Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Scientific Revolution 101

Dr. Steve William Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, took the stand yesterday to discuss historical and philosophical perspectives on scientific methodology. His testimony ranged from economic oppression to the self-perpetuating scientific elite to prejudice and discrimination. He proposed affirmative action plans in the science community and advocated the recruitment of young people.

Yes, I was in the right courtroom. I didn't see any black berets or "Free Huey" buttons, but he was definitely talking about revolution.

According to Dr. Fuller, scientific methods are inherently discriminatory and designed to shut out alternative ideas. For example: peer review. The reviewers are rarely a representative group but a "self-perpetuating elite." By evaluating a scientist's track record and publications, the process discriminates against young scientists with new or unpopular ideas. Dr. Fuller said that these same scientists might also have unequal access to grant funding. He suggested that an affirmative action program for scientists with alternative ideas might be one way to address this economic bias.

But Dr. Fuller put the most emphasis on the innate tendency of scientific method itself to favor the most popular theory. He said that our current methods persuade scientists to move in a unified direction, eventually creating a small number of widely accepted ideas or paradigms that are only challenged when they begin to self-destruct. Dr. Fuller said that these paradigms in science are so strong that, in order for an unpopular or alternative idea to have a shot at validity, a scientific revolution must occur.

Scientific Revolution FAQ:


How does one start a scientific revolution?

To gain acceptance as a science is to change the definition of science. Dr. Fuller explained that the boundaries between science and non-science are constantly being negotiated and policed. In Dr. Fuller's world, the words "a well substantiated explanation" should be stricken from the definition of scientific method and that instead we should think of science as "an explanatory conception of a range of phenomena" in order to validate newer, less established ideas.

Should we test it first?

Testability, while important to the growth of scientific theory, should not determine whether or not an idea is science. The gist of the story...ID is not currently testable but, according to Dr. Fuller, testability relates to the longevity of an idea and does not effect whether or not something is science. Regardless of testability, a new idea should still be presented to school children. ID is not testable, but Dr. Fuller specifically supports teaching it in classrooms because ID needs "new recruits."

What's the motivation? Religion?

When asked whether the ID movement has religious motives, Dr. Fuller replied that almost all science "has religious roots." ID has changed over time and "doesn’t know its own history" but Dr. Fuller is clear that the ID mindset assumes a creator exists.

Yet, whether ID introduces a supernatural aspect or not is moot because the term supernatural refers both to things that are "above" observation (for example, God) but also to things that are "below" observation - like atoms.

In short, he agreed that the ID movement's motive was religious and that it may be considered "supernatural" in so far as it is not currently testable. But according to Dr. Fuller, that doesn’t mean it’s not science.

Inspiration?
Evolution does not inspire people to practice science. According to Dr. Fuller, belief in genetic mutation and natural selection has a tendency to make people just "sit around and wait to die" instead of questioning, studying and testing ideas. On the flip side, he said that cultures in which people believe they were "crafted in the image and likeness of God" have historically been more inquisitive and have developed a larger body of scientific knowledge than other cultures. He suggested that these people felt "like God" and therefore had the confidence to believe that they could figure out how life works.

Or, Personal Preference?
The final reason to challenge evolution: Dr. Fuller doesn't like it. While Dr. Fuller agrees that, evolution is a better biological science than ID, he still "has a problem with it" just as he has a problem with any explanation that is not being sufficiently contested or opposed.

But, what is the biggest threat to any revolution?
Perhaps the biggest threat to a revolution is dissention in the ranks. Or in this case...dissention in the witness.

The latter part of the cross-examination, redirect, and rebuttal focused on clarifying what appeared to be major contradictions in Dr. Fuller's testimony and deposition.

In deposition, Dr. Fuller said that the word "theory" in the Dover paragraph was used in a misleading way. On the stand, he explained that he was only sympathizing with the fact that those less familiar with the concepts might find it confusing.

