Pharyngula

Peter Irons makes Billy Dembski cry

Peter Irons has again been having way too much fun with creationist shenanigans. Irons, you may recall, is a hot shot west coast lawyer who had a grand time with the Pivar situation, and has lately been nudging Dembski on the case of his misuse of the Harvard/XVIVO animation. Would you believe that Bill Dembski went crying to his lawyer because Irons was making him miserable?

The email exchange is below the fold. John Gilmore is the St Paul lawyer who defended Dembski in the recent Baylor flap, and he does seem to have rather more sense than his client.

First, here’s the email from Dembski to his lawyer, John Gilmore. (You can also see how I ended up with a copy.)

Dear John,

I’ve forwarded a number for Peter Iron’s emails to you in the past.
Below are the two latest. Lately, I have been filtering his messages
without reading them. But the sheer volume of emails that I’ve been
getting from him and the ill-will they convey leave me concerned.
Moreover, I’m not particularly happy that Irons sends them from the
UCSD server, which my tax dollars are indirectly supporting.

In any case, since you are my attorney, I want to make you aware of
this situation and that I’m herewith formally asking Irons no longer
to contact me in any form and that any concerns he may have with me
be taken up directly with you.

I’m copying Peter Irons on this email.

Best wishes,

Bill

Poor Bill. And Irons is using a UCSD mail host, which his tax dollars support. And his taxes support the government that built the internet which allows Peter Irons to send him noxious messages! And Peter Irons sleeps the blissful sleep of the just on a bed paid for with his salary as a faculty member at a state university, which means somehow some of Bill’s pennies are providing comfort to his enemies! Wanker.

Of course Peter Irons replies.

Dear Mr. Gilmore,

Bill Dembski has copied me on his recent message to you, regarding emails
I have sent him (or copied him on) that discuss his use of the
Harvard/XVIVO video (without permission of the copyright holder) in his
lecture at Oklahoma University on September 17, 2007, and his removal of a
still from that video in his book, “The Design of Life.”

Significantly, Mr. Dembski has not replied to or challenged any of the
factual statements in my emails to him. These statements are entirely
true. It seems that Mr. Dembsik’s sole complaint is that I have drawn his
actions, regarding the unauthorized use (or attempted use) of the
Harvard/XVIVO video, to his attention and that of other interested
parties, including the video’s producer. What action they take on this
matter is entirely up to them.

I have no connection, by the way, to either Harvard or XVIVO. I have
commented on this issue simply as a concerned private individual.

If Mr. Dembski does feel that I have made untrue and actionable statements
about him, I would appreciate learning from him (or from you) which
statements he has in mind. Until such a communication, to which I will
promptly respond, I remain free to communicate with Mr. Dembski or anyone
else. That’s what the First Amendment is all about.

For your information, I am also a lawyer. I graduated from Harvard Law
School in 1978, have practiced before many state and federal courts, and
am a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court.

If you want to send me a “huff and puff” letter on Mr. Dembski’s behalf,
be my guest.

Best wishes,
Peter Irons, Ph.D., J.D.

The cruel Peter Irons then urges Dembski’s lawyers to go after Abbie Smith, who’s even meaner than he is.

Mr. Gilmore,

While you’re at it, why don’t you send a “huff and puff” message to Abbie
Smith? She’s the University of Oklahoma graduate student who “outed”
Dembski’s unauthorized use of the Harvard/XVIVO video at his September 17
lecture, with a post on her blog (“erv blogspot”) on November 20. She has
subsequently blogged (on December 24) about the “Design of Life” snafu.
In these blogs, Ms. Smith has used all kinds of unladylike language
(“lying sac of Creationist Crap,” etc.), which must have hurt Mr.
Dembski’s delicate feelings. That uncouth language, in itself, must be
actionable, at least in Reisel, Texas. Perhaps Ms. Smith should enroll in
the “Submissive Baptist Ladies’ Homemaking” course at SWBTS. This is
sarcasm, of course, just for Mr. Dembski’s information.

Best,
Peter Irons

OK, so the lawyer responds. Like I said, he seems much more sensible than Dembski — basically all he says is that there is nothing more to be done, and could everyone please stop picking on poor little Billy.

Dear Counsel:

I’m certain Dr. Dembski appreciates your concern for the copyright
interests of others. I do feel you have rather comprehensively expressed
your views and I see no reason why my client has any obligation to
respond further apart from how he already has.

This matter has been successfully resolved with those who have
standing. There is no need for a huff and puff letter.

I would ask that you respect my client’s desire not to receive
communications
of any kind from you.

Thank you,

John Gilmore

Oh, and he’s not going to harass Abbie Smith. That’s nice, but knowing her, she’d probably howl with glee if some lawyer tried to intimidate her.

Dear Counsel:

Abbie Smith is free to blog in the style and manner she wishes.
I have no reason to contact her and shall not be doing so.

Regards,

John Gilmore

One last zing from Irons:

Hi Bill,

This is my last message, unless you do something really stupid that
deserves fisking (I always reserve that right). As any lawyer would tell
you (and John Gilmore probably did already), there is nothing he can do
about my earlier messages to you or Abbie Smith’s blog posts. Everything
in them was either factually true or protected opinion. And if you don’t
want to read my messages, don’t open them.

