Wednesday, October 26, 2005

UK academic gives evidence in intelligent design case, etc

Here are news items about the sixth day (Monday 24 October) of the pro-ID defence's putting its case in the Dover (Kitzmiller, et al v. Dover School District, et al) trial, with my comments in square brackets.

UK academic gives evidence in intelligent design case, The Guardian, Sam Jones, October 25, 2005 ... A British academic told a US federal court yesterday that the theory of intelligent design is a scientific rather than a religious concept that should be taught to children in American schools. Steve Fuller, a professor of sociology at the University of Warwick, said that the theory - which maintains that life on Earth was designed by an unidentified intelligent force - is a valid scientific one because it has been used to describe biological phenomena. The landmark case arose after eight families took legal action to have the theory removed from the curriculum because they feel it promotes the Bible's view of creation and so violates the constitutional separation of church and state. A year ago, the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania decided that students should be told about intelligent design as part of their lessons on evolution. The statement that they voted to include in lessons said that Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps". Intelligent design supporters argue that natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life nor the emergence of highly complex life forms. Prof Fuller, the author of An Intelligent Person's Guide to Intelligent Design Theory, was called by lawyers for the school board. He said the scientific community was slow to accept minority views, but argued that introducing intelligent design might inspire students to help develop the theory. "It seems to me in many respects the cards are stacked against radical, innovative views getting a fair hearing in science these days," he said. Citing the work of Michael Behe, a leading advocate of intelligent design and a previous witness at the trial, Prof Fuller said scientists have observed biological systems and inferred that a "designer" must exist. The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Centre, a law firm which says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians. ... [Also in The Melbourne Age under the headline, "'Design' theory gets backing as science" which will be very important for ID's progress in Australia (as the Guardian's version of it will be to the UK). This testimony by an eminent philosopher of science (which Fuller is) that ID "is a scientific rather than a religious concept that should be taught to children in American schools" will be very hard (if not impossible) for the Darwinists to counter. On what objective basis could the judge accept the anti-ID side's expert witness testimony that ID is religion not science over again the pro-ID side's expert testimony here that ID is science not religion?

Fuller is mentioned in Tom Woodward's "Doubts about Darwin" (2003). Fuller has written a book on Thomas Kuhn (the author of "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions") and so is an expert on paradigm shifts in science. According to Woodward, Fuller regards "today's `big science' as a self-perpetuating, politically insulated monster that has grown arrogant and unaccountable to the public" and needs to be made accountable to the "currently disenfranchised electorate of intelligent, well-informed citizens" and so he "has publicly declared his support for the work of Intelligent Design theorists":

"Fuller's position on Kuhn is complex, with layers of analysis and a dense matrix of historical subtleties that need not be explicated here. Amazingly, Fuller holds that Kuhn presents too comforting and conservative a picture of the history of science, one that implies modern science is inherently self-correcting by means of the periodic cycles of paradigms and revolutions. Dissenting vigorously, Fuller views today's "big science" as a self-perpetuating, politically insulated monster that has grown arrogant and unaccountable to the public. He foresees a new role of scientific rhetoric after a hoped-for revolution that will shatter the power of this monster: Scientists will have to justify their work in the context of a highly democratic assessment by the currently disenfranchised electorate of intelligent, well-informed citizens. The notion of "accountability to the public" is the obvious link here between Fuller's vision and the criticism of Darwinism by the well-informed "citizen-skeptic-in-chief," Phillip Johnson. That shared sensibility is undoubtedly one reason Fuller has publicly declared his support for the work of Intelligent Design theorists." (Woodward T.E., "Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 2003, p.228. Emphasis original).

Fuller's point that "the scientific community was slow to accept minority views" and therefore "the cards are stacked against radical, innovative views getting a fair hearing in science these days" is also very important, in helping to explain the science establishment's resistance to ID.]

