Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Disaster in the Making

Dr. Michael Behe uses his own personal definition of a scientific theory that is broader than the one used by most of the scientific community (like the one used by the American Association for the Advancement of Science). In fact, his definition of a scientific theory is so broad that astrology qualifies. In his own words

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.
The natural implication of Behe’s definition is that a “theory” doesn’t need to demonstrate any level of accuracy to be scientific, so we should discuss any and all unproven theories in grade school science classes.

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.
What Behe neglects to mention is that we don’t teach incorrect theories to grade school students! We don’t teach alchemy alongside chemistry; we don’t teach astrology alongside astronomy, and we don’t teach the “Flat Earth Theory” alongside modern geography! The AAAS definition of a scientific theory requires “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment”, but Behe’s definition does not.

Consider the consequences. On the odd chance that the Dover School Board were to actually win their case, Behe’s definition of a scientific theory would be enshrined in legal precedent. That would bring a horde of astrologers, phrenologists, and homeopathic “doctors” into the court system to sue for equal time in classrooms, claiming that their “theories” are every bit as scientific as ID, so they also deserve equal time in science classrooms. Science education in America could be deluged with unproven and unprovable nonsense. Kids could graduate from high school without a clue how the world actually works, making them even more vulnerable than they already are to baseless quackery of every sort. America would be jumping right out of her leading place in scientific advancement and achievement.

China would love it.

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