The Ottawa Citizen's David Warren's latest begins by invoking Philosopher of Science and Anarchist Paul Feyerabend:
As Paul Feyerabend, one of my scientific heroes, wrote in his 1975 essay, How to defend Society against Science: “In society at large the judgement of the scientist is received with the same reverence as the judgement of bishops and cardinals was accepted not too long ago. Science has now become as oppressive as the ideologies it had once to fight. Do not be misled by the fact that today hardly anyone gets killed for joining a scientific heresy. This has nothing to do with science. It has something to do with the general quality of our civilization. Heretics in science are still made to suffer from the most severe sanctions this relatively tolerant civilization has to offer.”
Warren then bashes the Global Warming consensus for a bit, before turning to what is really cheesing him off; Darwinism in general, and in particular the cross examination of Creationist and Botanist Michael Behe during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005. He writes:
There was a show trial in Dover, Pennsylvania, two years ago, in which a local school board was prosecuted for having permitted the teaching of intelligent design. This was publicized by the liberal media as, “Another Scopes trial in America!” The defence called Michael Behe, so the plaintiffs brought Eric Rothschild, a high-powered attorney, to lure him into verbal traps. Rothschild made tendentious points on the definition of “science.” Behe wouldn’t play, and noted, rather dryly, that if the current official definition of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences were enforced, most major advances in modern science would have to be ruled illegal. Rothschild then paraphrased Behe’s position as, “So you believe astrology is valid science.” Needless to say, Behe demurred.
Well, I don't think so. Or at least, here is the transcript to that portion of the trial. Decide for yourself if Mr. Behe's response counts as demurring:
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.
(Of course there is far more to it than that. The entire transcript is a good read. Behe got his ass chewed off.)
But what is most striking here is what Warren forgets: Paul Feyerabend himself advocated for the legitimacy of astrological practices, and lashed out against the famous letter condemning Astrology from 180 "eminent scientists". Now, Feyerabend had his reasons. He viewed certain certain aspects of science as being elitist or racist, and saw himself as a kind of activist on behalf of the Knowledge Underclasses.
Furthermore, there was a core of good sense behind Feyerabend's theories of scientific practice. He was correct in noting, for example, that metrics of "explanatory strength" tend to have a Conservative bias. For while one can quantify past results, it is impossible to quantify "promise", so if such metrics were ever applied rigorously, no new scientific theories would ever get off the ground (and no old ones would be left standing, but that is another story).
However, what is important to this particular discussion is Judge John E. Jones reaction to the argument as applied to Intelligent Design, which was made not only by Behe but by social epistemologist Steve Fuller (who I used to argue with regularly on the HOPOS mailing list). The full decision can be found here. I have read it on a number of occasions and consider it to be one of the most important documents of the age, a sign that maybe the light of rationality is not going out on our civilization. In it, Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by George W. Bush, says that Intelligent Design is simply not worth this kind of Feyerabendian activism:
Science cannot be defined differently for Dover students than it is defined in the scientific community as an affirmative action program, as advocated Case 4:04-cv-02688-JEJ Document 342 Filed 12/20/2005 Page 70 of 139 71 by Professor Fuller, for a view [Intelligent Design] that has been unable to gain a foothold within the scientific establishment.
Therefore, while Science does indeed occasionally suppress dissenting views, not all of these views are worthy of the quotas and set asides (which is what the Dover School Board was demanding for ID) required to allow for their full expression.
PS. Weird how we're still fighting Conservative Creationists in 2007; weird how you scratch of Global Warming Denier and, so often, you find a Darwin Denier.