Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I reported yesterday about William Dembski, John Campbell and Stephen Meyer being withdrawn as expert witnesses by the Thomas More Law Center in the Dover lawsuit. There is now developing some contradictory explanations for that withdrawal. The York Daily Record reported that the TMLC refused to allow the three Discovery Institute (DI) fellows to have their own legal representation present during depositions because it was a “conflict of interest”:

Dembski, a mathematician and scientific philosopher, said the Thomas More Law Center, which is defending the school board, basically fired him because he wanted to have his own attorney present during the depositions…

Thompson said the problem arose in the past several weeks when the Discovery Institute insisted that its people have separate legal representation.

But last night, Dembski posted on his blog that it was not the Discovery Institute’s insistence on separate legal representation that was a problem at all. In fact, Dembski says that the TMLC would allow Stephen Meyer of the DI to have legal representation, but would not allow Dembski to have an attorney with him and that it was the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), for whom he works as an editor, who insisted on the separate representation:

The Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm which had hired me as an expert witness, did not want the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, which publishes the ID textbook that under dispute in the Dover case (Of Pandas and People) and for which I am the academic editor, to provide me with additional legal counsel when the ACLU was to depose me on June 13th. I expect I would have gone along with the Thomas More Law Center, except that they were prepared to let Stephen Meyer have legal representation. This put me in an impossible situation with my employer FTE — how was I to justfiy to FTE my refusal to let their attorney be present when Thomas More was permitting Discovery to have additional legal counsel present for Stephen Meyer? When I indicated that I would need to have FTE’s counsel at the deposition, the Thomas More Law Center fired me as an expert witness.

This makes no sense for several reasons. First, because in the interview with the YDR, Dembski said that the confict was between the TMLC and the DI:

“Discovery and Thomas More have their differences,” he said. “I have a lot of loyalty with Discovery.”

According to Dembski’s post last night, the problems were not between the DI and the TMLC, but between the TMLC and FTE. Or was he referring to some other set of problems between the DI and TMLC? Second, both Meyer and Campbell, who are also DI Fellows but do not work for the FTE like Dembski does, were also fired as expert witnesses by the TMLC. And the head of the TMLC says that he fired them because the DI insisted on separate representation for all three of them. Third, Campbell was actually withdrawn as an expert witness before Dembski was, nearly a full week before, then Dembski, then Meyer. Lastly, if the TMLC insists that it was a “conflict of interest” to have separate attorneys present during depositions, why would they insist this only with Dembski and not with the others? These explanations don’t seem to be consistent with one another. Someone isn’t telling the truth.

As I said, I think there are very deep divisions between the DI and the TMLC. I suspect the DI is unhappy both with the fact that the TMLC took the case, thus risking a Federal ruling that ends any chance of getting ID into schools, and with the way they’re handling it. Thompson’s performance so far, which has included a public letter calling for the firing of a tenured university professor who wrote a letter to the school board criticizing their policy, hasn’t exactly been inspiring for their side I’m sure. So I’m sure there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes than has been made public.

Incidentally, Dembski himself put a plug on his own blog for my article on PT about the situation, and left a comment in reply to that article as well. Unfortunately, he didn’t clear up any of these interesting inconsistencies.


  1. #1 raj
    June 20, 2005

    I’m sorry, but I have to ask the question. I’ve done science. I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics. I also have a masters degree in physics. Over the past few years I’ve been reading texts regarding general relativity. I understand the equations, although I do believe that the authors are more complex than is necessary.

    What is going on here, with the Dover case? Who are these DI people trying to kid?

  2. #2 Dan
    June 20, 2005

    Who are these DI people trying to kid?

    The courts, and most of the public — especially that part of the public which knows very little about science. As to that small part of the public which is scientifically literate, it’s no kidding matter. Science ceases to be science if the DI has its way. But the DI doesn’t care about science, and it cares even less about science education. The DI views science as an instrument to bring about the cultural overhaul described in the Wedge Strategy.

    But the DI has a big problem. In order to sell its worldview, it has to hide the elephant standing in plain view. In this case, the elephant is God; everyone knows that’s what is behind the DI’s mission, but the DI must deny it vehemently. Any mention of God — as has been made by one or more of the school board members in Dover — blows their cover. So the DI is trying its best to put distance between itself and Dover. It’s a real Catch-22 for the DI. Stay involved in Dover and the “ID isn’t about God” jig is up. In that case, DI is inexorably tied to the outcome. Stay out and let Thomas More run the case, and they lose any hope of controlling the outcome. It seems the strategy has been cast: DI will keep its distance and then do its best to spin the result. That way, the DI lives to fight another day.

  3. #3 steve
    June 20, 2005

    I love it. The DI’s spent so much money and time trying to disguise creationism, only to have some yokels come along and give away the game.

  4. #4 Great White Wonder
    June 21, 2005

    Hey Ed

    I’ve been following the comments on the so-called “Dembski contradiction” over at PT and I noticed this sniping comment from you:

    “I agree with you that there is a lot of just random nastiness and juvenile one-upsmanship that goes on in the comments here. I’m sure that is just as annoying to Dembski as it is to me when I see the same things on ID message boards and blogs. We have our Great White Wonders, he has his DaveScots. They are best ignored (or in the case of both of those people on this site, banned).”

    I’d like to make a couple comments.

    First, your comments here are often juvenile, sneering or just plain nasty so you’re really not one to be throwing stones. I pointed that out to you long ago before I was “banned” from PT and you made similarly hypocritical comments. Do I need to point out again where you once suggested burying one of your targets alive?

    Second, the fact is that from the time that Pandas Thumb started to the time I was “banned”, the tone of Pandas Thumb had finally shifted from a silly and absolutely counterproductive “civilized chat” with creationists (remember Pim’s endless arguments about the intricacies of NFL theorems etc?) to a more focused creationist attacking machine — i.e., a useful tool rather than a back-slapping exercise in evolutionary and creationist sophistry. Pandas Thumb still has a way to go before it’s as effective and compelling as PZ Myers blog in that regard. Just be thankful for convergent evolution: Lenny Flank covers all the bases (but his style remains a bit subdued for my tastes).

    For the record, let’s be perfectly clear: right up to the last second in the middle of the night when Nick “My Mommy Said Some Metaphors Were Bad” Matkse pulled the plug on me, my posts were perfectly in line with Pandas Thumb policy. The people who pulled the plug did so out of ignorant paranoia and fear — and I’m sure the irony in that won’t be lost on you.

    Finally, as far as what is “best ignored”, please share your advice with these evidently misguided souls who saw something genuine when they read a few lines I wrote recently.



    Okay, enough said.

    If you’ll excuse me, I have to make an important phone call to the “Paris Hilton of ID”.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    June 21, 2005

    Great White Wonder, you bore the shit out of me. I don’t care whether you like the fact that you were finally banned from PT. I don’t care that you won’t like it that I just banned you from making comments here either. My house, my rules. You weren’t banned out of “ignorant paranoia” or “fear” (of what, for crying out loud?). You were banned because you can’t act like an adult. You are a standard issue internet troll. Following in the grand tradition of thousands of people who have blazed a trail for you in chat rooms and on message boards far and wide, you spend most of your time acting like an asshole, and the rest of your time whining when your asshole behavior gets you banned. Go away. And while you’re away, you might consider getting a life.

  6. #6 Friend of GWW
    June 21, 2005

    Wow, Ed, I happen to know the Great White Wonder personally, have for decades. And he isn’t a miniscule fraction of the petulant juvenile jerk-off that you show yourself to be with the above comments. Your toys, your bedroom, your rules, you say with a red face. Nice. Emulating the words of our president, “It’d be so much easier if this was a dictatorship.”

