Tracking Down the Quotes John Wise Invented for Michael Behe
In my prior post, I noted that John Wise’s online response to Discovery Institute used invented quotes from Michael Behe’s Dover testimony. In one case, this was understandable since Wise was simply copying a misquote from Judge Jones (who copied it from the ACLU). But there’s another invented misquote from Behe’s Dover testimony whose origin is more puzzling. Wise stated:
During the Kitzmiller v. Dover Board of Education trial, Prof. Michael Behe – a leading proponent of Intelligent Design, stated under oath that “under the broad definition of science that ID proponents prefer, astrology also qualifies as science”.
I tried finding the words attributed to Behe in the Dover trial transcript, but could not. The quote Wise attributed to Behe does not exist. Read Behe’s testimony where this issue is discussed–the quote isn’t there.
In fact as of today, there are only two hits on Google that contain that quote — and they are both from documents produced by Dr. Wise. (Update: Since this post went live there are now a couple more hits on Google for this quote, but they are all referring back to commentary on Wise’s original piece.) Wherever Dr. Wise got this quote, it wasn’t from any testimony given by Behe at Dover.
In an attempt to verify whether the quote existed, I contacted Dr. Wise to ask him for the source. His reply to me did not provide any source for the quote. He also did not admit any error. However, soon after I sent my inquiry, the quote marks around the erroneous quote mysteriously disappeared from Wise’s online response. (You can still see a screenshot of the original version of Wise’s page with the misquote here.)
Moreover, the quote Wise invented for Behe remains: Wise continues to attribute the non-existent quote to Behe in a different online lecture, still available here.
And of course Wise’s scrubbing of the quote marks into a paraphrase still distorts Behe’s actual meaning. Here’s what Behe actually said, which is far less contentious (and much less interesting, frankly) than Wise’s misrepresentation:
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.
(Michael Behe, October 18 Testimony, PM Session, pp. 38-39.)
So what really happened at Dover with regards to “astrology”? Of course Behe and all ID scientists reject astrology, something we see above that Behe made clear at trial.
Wise claims that astrology falls under Behe’s definition of a science. What Wise fails to acknowledge is that 500 years ago, the ancient scientific consensus would have claimed (erroneously) that astrology even meets the U.S. National Academy of Science’s definition of a scientific theory, as “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses.” Put the anti-ID NAS on the stand and they would have to admit that 500 years ago, the consensus would have claimed astrology fit their definition of science. Does that mean the NAS supports astrology? Of course not.
The problem with astrology is not that it could have fit the NAS’s definition of a scientific theory, or Michael Behe’s definition of a scientific theory 500 years ago–for something that is “science” can still be wrong.
Behe makes this point clear–the history of science is littered with disproven theories.
The problem with astrology is that it is not supported by the evidence. That is why, unlike ID, no serious scientists are advocating astrology as a good theory which could be presented to students in science classrooms. For more information, see: 500 Years Ago, Geocentrism & Astrology Would have Fit NAS definition of “Theory”!
It’s also important to note that there’s nothing really scandalous about Behe’s definition of science. Contrary to popular Dover myths, Behe’s definition of science did not require the supernatural. In fact, Behe made it clear at trial that ID does not require the supernatural:
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether intelligent
design requires the action of a supernatural creator?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And what is that opinion?
A. No, it doesn’t.
(Michael Behe, October 17 Testimony, AM Session, p. 86.)
What is more, ID meets much narrower definitions of science than Behe’s definition offered at trial. For example, ID uses the scientific method. For details, see:
- FAQ: Does intelligent design theory implement the scientific method?
- For a comprehensive rebuttal to the Dover ruling, see Intelligent Design Will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover or Traipsing Into Evolution