I’ve said many times that there are clearly problems between the Discovery Institute, the primary thinktank of the ID movement, and the Thomas More Law Center, the legal group defending the school board in Dover (and involved in the Gull Lake situation here in Michigan as well). Three DI fellows pulled out as expert witnesses from the trial, and even before that it was clear that the DI did not want the Dover case to go to trial. As I’ve explained before, they know that this case could be the legal end of ID in terms of access to public school science classrooms and they also know that the facts of this particular case are not in their favor. Well in a roundtable discussion that was aired on C-SPAN, those disagreements erupted into the open between the DI’s Mark Ryland and the TMLC’s Richard Thompson. I’ll post the relevant part of the transcript below the fold:
MODERATOR: I am curious about the Discovery Institute’s involvement in the Dover case, where originally they were slated three people, affiliated with the institute were slated to give depositions, and then obviously pulled out. There was some kind of dispute about legal strategy, perhaps. And I want you to address that, because I think there is some belief, at least expressed in various newspaper articles, that there was a concern by the Discovery Institute that if this issue is decided on science, that intelligent design would be ruled as religion and therefore would fall under the Establishment Cause and therefore would be banned from being taught in science classes.
So, for fear of that almost inevitability happening, the Discovery Institute repositioned itself for tactical reasons, to be against, for teaching the controversy perhaps in nonscientific settings. I just wanted you to respond.
MARK RYLAND (DI): Sure, I’d be happy to respond. Let me back up first and say: The Discovery Institute never set out to have a school board, schools, get into this issue. We’ve never encouraged people to do it, we’ve never promoted it. We have, unfortunately, gotten sucked into it, because we have a lot of expertise in the issue, that people are interested in.
When asked for our opinion, we always tell people: don’t teach intelligent design. There’s no curriculum developed for it, you’re teachers are likely to be hostile towards it, I mean there’s just all these good reasons why you should not to go down that path. If you want to do anything, you should teach the evidence for and against Darwin’s theory. Teach it dialectically.
And despite all the hoopla you’ve heard today, there is a great deal of — many, many problems with Darwin’s theory, in particular the power of natural selection and random variation to do the astounding things that are attributed to them. The new demonology, as one philosopher calls it, the selfish gene can do anything.
So that’s the background. And what’s happened in the foreground was, when it came to the Dover school district, we advised them not to institute the policy they advised. In fact, I personally went and met with them, and actually Richard was there the same day, and they didn’t listen to me, that’s fine, they can do what they want, I have no power and control over them. But from the start we just disagreed that this was a good place, a good time and place to have this battle — which is risky, in the sense that there’s a potential for rulings that this is somehow unconstitutional.
That’s basically from an institutional perspective what I can say and what I know. Now, individuals associated with the Discovery Institute were then, had got involved in, the possibility of becoming expert witnesses in the case. And I don’t, as far as I know there was no institutional decision made one way or the other, but I think it was the case that those individuals felt they had somewhat different legal interests being — it was often because they were both expert witnesses, but usually fact witnesses as well, about things like the history of the intelligent design movement. So they wanted to have their own lawyers involved with depositions, and I believe there was an argument, a disagreement about that. I think that was the reason why they decided not to participate.
MODERATOR: Ken, I wanted —
RICHARD THOMPSON (TMLC): I, I think I should respond…
Mod: You can respond, and then I wanted — that’s fine.
RICHARD THOMPSON (TMLC): …just because [something] the Thomas More Law Center. First of all, Stephen Meyer, who is he, he is you’re, is he the president?
MARK RYLAND (DI): He is the Director of the Center for Science and Culture.
RICHARD THOMPSON (TMLC): Okay, and David DeWolf is a Fellow of the Discovery Institute.
MARK RYLAND (DI): Right.
RICHARD THOMPSON (TMLC): They wrote a book, titled “Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula.” The conclusion of that book was that, um:
“Moreover, as the previous discussion demonstrates, school boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution — and this includes the use of textbooks such as Of Pandas and People that present evidence for the theory of intelligent design.”
…and I could go further. But, you had Discovery Institute people actually encouraging the teaching of intelligent design in public school systems. Now, whether they wanted the school boards to teach intelligent design or mention it, certainly when you start putting it in writing, that writing does have consequences.
In fact, several of the members, including Steve Meyer, agreed to be expert witnesses, also prepared expert witness reports, then all at once decided that they weren’t going to become expert witnesses, at a time after the closure of the time we could add new expert witnesses. So it did have a strategic impact on the way we could present the case, cause they backed out, when the court no longer allowed us to add new expert witnesses, which we could have done.
Now, Stephen Meyer, you know, wanted his attorney there, we said because he was an officer of the Discovery Institute, he certainly could have his attorney there. But the other experts wanted to have attorneys, that they were going to consult with, as objections were made, and not with us. And no other expert that was in the Dover case, and I’m talking about the plaintiffs, had any attorney representing them.
So that caused us some concern about exactly where was the heart of the Discovery Institute. Was it really something of a tactical decision, was it this strategy that they’ve been using, in I guess Ohio and other places, where they’ve pushed school boards to go in with intelligent design, and as soon as there’s a controversy, they back off with a compromise. And I think what was victimized by this strategy was the Dover school board, because we could not present the expert testimony we thought we could present.
The guidebook that Thompson refers to, put out by the Discovery Institute, can be found here. Isn’t it interesting that someone on their side is pointing out the lie that the DI has never been in favor of teaching ID in science classrooms? The fact is that all of this is just their political strategy. Of course the DI wants ID taught in public school science classrooms, but they know that’s not gonna fly legally at this point, so they pretend not to – and in their usual fashion, they just pretend that all of the things they said in the past to the contrary were never said. So they’ve come up with this strategy to just demand that the “arguments against evolution” be taught. But as I’ve pointed out before, that’s all ID actually is, just arguments against evolution. There is no positive theory of ID, only a god of the gaps argument requiring that evolution fail as an explanation.