More Dover

It’s hard to tear oneself away from The Panda’s Thumb today. They are having one hell of a party over there. And writing one great post after another while they’re at it.

One on our friend Steve Fuller for example.

Professor of Sociology Steven Fuller may not know much about the history or content of science (see his recent confusion — just like Linus Pauling’s! — between protein and DNA at Micheal Berube’s blog) but he is good the kind of jargoneering that the Discovery Institute and its allies use to confuse the public about science…Fuller proved to be quite compliant generally, but Judge Jones seems not to to have heard his pleas to institute in Dover a kind of affirmative action program for ID. Instead, it was the repeated acknowledgement that Intelligent Design is, in fact, creationism, that Judge Jones took away as the salient point of Fuller’s testimony…What the TMLC failed to appreciate when they booked Fuller as a witness was that he doesn’t believe in any kind of science. In the pomo view, science is all about social relationships and power dynamics. Whatever privileged role science has in society is fraudulantly obtained. Scientific authority is a sham…Calling an expert witness who doesn’t believe in science to a trial about an idea’s scientific status was probably a mistake. Certainly, Steven Fuller wins second place (behind Michael Behe) in the race for the title of “Best Defense Witness for the Prosecution.”

Pretty funny! Also satisfying – especially after the display of condescension mixed with confusion he gave at Michael’s.

And Tim Sandefur does a great one on the judge’s reasoning, full of interesting stuff.

In summary, the disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere. Furthermore…introducing ID necessarily invites religion into the science classroom as it sets up what will be perceived by students as a “God-friendly” science, the one that explicitly mentions an intelligent designer, and that the “other science,” evolution, takes no position on religion…. [A] false duality is produced: It “tells students…quite explicitly, choose God on the side of intelligent design or choose atheism on the side of science.” Introducing such a religious conflict into the classroom…forces students to “choose between God and science,” not a choice that schools should be forcing on them.

This could turn into something of an education in science and epistemology for a lot of people.

Avoiding magical explanations is “a ‘ground rule’ of science,” which some call “‘methodological naturalism,’ and is sometimes known as the scientific method.” (at 65). This approach is not arbitrary. It is based on the demands of epistemology as well as the proven superiority of this approach in producing usable results. “[O]nce you attribute a cause to an untestable supernatural force, a proposition that cannot be disproven, there is no reason to continue seeking natural explanations as we have our answer.” (at 66). ID proponents, Judge Jones notes, (and we might mention Beckwith by name here) are trying “to change the ground rules of science to allow supernatural causation of the natural world” to factor into the analysis. (at 67) But this approach would “embrace astrology,” (at 68), among other things. And, in any case, the fact that ID proponents seek “to ‘defeat scientific materialism,’” and “‘replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God,’” (at 68) demonstrates that ID at least cannot qualify as science, whatever “merit” it might have (at 65). Since the current “essential ground rules…limit science to testable, natural explanations,” only changing those rules would allow ID to qualify as science. But “[s]cience cannot be defined differently.” (at 70).

Oh why not. Please? Pleasepleaseplease? Can’t we define science differently just a little bit just for this one time just for awhile if I’m really really good? Can’t we just pretend a little tiny bit that an untestable supernatural force is a good answer can’t we please please?

The judge is a Republican. Which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. This has nothing (inherently) to do with left and right, it’s an epistemic issue. Making evidential questions into political ones is a mug’s game.

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