|Wesley R. Elsberry
Joined: May 2002
IIRC, the defense's motion to exclude testimony from plaintiffs's rebuttal witness Jeffrey Shallit was deferred. The plaintiffs's legal team noted that since Dembski himself had been withdrawn as a witness, they had no pressing need to bring in Shallit, but if the defense leaned heavily on Dembski's ideas during the trial, they would bring up the issue at that point. Through the trial, you see occasional references to Dembski, but no big deal is made of his stuff... I think the defense wanted to bring in some part of Dembski's ideas, but not so much that they opened the door to having Jeff Shallit entered as a witness to rebut them.
The fact that the biggest antievolution trial in decades failed to spotlight his ideas must be terrifically galling to Dembski. The $22,000 or so he got from TMLC, though, may have helped him cope with the disappointment.
Dembski's role in FTE's intervention attempt gets prominent mention...
MR. BOYLE: What we would do, Your Honor, is we would retain William Dembski and Dr. Campbell as experts in this case.
THE COURT: Well, and Mr. Dembski would then reappear in the litigation. And Mr. Buell just said that if Mr. Dembski's manuscript -- if their manuscript is dragged back into the mix, that he would rather go to jail than reveal that. So where does that get me if Mr. Dembski comes back in?
MR. BOYLE: Well, in terms of the production of the document, I don't know that there's been a ruling on that or the relevance of that has been determined.
THE COURT: Well, when you put it in an expert report and you name that as the basis for your expert report, then you have a problem if you don't want to produce it.
And later, in Barbara Forrest's testimony, Dembski gets quoted on the content of ID:
Q. Matt, could you go to the cover page of the article by Dr. Dembski and highlight the title? Could you read that?
A. The title of Dr. Dembski's article is Signs of Intelligence, A Primer on the Discernment of Intelligent Design.
Q. Matt, could you highlight the last paragraph of the article? Could you read that into the record?
A. This is the last paragraph. Quote, The world is a mirror representing the divine life. The mechanical philosophy was ever blind to this fact. Intelligent design, on the other hand, readily embraces the sacramental nature of physical reality.
Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory, end quote.
Q. So like Mr. Johnson, William Dembski locates intelligent design in the Bible in the Book of John?
A. He specifically locates it. He defines it as beginning with the Book of John.
Q. And can you tell us how the Book of John begins?
A. In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God. And the word was God.
MR. ROTHSCHILD: I have no further questions, Your Honor.
TMLC at various points asked plaintiffs's experts about Dembski's "The Design Inference" and the fact of its publication by Cambridge University Press. It's unclear what they were after other than a general argument by authority -- ID has to be good given that CUP published TDI. The experts rained on that parade pretty well. Like Kevin Padian:
Q. Mr. Muise, asked you about William Dembski.
Q. And he asked you about a book that Mr. Dembski published or contributed to.
Q. What book was that?
A. Is it called the Design of Life? I don't remember the --
Q. And that was published by an academic press?
Q. Cambridge Academic Press?
A. The Design Inference. Thank you.
Q. Is that the same thing as the peer reviewed publications you were discussing this morning?
A. Book publishers, even book publishers of scholarly presses publish a variety of different kinds of books. Some of them are very scholarly, some of them are not so. I happen to be on the board of editors of the University of California Press and I know sometimes they publish biographies or reminiscences or cookbooks or things like that, as well as scholarly books in semiotics and sociology and molecular biology or whatever they happen to do.
So just because it's published by a scholarly press doesn't necessarily tell you what the peer review is. Also, you don't know in a specific instance what kind of understanding authors and editors have about who or how something would be reviewed. If someone who is publishing a book in a scholarly press based on my experience with UC Press and many other presses I have worked with is any indication, and an editor at the book company, the press itself, is an acquisitions editor someone who would like to do business with the press.
And so the first concern is to public books that will be read, that will be good for the press to public, because they'll be discussed, one way or another drum up interest in the press, sell other books by the press. They certainly want to get scholarly works in there and they want to get things as right as they can, but you know, you're serving several masters, whereas in a scholarly journal an editor has a lot of submissions coming in, and he doesn't have to worry about selling journals.
If he does he's probably not running a very good journal because people in his field are going to go for it. So he can hold authors to a standard that says well, look, if the reviewers say that you can do it, and he sends them to anonymous reviewers for this reason. Now, I think something should be pointed out here is maybe Mr. Dembski's book was reviewed by people who know about math and probability theory.
I don't have a dog in that fight. I don't care or know anything about that stuff, but I do know that it's not biology. It wasn't published in a biology series, it has nothing to do with evolution biology, and so when someone said this is a peer reviewed contribution that bears on evolutionary biology, we say where's the beef.
Q. So there's a couple of points there. One is that this academic press is not subject to the same peer review as for instance you described that would occur at Nature or Science?
A. Not necessarily at all, right.
Q. And we don't know what the peer review was for that if any?
A. We don't know. I don't know. I have no personal knowledge.
One of the things we learned from KvD was that a defense of ID largely proceeded as if Dembski's ideas were of peripheral interest -- particular points could be referred to in an attempt to bolster ID's status on authority, but not much more than that. It seems likely to me that any future case that has ID as a point as issue is likely to follow the same pattern. While Behe and Minnich are "damaged goods" based upon their trial testimony, Dembski is likely off any future case's witness list because of the incredible amount of baggage his presence would bring, baggage that became evident through Barbara Forrest's testimony in KvD, baggage that was efficiently dissected in Jeff Shallit's rebuttal report and deposition.
Dembski has good cause for disappointment over KvD, both in his treatment therein as a major player whose conjectures, nonetheless, played only a small role in the case, and in the result that relegated "intelligent design" to history's scrap-heap of ideas.
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker