Archive for the ‘history of science’ category

One Long Argument, one hungry blogger

November 19, 2009

In anticipation of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species (November 24th; mark your calendars!), I figured I would address evolutionary theory.  The concept of evolution is one of the simplest in science, yet is often misunderstood.  While searching for a good illustration of how evolution works, I realized that I was hungry.  Heading out to the lobby, I checked the vending machines for something to eat:


Noticing the presence of M&Ms in the machine, I had an idea. M&Ms come in different colors; i.e. they have a built-in source of variation.  I opted for the ones with peanuts (E7), put in my dollar, and got a package.  Upon returning to the room, I opened the package of M&Ms, and laid them out to display the degree of variation within said population of M&Ms:

After examining the population, I realized that there was a level of variation such that we have a healthy population, with some traits being rarer than others.  Blue, Green, and Orange were designated as “common”, Brown as “uncommon”, and Red and Yellow as “rare”.  So we have a population with variation.  How does said population evolve?

Certain traits (in this case colors) are advantageous, while others are disadvantageous.  If a predator likes to eat red things, the red M&Ms are in trouble.  There is only one representative of that variety in our population, and this blogger does like red M&Ms.  Therefore, we have a disadvantageous trait, and said variety is removed from the gene pool, i.e. it goes extinct.

While the red variety goes extinct, the blue, green, yellow, and orange varieties go on living happily, and breeding (unfortunately I cannot make M&Ms reproduce…bear with me).  Eventually, some event occurs that alters some portion of our population (be it a behavioral change, mutation, etc).  In this case, we’ll use a reference to 2001 A Space Odyssey.  A monolith pops into the scene.  The blue and orange M&Ms are attracted to it.  The other M&Ms run away:



If you are not familiar with the scene this is referencing, it is available here.  So the Blue and Orange varieties gain some sort of differential survival advantage (call it “intelligence”) from contact with the monolith.  We’ll say that the monolith is radioactive and caused rapid mutations within the Blue and Orange genomes; we’re not looking at long periods of time here, so I’m taking a leap here and increasing the speed of our demo.  The Blue and Orange varieties chase off the other varieties of M&Ms due to their inherent differences (we’ll say through a mountain pass), and then return to their own region.  A landslide (or in this case a giant screw falling in the middle of the picture) blocks off the pass, separating the blue and orange varieties from the other varieties:

After separation, you have two separate varieties, which compete amongst themselves, and evolve along separate paths.  This is called allopatric speciation:

Eventually, an earthquake or something of the sort removes the geographic barrier, and the populations mix once again:

If the two populations have been separated long enough, and evolved along different enough lines, then they will be able to coexist without competition.  If this is the case, populations will stabilize between the two without much competition:


OK, but what has this little thought experiment demonstrated about evolution?  Evolution through natural selection, at its most basic level, requires variation within a population.  When dealing with living organisms, this variation is provided by genetic mutation.  Genetic mutation is pretty much random in nature.  However, certain mutations are favorable for survival, other mutations are unfavorable, and some are neutral.  Darwin’s model of natural selection is based on a competition for resources; certain individuals will just be better able to compete for resources.  These individuals are the ones that will tend to leave the most offspring.  Natural selection works by weeding out unfavorable mutations and increasing the population of organisms with favorable mutations.  Mutation is random.  Natural selection is not.  Natural selection will inherently favor those organisms that have traits which give them an edge for survival.  In our M&M analogy, if predators like to eat red M&Ms, then red M&Ms will likely be rarer (or go extinct quicker) than other varieties.  If some gazelles run faster than others, and the slow ones are the ones that generally get eaten by lions, then natural selection will gradually increase the average speed of the gazelle population as a whole.
Within our M&M analogy, we saw a rapid “Poof”-style evolutionary shift in which some M&Ms drastically changed form after coming into contact with a monolith.  I do not mean to imply some sort of magical evolutionary process in which a bird suddenly hatches from a lizard egg; that’s saltationism, and saltationism is wrong.  However, given the right conditions and environmental pressures, evolution can happen relatively quickly.  When you separate one large population into two smaller ones (our screw-landslide), you decrease the size of the gene pool, and thus enlarge the potential impact of a given mutation.  As such, relatively small populations can often change relatively quickly.  In some cases, once the separated populations come back into contact with each other, they have evolved along separate enough paths that they do not directly compete with each other, allowing for the coexistence of both groups.  In other cases, both groups do still directly compete with each other.  In these cases,  natural selection once again weeds out certain individuals, and allows others to prosper.

As demonstrated, evolution through natural selection is an extremely simple process. Some organisms are better adapted than others, and these well-adapted organisms will tend to reproduce more often, eventually taking over the population. However, as demonstrated through our brief, rough look at allopatric speciation, natural selection is not the only force involved in controlling the evolution of life on Earth.  Environmental factors also can play a major role.  Barriers between populations are also important.  Meteor impacts and other mass extinction events can drastically shift the course of evolution on Earth.  But can evolution explain the diversity of life on Earth?

Given the long period of time for which the Earth has existed (approximately 4.6 billion years), we certainly have had enough time to evolve the diversity of life on Earth.  While some have raised questions (generally pseudoscientific in nature) about the ability of evolution to explain the origin of the eye, or transitions between major groups of animal, for example, these objections are weak.  While we have a working mechanism for evolution, and a huge amount of evidence in support of the idea that life on Earth is the result of a long, drawn-out process of evolution, there is no mechanism given for these arguments against evolution.  No defined laws which would forbid the evolution of the eye.  No tactile reason to believe that one could not evolve a bird from a dinosaurian ancestor, or an amphibian from a fish.  The evidence is clear, and the process is as elegant as it is simple.  Evolution happens.


neat source; James Hall obituary

October 30, 2009

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember my “In the Footsteps of Giants” post.  In it, I mention New York State Geologist James Hall.  Interestingly enough, his New York Times obituary is accessible online (click here, PDF format).  Hall was an interesting figure, and his obituary sheds more light on his life.  Hall worked closely with the likes of Charles Lyell and Louis Agassiz, and published some noteworthy works of his own (especially focusing on the geology of New York).  The obituary is short, and well worth spending a minute or two to read.