Expert Testifies on 'Intelligent Design': Sociologist Says Introducing 'Intelligent Design' to Students Could Help Idea Gain Acceptance, ABC News/AP, Martha Raffaele ... HARRISBURG, Pa. Oct 24, 2005 - Introducing "intelligent design" to high school students could help the idea gain wider acceptance among mainstream scientists, a sociology professor testified Monday in a landmark federal trial over whether the concept can be mentioned in public school biology classes. Lawyers for the Dover Area School Board called Steve Fuller, a sociology professor at the University of Warwick, England, as an expert witness Monday morning. He tried to bolster the school board's contention that intelligent design, which holds that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force, is a scientific concept. Fuller said minority views can sometimes have a difficult time getting a toehold in the scientific community, but students might be inspired to develop intelligent design as future scientists if they hear about the concept in school. "You have to provide openings where you have new recruits to the theory," Fuller said. "Unless you put it into the school system, it's not going to happen spontaneously." The school board voted a year ago to require students to hear a statement about intelligent design before ninth-grade biology lessons on evolution. ... The policy also prohibits students and teachers from discussing intelligent design in class after the statement is read. Witold Walczak, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the parents, asked Fuller whether that defeated the purpose of promoting an open discussion of scientific theories. "It certainly undercuts the impact it can have, but it's better than nothing," Fuller said. Fuller said intelligent design hasn't been extensively promoted in the scientific community because the process by which articles are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals tends to favor established, mainstream approaches. ... Fuller testified earlier that intelligent design is a scientific, not religious, concept because its proponents have used observation to describe biological phenomena. .... "Design isn't just the name of a particular phenomenon that other theories can't explain," he said. ... [Same article also at MSNBC & Washington Post. This further point by Fuller, that "You have to provide openings where you have new recruits to the theory" which means introducing it "into the school system" is another part of Fuller's thinking on scientific paradigm change, that it occurs in "the next generation that is rising, not the senior scientists who are fighting" by a process "imperceptible softening, or quiet erosion, by rhetorical engagement":

"One of Fuller's most interesting points is made as he summarizes Kuhn's key claim within the Kuhnian "invisibility thesis." This thesis says that "the outcome of a revolution is determined not by clashing parties coming to agreement, but by the research choices subsequently made by their students." In other words, it is the next generation that is rising, not the senior scientists who are fighting, who will quietly choose the new paradigm for practical research purposes, thus rendering the revolution practically invisible. Here Fuller describes-in a novel and transformative way-this critical historical period of a paradigm clash. In my view, his description serves as a brilliant "type," a heuristic generalization that is acutely applicable to Design's rhetoric. .... The process of change Fuller describes is complex and subtle, yet ultimately effectual; it typically precedes, and prepares for, a scientific revolution. To paraphrase it, one might describe it as an imperceptible softening, or quiet erosion, by rhetorical engagement. By prolonged exposure to the challengers and the resultant dialectics, positions begin to shift, and partisans become accustomed to radical criticisms. Eventually, an intolerable point of view looms on the horizon of possible acceptance. One does not have to strain to see that this descriptive frame relates compellingly to Intelligent Design's battles of persuasion, regardless of whether the result is a scientific revolution." (Woodward, 2003, p.237. Emphasis original)

That is, "the very practice of arguing will have made one accustomed to the other's position":

"This process can be described as `imperceptible softening, inevitable tactical repositioning, and quiet erosion by rhetorical engagement.' These phrases spring from the images and ideas emanating from Steve Fuller's own words in Thomas Kuhn. There, Fuller pointed out:
the ways in which partisan positions shift, often unintentionally and imperceptibly, in the course of debate, as the stakes and implications of acceding to one argument over another appear in different contexts. A position that one would never have adopted at the start of a dispute may become easier to accept later, in large part because the very practice of arguing will have made one accustomed to the other's position. Moreover, the person may not believe that she has conceded anything "essential" to her position along the way. Only in retrospect can a historian detect that a subtle shift in the burden of proof took place that enabled the acceptance of a previously intolerable point of view."
(Woodward , 2003, p.149. Emphasis original).

If Fuller is right the Darwinists cannot win. The next generation of scientists is already being exposed to the arguments for and against ID and some of them "will quietly choose the new paradigm." Especially if they see Unlocking the Mystery of Life!]

Dover defense says evolution excludes other concepts, York Daily Record, October 24, 2005 ... Evolutionary theory is a monolith of ideas that excludes other concepts from competing on a level playing field, Steve Fuller testified this morning in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg. Fuller is a sociology professor from the University of Warwick in England. And because the scientific community shuts the door on radical views, intelligent design needs to cultivate a new generation of recruits, said Fuller, an expert in the philosophy of science. Testifying on behalf of the Dover Area School District’s decision to make students aware of intelligent design, Fuller said the concept’s chief supporters "can’t spontaneously generate a following" unless they get it in the schools first. Fuller will be cross-examined this afternoon. ... [To those of us who have been in the ID debate for a long time, one of the best evidence of Fuller's thesis is the vast improvement in journalists' understanding of ID. It used to be that journalists and their editors just could not seem to understand that ID was not YEC. But having to write about ID has gradually improved most journalists' and their editors' understanding of ID. The same process of improving understanding of ID presumably is also going on among the public, including students and scientists. The witness testimonies of his trial both for and against ID will help enormously the public's understanding of ID, and not just in the USA.]