Peter

Dembski is so pathetically thin-skinned. I think Peter has forwarded all of his Dembski emails to me; they are carefully written, not at all intimidating in volume, and I don’t believe Dembski is that upset at getting half a dozen email messages — spam is much greater in volume than that. And if he’s that disturbed by the mocking content of Irons’ mail, I’d like to trade places with him: I routinely get threats of harm from his fellow travelers in creationism.

Comments

  1. #1 Cyde Weys
    December 26, 2007

    This seems like an awful lot of private correspondence. Was everyone aware from the outset that everything that was said would end up posted on a popular weblog? It’s just that, from my point of view, if that wasn’t made clear from the outset, I would be very upset if my emails did turn up posted online where lots of people read them.

  2. #2 Brownian, OM
    December 26, 2007

    He wrote his lawyer? Where’s a good ol’ heretic-smiting diety when you need one?

  3. #3 John Pieret
    December 26, 2007

    Lately, I have been filtering his messages without reading them. But the sheer volume of emails that I’ve been getting from him and the ill-will they convey leave me concerned.

    Ill-will? Want to compare stories with Judge Jones? And Jones had the virtue of doing what was right, instead of stealing other people’s property.

  4. #4 Dan
    December 26, 2007

    Peter Irons is the kind of cat I would genuinely love to sit down and have a beer with. He gives lawyers a good name.

    And, if anyone goes after ERV, well… I will burn their houses to the ground and sodomize their family pets.

  5. #5 TechSkeptic
    December 26, 2007

    “I routinely get threats of harm from his fellow travelers in creationism”

    you know, as a laugh, I’d be interested in reading a few of those nice letters from all those fine, upstanding, moral, religious folks who routinely threaten you with death.

    Perhaps you can have a page like the FSM and religioustolerance.org

  6. #6 raven
    December 26, 2007

    I would be very upset if my emails did turn up posted online where lots of people read them.

    LOL, this is incredibly funny. If you don’t want your emails posted for the next century, don’t send any.

    This is the internet. Everything is archived forever somewhere and can and will resurface at any time for any reason. Mostly for humorous effect.

    Just how upset will you get? You aren’t going into the Death Threat business are you? Mark the psychotic mall shooter wannabe already has that niche filled.

    But if you wish to prove your serious faith in Jesus Christ the Lord in the usual fundie way, feel free to send some Death Threats to me. I’ll make sure they get forwarded to the appropiate authorities and post them, but only a few dozen times here and there. LOL

  7. #7 Ichthyic
    December 26, 2007

    Dembski is so pathetically thin-skinned.

    more concise and accurate.

  8. #8 Ichthyic
    December 26, 2007

    I’d be interested in reading a few of those nice letters from all those fine, upstanding, moral, religious folks who routinely threaten you with death.

    tune in regularly for the “I get mail” threads, and you will.

    he’s posted several already.

  9. #9 Rasputin
    December 26, 2007

    I am very glad that Irons is on our side.

  10. #10 Cyde Weys
    December 27, 2007

    raven: Click through and read my blog for a bit, you’ll see that I’m hardly a creationist lunatic.

    I do, however, value privacy. Why are you insinuating that it’s only the creationists who should value privacy? Generally progressives are on the side of preserving privacy, not violating it.

  11. #11 Azkyroth
    December 27, 2007

    Raven, I agree with you that Mr. Weys’ expressed concern is misguided, but that expression doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a creationist or even some other form of Tinfoil Hat Christian.

  12. #12 Doc Bill
    December 27, 2007

    Is this the same Dembski who is so acerbic to others?

    Waterloo, insults, farting Flash animations, the vise and so forth. Is this the same Dembski whose insulting email at Baylor got him removed for uncollegial conduct?

    Dembski is about as thin-skinned as a cockroach, but exhibits the same behavior when exposed to light.

  13. #13 Brownian, OM
    December 27, 2007

    I read through Cyde Weys’ blog. Indeed, anyone who celebrates Chrifsmas is no fundie.

  14. #14 Ichthyic
    December 27, 2007

    Waterloo, insults, farting Flash animations, the vise and so forth.

    oh yes, let us not forget that wonderfully amicable “vise strategy”, depicted in creative style by a picture of a darwin doll being crushed in a vise.

    but, that was all just “street theatre”.

    btw, Slaveador really liked that vise strategy, was absolutely sure (pre-Dover) that federal judges were going to run a literal inquistion on “darwinists”.

    these people go beyond being demented fuckwits.

  15. #15 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 27, 2007

    I’m sitting here in my office at my house laughing so hard I woke up the wife.

    That is good stuff right there.

  16. #16 Doc Bill
    December 27, 2007

    That’s the best part about the “Vise Strategy,” which I believe Dembski originally published as the “Vice Strategy.”

    Get the Darwinists in court under oath and squeeeeeeeze the truth out of them!

    Well, Dembski got his wish at Kitzmiller. Darwinists were in court under oath and the defense lawyers did squeeeeeeze the truth out of them. Of course, the truth came out and it was quite reasonable.

    But then the double edged sword was drawn and the Creationists were also in court under oath.

    However, Dembski ran like a scalded dog and never got questioned under oath. Would he have told the truth? We may never know.

    Be careful what you wish for, Billy Boy.

  17. #17 Kristine
    December 27, 2007

    Perhaps Ms. Smith should enroll in the “Submissive Baptist Ladies’ Homemaking” course at SWBTS.

