The Thomas More Law Center’s defense of the Dover school board is beginning to resemble a Keystone Cops sketch. After having yet another witness drop out, they presented Steve Fuller, a British sociologist, to defend the teaching of ID in public schools. And you’re gonna love the rationale he offered for why it should be taught:
Because the scientific community is a monolith, impenetrable and often hostile to new theories, intelligent design proponents have to turn to the public schools to recruit support, a witness said Monday…
A sociology professor from the University of Warwick in England, Fuller said, “How do you expect any minority view to get a toe hold in science? You basically get new recruits.”…
In often rapid-fire delivery that at times taxed the court reporter’s stenographic skills, Fuller said intelligent design is a scientific theory that should be taught in school.
But during cross-examination, he said intelligent design — the idea that the complexity of life requires a designer — is “too young” to have developed rigorous testable formulas and sits on the fringe of science.
He suggested that perhaps scientists should have an “affirmative action” plan to help emerging ideas compete against the “dominant paradigms” of mainstream science.
This sentiment is virtually identical to that expressed by William Dembski a couple years ago:
Why should ID supporters allow the Darwinian establishment to indoctrinate students at the high school level, only to divert some of the brightest to becoming supporters of a mechanistic account of evolution, when by presenting ID at the high school level some of these same students would go on to careers trying to develop ID as a positive research program? If ID is going to succeed as a research program, it will need workers, and these are best recruited at a young age.
But of course, this argument can be applied with equal validity to any fringe idea in science. The “monopoly” of government control used by the “Copernican establishment” to “indoctrinate” students in the view that the Earth revolves around the sun prevents Gerardus Buow and the other geocentrists from recruiting young people to advance their “research program” and thereby staves off a “scientific revolution”. One could play this game all day long, substituting the flat earthers, the astrologists, the Raelians and a dozen other fringe groups.
Fuller is of course correct to point out that there have been scientific revolutions in the past that have overturned much of what we thought we knew about the world. But those revolutions were the result of scientists actually doing science – building theories and models, testing them against the data, publishing the results for their peers to see and arguing over the results to reach a consensus – not by hiring PR firms and lobbying legislatures and school boards. As always, the ID folks want to skip over all that pesky scientific stuff and jump right to the conclusion.
And the really funny thing is that this witness was called by the other side. This is beginning to edge into the surreal.
Update: Douglas Theobald has a great point about this. If Fuller is right, then why did quantum mechanics not need an affirmative action program to replace the dominant paradigm? Or big bang cosmology? Or plate tectonics? Those are all ideas that were highly controversial and initially rejected by most scientists in those fields because they upset the applecart. Yet they managed to change the consense and our understanding. Why? Because instead of whining about how unfair it is that the “Copernican priesthood” or the “defenders of Einsteinian orthodoxy” won’t take them seriously, they put in the work necessary to establish those ideas as valid. They didn’t put acceptance before demonstration, they did the difficult theoretical and experimental work necessary to put their ideas on a solid empirical footing. Cries of persecution do not validate an idea; rigorous and difficult scientific research does.