I agree with Casey Luskin. During the trial, Behe was asked to define scientific theory and of course he adopted the broad view of science. He said, "Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences."
Here's the exchange that took place during the trial [Dover: Day 11].
Q In any event, in your expert report, and in your testimony over the last two days, you used a looser definition of "theory," correct?I mostly agree with Behe.1 Astrology was an attempt to explain human behaviors by relating them to the position of the Earth on the day you were born. There is no connection. So today we think of astrology as bad science. It's not true that the stars determine your behavior and whenever we make this claim to an astologist we make sure to point out that the evidence is against it.
A I think I used a broader definition, which is more reflective of how the word is actually used in the scientific community.
Q But the way you define scientific theory, you said it's just based on your own experience; it's not a dictionary definition, it's not one issued by a scientific organization.
A It is based on my experience of how the word is used in the scientific community.
Q And as you said, your definition is a lot broader than the NAS definition?
A That's right, intentionally broader to encompass the way that the word is used in the scientific community.
Q Sweeps in a lot more propositions.
A It recognizes that the word is used a lot more broadly than the National Academy of Sciences defined it.
Q In fact, your definition of scientific theory is synonymous with hypothesis, correct?
A Partly -- it can be synonymous with hypothesis, it can also include the National Academy's definition. But in fact, the scientific community uses the word "theory" in many times as synonymous with the word "hypothesis," other times it uses the word as a synonym for the definition reached by the National Academy, and at other times it uses it in other ways.
Q But the way you are using it is synonymous with the definition of hypothesis?
A No, I would disagree. It can be used to cover hypotheses, but it can also include ideas that are in fact well substantiated and so on. So while it does include ideas that are synonymous or in fact are hypotheses, it also includes stronger senses of that term.
Q And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?
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. 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.
Q Has there ever been a time when astrology has been accepted as a correct or valid scientific theory, Professor Behe?
A Well, I am not a historian of science. And certainly nobody -- well, not nobody, but certainly the educated community has not accepted astrology as a science for a long long time. But if you go back, you know, Middle Ages and before that, when people were struggling to describe the natural world, some people might indeed think that it is not a priori -- a priori ruled out that what we -- that motions in the earth could affect things on the earth, or motions in the sky could affect things on the earth.
What we don't do is tell astrologers that they are entitled to believe whatever they want because astrology is not science and therefore we can't make a scientific statement about whether it's correct or not.
The God Helmet: Your Brain on Religion].
It's disingenuous to make fun of Behe's testimony without understanding that the real issue is epistemology and the demarcation problem. Behe's view of science is perfectly legitimate but it didn't jibe with what the plaintiffs were trying to establish during the trial. They wanted to prove that ID isn't science and the best way to do that was to show that something can't be science unless it's true. In other words, science isn't a "way of knowing," it's the end result.
What does this mean? It means that every discredited attempt to explain something using science as a way of knowing becomes "not science" with hindsight. All those people who tried to show that genes were proteins were wrong so it means that what they were doing is not science. It means that of the two sides arguing about junk DNA, one of them will be wrong so, at some time in the future, their current activities will be seen as "not science."
Isn't that bizarre?
1. He should have been defining "science" not "scientific theory." That's the fault of his lawyers who failed to make this point during his direct testimony.