Like...ninth graders, perhaps?

In deposition, Dr. Fuller made several direct correlations between ID and creationism, for example:
"It [ID] is a kind of creationism."
"What we now call the Intelligent Designer used to be called the Creator."
"Intelligent Design is a way of interpreting creationism."

And my personal favorite: "Intelligent Design (aka Creationism)."

On the stand, Dr. Fuller explained that each of those quotes was either an attempt to provide a point of reference for those less familiar with the term ID or just "unfortunate" choices of wording.

At the closing of his testimony, Dr. Fuller questioned the plaintiff's assertion that the ID movement is approximately 20-years old. When it was pointed out that the term ID appeared in Of Pandas and People in 1989, Dr. Fuller interrupted and emphatically disagreed with the logic.

"You don't use a high school textbook to determine what science is," he said.
Submitted by Janeya Hisle, Director of Administration and Finance, ACLU of PA

33 Comments:

Blogger Tired of Idiots said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Tired of Idiots said...

Let me get this straight: God-fearing people feel God-like, and therefore have confidence that they can figure out how the world works.

As opposed to scientific people who have confidence because they can test, prove, or disprove ideas in a rational, repeatable manner.

And we need to change the definition of theory and science to allow for any hunch that some crackpot might have, because the burden of "proving" they have a valid scientific idea is too much?

And the idea of "recruiting" has been perfected already by cults.

Hmmm....

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Gerry Harbison said...

I have to object to the ID movement importing foreign pomo twits from Britain to testify about 'privileged discourses' and the like. America has a huge number of home-grown pomo twits, any one of which is ever bit as qualified to waffle as Professor Fuller.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

An unfortunate choice of words, like Behe's unfortunate choice of words.

Is the problem with "intelligent design" is that the proponents of it failed English?

No doubt that if you want a nutter the best you could get is an English nutter! I'm surprised the defense didn't call Basil Fawlty as an expert witness.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous improvius said...

What was the defense thinking (smoking?) when the put this guy on the stand? Did they just forget to tell him that the entire case hinges on them proving that ID isn't creationism? Amazing.

11:10 PM  
Blogger john said...

I was surprised to see Steve Fuller as an expert witness. His radical sociology of science is superb stuff in its own way, as is his exotic and interesting intellectual biography of Kuhn.

11:26 PM  
Blogger FishyFred said...

What improvius said. How did the defense let this guy on the stand? I'm surprised people aren't jumping all over this.

Does anyone else have this image of Fuller on the stand being like Tim Roth in his booth in the diner in Pulp Fiction? Lounging around, smoking a cigarette (or "fag" as the Brits call it), acting all cool and British-sounding, probably has one or both feet up on the railing surrounding the witness stand.

Wow. What a credible-sounding image.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Joffan said...

The defence team might as well have called a hand grenade to testify. This guy might have some sympathy for their cause but how could they not see that any damage he inflicted might as likely be to their own team as to the plaintiff's?

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Graham Douglas said...

Can I just point out that Fuller may work in Britain, but he is a US Citizen (b. 1959, New York) and has been a UK permanent resident since 1998.

BTW: Warwick "University" was, until recently, Warwick Polytechnic - a sort of cut-down, off-the-shelf, cheapo centre of higher education.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prediction:
Dover wins on appeal on the basis of incompetent counsel.

That's the only logical explanation of their strategy.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a correction to Graham Douglas's comment: the University of Warwick is a genuine, pre-1992 university (established in 1961, I believe), not a rebadged polytechnic.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Pat Kelley said...

On the flip side, he said that cultures in which people believe they were "crafted in the image and likeness of God" have historically been more inquisitive and have developed a larger body of scientific knowledge than other cultures. He suggested that these people felt "like God" and therefore had the confidence to believe that they could figure out how life works.

Wow. So all discovery is born of hubris? Hence the phrase "He tampered in God's domain..."