    Yeah, I can just see that quilt pattern now!

    I too have had e-mails with lawyers copied between me and a certain Uncommon Descent moderator (not Dembski) in the past year. I daresay that my last one was a goddamn masterpiece. 😉 (He disparaged a photo of me that had been copied to a creationist blog without my permission, so I joked that I was going to put copyright symbols on all my photos at flickr from now on.)

    These guys are bulls in a china shop! And if you’re a woman who criticizes them, you can become a big blip on their radar pretty quick. They’re like nerds who want to impress the homecoming queen with their science project, but they pull out a Bible (or in my case, a yucky toad) and hit you with that instead. Clods! 😀

  18. #18 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    December 27, 2007

    Cyde, I can understand your concern, but the way I see it is that considering Dembski’s track record on violating copyright, sockpuppeting Amazon.com reviews, flat out lying for Jesus and crying persecution; his e-mail cc’d to Irons made it fair game.

  19. #19 Ichthyic
    December 27, 2007

    I too have had e-mails with lawyers copied between me and a certain Uncommon Descent moderator (not Dembski) in the past year.

    would this be a certain self-proclaimed auto-didact and ex-Dell patent clerk, by any chance?

  20. #20 Bob O'H
    December 27, 2007

    Dembski is almost certainly the “Galapagos Finch” that posts “humor” on UD occasionally. The two-word summary would be “mean spirited”.

    Bob

  21. #21 Mike from Ottawa
    December 27, 2007

    I’ve forwarded a number for Peter Iron’s emails to you in the past. Below are the two latest. Lately, I have been filtering his messages without reading them.

    As if. Dembski is the kind of person who couldn’t possibly resist reading something about himself, especially if he thought it was negative. Nothing would drive him nuts like getting what he figured would be a negative e-mail (i.e. one from Irons or PZ) that he couldn’t open.

  22. #22 Mrs Tilton
    December 27, 2007

    PZ, I think you do Gilmore a disservice putting his words into Comic font (or whatever the font is called that you reserve for whackjobs and fools). His client is a contemptible ass, but he himself has neither done nor said anything wrong here.

    Everything he wrote to Peter is correct; he conducted himself (at least in this exchange) with impeccable professional standards, and (unlike the young twerp who “represented” that jackass who tried to sue you) gave his client sound advice. For all I know, Gilmore might be a raving creationist Republican-Christian Dominionist, but one wouldn’t know it from this exchange. (And even if he is, he is free to believe whatever nonsense he likes in the private sphere, so long as he doesn’t try to infect the broader society with it.)

    I have the impression that Peter has been very lucky in his complement of clients. Many of the rest of us, though, have good reason to draw a sharp line between ourselves and (some of) the people we do work for.

  23. #23 truth machine
    December 27, 2007

    I would be very upset if my emails did turn up posted online where lots of people read them.

    So what?

  24. #24 truth machine
    December 27, 2007

    I do, however, value privacy. Why are you insinuating that it’s only the creationists who should value privacy? Generally progressives are on the side of preserving privacy, not violating it.

    I don’t think you quite get the concept. Dembski sent a “formal” request to Peter Irons not to send emails to him, and addressed the request to his lawyer, with the clear implication of threatening legal action — a public concern. Only a complete and utter idiot would have an expectation of privacy in regard to such email.

  25. #25 QrazyQat
    December 27, 2007

    Love it. Some translation and annotation:

    For your information, I am also a lawyer. I graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978, have practiced before many state and federal courts, and am a member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    This creates what is known in legal terms as an “owie”, or ouchy” or “boo-boo”, which Dembski’s lawyaer properly replies to with this “This matter has been successfully resolved with those who have standing. There is no need for a huff and puff letter.” which is in legal terms referred to as a “no mas, no mas”.

    It’s sorta like having Chuck Norris call you out and finding that not only is Bruce Lee your BFF, but has resurrected himself just for your benefit.

  26. #26 gerald spezio
    December 27, 2007

    Let’s go to court.
    Let’s you and him fight.
    I am a lawyer.
    I am trained to milk you good.
    Let’s get everybody in court.
    NO fight; NO lawyer’s fees.
    We are a nation of lawyers.

  27. #27 Mrs Tilton
    December 27, 2007

    QrazyQat @24,

    in the passage that you quote, Peter Irons seriously understates his qualifications. No competent lawyer folds up into the foetal position whimpering “no mas, no mas” merely because he faces somebody who went to HLS (which has produced its share of fools and incompetents) or is admitted to practice before the USSC (which is not a reward for legal excellence).

    Now, if he knows who Peter is (above and beyond the relatively unimportant facts of where he earned his degree and where he has practiced), Gilmore might have thought prudence the better part of valour here. If so, and if Gilmore thought Dembski had any valid legal argument whatever, he’d be a very disappointing counsellor indeed.

    I think the explanation is a lot simpler than that, though. Assuming that PZ has set forth the whole of the relevant correspondence above, Gilmore has done exactly what a lawyer should do who is instructed by a client with no legal grounds for complaint. He hasn’t filed a frivolous suit, never wrote a blustering letter, never even bothered to phone Peter Irons (he’s responding to Peter, who wrote after Dembski — the only one in this story trying to communicate a baseless legal threat — cc:’d him on his letter to Gilmore). In his polite, diplomatic and lawyerly response, Gilmore has conveyed the full force of his client’s legal position (i.e., that he does not have one), and has nicely asked Peter to stop hurting his client’s feelings. Whatever other facts there might be about Gilmore, on the evidence PZ shows I can’t find that he has done anything in this matter other than properly manage a stupid and annoying situation (created entirely by his stupid and annoying client).

