Dispatches from the Creation Wars

William Dembski has this odd habit when someone publishes a criticism of his writings. Rather than engage in substantive refutation of those criticisms, he often claims either to be the victim of some cosmic unfairness by the Darwinian Inquisition, or he claims that the person criticizing him is obsessed with him. As an example of the first, I point you to his frantic complaints of copyright violation and ethical mistreatment by my friend Rob Pennock in early 2002, after Pennock had included a couple of essays of his in an anthology he edited called Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics. He accused Pennock of copyright infringement, but in fact he had the written permission of the actual copyright owners, Metanexus. The owners of Metanexus published a public exoneration of Pennock in the matter.

For an example of the second strategy, I point you to his having called Richard Wein, Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit his “internet stalkers” because they – gasp! – read and criticized his work. And in public. The nerve of these people, actually analyzing and critiquing the work of a scholar! He hasn’t done much to actually answer their critiques, mind you, but he’s called them “obsessed” and it appears that he thinks that actually defeats their arguments. Now he’s back making more weird accusations about the Dover trial, involving Shallit yet again. He writes:

Ask yourself why, after submitting almost 200 pages of materials against me in his expert witness report and after submitting to a deposition with the Thomas More Law Center in July, Jeffrey Shallit did not take the witness stand in Dover for the plaintiffs. Answer: his obsessiveness against me and ID made him a liability to the ACLU.

Well as it turns out, there was an easy answer to why Shallit submitted an expert witness report and was deposed in the Dover trial, but didn’t get called to testify – because he was designated in all of our side’s submissions to the court as a “rebuttal witness”. That is, he was being called for the sole purpose of rebutting Dembski’s expert report and testimony. But of course, Dembski pulled out as an expert witness before the trial began, so there was some doubt then as to whether Shallit would testify at all (more on this later). Having been informed of that by several dozen people, and in lieu of admitting he spoke hastily, Dembski proceeded to dig his hole just a bit deeper with this post:

Among the many posts I’ve deleted from the previous thread are those vindicating Shallit on the grounds that because the Thomas More Law Center removed me as an expert witness (citing a conflict of interest with FTE, the publisher of the textbook under dispute — i.e., Of Pandas and People), it was no longer necessary for Shallit to be an expert witness. But in that case why was he deposed at all? I was to be deposed the second week of June (which was then cancelled when TMLC removed me). Shallit was deposed several weeks later. Clearly, the ACLU wanted him to discredit me and my work regardless of whether I was an expert witness. Let me suggest that his deposition was an embarrassment to him and the ACLU and that this was the actual reason for him being withdrawn as a witness at the trial. But don’t take my word for it. Let Shallit and the ACLU make his deposition public. (emphasis his)

This is quite a hornet’s nest of ignorance and conspiracy mongering, so let’s set the record straight. After Dembski withdrew from the case (or was withdrawn, depending on who you listen to and when), Shallit was still on the witness list as a rebuttal witness. The defense wanted to prevent Shallit from testifying, while the plaintiff’s attorneys at that point still wanted him to take the stand in the case. The judge, who in all likelihood probably felt that this trial was going to be long and already likely to include a great deal of highly technical testimony as it was, wasn’t terribly enthused about him taking the stand. Given that, the attorneys for the two sides essentially agreed that Shallit would only testify if the defense used substantive ideas from Dembski’s work in their case. Since they have not done so, he has not been called to testify. But even after Dembski withdrew as an expert witness, there was a chance that he might be called so the Thomas More Law Center still wanted to take his deposition so they could be prepared for his testimony. There, isn’t that easy to explain without all of the breathless “I know the super secret reason for this” speculation?

It appears that Dembski wants to have it both ways here. On the one hand he is arguing that Shallit was kept on as a witness because the ACLU was just out to make Dembski look bad. On the other hand, he is arguing that the real reason he wasn’t put on the stand was because his deposition was “an embarrassment” to him and to the ACLU. But in fact, it was the TMLC who fought to keep Shallit off the witness stand even after his deposition was taken, in their in limine motions before the trial started.

As far as demanding that the ACLU and/or Shallit release his deposition, that deposition is part of the public record already. But it was the Thomas More Law Center who paid for the transcript because it was their deposition and our side does not, as far as anyone can tell, have a copy of it. But there is no conspiracy to keep it from being released here, for crying out loud. If Dembski were to contact the TMLC, they would be able to provide him with a copy of it. It’s not some secret document being hidden from public view, and it’s not the responsibility of either Shallit or the plaintiff’s attorneys to make sure everyone who wants it gets it.

This is quite a ridiculous explanation that Dembski has come up with, one based primarily on ignorance (of two different types – A) he hasn’t seen the deposition, so he is in no position to presume that it was an “embarrassment” and B) he seems completely unaware that it was the TMLC who fought to keep Shallit off the witness stand, not our side) and wishful thinking. His zeal to invent such fanciful rationalizations when a couple of emails would likely have cleared up the confusion might even be termed…well, obsessive.

