Sunday, December 10, 2006

Behe and Astrology

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Categories : Nature of Science, Philosophy, The Debate

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published: dimanche 10 décembre 2006 7:51:19

I just ran across this post that asks Michael Behe about his stance on astrology. The anti-ID side got a lot of good PR when they declared that Behe thought astrology was science, as if he thought it should be taught in the classroom. This was obviously false, though, for anybody who read the actual transcript of what Behe said and for those who knew the first thing about the history of science. A long time ago - long before the Dover trial - I quoted a section of David Lindberg's The Beginnings of Western Science. Lindberg writes:

The history of astrology has suffered from a tendency among historians to judge the practice of astrology harshly, as an example of primitive, irrational, or superstitious ideas, promoted by fools and charlatans. There were charlatans, of course, as medieval critics themselves never tired of pointing out. But medieval astrology also had a serious scholarly side, and we must not allow our attitude toward it to be colored by the low regard in which astrology is held today. Medieval scholars judged astrological theory and practice by medieval criteria of rationality and by the contemporary evidence to which they had access; and it is only as we do the same that we can hope to understand the importance and the changing fortunes of astrology during the Middle Ages. …

You can click on the link above to read more of the quote and to find out the reasons why historians today thought astrology had a "serious scholarly side." You'll see that there were empirical reasons to accept astrology, as well as philosophical and religious ones. You'll also see that the main problem with astrology at the time had nothing to do with observations or tests. The main objection, at the time, was the philosophical consequences of accepting astrology (i.e., people didn't like the fact that it implied determinism).

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