Megan Geske Week2: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District and Lakatos

September 11, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Week 2 | 6 Comments

The Dover Area School District attempted to force teachers to read a disclaimer that evolution was “just a theory” and directed students to look into Intelligent Design for an alternative explanation. In 2005, a federal court decided via Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District that Intelligent Design (ID) was not science, and thus the Dover School Board could not require teachers to mention ID. Judge Jones noted that ID “violates centuries old ground rules of science” by relying on a supernatural cause. A supernatural force cannot be tested, and thus is not able to be disproven, going against basic scientific principles. Furthermore, there have been no peer-reviewed publications of ID, nor have there been tests and research about it. In fact, the scientific community has refuted ID.

Irme Lakatos is a philosopher of science. In his talk Science and Pseudoscience, he attempts to reconcile Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper’s differing theories of science. Lakatos claims that science is not simply “trial and error”, but rather the best way to look at science is through the concept of “research programmes”. A research programme involves a set of “hard-core” concepts, which are vigorously protected by scientists and auxiliary hypotheses. A progressive research program involves the “discovery of hitherto unknown novel facts”. In Lakatos theory, the most important things are “dramatic, unexpected, stunning predictions”.

The two articles provided two different looks into the philosophy of science. Lakatos provided a wide-reaching theory that science should yield dramatic predictions. In the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover area school District, Judge Jones more clearly defined the parameters of what is science and what is not. He makes claims that a scientific theory must be testable, falsifiable, based on facts, and accepted by the scientific community.

Question: How would Lakatos view the Kitzmiller v. Dover case? How would his ruling differ from that of Judge Jones?



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  1. I presume that Lakatos would view the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case in a different way and with a more open mind. Since he believes that the most important things are “dramatic, unexpected, stunning, and predictions.” I feel like he would be more open to the idea of Intelligent Design than Judge Jones had been. The idea of Intelligent Design means that there is a supernatural creator and that we did not just simple evolve. Since this is more of an unexpected belief of how humankind came about and does not have research on it, as evolution does it requires a philosopher with a more open minded approach to accept it. Judge Jones rejected the idea of Intelligent Design mainly because he believed that ideas that could not be tested should not be considered serious science. Therefore, if Lakatos had say in the ruling of this case, ID may have not been refuted, and instead be considered for further researched in the future.

  2. I agree with Casey to some degree because Lakatos thought so highly of scientists that “predict novel facts, facts which had been undreamt of, or have indeed contradicted by previous or rival programmes”. The idea of Intelligent Deisgn is one that definitely contracts the theory of evolution and is also hard to fathom from a so called “scientific perspective”. However, Lakatos also stresses the importance of observing and researching over a long period of time using programmes. Because there is no way to research intelligent design as of now, there is really no way to apply Lakatos beliefs to the Dover case. In order for Lakatos’s beliefs to be applicable, some measurable evidence must present itself on behalf of Intelligent Design.

    -Jade Hanson

    • a

      • I actually agree with Jade in that Lakatos would be more generous for including Intelligent Design as science. Of course, I do not think that ID has collected enough evidence to become one of scientific theory. However, as long as researchers gather some evidence that human beings are created, not evolved, ID could be on a science textbook.

  3. I think that Lakatos would actually agree with Judge Jones. I personally agree with Judge Jones’ decision to correlate ID with religion, since it was based off of creationism. Since there is a law against combining school and religion, I have to agree with his decision and I believe Lakatos would too. If we can’t say “under God” in the pledge of allegiance during school hours, then children shouldn’t be learning about an “intelligent designer”. Lakatos likes researching and observing, and with that evolution would be in his favor – and not the theory of intelligent design.

  4. I think that Lakatos would take a stance that said that ID is an idea that makes Darwin’s theory one of actual science vs. pseudoscience. ID provides a potential falsifier that lets people understand what else could happen and provoke thought in the minds of the general public. While I don’t think ID is a legitimate scientific theory, it does allow a different perspective and for the scientific community to understand where other people are getting their perspectives. Because of Popper’s theory that you need a potential falsifier, I think that Lakatos would have allowed ID to be taught but only as an idea for people to understand other perspectives.

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