Discoveroids’ Anti-Kitzmiller Series: #8 — Behe

The silly series of posts from the Discovery Institute that we first wrote about in Discovery Institute Prepares for Kitzmas is continuing.

They promise us ten posts in which they attempt to discredit the legitimacy and significance of the decision on 20 December 2005 by Judge John E. Jones III in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. On that day we celebrate Kitzmas, and — if the Discoveroid series continues — they will contribute to the merriment by posting their #1 reason why the Kitzmiller decision is of no importance whatsoever.

The latest is Ten Myths About Dover: #8, Michael Behe Admitted that ID Is No More Scientific than Astrology. Like the earlier entries in the series, it was written by Sarah Chaffee, a new Discoveroid staffer who is neither a biologist nor a lawyer.

In this one, Sarah attempts to rehabilitate the testimony of Michael Behe, a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow. He’s also a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. His colleagues at Lehigh are so impressed by his brilliance that they publicly disassociated themselves from him by issuing this statement: Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”.

Let’s get started. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

In the Dover ruling, Judge Jones said this: “Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology.” This “admission” is in fact a gross distortion of what Behe said. Did Behe really concede that ID is no more scientific than astrology? No.

Sarah then quotes some sane people who disagree with her, after which she says:

Actually, the incident in question involved only Dr. Behe — Dr. Minnich [another Discoveroid witness] was never asked about “astrology.”

So what? Behe was only one of the expert witnesses on behalf of intelligent design. They weren’t all asked identical questions. Sarah tells us:

In the Dover ruling, Judge Jones cited Behe’s definition of science, claiming that it shows Behe’s “mission … to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation of the natural world.” So what was Behe’s definition of science that was supposedly so extreme and dangerous?

She gives us what she says is a quote from Behe’s direct testimony, which doesn’t mention astrology. Then:

It was the plaintiffs’ attorney, not Behe, who decided to bring astrology into the conversation. When pressed about astrology by the opposing attorney, Behe went on to explain:

[Sarah quotes Behe’s response:] 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.

Behe said a lot more than that. He was on the stand for three days. And although Sarah seems not to think so, what he said on cross-examination is just as much his testimony as what he said on direct.

Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) have an archive of Behe’s testimony. So we went there and searched for “astrology.” His testimony is in six pdf files. [*Curmudgeon searches*] Behe’s first day, morning — nothing. Behe’s first day, afternoon — nothing. Behe’s second day, morning — nothing. Behe’s second day, afternoon — aha! Here it is. He’s being cross-examined, and we put some of it in bold font:

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.

It goes on like that for pages and it’s certainly fun reading. Note that what Behe calls a “theory” doesn’t even rise to the level of what we would call an hypothesis. His definition doesn’t mention the concept of testability. (How else could he consider intelligent design to be a theory?) Also, contrary to the implication in Sarah’s post, Behe wasn’t ambushed at the trial by the astrology question. He knew it was coming because had been asked about it earlier in his deposition, and while he was testifying on the stand there were references to what he had previously said in the transcript of that deposition.

Okay, back to the Discoveroid post: Sarah claims that it’s a fallacy to criticize Behe for what he said about astrology. We’ll skip her discussion of what’s fallacious. Then she tells us:

Needless to say, Behe and all ID scientists reject astrology. What ID’s critics fail to acknowledge is that five hundred years ago, the scientific “consensus” would have claimed (erroneously) that astrology meets the U.S. National Academy of Science’s definition of a scientific theory: “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Five hundred years ago, science as we know it didn’t exist. Aside from that, astrology was never a tested hypothesis. Nor is intelligent design, by the way.

And now we come to the end of Sarah’s post:

The problem with astrology is not that it could have fit the NAS’s definition of a scientific theory, or Michael Behe’s definition. The problem with astrology is simple: It’s not supported by the evidence. After all, an idea that is “science” or “scientific” can still be flatly wrong.

Sarah might give some thought to what she just said.

While we’re on the subject of Behe’s testimony, he said a whole lot of other things that were also in Judge Jones’ opinion. We discussed those in some detail in Kitzmiller v. Dover: Michael Behe’s Testimony. He was shredded like a carrot. Even without his remarks about astrology, Behe’s testimony was a disaster for the Discoveroids.

