Response to Barbara Forrest's <i>Kitzmiller</i> Account Part VI: Three Conspiracy Theories about Pro-ID Expert Witnesses - Evolution News & Views

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Response to Barbara Forrest's Kitzmiller Account Part VI: Three Conspiracy Theories about Pro-ID Expert Witnesses

Barbara Forrest has posted an article documenting her Kitzmiller experience here. In it, she does a lot of namecalling, saying ID-proponents are "creationists," "legal mincemeat," "jaw-droppingly stupid," "evangelical scholars," "part of the Religious Right," "mean-spirited," having "contempt for the judicial system," promoting "warmed-over creationism," having "cocksure confidence," using "nastiness," because "they make things up and/or slander their opposition," using "long-discredited pro-ID arguments," reduced to "peddling ID" and "riding the coattails of conservative pundit Ann Coulter," while arguing using "standard creationist canards," which "highlight the bankruptcy of ID and the blustering cowardice of its leaders, who must capture support with brazen deceit and sarcastic punditry." The previous four parts of this ten-part response discussed her arguments about the religious beliefs of ID-proponents (Part II and Part III), motives and "wedge document" (Part IV), and the origins of intelligent design (Part V). This next section discusses a particular portion of her article which puts forth three contradictory theories about why some ID-proponents did not testify during the Kitzmiller trial.

Which of Forrest's Three Contradictory Theories are We Supposed to Believe?
Barbara Forrest offers three contradictory theories (two of which are conspiracy theories) for why some ID proponents did not testify as expert witnesses in Kitzmiller, yet she writes as if they are all true. It's not my fault that her arguments are confusing; I'm just going to make her respective arguments separately and explain why none of them really make sense. The reader will see that it is impossible for each theory to be true.

Conspiracy Theory #1: They were scared off by my great arguments

Dr. Forrest praises herself writing:

Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell's exodus is explained by their fear of cross-examination. The public shredding that Irigonegaray had given ID creationists in Kansas one month earlier was still fresh [17]. Moreover, Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell knew what the plaintiffs' expert witnesses would say in court because they had our reports. DI must have known that our case would be devastating to the defense --and thus to ID-- if it was argued before a judge who respected the truth and the Constitution.

[...]

"It probably wasn't difficult for DI and TMLC to figure out that, armed with my work and that of the other witnesses for the plaintiffs, halfway decent attorneys would make legal mincemeat of them."

So Dr. Forrest accuses Dembski, Meyer and Campbell from not testifying because they were afraid of being proven wrong by attorneys "armed" with her "work." Yet Dembski easily dealt with the claims of the Darwinist Experts in his Rebuttal to Reports by Opposing Expert Witnesses. If Dembski couldn't handle the arguments in court, then why did he write this rebuttal? I purposefully spent the first five sections of this response dealing with Dr. Forrest's in-court arguments to show that they cite irrelevant evidence to propose rules which, if applied fairly, would threaten the teaching of evolution. Her arguments aren't hard to deal with at all.

Moreover, if Discovery Institute fellows were all scared of the arguments from the plaintiffs, then why did two DI Senior Fellows -- Michael Behe and Scott Minnich -- remain on as expert witnesses for the trial? Dr. Forrest's "DI was scared off by my arguments" theory might make her feel smart, but it is betrayed by the facts. Conspiracy theory #1 is wrong.

But her claim here is even more amazing: She claims that Pedro Irigonegaray gave a "public shredding" of Darwin-skeptics in Kansas, and that ID proponents didn't show up in Kitzmiller--because they feared a "public shredding." Yet in Kansas, the Darwinists did not show up for the Kansas State Board of Education hearings on evolution. She claims at length that the Darwinists didn't show up because they "boycotted the hearings." (The only Darwinist who chose to show up was the attorney Pedro Irigonegaray.) Perhaps that's true, but perhaps the reasons some ID-proponents didn't testify in Kitzmiller also had nothing to do with being "afraid" of a "public shredding."

Were I to use Dr. Forrest's style, I would easily argue that the Darwinists were afraid of a "public shredding" in Kansas. But I won't make that argument about the Darwinists in Kansas because that would be what Dr. Forrest is doing: making false conspiracy theories designed to boost your own ego.

In the end, it's no wonder that Dr. Forrest praises Irigonegaray's methods as "shredding" the ID-proponents: his primary tactic was to interrogate the scientists testifying at the Kansas hearings about their religious beliefs. That's Barbara Forrest's favorite line of argumentation.

Theory #2: They were fired by Thomas More Legal Center
Ironically, Forrest's own words betray her conspiracy theory #1 about why Campbell didn't participate:

Everything was proceeding on schedule until only minutes before the deposition was to begin, when defense attorney Patrick Gillen announced that TMLC would "no longer retain" Campbell as a witness because Campbell had "retained counsel through Discovery Institute" and had "discussed matters [with DI] to which I am not privy."

