we have nothing to worry about. Chappy, however, has a lot to worry about — by any definition.
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