We can’t wait for Sarah’s next post. They just keep getting better.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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26 responses to “Discoveroids’ Anti-Kitzmiller Series: #8 — Behe

  1. As a writer Sarah is a master of unintentional satire.

  2. Sarah says “The problem with astrology is simple: It’s not supported by the evidence.” And that, dear Sara, is also the problem with ID, in case you didn’t recognize the unintentional satire to which anevilmeme refers.

  3. May I nominate dear Sarah for a well deserved Buffoon Award? The reason is provided above by Anevilmeme.
    Besides that she’s just a liar.
    With our dear SC I recommend everyone who hasn’t done it yet to read Behe’s testimony. It’s great fun indeed. We have to give it to them – it was very smart of the IDiots from Seattle to run away from the trial faster than Scrooge McDuck to the latest treasure cove.

  4. mnb0 suggests: “May I nominate dear Sarah for a well deserved Buffoon Award?”

    Alas, she doesn’t qualify. Although she’s a dedicated Discoveroid, and fits in quite well with them, she has no other prominence, and that’s a requirement for the coveted award.

  5. A problem with ID it that there is nothing to it. “A tale told by an idiot/Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
    It is an advertising concept in a negative political campaign.
    If we are to take as an example of a failed explanation, I’d rather try geocentrism, not astrology. But astrology at least did not subsist by pure negativism, for all its faults.

  6. Chafee is a graduate of Patrick Henry College. Her ‘degree’ is in government. The institution is a fundamentalist christian college which started in 2000. It’s Statement of Faith declares the inerrancy of the 66 books of the bible. All forms of life were created in their present form. There is nothing about the age of the earth that I could find. So, Sarah must have signed on to the statement. Indeed, she is required to proclaim and defend this stuff or spend Eternity in the Lake of Fire. Is this the expert that the Discovered Nothing is using to critique Kitzmiller?

  7. Following on what Ian wrote, the Statement o’ Faith specifies a literal interpretation of Genesis including a literal 6-day, 24-hour day creation event. They are most definitely YEC’s and the entire college is YEEEECCCCHHH!

    No science is taught at Patrick Henry “College.” PH”C” is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, an organization created by the Institute for Creation Research (our pals at ICR) to counter “discrimination against creationist schools.” Thus, creationist PH”C” is accredited by a creationist accreditation organization created by creationists. Sort of makes your head spin.

    I suspect that poor old Ms Chaffee has been lied to all her life and now she’s working for an organization that lies as its business model. My advice to Ms Chaffee would be: “RUN!!!”

    Whereas Chaffee doesn’t know science from shinola, and never will, Behe is a different cat altogether. Behe does know the difference and he was lying through his two front teeth when he said:

    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.

    However, to be fair to Behe (and why should I?) he qualifies his dreck by calling it “my definition.” Well, sure, Mikey, you could define science as shinola for all anyone cares but it doesn’t make one whit of difference in the grand scheme of things. Politely speaking, one man’s opinion is another man’s elbow (to avoid being [edited out])

    Ironically for the Tooters, Behe testified that ID doesn’t have to be true to qualify as a Behe Theory ™, and that’s the truth!

  8. Derek Freyberg

    I just went back to the DiscoTute article and authorship is now “credited” to Casey Luskin.

  9. docbill1351 said:
    I suspect that poor old Ms Chaffee has been lied to all her life and now she’s working for an organization that lies as its business model. My advice to Ms Chaffee would be: “RUN!!!”

    Why, maybe she’s being paid for this drivel she puts out, otherwise how would she exist? The Dishonesty Institute might be the last resort of employment for many of these people.

  10. Awwwwww, sweet widdle Attack Gerbil rides in like a white knight to take the heat off the damsel new hire (May, 2015). Fake chivalry, though, as Luskin is the author of much of what Chaffee is paraphrasing. Who knows maybe young Chaffee had a WTF moment and decided that being associated with a disgusting bunch of Liars for Jesus wasn’t her cup of hemlock and decided to bail. Good for her, if that’s the case. The first step is realizing you’re hanging with weird-o’s.

  11. O little clown of Lehigh U,
    How well you testify
    About the weird and wacky stuff
    Beloved of the D.I.!
    Yet in thy blank mind snappeth
    A real complex mousetrap;
    The dopes and fools with all their drools
    Are lapping up such crap!

  12. If we were to adopt Behe’s description of a theory, ID does not fit. It is not a proposition. It is not based on physical evidence. It does not explain anything at all, by any kind of inferences whatsoever.

  13. @Megs: Truly, you are in the Spirit!