    “Standard issue Internet Troll?” What in the hell are you talking about? GWW contributed substantively, regularly, and quite often most incisively to threads at PT. In doing so, he helped to identify the very real and recurring rhetorical problems in these oh-so-polite “conversations” with creationists. You conveniently dismiss (because you think he’s an “asshole”) the obvious veracity of GWW’s above comment: PT contributors have begun to stop the back-slapping congeniality with these willful liars and dissemblers of ID. That is a good thing, and he was among the first there to get it. And you kicked him off, a vanguard contributor to the list. And, not without lots of protests from other regular contributors, I might add, which your petulance again trumped. Because you thought him more of an “asshole” than Cordova and his ilk.

    You, Ed, are a moron. That’s why you’re “bored.”

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    June 21, 2005

    The equally clueless friend of GWW writes:

    Wow, Ed, I happen to know the Great White Wonder personally, have for decades. And he isn’t a miniscule fraction of the petulant juvenile jerk-off that you show yourself to be with the above comments. Your toys, your bedroom, your rules, you say with a red face. Nice. Emulating the words of our president, “It’d be so much easier if this was a dictatorship.”

    My face isn’t the least bit red. And what you’re missing is that this IS a dictatorship. This is my blog. I get to do with it what I want and decide who gets to comment here and who doesn’t. Just like I do with my home and my car and so forth. Just like you can do with whatever you own. If it bothers you that much, feel free to start your own blog and call me names. Two others have already done so. Heck, if you’re obnoxious enough I might just have to rename my Robert O’Brien Trophy again.

    GWW contributed substantively, regularly, and quite often most incisively to threads at PT. In doing so, he helped to identify the very real and recurring rhetorical problems in these oh-so-polite “conversations” with creationists.

    No, he just acted like an asshole. His idea of “contributing substantively” is to say, “Boy, aren’t those creationists stupid? You’re all liars, every one of you.” That’s not the purpose of the Panda’s Thumb. It was never the purpose of the Panda’s Thumb, and in the last few months we’ve started to retake some control over the comments precisely because they became nothing but flamefests. We did it for the worst offenders, the ones who had been warned repeatedly and refused to behave like adults – your pal GWW, DaveScot, and John Davison. Two of those people are creationists and GWW is not. They all have one thing in common – they’re assholes who won’t stop being assholes. So they’re gone. If you don’t like that? Too bad. It’s not your webpage. Go get your own. But whatever you do, take your incessant whining about how unfairly you’re being treated to someone who cares. I surely don’t.

  8. #8 DaveScot
    June 21, 2005

    Hi Ed. I noticed you mentioned my name in a comment on Panda’s Thumb implying I’m a pain in Dembski’s side that he’s forced to put up with like PT put up with Great White Wonder.

    Just to set the record straight, Bill and I have exchanged several emails and in the most recent (5 days ago) he said he liked having me on his blog.

    Thanks ever so much for keeping me in mind though. It’s gratifying to see my name still being mentioned often on PT long after you banned me.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    June 21, 2005

    Clueless as usual, DaveScot, but I can ban this IP address too. I did not imply that you’re a pain in Dembski’s side. I only implied that there are assholes on both sides of the debate. You and GWW are, despite your obvious ideological differences, two peas in a pod.

  10. #10 raj
    June 22, 2005

    Ed, please just do it. You don’t need a long polemic. You are the owner of this web site. Just do it.

  11. #11 island
    June 28, 2005

    This seems relevant, I copied it from my post to the History of Science blog, run by, “Doran29”:


    Interesting, but that jerk, (Dembski), removed two of my posts before banishing me, even though he let my “snarkier” posts ride.


    Apparently he didn’t like my point that the even the hardest proof for “design” in nature can be no more than evidence for some form of method to nature’s madness.

    As it stands, Bill and his alter boy, Dave Scot, have made it look like I’ve something to gain from Sagan and Schneider’s book, which is a lie. I have nothing to do with them, except that we have independently derived differing aspects of the same theory, so I use them as supporting evidence for my own.

    Not that I’m at all surprised, but Bill Dembski has categorically proven that he is no better than any other lying agenda motivated fanatic… on either side of the debate.

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