Gould’s Hopeless Monster

October 30, 2009

I’m back, after a brief hiatus (getting back into the swing of college again).  Sorry about disappearing off of the radar recently.  I’ve been doing some pretty intense reading focusing on the relationship between science and religion lately, and this paper is the result: a critique of Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of Non-overlapping Magisteria. It’s pretty long, but seems enjoyable enough to me:

While Stephen Jay Gould’s thesis of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA)[1] has some merit, it is as a whole highly problematic.  Although Gould does allow for some minor contention at the boundary between science and religion[2], his contention that science deals with only empirical questions and religion deals only with moral and spiritual questions is deeply flawed.  While science is, at its core, an empirical process, scientific ideas often have far-reaching consequences which can deeply impact religious thought.  Therefore, although the claim that science and religion are constantly at war with each other is nothing more than a myth[3], there are contested zones in which science and religion are inherently in a state of conflict.  These contested zones run deeper than NOMA implies, and therefore are a problem for Gould’s construct.  This essay will explore these contested zones through the interaction between evolutionary theory and revealed religion. Due to the asymmetrical public treatment evolution has received from different religious groups, this discussion will focus mostly on the interaction between evolutionary theory and Christianity.  However, contested zones are present between evolutionary theory and non-Christian religions as well, as will be demonstrated later through the example of Kennewick Man.  In conclusion, it will be demonstrated that Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magisteria is inextricably flawed, and should be discarded.

While pre-Darwinian discussions of evolution[4] certainly did have theological implications, for the purposes of this essay, these discussions will be bypassed here due to the nature of the texts.  Pre-Darwinian theories of evolution tended to be Progressive in nature, focusing on the gradual improvement on life on Earth, eventually culminating in the development of White European Christians.  Darwin rejected this model, and sought to distance himself from these authors.  As such, Darwin refrained from using any derivation of the term “evolution” until the last word in On the Origin of Species.  This text is where we will begin our discussion.

Darwin’s thesis, which states that life evolves mainly through natural selection, is an elegantly simple one.   In a given population, different organisms will exhibit slightly different traits.[5] Some of these traits will provide their owners with a distinct survival advantage.  Other traits will prove problematic to their owners.  These differences lead to differing rates of reproductive success.[6] Over long periods of time[7], this process will drastically alter the features of members of the given population.  In essence, natural selection acts as an agent of design, shaping the features of life on Earth.

As such, Darwinian natural selection is a direct refutation of Paleyan natural theology. Darwin was thoroughly aware of this fact; in fact, as Darwin notes in his autobiography, he studied Paley’s Evidences of Christianity, and Moral Philosophy as a student at Cambridge[8] (and Natural Theology later in life). As a young man studying to become a minister, Darwin was deeply impressed with Paley’s work, which was deeply influential in Christian thought at the time.  Therefore, it is not surprising that the Origin of Species, in a sense, can be read as a refutation of Paley.

In fact, certain passages in Darwin’s Origin of Species directly allude to Paley’s work.  Consider, for example, the following passage:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.  Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations rom a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple…can be shown to exist…then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real.[9]

This statement serves as a direct refutation to Paleyan theology, as demonstrated below (from Paley’s Natural Theology):

Were there no example in the world of contrivance except that of the eye, it would be alone sufficient to support the conclusion which we draw from it, as to the necessity of an intelligent Creator.  It could never be gotten rid of; because it could not be accounted for by any other, supposition, which did not contradict all the principles we possess of knowledge[10]

Paley continues to describe the perfection of the eye in a way similar to which Darwin does.  However, while Paley viewed this perfection as necessitating an intelligent Creator, Darwin viewed natural selection as sufficient to explain the origins of the vertebrate eye. This comparison illustrates the profound theological implications of On the Origin of Species.  Through the lens of natural theology, the Creator is viewed as one which is responsible for every detail of an organism.  Through the lens of natural selection, the Creator becomes one which created the first few organisms and who allowed life to evolve as a result of natural processes.

This radical re-definition of humanity’s place in nature created a major contested zone between science and theistic religion.  Le Conte[11] notes that evolutionary theory, like the heliocentric model before it, might be seen to pose a threat to religious beliefs. However, Le Conte implies, as with the heliocentric model, religious belief will come to encompass evolutionary theory. According to Gould[12], Pope John Paul II’s October 22nd, 1996 speech to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences would seem to confirm this hypothesis. Ruse 2001[13], however, notes that the Pope’s endorsement is valid only if the basic tenets of Catholic faith are not compromised.  Therefore, if an aspect of evolutionary theory contradicts Catholic faith, then it must be rejected. This hesitance towards evolution is understandable. Accepting evolutionary theory as part of a religious framework fundamentally alters the structure of that belief.  Daniel C. Dennett has called evolutionary theory a “universal acid” that alters everything that it touches[14].  This is as true with science as it is with religion.  Evolution itself becomes a contested zone, with atheists such as Richard Dawkins and theists such as Kenneth R. Miller both claiming a consistency between evolutionary theory and their own personal belief systems.

What is evident, even within Miller’s work, is that evolutionary theory does drastically alter religious belief.  Miller’s vision of God is one who created human life through natural evolutionary processes, one who could have created our species in a more direct fashion, but chose not to[15]. This view of God, while consistent with evolutionary theory, is drastically different than a classical view of God in which God created humans out of dust in His own image.  In order for evolutionary theory to co-exist with religious belief, the religious belief system in question must be fundamentally altered.  While Miller’s God[16] is consistent with evolutionary theory, it is necessary to accept certain Biblical passages (for example Ch. 1 of Genesis) as allegorical rather than factual.  The religious belief in question must make compromises in order to incorporate evolutionary theory.  As implied by Ruse 2001 (as mentioned above), there is only so much room in which Catholicism is able to move to incorporate evolution. Eventually, evolutionary theory will find itself at odds with Catholic belief[17]. Therefore, it is clear that science and religion do not inhabit totally separate spheres. Contested zones exist wherever scientists attempt to study topics classically relegated to the religious realm, for example where humanity came from.  Gould’s model of non-overlapping magisteria fails to incorporate this logical problem, and is therefore incomplete.