  28. #28 Phoenix Woman
    December 27, 2007

    I feel sorry for Mr. Gilmore. His client is an ass, and the temptation to soak him simply by doing what he wants must be overwhelming. But he seems to be a responsible person.

    Hey, he could have charged Dembski a couple of grand for a good huff-and-puff letter even though he knows it’s useless, but instead he settles for the sensible, cheaper option.

  29. #29 Reginald Selkirk
    December 27, 2007

    I think Peter has forwarded all of his Dembski emails to me; they are carefully written

    Except for misspelling Dembsik’s name once.

  30. #30 Kristine
    December 27, 2007

    would this be a certain self-proclaimed auto-didact and ex-Dell patent clerk, by any chance?

    Ichthyic – who else?

  31. #31 Alison
    December 27, 2007

    I’ve always lived with the attitude that you shouldn’t say anything you’d be embarrassed to say in public, or to the face of a person you say it about. That goes even more for anything written or sent over the internet. Never, ever assume that it won’t be passed along somehow, or that you’ll never be held accountable for it. (I also believe that there’s nothing wrong with apologizing, or admitting you were wrong, so that helps.)

    Unfortunately for Dembski, he regularly says and does things without giving weight to the potential consequences, and never apologizes when he’s called on it. His lawyer, no matter how well-trained or well-connected, can’t protect him from himself. Better that he should be a little more contemplative than outspoken, but it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

  32. #32 David Rolfe
    December 27, 2007

    Cyde asks,

    Why are you insinuating that it’s only the creationists who should value privacy? Generally progressives are on the side of preserving privacy, not violating it.

    Granted, but… Email — like other forms of expression — is not private after its been expressed. If you wish, email can be expressed to as few people as possible through the use of encryption (in this way some number of servers and their agencies from one to infinity won’t also be a recipient of your clear text). However, as with all matters, the recipient of an expression is the party responsible for redistribution. If the recipient doesn’t know your wishes or can’t be trusted to abide them, don’t express a word to them!

  33. #33 peter irons
    December 27, 2007

    Mrs. Tilton is entirely right: Harvard Law School has produced more than its share of fools and incomptents (several of the Watergate defendants were HLS grads). And being a member of the SCt bar is not a reward for legal competence (it costs $125 to join, for which you get a scroll to frame and impress your clients).

    The reason I listed my legal creds for Gilmore was to let him know that any veiled threat of litigation from Dembski would not intimidate me. I’d like nothing more, in fact, than to get Dembski in a courtroom, under oath, but that won’t happen. To my (somewhat) surprise, Gilmore turned out to be sensible as a lawyer. I was polite in my messages to him, and he responded in kind, not like a certain little Brit twit (Michael Little) in the Pivar case.

    As for the “privacy” issue, Dembski posted my emails with Baylor president John Lilley a few months agoon UD. If you wan your emails to remain private, say so in the message, although that doesn’t have much legal effect.

  34. #34 QrazyQat
    December 27, 2007

    Mrs Tilton and Peter Irons,

    Ah, you wrecked my comment; you’ll be getting an angry cc: when I write my lawyer. Once I get one.

    :)

  35. #35 Blake Stacey
    December 27, 2007

    As a broad principle, this particular self-proclaimed progressive believes that privacy, while desirable, must on occasion be traded for transparency and accountability, also desirable. But never mind grand principles — playing the “I Get E-Mail” game with fractured ceramic messages is just too much fun!

  36. #36 AC
    December 27, 2007

    I am very glad that Irons is on our side.

    He’s competent, ethical, and has a sense of humor. Almost goes without saying.

  37. #37 heddle
    December 27, 2007

    Granted, Dembski’s response of contacting his lawyer is absurd (yet not surprising.) Nevertheless, I suspect I’ll be the lone voice claiming that Mr. Irons is just a bit creepy. It seems that Gilmore was the more professional of the two lawyers, based on this limited exchange. Irons’s “if you want to send a ‘huff and puff’ letter” thread seems utterly unprofessional. Gilmore, by contrast, comes across as a class act. Even more so the “While you’re at it,” (which Gilmore doesn’t appear to have been at all at) “why don’t you send a ‘huff and puff’ message to Abbie Smith?” Now it matters not whether Smith is perfectly fine or even delighted with Irons’s letter–I find it unprofessional. And, as I said, creepy.

  38. #38 Rich
    December 27, 2007

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ann-coulter-the-wedge-for-the-masses/#comment-43255

    “Tinabrewer: I’m a great believer in divine concurrence, where the divine and the base work in tandem to achieve the divine purposes. Moreover, I regard the rhetorical enterprise as unconstrained by Marquess of Queensberry Rules — sometimes one needs to put a bit of pepper on the gloves, a feat Coulter accomplishes nicely. -WmAD”

    Cowardly lion.

  39. #39 raven
    December 27, 2007

    Once an email has been sent, it is out of your control. And the property of the recipient. In general, class and politeness might dictate that emails be kept confidential but we all know how often that works in our society.