I’m not paranoid, man. They really are out to get me.

Update: No sooner had I written that no one on our side appears to have a copy of Shallit’s deposition then I received an email with the PDF of that deposition attached to it. Unfortunately, it’s the preliminary version, not the final, corrected version (deposition transcripts are sent to the deponent, who is allowed to make corrections or clarify any statements he made that he felt were not clear, and most do take advantage of that; in this case, however, the copy I have did not come from the deponent). As Nick Matzke noted on PT last night, however, this version of the transcript has been publicly available for months. It was Appendix III of the plaintiff’s answer brief to the motion for summary judgement by the defense.

Comments

  1. #1 Josh
    October 31, 2005

    Dembski thinks every critic is a stalker because he so carefully isolates himself from critics on his site. Surrounded by his sycophants, he believes the praise they sing.

  2. #2 jayinbmore
    October 31, 2005

    Among the other comments Dembski failed to mention he deleted was a comment of mine which linked to Behe’s testimony admitting that his definition of theory included astrology. A user there claimed that such a thing was “nonesense”, and when I posted a rebuttal it was deleted within 12 hours. It then returned after I complained, only to be deleted again. I found that rather odd, since I accused his sycophants of being unable to read and he was perfectly fine with that (I don’t think he’s banned me yet, but I’m sure he will). He did ban someone who made the same point you did. Also, if you look at the thread there are plenty of “I think ID is great!!!” comments which are off-topic.

    I think what we can glean from this is that Dembski’s comment policy is pretty weird. He doesn’t mind obnoxious attacks his sycophants. He doesn’t mind comments which are off topic but only “atta-boys!” for his theory. However, he does mind evidence which contradicts him or his sycophants. This is a very skewed vision of “open debate”, especially coming from someone who insists he is being censored by a villainous cabal of “Darwinists”.

  3. #3 Sylas
    November 1, 2005

    The docket at the official court site does not seem to include motions to prevent or include Shallit’s testimony. I would very much like to see the motion from the defense to prevent Shallit’s testimony, and the response from plaintiffs and the judge. Is it on-line anywhere?

  4. #4 djlactin
    November 1, 2005

    As ID is a de facto religious creed, Demski’s behavior is typical. Religions do not tolerate dissent. They respond either by 1) persecuting the dissenters (up to and including overt violence); 2) declaring dissenters deluded or crazy; or 3) expelling them (to keep their thoughts from contaminating the flock).

    Demski has only options 2 and 3. From this perspective (ID = religion) it is not surprising that he exercises them.

  5. #5 raj
    November 1, 2005

    jayinbmore at October 31, 2005 11:21 PM

    Recognize that more than a few web sites are little more than advertisements. And I suspect that Dembski’s is one such–an advertisement for his employer, the DI. As such, he would not be interested in engaging in a debate.

    NB: I doubt that this site is an advertisement, since there probably isn’t a whole lot of money donated to anti-IDers by the general public.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    November 1, 2005

    Sylas wrote:

    The docket at the official court site does not seem to include motions to prevent or include Shallit’s testimony. I would very much like to see the motion from the defense to prevent Shallit’s testimony, and the response from plaintiffs and the judge. Is it on-line anywhere?

    I don’t believe so. Bear in mind two things. First, that docket page only has “selected” pleadings and orders from the case. Second, this motion may not have been officially made. My source for this information is Nick Matzke, who has been on the scene working with the attorneys from the start of this case. His recollection is that this was part of the discussion of a series of “in limine” motions made before the trial began, but he also said that he didn’t think there was a judge’s ruling on it, only some discussion wherein the TMLC attorneys wanted to keep him off, the ACLU attorneys wanted to put him on the stand, the judge expressed concern about that and the attorneys came to an agreement on their own that he would stay on the witness list but would only be called if the defense used Dembski’s material in their defense. So it is likely that the only record of this would be the transcript of the discussion that would have taken place in chambers before the trial started, and I do not have access to those transcripts. In light of that, however, I may have misspoken when I said that they made a motion to prevent him from testifying; it may not have been an official motion, only discussion that led to an agreement without such a motion or an order.

  7. #7 spyder
    November 1, 2005

    I don’t know if Ed is going to post about it in a different thread, but djlactin makes the point regarding a persistent common behaviorial link among these sorts of zealous religious types. Today, DeGuerin, Tom DeLay’s attorney, was able to have the Democrat party affiliated judge in the case removed, simply because he was a Democrat. Citing the potential for the appearance of conspiracy to persecute the former majority leader, a visiting Republican judge ruled that the sitting judge should be removed. Interesting precedent for us all to consider. Demanding that this or that judge is politically biased simply because they have donated money to a party or PAC, and then have them removed from the case. I wonder how many judges donate to various drug war non-profits and such?????

  8. #8 KeithB
    November 1, 2005

    Interesting, since on NPR this morning they mentioned that this judge had recused himself in other cases that were blatantly conflict of interest, and that judges were *never* removed in these kinds of cases.

    Another “nuclear option” in Texas?