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.