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Dr. Fuller agrees that, evolution is a better biological science than ID, he still "has a problem with it" just as he has a problem with any explanation that is not being sufficiently contested or opposed.

The theory of gravity isn't being contested, either. Does he have a problem with that, too? It his case, the theory can make an exception and let him float up, up and away...oye!!!

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone know if Fuller has any connections to the deconstructionists? Based on what he appears to have said, he as all the same problems of incoherence and incomprehensibility that all the deconstructionists have.

Just curious.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous GayBoy said...

Fuller has a website http://www.warwick.ac.uk/~sysdt/Index.html where he talks at length about his controversial views. I think one of the best explanations is in The Chronicle of Higher Education http://chronicle.com/free/v47/i03/03a01801.htm His idea of a democratization of knowledge, however, is unworkable for any number of reasons, not the least of which is intentional ignorance and the human being's need to stereotype, rationalize or satistfice. Fuller's disregard for experts -- people who acquire large amounts of knowledge in a particular field -- in favor of the mass thought is just silly.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuller's disregard for experts -- people who acquire large amounts of knowledge in a particular field -- in favor of the mass thought is just silly.

Yeah, but it qualifies him quite nicely for a high position in the Bush Administration,

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Leigh said...

Anarchist-pomo-creationists of the world unite! Ha ha ha, oh what a lovely, lovely absurdity of a defence. Nothing could more exemplify the intellectual nothingness of ID.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Graham Douglas said...

To Anonymous... thanks for the correction. Which one am I thinking of, then?

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To whom it may concern,

Dr. Steve William Fuller is a Professor of Sociology at the University of "Warwick" in Coventry England. In the post it was spelled "Warrick." If the author could please change it I would appreaciate it. As a graduate of the University, reagrdless of whether I agree with the good Professor or not, I would like the University to get the notoriety it should by having such an involved and highly recognized faculty. This is more likely to happen with the correct spelling, as search engines will then be more likely to pick up the page.

Best wishes.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous EmmaPeel said...

Anarchist-pomo-creationists of the world unite! Ha ha ha, oh what a lovely, lovely absurdity of a defence. Nothing could more exemplify the intellectual nothingness of ID.

But it actually does fit in with the DI's motivation for pumping so much money & time into this crusade. If you read their earlier writings on their website back when they were young & brash, they clearly think that the real world gives us no objective way to tell what's right & what's wrong. So every moral dispute comes down to a naked contest of power between interest groups, and is won by whichever group is the most ruthless in pursuit of their private goals. Creationists start off their fight against nihilism by agreeing with a basic tenet of postmodernism!

ID'ers at least have the good sense to think that the lack of objective truth is a bad thing, but it's like they're stuck in the 3rd stage of grief: Magical thinking. "If only we can get everyone in society to believe that there's a supernatural Authority Figure out there who decides what it means to be 'right' and 'wrong', then maybe everyone will agree on a single moral system & society will be saved from ruin!"

9:29 PM  
Anonymous leigh said...

You can do ID. You can do po-mo sociology. You can do science.

Which you chose to do says it all.

You can be a pathetic intellectual loser or you can be an intellectually fulfilled winner.

My guess is that down at the DI they would happily put a bomb under the entire defence team and the Dover School Board too.

And most of all under Fuller. With friends like him, and the Board and the Defence, the DI must wish they only had enemies. They must smell defeat coming like a dog smells a big brown heap on the pavement.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous EDM said...

Creation, according to the Bible, is an account of ID. In order to prove the existence of anything there must be 5 elements: time, forse, space, matter & motion. Genesis 1:1 says: " In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth." Now there is a scientific staement that has all 5 elements!
Evolutionists teach that their is no God. Just like Hitler! If there is no God, there are no rules!
Eternity is a long time to be wrong!

5:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EDM.....

You DO realize, don't you, that Hitler was openly a Christian? And that he based the Holocaust on his "Christian" beliefs?