The contested zone between science and Christianity is even greater among literalist Christian groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists and Baptists.  These groups accept a 6,000 year old Earth on which life was created in six literal days[18]. Seventh Day Adventists such as George McCready Price and Ellen White published books that criticized science that did not fit within a literal interpretation of the Bible.  Price went so far as to attempt to reinterpret the geologic column using Noah’s Flood as a creative mechanism, so as not to necessitate long periods of time for the formation of the geologic record[19]. In the mid-20th century, individuals such as John C. Whitcomb and Henry Morris would continue the pursuit of Price’s model of flood geology[20]. Whitcomb and Morris’ work would spark the growth of a relatively significant Young Earth Creationist movement within the United States, one which attempts to deny evolutionary theory for religious reasons.  It is clear that to these groups, evolutionary theory and religious belief cannot coexist.  Acceptance of evolutionary theory or an old Earth directly contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis, and therefore becomes a religious issue[21].  In this instance, it seems that evolutionary theory and religion cannot peacefully co-exist.  Here, the science itself is altered[22] in an attempt to force it to conform to religious expectations.

Disagreements between evolutionary theory and religion are not solely a Christian issue.  The case of Kennewick Man offers an alternate issue, featuring a contested zone between Umatilla religious belief and science.  The study of skeletons such as Kennewick Man is seen by archaeologists as an attempt to understand where the first people to colonize the Americas traveled from.  The remains of Kennewick Man are drastically different (and older) than the remains of modern Native American peoples.  Although Kennewick Man is now suspected to be most closely related to the Ainu of Japan[23], the original press releases on the skeleton suggested that Kennewick Man was “Caucasian” in derivation[24]. Regardless of the ancestry of Kennewick Man, any non-North American interpretation directly contradicts the Umatilla creation story[25], which implies that their ancestors have always inhabited the North American continent.  In cases such as this, there is no legitimate compromise between scientific data and religious belief.  Either the ancestors of the Umatilla always inhabited North America, or they didn’t.  Both sides cannot be correct.  Here, science and religion are not occupying separate realms; both the scientific and religious interpretations are dealing with the same exact question.  In cases such as this, Gould’s concept of NOMA breaks down completely.

In many cases, science and religion are inextricably linked.  For example, Noble 1999 describes the deep level to which religious belief has influenced Western technological and scientific growth.  While millenarian Christian beliefs deeply influenced the exploration of the Americas,[26] later human exploration in space would also be infused with Christian belief[27]. Both projects of exploration were couched both in scientific and religious terms.  Newton himself viewed his scientific achievements as being deeply tied to his religious beliefs[28]. Much like Kenneth Miller, prominent evolutionary theorist R.A. Fisher viewed evolution as deeply linked to his Christian faith.  However, deeply linked to Fisher’s belief system is the notion of Progress.  In Fisher’s case, it was the need for human action to further the human condition[29].

While science can be positively linked to organized religion in some settings, in other settings, science can be deeply tied to atheism.  Granted, by definition, science is not meant to favor one religious belief system over another.  However, some philosophers and scientists such as Richard Dawkins (2006) and Daniel Dennett (2006) have tried to forge a link between science and atheism.  Both authors view religion as an ultimately explainable natural phenomenon that does not ultimately require any type of God.  To these authors, religion is seen as an evolved response to external pressures.  Cziko (1995) offers a classic example of this type of view.  Cziko focuses on the link between rice cultivation and religion in Bali, and describes the link in terms of cultural evolution.  Under this type of model, the Balinese religious beliefs are important for rice cultivation because they help explain when to plant and harvest crops[30].

It is at these moments, within these contested zones, which the alleged separation between science and religion collapses.  Gould is correct in stating[31] that science and religion do in fact collide at the border between the two “magisteria[32]”. However, while Gould does note that science and religion can interact, he misses the main point.  Gould develops his position such that science deals solely with empirical fact and that religion deals solely with questions of moral meaning and value[33]. Gould’s model ignores situations in which religious belief has a seemingly direct impact on scientific matters[34].  It also overlooks instances (such as Cziko 1995) in which scientific theory attempts to explain away religious beliefs.  Instances such as this provide a classic instance of a contested zone.  The realm of science is, in these instances, delving directly into religious questions.  Granted, while attempts put forth by the likes of Dawkins and Dennett to use science to prove atheism are philosophically flawed[35], areas where science does seem to explain the basis of a given religious belief does seem to contradict Gould’s model. At some level, the scientific explanation of the belief in question will likely directly contradict the religious explanation of the belief.  This presents a situation in which science and religion do directly overlap.

Scientific thought also has direct influences on religious belief.  As previously demonstrated, Darwinian natural selection, as a direct refutation of Paleyan design, revolutionized religious thought.  In the case of Roman Catholicism, evolutionary theory directly altered such thought.  While one could argue that this alteration resulted from an interaction between science and religion, it is better defined as a direct overlap between the two.  First, in an attempt to support NOMA, Stephen Jay Gould explains that Catholics can accept evolution as long as they believe that the soul is divinely created. However, while Gould (through a Pope John Paul II quote) notes[36] that one cannot directly scientifically observe the spiritual, he overlooks a key issue.  Ruse 2001[37] notes that an acceptance of evolution by John Paul II directly contradicts earlier Catholic belief, which necessitated a monogenist[38] view of humanity. While merely accepting evolution does not cause problems for Catholics, a deeper analysis of the consequences of such an acceptance clearly does.  To fully accept evolution is to reject the monogenist view, which in turn calls into question the concept of Original Sin.  The rejection of this view also raises questions about the most basic of all Christian beliefs, that of mankind being created in God’s image.  If humans evolved, then can one truly say that humans were created in God’s image?  Ruse 2001 argues that Pius XII viewed monogenism as a key component of Christian belief,[39] and notes that Pius XII addressed this topic in Humani Generis. While Gould 1999 does address Humani Generis,[40] he misses this point. The concept of monogenism is one in which evolutionary theory and Catholic theology directly collide, and yet Gould fails to acknowledge it.  This failure raises questions with regards to the accuracy of Gould 1999.