  14. michaelfugate

    I wonder what theory Behe thinks evolution replaced? I am sure Chafee has no clue, but does Behe?

  15. The whole truth

    Paul Burnett posted this link in a comment at The Panda’s Thumb:

    https://newrepublic.com/article/116623/sexual-assault-patrick-henry-college-gods-harvard

    Even if luskin wrote #8, chaffee’s ‘education’ says a lot about the discotoot’s theocratic agenda.

  16. What Chafee / Luskin make clear is that astrology would indeed fit under the DI / Behe’s definition of a theory. Their argument is merely that fitting within the DI’s definition does not imply that it is true. I don’t think anyone believes that Behe was asserting that astrology was true.

    The problem, of course, is that astrology is actually not science, and it cannot fit within any reasonable definition of a scientific theory. A definition worded such that it accommodates astrology demonstrates an incorrect understanding of what science is. Therefore, if it requires that definition to also includes ID, then ID is no more a science than is astrology. That was the judge’s point. Instead of conceding that Behe may have misspoke under pressure, and providing a more nuanced alternative, the DI is doubling down.

    Has the DI ever admitted an error, or revised any part of its ID argument? Ever? They are as rigid in their dogma as AiG.

  17. Typos are running amok this morning.

    [*Voice from above*] I fixed a few, perhaps not all.

  18. FWIW, Behe did not say that ID is no more scientific than astrology. He admitted that astrology would fit his definition of a theory, which is a very different thing. And indeed a set of ideas does not have to be true in order to qualify as a theory. The one thing missing from Behe’s definition of a theory is that it can be tested against reality; and, ironically, astrology passes this test rather better than ID with a Designer who Works in Mysterious Ways. Astrological predictions can be shown to be no better than chance (+ known factors such as age when entering school); ID cannot be refuted because we don’t know the designer’s full purpose, and Behe admits as much in relation to the faulty design of the mammalian eye in Darwin’s Black Box.

  19. @Paul Braterman
    I think that Behe’s proviso that a theory explains things is enough to disqualify ID as less than astrology as a theory. Astrology attempts to explain things because of certain characteristics of the heavens. ID makes a point of not specifying any charateristics of the process of design or of the designer(s).
    We don’t need to point to “faulty design” of the eye to recognize this. What is there about the design process that leads to functioning eyes? Is there any research being done to explore the connection between the existence of eyes and something about designers? Are there some principles which govern design that make eyes a result?

  20. Oh dear. But it all sounds so “sciencey” and stuff. If one can memorize scripture, one can certainly memorize a few of these sound bites and elevate their status “intelligent design expert”.

  21. I think you have missed Behe’s point (which turns out to be irrelevant in any case). According to Behe, IE and astrology are theories. This is true. But they are not scientific theories and they never were. They are explanations in search of questions, rather than the other way around. If you accept IE as a scientific theory, you end up querying the theory with things like “why do kangaroos hop on two legs?” and ID answers “because they were created that way.” In fact all such biological questions have the same answer. The problem is you cannot establish a scientific basis for the difference between evolved and created (because creation uses and must use magic–this being a point that should be driven home more and more, the mechanism of creation is magic). The ID-iots are still trying to come up with criteria to distinguish between created and evolved. The difference, of course, is that the mechanism of evolution is eminently testable, has been tested over and over, and proven. There is no such test for “creation” nor can their be unless the Creator is able to step up and do some creating while being examined.

  22. @Steve The Attack Gerbil would say that you misrepresent ID because you haven’t read Behe’s and Dembski’s books carefully enough. You have to keep reading them, and keep reading them and KEEP READING THEM until you see five lights!

    Now, one more time, Steve, how many lights to you see?????

  23. @Steve Ruis
    I think that you have a typo there, IE for ID.

    The ID-iots are still trying to come up with criteria to distinguish between created and evolved.

    Are they?

  24. When packaged properly, poop DOES look a bit like Shinola…

  25. Needless to say, Behe and all ID scientists reject astrology. What ID’s critics fail to acknowledge is that five hundred years ago, the scientific “consensus” would have claimed (erroneously) that astrology meets the U.S. National Academy of Science’s definition of a scientific theory: “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses.”

    Five hundred years ago, the “scientific consensus” was dictated by the Church and would have demanded that believers in astrology be burned at the stake.

    Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences.

    And what, exactly, gives Michael Behe the right to concoct his own personal definition of science and then demand that everyone else accept it? Never mind that ID fails as science even under Behe’s definition.