    In the case of the admirable Peter Irons and the defective Dembski, both are public figures of a sort by their own volition dealing with a public issue. An expectation of privacy is unreasonable, especially since Dembski has a habit of posting emails sent to him. Some would call that hypocracy, but it is just business as usual for the DI.

    If you don’t want to see your emails on the internet, don’t send any.

    Another point that most people forget. Employers have a legal right to read your email traffic at work and monitor your internet useage. It is estimated that 90% do so. As an executive friend told me, “If a corporation can legally do something, chances are they will do it.” More than a few people have lost their jobs this way. Beware, Big Brother is alive and paying your salary.

    PS Cyde Weyes, sorry for confusing you with a fundie Xian. On these boards, firing first and asking questions later works 9 out of 10 times.

  40. #40 Mrs Tilton
    December 27, 2007

    David Heddle @36,

    Peter Irons can speak for himself, but he was not writing to Gilmore in his capacity as a lawyer (and hence your opinion that his tone was “unprofessional” — assuming arguendo that you are competent to adjudge a lawyer’s professionalism — is irrelevant). He was writing as one whom a jackass had hoped, with no good reason, to intimidate with The Law. As it happened, the jackass had decent legal counsel, so of course nothing ever came of his stirrings.

    If I have any criticism of Irons, it is not that he is “creepy”, but that he is if anything too equanimous, too ready to suffer fools, too quick to see the decent side of bad people. This probably explains why he is a better lawyer than I am.

    FWIW, I agree with you that Gilmore comported himself well here. But then he was acting as a lawyer, and for a client who he knew was simply being (to use the jurisprudential terminus technicus) a dickhead. Gilmore wasn’t “at” anything, other than complying with a foolish client’s instructions in a manner calculated to ensure that the client suffered the least possible harm from his folly.

  41. #41 Stephen Wells
    December 27, 2007

    Heddle, please consider the possibility that you might, in fact, be wrong. Where you see “creepy” we see “funny.”

  42. #42 heddle
    December 27, 2007

    Mrs. Tilton,

    Agreed. To clarify, I did not mean to imply that Irons acted unprofessionally as a lawyer. What I meant was that his correspondence was somewhat unprofessional in a generic sense–in that it essentially contained an unwarranted schoolyard dare (go ahead, send me a nastygram!) and a double dare (and while you’re at it, send one to Abby Smith too!)

    Stephen Wells,

    It is hardly worth to pixels to write: yes, of course I could be wrong.

  43. #43 peter irons
    December 27, 2007

    A brief reply to “heddle” at #36: my message to Gilmore about sending a “huff and puff” letter to Abbie Smith was actually a sarcastic jab (and labeled as such) at Dembski, whom I copied on that message. My tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Abbie should take the “Submissive Baptist Ladies’ Homemaking” course at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Dembski teaches, refers to the fact that SWBTS offers a women-only “homemaking” course that includes instruction in “how to cook and sew,” and that the Southern Baptist statement of faith requires women to “submit” to their husbands (you can look this up on Google).

    More to the point, as Rich (#37) notes, Dembski regards “the rhetorical enterprise as unconstrained by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules,” citing the despicable Anne Coulter as his role model. So I “put a bit of pepper” on my gloves in my messages to Dembski. Tit-for-tat.

    BTW, Gilmore is not representing Dembski in any litigation relating to me, so Dembski is not his “client” in this rhetorical dispute, just a lawyer who Dembski thinks can scare me.

  44. #44 Glen Davidson
    December 27, 2007

    So basically, Gilmore writes Irons to note that Dembski’s “concerns” are utterly without legal merit, and only adds the request that Irons not contact him further. Gee, you could have saved some lawyer’s fees if you really had just filtered Irons out, Dembwit, rather than have Gilmore tell Irons what he already knew, that you have nothing, as per the usual.

    Of course the real, if monotonously typical, story is that Dembski has no defense to the charge of stealing Harvard’s intellectual property. He’s just lucky that no one prosecutes that theft like they do the filching of songs off of the internet.

    He’s unlucky because, low as his reputation was among the un-stupid public, it has sunk lower since that episode.

    And the DI, while quick to distance themselves from Dembski’s dishonesty, won’t actually condemn it. The upshot being that little has changed, except that Dembski keeps digging a bit further below the bottom with each and every incident and communication.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  45. #45 Scott Hatfield, OM
    December 27, 2007

    (a mixture of outrage and befuddlement)

    Privacy? Excuse me, but WTF, are there seriously people on here defending Dembski’s PRIVACY and how ERV or Peter Irons might be violating Dembski’s PRIVACY? Huh?

    Please. Dembski is a publicity hound of the first water on the topic of his views, obviously spending considerable mental energy on a regular basis in attempts to drum up new ways to get his message out while yet maintaining a gloss of academic respectability. His exploration of Flash animation juvenilia about this time last year demonstrates that!

    Further, the ‘XVIVO Affair’ is now public knowledge, and correspondence related to fact-finding on said affair is, in my judgment, fair game. Allowing Dembski to suddenly cloak himself in privacy when questions are raised about either his conduct (which is actionable) or his ideas (which are widely-rejected) is ridiculous, since both came in the public eye.

    We are not paparazzi encamping on his lawn, spying on his family, going through his garbage, all of which could be considered invasions of privacy. We are publicly wrangling with someone who publicly seeks publicity for his views, on the basis of publicly-available information about how he publicly used someone else’s PRIVATE property without permission. Give me a break. Save the tears and the aggrieved civil libertarian rhetoric for someone who has really been damaged!