Witness: intelligent design needs boost: He said the science community is closed to the idea, so it needs to be in schools, York Daily Record, Lauri Lebo and Michelle Starr, October 25, 2005 HARRISBURG - Because the scientific community is a monolith, impenetrable and often hostile to new theories, intelligent design proponents have to turn to the public schools to recruit support, a witness said Monday. Testifying on behalf of the Dover Area School District in U.S. Middle District Court, philosophy of science expert Steve Fuller said intelligent design "can't spontaneously generate a following" because the scientific community shuts the door on radical views. ... Fuller said, "How do you expect any minority view to get a toe hold in science? You basically get new recruits." As Dover's attorney Patrick Gillen questioned him, Fuller talked of intelligent design as being a possible scientific-revolution in waiting in which it challenges the "dominant paradigm" of evolutionary theory. While he stopped short of calling for such a revolution, Fuller spoke of science's broad acceptance of "neo-Darwinian synthesis" - the unifying concepts of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection and Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics - being a problem for competing ideas. ... Fuller said intelligent design is a scientific theory that should be taught in school. But during cross-examination, he said intelligent design - the idea that the complexity of life requires a designer - is "too young" to have developed rigorous testable formulas and sits on the fringe of science. He suggested that perhaps scientists should have an "affirmative action" plan to help emerging ideas compete against the "dominant paradigms" of mainstream science. The pool of peer reviewers is smaller than it has been because, as scientific research gets more and more specialized, there are fewer people in that specialty and even fewer of them are willing to peer review pieces, Fuller said. Consequently, grant money also goes to fewer researchers, he said. ... Later, outside the courthouse, Fuller said that public school science class is an appropriate setting for intelligent design in order to keep it from being "marginalized in cult status." "I don't know where you think future scientists come from," he said. But Eugenie Scott ... disagreed, saying the purpose of public school education is to educate students, "not feed some theoretical pipeline." And Nick Matzke ... said students need to learn established theories first before they can begin to question them. "If a scientist was to overturn evolution they would first have to learn about it," he said. "It would have to be a revolution from within." As a philosopher, Fuller testified he remains open to all new views, even though he maintains that at the moment, evolutionary theory is a better explanation of the biological world. "I want to see where intelligent design is going to go," Fuller said. Fuller also said that while intelligent design's roots are religious, so are the roots of most scientific ideas, pointing to Isaac Newton's desire to understand the natural world through God's eyes. But there remains prejudice against intelligent design, he said. Fuller told the court that one of the problems of science is with the very definition of "scientific theory," which is the idea of well substantiated explanations that unify a broad range of observations. He said by requiring a theory to be "well substantiated," it makes it almost impossible for an idea to be accepted scientifically. But Fuller was actually proposing the definition for hypothesis - an untested idea that is the first step toward a theory. "Does a theory have to be well established to be scientific?" he said. "That means the dominant theory would always be." ... [I (and the ID movement) agree with Fuller that ID is still "young" as a science and needs time to mature. Scott's begs the question that learning the problems of evolution and its main alternatives (including ID) is not "to educate students." Matzke's point is a red-herring because no one is saying that "students" should not "learn established theories" i.e. the theory of evolution "first before they can begin to question them." In fact the ID movement wants students to learn more about evolution, including its philosophical assumptions, its major problems, and its main alternatives. Fuller makes a good point that "there remains prejudice against intelligent design" that "makes it almost impossible for [it] to be accepted scientifically". But, as Behe said in his testimony, ID is making progress against all the odds. Fuller's pointing out that "while intelligent design's roots are religious, so are the roots of most scientific ideas", is part of the strategy of Richard Thompson, The Thomas More Law Center's chief defence counsel, to argue that even if ID does have Christian creationist roots, that does not mean it is Christian creationism:

"Thompson is holding forth on his defense strategy. He says his scientific experts will show that I.D. is a valid scientific theory based on empirical observation by credentialed and respected scientists. He is arguing that no theory should be judged by its historical roots, even if they are religious, or even if they are creationist. Modern chemistry emerged from alchemy, after all, and that doesn't make it bogus. Astronomy emerged from astrology, and we don't hold that against it. Nor should a theory be judged by the personal ideologies of those who hold it; plenty of Darwinists are atheists, but that doesn't disqualify evolutionary biology as an ideology, he says. Schools that want to include the I.D. debate in their curriculum deserve the right to do so, Thompson says. Denying them that right is a form of both scientific and religious discrimination. `I.D. is seeking a place in the classroom because of its merits,' he says. `But it's being kept out because it is harmonious with the Christian faith.' ... `All scientific theories, including Darwinism, have religious implications,' Thompson says. And the religious implication of Darwinism is atheism." (Slack G., "Intelligent designer," The Thomas More Law Center, October 20, 2005)]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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