Gould also fails to sufficiently address religious belief systems other than Roman Catholicism (although Gould does admirably admit a lack of background with some religious belief systems, especially Eastern ones).  Gould implies that “Creationism” is a small-scale American fundamentalist Christian institution[41].  However, this statement is false.  Christian Creationism is not a solely American institution; Christian Creationist groups exist in Australia, England, and elsewhere[42]; Jewish[43], Muslim[44], and Native American Creationist[45] groups also exist.  Therefore, Gould’s picture of religion as a whole is a flawed one.

Gould fails to adequately address the fact that different religious belief systems interact with science in different ways.  Gould creates a false dichotomy in which science either does not overlap with religion at all or is completely anti-scientific in nature.  The first group is assumed by Gould to incorporate the majority of religious believers, with the latter occupying a small fringe group.  However, this description creates a dreadfully oversimplified picture of the boundary between science and religion.  Some believers (such as Roman Catholics) are pretty open to science.  Other groups (such as Seventh Day Adventists and Baptists) often try to alter science into something that is consistent with their faith.  Some groups merely reject science that contradicts their beliefs.  Given the vast number of different religious sects globally, it seems nearly impossible to draw one distinct line separating science and religion.

Gould’s concept of contingency[46] also seems logically inconsistent with NOMA.  Contingency implies that evolution itself is a totally random process.  Replay life’s tape a thousand times and a thousand different results will be produced.  This concept implies that there is nothing special about human existence.  Taken to its logical end, contingency implies that humans are the result of accident and luck.  This in itself is a spiritual statement.  The concept of contingency inherently crosses Gould’s artificial boundary between science and religion.  Contingency addresses a direct question of value. It seeks to answer a key religious question, one which focuses on our very identity as a species.  The concept of contingency follows Gould’s reading of the fossil record to its logical end.  However, by arguing that humanity is the result of a series of accidents, Gould crosses the boundary between science and religion established in Gould 1999, therefore rendering the boundary a false one.  Science, like religion, can be used in an attempt to answer questions of a moral or value-based nature.  Religion, like science, often does delve into traditionally scientific questions.  Therefore, Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magisteria fails at the most basic level.

Gould’s argument is flawed in that it creates a false dichotomy between science and religion.  As demonstrated through the previous discussion of Darwin and Paley, scientific discoveries can fundamentally and drastically alter religious belief systems.  When scientific fact and religious belief collide, there are multiple possible reactions. In some cases, no overlap (and no conflict) is present[47].  In other instances, where overlap does occur (such as with evolutionary theory and Catholicism[48]), one or both sides make compromises[49] to avoid conflict.  In the case of religiously-based anti-science movements, science that is seen to conflict with religious belief is openly rejected on the grounds of such a conflict.  While Gould[50] seeks to imply that these movements are fringe groups and that no such conflict exists, clearly there is some level of overlap between religion and science. While this overlap can result in either conflict or compromise, its very existence calls the validity of Gould’s NOMA into question.

While Gould’s NOMA model is deeply flawed, this does not mean that science and religion cannot coexist.  However, a more sophisticated model is necessary to address the boundaries between science and religion.  Gould argues that science and religion occupy wholly separate realms, which occasionally collide, but never overlap.  Gould relegates religious belief to a realm of morality and science to a realm of empiricism.  However, this division is overly simplistic.  Science can and does create morally troubling questions (such as the debate surrounding the creation of the atomic bomb).  However, religion is not the only possible pathway to moral choice.  Scientific data plays a major role in weighing the costs and benefits of any morally taxing scientific question.  The political elements operating within a society also play a key role. The picture of science as a solely empirical force with religious belief picking up the moral slack is a deeply flawed one.

Religion also delves into the empirical realm.  If religion were a solely moral force, there would be few (if any) contested zones between science and religion.  However, the presence of these contested zones suggests that religion is more than a moral force.  As has been shown, scientific discoveries do often create contested zones between religion and science.  This suggests that religion itself is somehow concerned with empirical questions.  Of course a distinction must be drawn here, such that the scientific questions that concern religion tend to be questions of ultimate meaning and causality (such as the question of evolution).  Since both science and religion seek to answer questions of this nature, these spaces are where the overlap between the two is greatest.  At these points, there is no clean separation between religion and science, at least in the sense that Gould’s NOMA model predicts.  The question, for religion, becomes not only a spiritual one but also a physical one.  Either God created humanity out of dust (or some other method depending on the religious group at hand) in its current state, or humans evolved through natural selection.  One cannot have it both ways.

Therefore, revisions are necessary if Gould’s model is to work at all.  NOMA is a useful concept, but a deeply flawed one.  The idea that religion and science can coexist peacefully is a good one.  There is much merit to this inference.  However, if progress is to be made in the dialogue between science and religion, the idea of completely separate spheres must be discarded.  Science and religion are both human socio-cultural constructs.  Both are presented as pathways to truth.  They are not mutually exclusive; for example, Darwin likely didn’t give up his Christian faith because of his work on evolution, but rather as a result of the logical problem of evil[51] and the problem of hell[52].  Evolutionary theorists such as Fisher and Miller openly accept both Christianity and evolution.  It is therefore obvious that science and religion can coexist.  However, compromises must be made.

The magisteria of science and religion do occasionally overlap.  Therefore, any revised look at the two subjects must incorporate this fact.  A simplistic Draperian conflict thesis is obviously flawed, but some level of heated interaction between the two magisteria is likely.  The contested zones between science and religion are where any thorough focus on the interplay between these two subjects must begin.  Science and religion can both be easily understood in a vacuum, but when the two are combined, the picture becomes convoluted. While Gould describes science and religion as two wholly separate magisteria that can interact but never overlap, a better model is one which allows for some overlap between science and religion.  However, given the complexities of religious philosophy (such as the myriad belief systems on a global level) and science, it is impossible to define exactly where such overlaps will occur.  To make such a comparison, one must compare scientific fact with religious belief on a sect by sect basis.  Rather than denigrating religious groups that reject science as radicals outside of the norm, a useful model will incorporate these groups such that it will be possible to outline exactly where scientific thought overlaps with religious faith in such cases.  Perhaps Gould’s greatest gaffe is oversimplifying the interaction between science and religion; since there is no single monolithic religion, but rather myriad different belief systems, such a simplification is fatally flawed.  For science and religion to peacefully coexist, compromises must be made within the contested zones between the two, or one or the other must be partially or totally rejected.  Gould’s model of NOMA does not predict or incorporate such an outcome.  Therefore, non-overlapping magisteria, while an interesting thesis, is fatally flawed, and should be drastically altered or rejected.