  46. #46 Robster, FCD
    December 27, 2007

    I typically avoid cheap shots like this, but as an amoral type who likes to make creationists cry… Dumbski.

  47. #47 Steve LaBonne
    December 27, 2007

    Save the tears and the aggrieved civil libertarian rhetoric for someone who has really been damaged!

    Well, Dembski clearly is damaged. But I don’t think that’s what you meant. 😉

  48. #48 KeithB
    December 27, 2007

    Since it was a UCSD server, a lot more of my taxes were used than Dembski’s, and all I can say is: “Send more!”

    (Should we get together a fund and send Bill the $1.50 that it probably cost to send these emails?)

  49. #49 Pablo
    December 27, 2007

    It looks to me like the first email that Dembski sent (and CC’d to Irons) was an attempt to scare Irons (“I’ve contacted my lawyer!”) not realizing that Irons was not an average schmoe who would fall for such tactics.

    Did he not know Irons was a lawyer?

  50. #50 Monado
    December 27, 2007

    Of course Dumbski knows who Peter Irons is: that incisive wit is memorable.

    If you want to know how Dumbski acts when the shoe is on the other foot, he is still whining, years later, about some minor use of his words by people who had a legal right to, asked the publisher, and got permission. Jerk.

    As for Teh Internets, if you wouldn’t put it on a postcard, don’t say it.

    Dumbski displays all the maturity of the Grade 9 class clown in his own productions. If you look up “sophomoric humor” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Wm. A. Dembski looking self-satisfied.

  51. #51 Mrs Tilton
    December 27, 2007

    David @41:

    To clarify, I did not mean to imply that Irons acted unprofessionally as a lawyer. What I meant was that his correspondence was somewhat unprofessional in a generic sense

    You’re a physicist (I think), not a lawyer, so you bear no blame for not knowing this, but there is no such thing as “unprofessional in a generic sense”. At most, one might assert that a lawyer of my sort ought not, if his or her firm represents Acme Widgets, publicly slag off widgets manufacturers generally. And that’s a stretch, almost more a commercial than an ethical matter; and Peter is lucky enough not to be my sort of lawyer.

    of course I could be wrong

    It is always refreshing to find instances in which old-school Calvinism and modern liberalism can find areas of agreement.

  52. #52 Reginald Selkirk
    December 27, 2007

    With the recent revelations about Demski’s behaviour, I expect that his employer, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, along with the Discovery Institute, where Dembski is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture, will be severing ties with him.

    Not.

  53. #53 Monado
    December 27, 2007

    Perhaps we could forward to Dembski a few threatening letters from creationists and ask how he would respond to them. Maybe he knows a good lawyer? Or would he go straight to calling the police (or a press conference)?

  54. #54 Blake Stacey
    December 27, 2007

    Somebody really needs to make a LOLDembski with the caption, “Noooo! They be takin mah taxez!

  55. #55 noncarborundum
    December 27, 2007

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ann-coulter-the-wedge-for-the-masses/#comment-43255

    Good Lord. I hadn’t realized that Dembski was involved in Godless, much less that he was actually proud of it. I read the anti-evolution section of Godless when it came out (at a bookstore – I wouldn’t pay actual money for such a thing) – and it struck me as four chapters of concentrated stupidity. (I mean, really: the absence of feet with eyes as evidence against evolution?) I would have thought Dembski, whatever his faults, knew enough mainstream evolutionary theory to be above such abject idiocy, but it turns out I would have been wrong. There’s apparently no idiocy he’s above.

  56. #56 triviality
    December 27, 2007

    “I would be very upset if my emails did turn up posted online where lots of people read them.”

    High hypocrisy that, since I know from firsthand experience that Cyde Weys has leaked similar emails in the past.

  57. #57 firemancarl
    December 27, 2007

    From the desk of Bill Dembski

    But,*sniff* sniff* we creationist christians are being persecuted! Please help and stop that awful Abbie Smith , she just a girl! and that awful Peter Irons from making fun of us cdesign propentists!

    Respectfully

    Bill Dembski

  58. #58 Kseniya
    December 27, 2007

    Respectfully

    This note is obviously a forgery.

  59. #59 Doug Rozell
    December 27, 2007

    Hi PZ: You wrote: “I routinely get threats of harm from his fellow travelers in creationism.”

    I trust, and hope, you are keeping the police (FBI?) informed. I can understand that you do not respond with litigation: someone has to have some class here. But on this file you are not acting any longer as a private citizen. You are a public voice in the struggle for rationality. Like Ms. Bhutto, you are it risk. I advise you heed Aristotle’s reasoning. Between cowardace and foolhardiness lies courage. You are courageous: do not be foolish. I rather think Skatje will concur.

