Agreed that Kitcher's chapter on the epistemology 
of science (I think it's called "Believing Where 
We Cannot Prove") is one of the book's strong 
points, although rather vague when it comes to 
criteria of theory choice. It is one of the few 
accounts of scientific evidence and confirmation 
that is neither painfully oversimplified, nor 
inaccessibly technical. These days, though, I 
just copy that one chapter and use it in 
conjunction with articles that deal with the 
recent debate, including the Orr article you 
mention below.

I teach this material in philosophy of science 
classes, where it's essential to "teach the 
controversy," but Kitcher's book actually 
provides one of the best arguments against trying 
to do this in biology classes, particularly high 
school biology classes. Essentially it comes down 
to what's the most important thing to do when 
time is limited and when your opponents are more 
like professional magicians than serious 
researchers. I don't say that Kitcher's arguments 
are decisive, but I have my students weigh what 
he says against arguments like Michael's (which 
was also made by Neil Postman in The Nation back 
in the 1980s).

Incidentally, while Kitcher would agree that 
science is uncertain, he wouldn't characterize it 
as non-objective, at least if that is taken to 
mean incapable of getting closer to the truth. 
See his more technical book, The Advancement of 


At 8:04 PM -0500 2/26/07, Jon Beckwith wrote:
>Phil-  What I really like about Kitcher's book 
>is how it simultaneously deals with "creation 
>science" (and even ID, although it wasn't called 
>that, there were arguments of the ID type at the 
>time) and science.  Stating right off the bat 
>that "science is an exercise in believing what 
>we cannot prove" , but effectively goes on to 
>delineate what distinguishes science from things 
>like creation science etc.  I use it in a course 
>I teach and it is really effective in that 
>sense.   That is, I almost am using it more to 
>give a more accurate picture of science than 
>students have absorbed- its weaknesses as well 
>as its strengths (which can be the same thing). 
>I really liked H. Allen Orr's (an evolutionist) 
>article on ID a couple of years ago in the New 
>Yorker.  I was really excited by Michael's 
>article as I have been suggesting teaching both 
>evolution and creation science together (e.g. a 
>la Kitcher) as a way to achieve the two goals- 
>exposing the non-scientific nature of the 
>ct\reationists arguments and "exposing" the 
>wonderful non-objectivity and uncertainty of 
>						Jon
>At 03:38 PM 2/26/2007, you wrote:
>>Kitcher's book is titled Abusing Science--it's 
>>good for the most part (although the chapter on 
>>science and religion is weak, and Kitcher 
>>himself has subsequently conceded that his 
>>"plea for peaceful coexistence [between science 
>>and religion] ... was too facile"), but it was 
>>written in 1982 and is out of date (the young 
>>earth creationism that is his main target is 
>>only one among many creationist views now being 
>>advocated). I've suggested to him that he 
>>should reissue it with his 2002 essay on ID 
>>theory ("Born Again Creationism", reprinted in 
>>In Mendel's Mirror) as a postcript. However, 
>>the best (meaning philosophically most 
>>sophisticated) monograph on these issues is 
>>still Robert Pennock's Tower of Babel (MIT, 
>>1999), although I have several specific 
>>disagreements with it. The best collection is 
>>Pennock's Intelligent Design Creationism and 
>>Its Critics (MIT, 2001). --PG
>>>>On the issue of creationism., ID and 
>>>>evolution, I strongly recommend the book "Use 
>>>>and Abuse of Biology"m MIT Press, by Philip 
>>>>Kitcher- a philosopher at Columbia- an older 
>>>>but timeless book plus his recent article in 
>>>>his book "In Mendel's Mirror" Oxford Univ. 
>Jon Beckwith
>Dept. of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
>Harvard Medical School
>200 Longwood Ave.
>Boston, MA 02115
>Tel. 617-432-1920
>FAX 617-738-7664
>e-mail [log in to unmask]
>website <>
>Recent books and articles:
>My book, a memoir entitled: Making Genes, Making 
>Waves: A Social Activist in Science, Harvard 
>University Press, 2002. 
>Copies conformes ou copies qu'on forme ? J. 
>Beckwith. Sciences et Avenir Hors-SÚrie #149, 
>p.71 (2006)
>Should we make a fuss? A case for social 
>responsibility in science. F. Huang and J. 
>Beckwith, Nature Biotechnology. 23:1479-1480 
>Whither Human Behavioral Genetics, J. Beckwith in Wrestling with
>Behavioral Genetics: Ethics, Science, and Public 
>Conversation, eds. E. Parens, A. Chapman and N. 
>Press.  Johns Hopkins University Press (2005)