Works Cited:

-Cziko, G. Without Miracles: Universal Selection Theory and the Second Darwinian Revolution. MIT Press, Cambridge, 1995.

-Darwin, CR. The Origin of Species. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2005. 6th Edition, original year of publication 1872

-Darwin, CR. The Autobiography of Charles Darwin. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 2005. Original year of publication 1887.

-Darwin, CR.  Autobiographies. Penguin Books, New York, 2002.  Originally published 1903

-Dawkins, R. The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 2006

-Dennett, DC.  Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life.  Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996.

-Dennett, DC. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Viking Penguin, New York, 2006

-Draper, JW. History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. 8th edition, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1878

-Egan, T. Tribe Stops Study of Bones That Challenge History. National Report, the New York Times, Sep. 30, 1996.

-Gould, SJ. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. WW Norton & Company, New York, 1989

-Gould, SJ. Non-overlapping Magisteria. In Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History. Three Rivers Press, New York, 1999 p. 269-283

-Le Conte, J. Evolution and it’s Relation to Religious Thought. D. Appleton And Company, New York, 1890.

-Miller, KR.  Finding Darwin’s God: a Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. Harper Perennial, New York, 2002

-Noble, DF.  The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Intervention.  Penguin Books, New York, 1999

-Numbers, RN. Introduction to Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2009 p. 1-7

-Numbers, RN. The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2006.

-Paley, W.  Evidence of Design (from Natural Theology), in Readings in Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Eschleman, A. Blackwell Publishing, Malden, 2008. p. 144-145

-Pope John Paul II.  “Truth Cannot Contradict Truth”.  October 22nd, 1996 address presented to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

-Quammen, D. The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution. Atlas Books, New York, 2006

-Ruse, M. Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1996

-Ruse, M. The Evolution Wars: A Guide to the Debates. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, 2000

-Ruse, M. Can a Darwinian be a Christian?. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001

-Strong, EW.  Newton and God. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 13, no. 2, p. 147-167, April 1952

-Schnee, K. Make No Bones About It (The Tech. Online Edition.  Vol. 119, Issue 52: October 22, 1999) accessed 2/25/2009

-White, AD. A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom. V 1 and 2. D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1897

-Zimmerman, LJ. Public Heritage, a Desire for a “White” History for America, and Some Impacts of the Kennewick Man/Ancient One Decision. International Journal of Cultural Property, 2005, 12:2:265-274

[1] Gould 1999 p. 269-283.  In a nutshell, NOMA states that science and religion need not conflict since they occupy different realms.


[2] Gould 1999 p. 274

[3] This idea is known as the conflict thesis. As noted by Numbers 2009 p. 6, this thesis, presented in such texts as Draper 1878 and White 1897, is deeply flawed.

[4] Such as those ideas presented by Lamarck, Chambers, and Erasmus Darwin

[5] Variation.  We now know that variation is a result of genetic mutation.  However, the source of variation in evolution was demonstrated after Darwin’s death.

[6] After all, if an organism has a trait which makes it difficult for it to survive, it is unlikely to leave many offspring.

[7] If selective pressures remain steady

[8] Darwin 1887 (2005) p. 20

[9] Darwin 1872 (2004) p. 207-208

[10] Paley 1855 (2008) p. 145

[11] Le Conte 1890 p. 262

[12] Gould 1998 p. 270, 272

[13] p. 74-75.

[14] Dennett1995 p. 63

[15] Miller 2002 p. 243-245

[16] And the Roman Catholic God in general; Miller is Roman Catholic.

[17] At points which Catholic dogma is directly called into question.

[18] Ruse 2000 p. 110

[19] Numbers 2006 p. 90-104

[20] Numbers 2006 p. 211-215

[21] This is not to say that evolutionary theory or geology is in any sense “religious”, but rather that it contradicts the beliefs of some Christian sects.

[22] At which point it becomes wholly unscientific in the eyes of the mainstream scientific community.

[23] Schnee 1999

[24] Zimmerman 2005

[25] Egan 1996

[26] Under a description of the New World as a New Eden.  See Noble 1999 p. 21-33

[27] Noble 1999 p. 115-142

[28] Strong 1952

[29] Ruse 1996 p. 301-303

[30] Cziko 1995 p. 152-157

[31] Gould 1999 p. 274

[32] To borrow Gould’s terminology

[33] Gould 1999 p. 274

[34] See, for example, Fisher’s Progressivism.

[35] Science cannot ultimately disprove the existence of God.  God’s existence is a supernatural question, which means that science does not have the ability to answer it one way or the other.

[36] Gould 1999 p. 278

[37] p. 75-76

[38] In this situation, a view in which all humans are directly descended by Adam and Eve, who were, according to this interpretation, two literal individuals. It is worth noting, however, that evolutionary theory is strongly consistent with a more basic form of monogenism which merely states that all living humans are ultimately derived from the same ancestral stock.  Darwin even indirectly affirms such a framework in On The Origin of Species, where he states that “[l]ight will be thrown on the origin of man and his history” (Darwin 2005 [1872]).  In this case, the term “man” is singular, implying a singular ancestry for all of humanity, rather than separate origins for each race of human.  This statement, in itself, stands as an open rejection of polygenist thinkers such as Agassiz.

[39] p. 75

[40] See p. 275-280

[41] p. 270-271

[42] See Numbers 2006 p. 399-432

[43] Numbers 2006 p. 427-431

[44] Numbers 2006 p. 420-427

[45] For example Umatilla Creationists, this essay

[46] 1989 p. 288-289

[47] Due to a definition of science such that science cannot answer questions dealing with supernatural causation, if religion is defined such that it does not overlap with scientific thought, then the two can coexist without an issue. However, such definitions of religion do not always exist.

[48] Christian monogenism being threatened by evolution

[49] Such as John Paul II stating that Catholics can accept evolution as long as they believe that God created the soul.

[50] 1999 p. 270-271

[51] As expressed through the deaths of two of his children (Quammen 2006 p. 118-119)

[52] Darwin devotes one of the shortest, most pointed paragraphs (Darwin 2002 [1903] p. 50) in his entire body of work to the idea that his “Father, Brother, and almost all [of his] best friends will be everlastingly punished” merely for not accepting the Christian belief system:

“And this is a damnable doctrine.”

Along with the deaths of his children (especially Mary in 1842 and Annie in 1851), the problem of hell seems to have been a major component of Darwin’s loss of faith.  However, it is worth noting that Darwin was most likely never an atheist, but rather likely died as an agnostic.  Therefore events that occurred during Darwin’s life (and the nature of Christian belief itself), and not evolution, caused Darwin’s loss of faith.

Defending William Jennings Bryan

August 18, 2009

I recently watched (once again…it’s a film I’ve watched many times) the classic film interpretation of the Scopes Trial, Inherit The Wind.  While I have a deep appreciation for the film as someone with an interest in evolution and anti-evolution movements, the portrayal of Bryan in the film is problematic.

Throughout the film, we see Matthew Brady (the character representing Bryan) portrayed in a wholly alien way to someone familiar with William Jennings Bryan.  Brady was a Young Earth Creationist, convinced that the Earth was created in 4004 BC (as given by the Ussher chronology).  The real Bryan held a rather different view, which was compatible with an old Earth (the “day-age” interpretation of Genesis).  While many people instantly think of Young Earth Creationists when the term “Creationist” is mentioned today, Bryan’s position was a relatively common one in his day.  It may seem like I’m jumping on minutia here, but there is a key difference between Brady in the film and Bryan in real life in this area.

One other extremely blatant misportrayal of Bryan within the film comes near the end of the film, when Brady states his desire for a much harsher penalty than the Scopes character recieved.  In reality, Bryan was not trying to ruin Scopes.  In fact, Bryan offered to pay Scopes’ fine.  Thus, Inherit the Wind portrays Bryan in a negative light compared to what he actually was like during the trial. 

A final note: Bryan was not some defeated buffoon come the end of the trial.  He did not give up on the anti-evolution movement.  In fact, Bryan was preparing to expand it before his death(Larson 198-199).  While he was upset by the trial, and   clearly took a beating at the hands of Clarence Darrow, he was not broken.  And the trial was clearly not a victory for evolutionists.  How could it have been?  The trial ended, and Scopes was found guilty.  Scopes fine was eventually discarded on a technicality, thus preventing the defense from challenging the ruling in a higher court.  Evolution would continue to be excluded from classrooms for years to come.

Therefore, when watching a film such as Inherit the Wind, remember that the work is inherently a work of fiction.  Bryan really wasn’t as bad as they made him out to be.  Inherit the Wind, while a classic film, has its own historical problems, as I have partially demonstrated.  However, the film does much to expose the public perception of a battle between science and religion, a battle that is not always necessarily present.  This concept is an old myth, popularized by the likes of Draper, through the conflict thesisInherit The Wind offers a good illustration of this myth, thus making the film worth watching even with its historical errors.  While events such as the Scopes Trial certain had religious and scientific influences and consequences, the perception that science and religion are always necessarily at each other’s throats is inherently and deeply flawed.  Let us remember that when we see Bryan portrayed as a religious zealot yearning for the crucifixion of a science teacher who overused his right to think.  As we have seen, this is not the case at all. Yes.  Social factors were at play in the Scopes Trial.  But this was not a simple case of Science VS. Religion.


Works Cited:

Larson, EJ.  Summer For The Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion.  Basic Books, New York, 2006

Hugh Falconer

July 28, 2009

According to Stephen Jay Gould (2002 p. 745), Hugh Falconer might be remembered as one of the greatest Victorian paleontologists if he had not died before publishing major works.  However, unfortunately for Falconer’s legacy, this was not the case.  Falconer died at the age of 57 in January 1865, during the last year of the violent and bloody US Civil War (for general biographical sketch, click here).  Gould obviously held Falconer in high regards, even though most people today have never heard his name.  Let’s take a look at why.

Falconer performed his most recognized work in India, a place he was transported to by the British East India Company in 1830 (see biographical sketch).  He is remembered, if at all, for his work on the mammalian fauna of the Siwalik (also spelled Sivalik in some texts) Hills (see for example Mayor 2001 p. 133, Chakrabarti  2004 p. 72, Gould 2002 p. 745). Through his work on the Siwalik Hills fauna and his later 1863 monograph on fossil elephants, Falconer observed and noted the prevalence of “stasis” in the fossil record.  By the publication of the 1863 monograph, Falconer had accepted the general premises of Darwin’s model (although he was critical of it previously…more on this later). If the term stasis brings to mind Eldredge and Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibria, it should.  Eldredge and Gould’s work on punctuated equilibria was essentially a re-discovery of what Falconer had already observed; Falconer noted long-term stability of species, with an occasional sudden appearance of new species.  Thus, Falconer noted a key observation of punctuated equilibrium, namely that:

“a local pattern of abrupt repalcement does not signify macromutational transformation in situ, but an origin of the later species from an ancestral population living elsewhere, followed by migration into the local region.” (Gould 2002 748)

More specifically, Falconer was referring to European fossil elephants, and placed their likely ancestral stock in India.  Falconer started out critical of Darwin, so much that when Darwin sent Falconer a copy of The Origin of Species, Darwin noted in a letter that included with the book that:

“Lord, how you will long to crucify me alive! I fear it will produce no other effect on you; but if it should stagger you in ever so slight a degree, in this case, I am fully convinced that you will become, year after year, less fixed in your belief in the immutability of species.  With this audacious and presumptuous conviction, I remain, my dear Falconer, Yours most truly, Charles Darwin” (quoted in Gould 2002 p. 746)

This passage illustrates a few realities.  First, Darwin valued Falconer’s judgement (in fact, Falconer was one of the first scientists who Darwin described his theory to; see Gould 2002 p. 746).  It also implies that Darwin and Falconer were on somewhat friendly terms.  Desmond and Moore’s (Desmond and Moore 1991) biography of Darwin hints at this friendship as well, as do letters between Falconer and Darwin, for example Falconer offering specimens to Darwin, etc.  Something deeper is also at work here.  In Falconer, we see an early critic of Darwin who has been convinced of the strength and viability of Darwin’s model.  While Falconer still viewed evolution differently than Darwin to a degree, Falconer had warmed to the strength of Natural Selection.