    All my best

    Doug Rozell, M.A.,, M.L.I.S.
    Beachville, Ont. Canada

    PS: Mrs. Tilton #40 wrote: “FWIW, … to use the jurisprudential terminus technicus … a dickhead” should know that “terminus technicus” does not exist in Black’s Law Dictionary. Neither does “huff and puff”, but none of its users have claimed it to be a technical term of jurisprudence. I conclude that “Mrs. Tilton” is not a lawyer, for a lawyer would know better than to claim a fact so easily checked. Sorry to have outed you #40, but you asked for it; sorry, because you are so well-written and obviously intelligent. But apt, under the subtheme of this thread about privacy on the web. You don’t want your hyperbole showing up decades hence without the context to excuse it. Simply call him a dickhead, and be done with it: rude, but fair opinion comment I suppose. For myself he evidently appears to be committed to the role of a halfwitted, intellectually demented, whinging whore of stuporstition. But I could be wrong. ‘;)

  60. #60 Kseniya
    December 27, 2007

    Bad call, Doug.

  61. #61 Kseniya
    December 27, 2007

    (Or are you just being droll?)

  62. #62 rpenner
    December 27, 2007

    Doug Rozell in comment 59 seems to equate Black’s Law Dictionary with a legal degree. Skilled lawyers use words in a more flexible manner than any dictionary, and if you go into court armed with nothing more than dictionary definitions, I will always bet against you. Dictionaries, even the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, do not define words, but record a sampling of how the words have been used. In Japan, there are maganizes devoted to how language changes over time, and recently w00t was named the word of the year by a dictionary publisher.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/internetNews/idUSN1155159520071212

  63. #63 Mrs Tilton
    December 27, 2007

    Doug @59,

    ehh, you have caught me out good and proper. I have used a term that is not to be found in Black’s and hence, obviously, am no lawyer. Your obligation, clearly, is to warn my firm and my clients that I call dickheads “dickheads”. I am certain they will give your warnings the attention they deserve.

    Email me privately if you would like my NY bar registration number, the better to complain about me to the US professional group to which I belong. I’m afraid you won’t be able to do much about my non-US qualifications. But then, non-US countries are all bolshevik Islamist faggot dictatorships anyway, aren’t they?

    Good night now, wee Doug, and dream whatever dreams give comfort to children like you.

  64. #64 Kidipedia
    December 27, 2007

    Side Ways, printing this stuff is a service. This week’s vogue WP “issue” isn’t all that relevant outside of WP.

  65. #65 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    December 27, 2007

    So Dembski’s own ‘new’ book contains material that damages his position? Dembski did it again.

    And, if anyone goes after ERV, well… I will burn their houses to the ground and sodomize their family pets.

    I’m trying to picture that but, seriously, I come up blank.

    How do you figure that ERV will leave anything substantial to mess with after her rampage?

  66. #66 Torbjrn Larsson, OM
    December 27, 2007

    So Dembski’s own ‘new’ book contains material that damages his position? Dembski did it again.

    And, if anyone goes after ERV, well… I will burn their houses to the ground and sodomize their family pets.

    I’m trying to picture that but, seriously, I come up blank.

    How do you figure that ERV will leave anything substantial to mess with after her rampage?

  67. #67 Rita Bennett
    December 27, 2007

    Peter Irons book, GOD ON TRIAL, is a good read. I actually bought it as my thanks to him and I am very glad I did.

  68. #68 ERV
    December 27, 2007

    Torbjrn– I should have gotten my mom to guest post while I was on vacation. She could have given you many a story of my rampages and their after effects.

    Shes got video of me in an infant rampage, ripping a bassinet to shreds…

    … I dont like lace…

  69. #69 MB
    December 28, 2007

    Mrs. Tilton, John Gilmore is a scum sucking lawyer because he’s getting paid to represent a scum sucking client. If he was defending an indigent charged with even a heinous crime on his own dime because that’s how the system works, maybe you could defend him. But even if he’s not getting paid here, his client is a lying piece of shit, Gilmore knows it and yet keeps representing him. That makes Gilmore fair game for ridicule, especially here. Heck, his client didn’t even need defending here – but ah, those billable hours.

    If you work for a piece of shit like this and have your correspondence posted on a website where posters feel the way most of those here feel about Dembski, expect (deserved) ridicule.

    By the way, I’ve always used scum in the context of pond scum, not the other kind…

  70. #70 atomb
    December 28, 2007

    Prof. Irons – if you are reading this – you make me proud to be a UCSD alumnus. I’m glad to know my tuition and tax dollars helped support such a noble use of the UCSD email servers. Keep it up!

  71. #71 truth machine
    December 28, 2007

    “FWIW, … to use the jurisprudential terminus technicus … a dickhead” should know that “terminus technicus” does not exist in Black’s Law Dictionary.

    You meant to say that “dickhead” does not exist in Black’s Law Dictionary. No one who makes such a foolish mistake could possibly have a law degree.

  72. #72 Blake Stacey
    December 28, 2007

    Hey, new LOLDembski, everybody.

  73. #73 Cyrus
    December 28, 2007

    I do, however, value privacy. Why are you insinuating that it’s only the creationists who should value privacy? Generally progressives are on the side of preserving privacy, not violating it.

    As raven said, it’s clearly legal. And as for whether it’s morally right: for what it’s worth, the Journalist’s Code Of Ethics, (TM), (C), Esq., says that everything is on the record unless it’s explicitly stated otherwise in advance, or at the very least, at the time. It’s a lot more complicated than that, of course — even if you have a right to quote someone, you might choose not to because next time that person wouldn’t talk to you or something, and it might not be fair to expect a private citizen to know that they should watch their mouth beforehand, and so on. But a formal e-mail, CCed to more than one person, by someone with as much media experience as Dembski? I think everyone would be well within their rights to publish it or post it online.