5:47 PM  
Anonymous EDM said...

You lie like all evolutionists. Don't even try to turn this around. See how you people are?

5:49 PM  
Anonymous edm said...

It was better than "Cats". I'm going to see it again and again.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone please tell me that EDM is just being sarcastic.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous John P said...

No. He posted the same stuff in another comments section.

And he misspelled "force" there also.

6:19 PM  
Blogger FishyFred said...

I'm thinking edm might be too much work to bother with. He/she may be too far gone to rescue.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Thomas McBride said...

The biggest problem with Fuller's testimony and his ideas about science is that it's obvious even he doesn't understand them.

His testimony is almost entirely composed of long-winded incoherent ramblings punctuated with the words 'sort of' and 'you know'.

Fortunately for Fuller, I was able to extrapolate his meaning from the childish jumble of often conflicting statements.

According to fuller, the new paradigm in science should be 'anything goes'.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read about him in the paper today (In the UK) I thought "Hhmm, I'll do some backgroun checking, a UK prof travelling to the USA to give evidence in this trial doesnt sound very likely."

So, he's American anyway, that doesnt matter. So I read some stuff online and check what is apparently his webpage. He has written some books, and articles, none of which at first glance look that bad or tricky. Then I find this here about his testimoney and thinkk he's a total lunatic who shouldnt be allowed near impressionable young minds.

How can a statement that is summed up as:
"Testability, while important to the growth of scientific theory, should not determine whether or not an idea is science. The gist of the story...ID is not currently testable but, according to Dr. Fuller, testability relates to the longevity of an idea and does not effect whether or not something is science. Regardless of testability, a new idea should still be presented to school children. ID is not testable, but Dr. Fuller specifically supports teaching it in classrooms because ID needs "new recruits.""

Have anything at all to do with science? My brain still hurts at thinking about the stupidity of it. Did he give any example of correct scientific ideas that were totally ignored for decades by the stick in the mud scientific establishment?

So he also said that:
"In short, he agreed that the ID movement's motive was religious and that it may be considered "supernatural" in so far as it is not currently testable. But according to Dr. Fuller, that doesn’t mean it’s not science."

Its religiously motivated and thus sails close to the appropriate ammendment, and also that he thinks that non-testable things are still scientific? I have a bridge I'd like to sell him....

I apologise on behalf of the UK taxpayer for supporting such an idiot.

(written by guthrie)

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guthrie, it's not so simple. Defenders of the autonomy of science against religious interference should not rely on false, idealized notions of science as a perfect truth-producing mechanism. This is why historians and sociologists study the not-at-all rare episodes of science going wrong. The knowledge of how and why things go wrong can help science learn from its mistakes (one trait that might actually distinguish science from religion).

And science does go wrong. You ask for examples where over-conservative scientific establishments rejected important ideas or discoveries. Fuller cites Mendel, who discovered genes and the basic laws of inheritance, but was ignored for four decades (despite the fact that some major biologists did read his stuff when it was published). There are plenty more well-documented cases he could have cited, like Barbara McClintock's discovery of transposable elements (ignored for three decades), or Alfred Wegener, whose theory of continental drift was ignored or rejected for four decades.

Anyway the history and philosophy -- and maybe even sociology -- of science can be good for science as a sort of 'loyal opposition' by helping point out problems. I hate to see the complexities brought to light by the field abused by science's enemies. Thankfully Fuller did the defense more harm than the plaintiff by admitting ID was creationism, as others have pointed out.

3:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As a graduate of the University, reagrdless of whether I agree with the good Professor or not, I would like the University to get the notoriety it should by having such an involved and highly recognized faculty."

Hahhahahah.

Let the record show that I know of one Perfesser from Warrick and his name his Steve Fuller and he's an ignorant lying tool.

Too bad for Warrick.

4:27 PM  
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8:49 AM  

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