Falconer is less remembered for his views on Archaeopteryx.  In 1863, Falconer wrote to Darwin, stating:

You were never more missed—at any rate by me—for there has been this grand Darwinian case of the Archaeopteryx for you and me to have a long jaw about…You are not to put your faith in the slip-shod and hasty account of it given to the Royal Society.  It is a much more astounding creature—than has entered into the conception of the describer” (Falconer, 1863 in Correspondences vol. 11 p.5)

Thus, Falconer was aware of the relevance of the find to Darwin’s work.  The above quote hints that Falconer may have viewed Archaeopteryx as some sort of “missing link”, perhaps between reptiles and birds.  This passage also hints at a friendly relationship between Falconer and Darwin (for more on Darwin and Archaeopteryx, see my post on the topic here).  The passage also hints at some brewing troubles between Owen and Falconer; Falconer viewed Owen’s description of Archaeopteryx as “not…well done” (Footnote 10, here)

One other facet of Falconer’s career that is often overlooked is his rough relationship with some other Victorian scientists, most notably Richard Owen.  As Darwin wrote in his 1887 Autobiography (quoted here):

“Poor dear Falconer….had a very bad opinion of him, being convinced that he was not only ambitious, very envious and arrogant, but untruthful and dishonest.  His power of hatred was certainly unsurpassed.  When in former days I used to defend Owen, Falconer often said, “You will find him out some day, and so it has proved.”

Falconer had fought with Owen over some fossil specimens, as evidenced in this letter from Charles Darwin to James Dwight Dana. The footnotes to this letter are instructive in this case, with one stating that:

CD probably refers to Owen’s palaeontological work on the fossil elephant Elephas columbi, and the fossil rhinoceros Rhinoceros leptorhinus. With respect to E. columbi, Owen had overlooked Falconer’s description of the fossil elephant and had renamed it E. texianus. Falconer interpreted this move as an attempt by Owen to usurp his priority in the description of the fossil, by substituting another, and in his view inferior, name (see letter to J. D. Hooker, 3 January [1863], n. 1). Falconer’s critique of Owen’s E. texianus was published in Falconer 1863a, pp. 45–9 (see also letter to Hugh Falconer, 5 [and 6] January [1863], and letter from Hugh Falconer, 8 January [1863]). Falconer may also have told CD of his doubts regarding Owen’s identification of Clacton, Tuscan, and Rhenish specimens of fossil rhinoceros as R. leptorhinus (see Owen 1846b and Falconer 1868, 2: 317–20). “ (again, letter and notes available here)

Falconer challenged other scientists as well.  For example, he debated with Huxley over methods of paleontology (see letter between Darwin and Hooker, here).  Falconer also butted heads with Charles Lyell (see a second Darwin and Hooker letter, here).  Falconer was clearly a man who was not afraid to ruffle some feathers.

However, in a society rich with scientific visionaries, it is all too often the case that some individuals get overlooked.  Hugh Falconer is one of these individuals.  Mention the words “Victorian” and “scientist” in a sentence, and most people will think of Darwin, Owen, Huxley, Lyell, Wallace, or some other well-known scientist.  Falconer operated in the same scientific arenas as these men, and often butted heads with some of them.  He was a relatively close friend of Darwin (see Desmond and Moore 1991 p. 528 on Darwin’s reaction to Falconer’s death for example).  He anticipated a modern development in evolutionary theory.  Yet hardly anyone knows his name. 



Works Cited:

Chakrabarti, P. Western Science in Modern India, Permanent Black, 2004

Desmond, A. and Moore, J.  Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist.  WW Norton & Company, New York, 1991.

Falconer, H. letter of Jan. 3, 1863 to Charles Darwin.  In The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 11, edited by F. Furkhardt, DM Porter, SA Dean, JR Tophan, and S. Wilmot.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999

Gould, SJ.  The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.  Belknap Harvard, Cambridge, 2002

Mayor, A. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, Princeton,2001

Was Darwin Racist?

June 16, 2009

By today’s standards, sure.  Charles Darwin referred to the Fuegians he encountered while on the Beagle (as well as other non-European peoples) as “savages”.  However, judging Darwin as a racist working from a “modern” perspective is not only bad historical practice, but it is also doing a disservice to Darwin’s views in general.  If one wishes to truly answer the question mentioned in the title of this post, namely “was Darwin racist?”, it is necessary to consider the question in context, alongside the views of other 19th Century Europeans, not alongside the views of today’s racial moderates.  By using today’s standards on race to condemn Darwin as a racist is merely to remind yourself that Darwin lived during the 1800s.  Now let’s take a look at the question in context with the time period in question.

Charles Darwin, born on the same date as Abraham Lincoln, though an ocean away, was vehemently anti-slavery.  His family background, especially on the Wedgewood side, is an abolitionist one.  In fact, it has been recently suggested by Desmond and Moore in their new book, Darwin’s Sacred Cause (review available here), that a hatred of slavery helped to shape Darwin’s views on evolution. Working with Desmond and Moore’s definitive work, Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist, it’s easy to find examples of Darwin’s hatred of slavery.  For example, Darwin saw slavery as evil enough to condemn in the final pages of what would become his Voyage of the Beagle (as quoted p. 329 Desmond and Moore):

I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave country.  To this day, if I hear a distant scream, it recalls with painful vividness my feelings, when passing a house near Pernambuco [Brazil], I heard the most pitiable moans, and could not suspect that some poor slave was being tortured…Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have stayed in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal.  I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean.”