    Employers have a legal right to read your email traffic at work and monitor your internet useage. It is estimated that 90% do so. As an executive friend told me, “If a corporation can legally do something, chances are they will do it.”
    Posted by: raven | December 27, 2007 11:24 AM

    Do you have a link or something? What I’m wondering is whether it’s actually the case that about 90 percent of employers do this, or 90 percent of employees have this happen to them. That is, if a town has nine individually owned, mom-and-pop stores and one Wal-Mart (doesn’t exactly fit if we’re talking about e-mail, but you know what I mean), are you stating that the managers of Wal-Mart and nine of the small businesses read their employees’ e-mail, or are you saying that Wal-Mart might be the only business whose employees’ e-mails get read, but they employ 90 percent of the people?

  74. #74 Geoff
    December 28, 2007

    He sounds more eagerly vindictive than thin skinned to me.

  75. #75 Joshua Zelinsky
    December 28, 2007

    Cyde makes a good point (disclaimer, I’ve interacted with Cyde and have posted on his blog before). Regardless of who an email is from, publishing private emails without very good reason is needlessly invasive of privacy. It is at minimum, uncouth. I don’t see anything in this exchange that seemed so compelling as to justify publication.

  76. #76 Pyre
    December 29, 2007

    In re: admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States

    Mrs. Tilton abbreviates the court’s name as “USSC”.

    Peter Irons goes one letter shorter with “SCt”.

    May I urge another common abbreviation, “SCOTUS”, as nice for the context, even if it’s longer?

    Besides its literal acronymity, it matches the Latin word for “Irish” or “an Irishman”, seen in the names of medieval notables (e.g. Duns Scotus) who were Irish.

    So Peter’s being “admitted to the SCOTUS Bar” makes me want to say “Slinte!”*
    ______________________________________________________
    * Irish Gaelic for “Cheers!”, or literally “[to your] Health!”

  77. #77 Pyre
    December 29, 2007

    Cyde, Joshua, and all else who object to publishing emails:

    Yes, often that’s an ethically questionable thing to do, without permission from the sender.

    But sometimes not.

    For instance, in the case of threats. You’re not ethically obliged to keep secret the fact that someone threatened you in email, or to withhold the actual text of the threat.

    Implied legal threats would fall into this category.

    In My Humble Personal Opinion, not meant as legal advice, yada yada yada.

  78. #78 Mrs Tilton
    December 29, 2007

    Pyre @75,

    slinte mhr duitse!

    Duns Scotus was a (true) Scotsman, BTW. You’re correct that Scotus was originally the Latin for “Irish”, but the word gradually shifted its focus to the northeast (whither so many people from Ireland had crossed the water that their area of settlement became known as “Scotland”). If you are looking for an Irish philosopher named Scotus, you want the earlier John Scotus Eriugena, though even in his time the shift was well underway, as seen from the need to append to his name the term for “born in Ireland”.

  79. #79 peter irons
    December 29, 2007

    If #74 is the same Josh Zelinsky who is a math tutor at Yale (correct me if I’m wrong), and a Wikipedia administrator, let me quote Josh’s own words on privacy: “people who are notable precisely because they have injected themselves into public sphere simply do not have the same rights” of privacy as (presumably) non-notable people. Fits Dembski like a glove, IMO. As to my alleged “uncouthness,” how about fart noises?

  80. #80 truth machine
    December 29, 2007

    For instance, in the case of threats. You’re not ethically obliged to keep secret the fact that someone threatened you in email, or to withhold the actual text of the threat.

    Implied legal threats would fall into this category.

    I made this point way back in #24. Zelinsky’s charge that publishing these emails was “uncouth” is itself uncouth. And really, why should anyone care about these moral pronouncements from people like Weys and Zelinsky?

  81. #81 peter irons
    December 29, 2007

    One final reply to the bogus “invasion of privacy” issue raised by Cyde Weys (real name, Ben Robert McIlwain) and Josh Zelinsky (they are both Wikipedia administrators and blog buddies, BTW):

    First, Dembski published my email exchanges with Baylor’s president, John Lilley, back when Dembski was trying to get Lilley fired. I had copied my emails to Dembski, with no expectation of privacy, and didn’t object when he posted them on UD, with the stated purpose of “embarrassing” both me and Lilley, which backfired on Dembski (who later posted a “notpology” on UD).

    Second, Dembski copied me on his email to John Gilmore, removing any expectation of privacy in that communication. If Dembski was in fact Gilmore’s “client” (which I doubt), and his email to Gilmore was arguably covered by the attorney-client privilege, and I obtained it in some surreptitious way, that would raise a real “privacy” issue.

    But that’s not what happened. Dembski intended again to “embarrass” me by making an implied threat of legal action; otherwise, why would he have tried to sic Gilmore on me? It didn’t work, of course, and just embarrassed Dembski (although I think he’s immune to embarrassment).

    But let’s not forget the substance here (although McIlwain and Zelinsky’s posts on various blogs seem to exalt form over substance, focusing on spelling errors, etc.). Dembski has not refuted or challenged a single factual statement I’ve ever made abut his numerous misdeeds. So all we have (sniff, sniff) are hurt feelings, and stupid threats.

    I’d suggest to Zelinsky that he ask his twin brother, Aaron (a Yale Law School student), for legal advice on this issue, and let us know what he says.

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