However, while this statement can be rightly taken as a hatred of slavery, a study of Darwin the man suggests a different plausible reading of this statement.  Perhaps Darwin hated the cruelty of slavery, but not the racism behind it.  Darwin was, after all, a gentle man, who described feeling a sense of guilt late in life at having kicked a puppy as a child.  To fully understand Darwin’s position on race, we have to look at situations where Darwin is discussing topics other than the evils of slavery. 

Perhaps the most notable such statement of this type is to be found in the Origin of Species, p.488, first edition, where Darwin (perhaps cryptically to today’s reader) “[l]ight will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” What seems like merely an allusion to the fact that Darwin’s theory would encompass human evolution can be read, in context, as something more.  The fact that Darwin is referring to a single origin of mankind stands as a direct refutation to polygenist schools of thought which argued that the different races of man were different species. Louis Agassiz, the last great Creationist to garner a large amount of scientific prestige, was a member of this school of thought, which was used to justify slavery, among other things. Thus, what is often read as Darwin desanctifying humans by relating them directly to an evolutionary sequence can be read in the reverse direction, with Darwin elevating “savages” and slaves to the same species as white Europeans.  Darwin, while confident that there were different “stages of civilization”, from “savage” to Englishman, took a step against a strain of Victorian racist thought by uniting all humans under the same linaeage. Therefore, while the Origin of Species (rightly so) stands as an important work in the history of popular science, it also serves as a direct refutation to racist attitudes of Darwin’s time. 

Thus, the next time someone accuses Darwin of being openly racist, ask them about his views on race.  Ask perhaps why they feel that way, and by what standard they are judging him.  As demonstrated by Darwin’s views on slavery and the “origin of man,” Darwin was a racial moderate by Victorian standards, not a racist.

Works cited:

Darwin, C.  On the Origin of Species, facsimile of 1st edition.  Harvard University Press. Cambridge. 2003.

Desmond, A. & Moore, J.  Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist. W.W. Norton & Company. New York.1994

Kitzmiller v. Dover (pt. 2 of 2)

June 12, 2009

And now for the part everyone thinks of when Kitzmiller v. Dover is mentioned: the legal maelstrom following the events described in Kitzmiller v. Dover (Pt. 1 of 2).  The legal battle that would ensue as a result of the school board’s attempt to challenge the teaching of evolution in Dover, PA included some key players in the evolution-creation struggle, including Kenneth Miller, Kevin Padian, Barbara Forrest, Nick Matske, the NCSE, Steve Fuller, and Michael Behe.  Notably absent from this trial was the Discovery Institute, who had saught to distance themselves from the school board once the board began to stray from legal techniques suggested to Buckingham in a phone conversation (Humes 77, 101). 

There were a few notable aspects of this trial.  First, it offered the first true legal test of Intelligent Design in a classroom setting.  However, perhaps more notable is the Creationist heritage of the textbook supplement Of Pandas to People that came to light during the trial.  As described by Barbara Forrest and discovered by Nick Matzke, Of Pandas and People is nothing less than a creationist book with all references to “creationism” changed to “intelligent design” after McLean v. Arkansas declared the teaching of “Creation Science” unConstitutional (see here).  The transitional form “Cdesign Proponentsists”, a failed edit in an unpublished draft of Of Pandas and People helps to confirm this linaeage (although this transitional fossil was not used in the trial; Forrest and Gross 329). It is worth noting that on September 6th, 2005, the defense in Kitzmiller v. Dover attempted to have Forrest barred as a witness.  However, this move failed (Forrest and Gross 327), and would go on to establish a religious basis for Intelligent Design.  In reference to Of Pandas and People:

“Forrest used charts [here] showing the continuity between creation science and ID.  Her Pandas analysis centered on early drafts that FTE [the book’s publisher) had amazingly kept.  There were at least five: (1) Creation Biology Textbook Supplement (1983); (2) Biology and Creation (1986); (3) Biology and Origins, (1987), and (4) two 1987  drafts entitled Of Pandas and People. Pandas was published in 1989, followed by the current 1993 edition” (Forrest and Gross 329)

Forrest’s testimony, combined with that of Kevin Padian and Kenneth Miller, established both the religious undertones of Intelligent Design and also the strength of evolutionary theory (Padian’s powerpoint slidesand testimony, available here,  offer a detailed analysis of the strength of evolutionary theory, and the weaknesses of ID). It is worth noting Kevin Padian’s blunt yet honest assessment of the disclaimer leading to Kitzmiller v. Dover, namely that “Padian bluntly and effectively stated that in confusing students about science generally and evolution in particular, the disclaimer makes students ‘stupid”  (quoted from Memorandum Opinion in previous link).

Perhaps as striking as the testimony of Padian and Forrest is that of Michael Behe. As acknowledged by Behe, if the definition of science were altered to include Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, then astrology would become a scientific theory as well:

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?

A Yes.

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.” (from cross-examination of Behe, available here)

As a result of the information presented here, legal precedent, and the rest of the data presented during the trial, Judge John E. Jones III had enough information to strike down the motion to read a disclaimer questioning the strength of evolutionary theory and referring students to copies of Of Pandas and People.  As exposed during the trial, the text has a distinctly Creationist heritage.  As accepted by Behe, to alter science to include Intelligent Design as a scientific theory would also deem astrology a valid scientific theory.  While testimony illustrating the religious motives of board members such as Alan Bonsell and Bill Buckingham exposed the religious nature of Dover’s anti-evolution movement, expert testimony also illustrated weaknesses with Intelligent Design as a whole.  Thus, while Judge John E. Jones III struck down the school board’s attempt to challenge evolution in Dover, expert testimony within the trial can provide some framework for future attempts to incorporate Intelligent Design into the American science classroom.

Works cited:

Forrest, B. & Gross, PR.  Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007

Humes, E. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul. HarperCollins.  New York. 2007