But wait--I thought Campbell didn't testify because he was scared of a "public shredding" by lawyers "armed" with Forrest's arguments from Creationism's Trojan Horse (see conspiracy theory #1 above)? But now we learn that Campbell didn't testify because Thomas More fired him, and it had nothing to do with fear of Forrest.

This theory appears to be true, which is why I haven't called it a "conspiracy theory."

So in one breath Dr. Forrest would boast that Campbell withdrew because DI was scared of a "devastating" case that would come from lawyers who read Creationism's Trojan Horse, and in the other breath acknowledges that it was TMLC that fired Campbell. Perhaps, as Pat Gillen stated, Campbell's withdrawal had nothing to do with "fear" but because TMLC was angry that one of their witnesses talked to a group they didn't like (Discovery Institute).

Both theories can't be true, and if Barbara Forrest thinks that Discovery Institute was scared of her arguments, then she hasn't been reading the extensive responses to her on Evolution News (and responses from other ID-proponents).

Conspiracy Theory #3: ID proponents didn't testify because Kitzmiller was a poor test case
Dr. Forrest writes:

The problem, however, was that DI did not want this case because the Dover board, urged on by TMLC [15], had explicitly crafted its policy to promote "intelligent design." Having come to view that term as a legal liability after encountering opposition in Ohio, Kansas, and elsewhere, DI tried unsuccessfully to persuade the board to either restate the ID policy in sanitized language or withdraw it [16]. They were scared to death of a case they had not initiated and could not control.

I will give Forrest credit for correctly stating that Discovery did not initiate the policy in this case, as it was started by TMLC. Unfortunately, Judge Jones and the plaintiffs "superb" attorneys disagree with her on this point who stated in closing arguments, "[t]his is the Discovery Institute that advised both William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell before the board voted to change the biology curriculum." (Day 21 Pm, pg. 28) Judge Jones accepted the plaintiffs' argument and canonized into legal cannons the false history that Discovery Institute initiated Dover's policy by writing, "The Board relied solely on legal advice from two organizations with demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions, the Discovery Institute and the TMLC."

Thus commentators on this issue have [wrongly] stated that Discovery Institute helped Dover pass its policy and that Dover "worked with the Discovery Institute to promote the institute's agenda of intelligent design":

To determine the purpose of the requirement of teaching intelligent design, the judge examined the statements and actions of the members of the school board, which showed that the members who sponsored the new rule had religious motivations and worked with the Discovery Institute to promote the institute's agenda of intelligent design, including arranging for science teachers to watch a Discovery Institute film entitled Icons of Evolution. (Intelligent Judging -- Evolution in the Classroom and the Courtroom)

But of course the Icons of Evolution video is not about ID at all, but simply provides scientific critique of evolution. Former Discovery Institute employee Seth Cooper, mentioned by Judge Jones in the opinion, explained what really happened:

To be clear, prior to the filing of the lawsuit I never advised the members of the Dover Board in a privileged, attorney-client capacity. Further, I never advised members of the Dover Board to mandate the teaching of the theory of intelligent design or to adopt the ID policy at issue in the case. Rather, I strongly urged members of the Dover Board to either drop entirely the issue of alternatives to the teaching of evolution, or to only present scientific arguments both supporting and challenging the contemporary version of Darwin's theory and the chemical evolutionary theories for the origin of the first life. The Dover Board had their own legal counsel in their Solicitor and the public-interest law firm that they later hired. Members of the Dover Board who adopted the ID policy acted completely contrary to my strongest suggestions.

(Statement by Seth L. Cooper Concerning Discovery Institute and the Decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board Intelligent Design Case)

But Forrest's statement here shows that the Dover Board did not rely upon the advice of Discovery Institute. Perhaps Judge Jones was wrong and Forrest was right (more on Judge Jones misstatements of facts in the next sections).

But what about the conspiracy theory here? Forrest thinks that Discovery Institute feels that ID is unconstitutional and that it is a "legal liability" so we abandoned the case. But the reasons we recommend not requiring the teaching of ID are distinct from concerns over "legal liability" because they are policy related. This is explained in Discovery Institute's Science Education Policy:

As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.

Nonetheless, we make it clear that, "Although Discovery Institute does not advocate requiring the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, it does believe there is nothing unconstitutional about voluntarily discussing the scientific theory of design in the classroom."

We don't think ID is unconstitutional, but we do think it should not be required because the political climate makes it dangerous to pro-ID scientists when ID is mandated.

For example, when Scott Minnich testified as an expert witness at trial, he immediately faced harsh attacks at his home university--the University of Idaho. An evolution-only speech-code was imposed by the university president, threatening his academic freedom, and Eugenie Scott was brought in by the science faculty to single out Minnich and make him feel uncomfortable during a public lecture. All this occurred despite the fact that Minnich had never even taught his students about ID. Incidents like this threaten the research and careers of pro-ID scientists and validate our claim that the political climate makes it unsafe for school boards to mandate ID and turn it into a political debate, rather a scientific one.

But what of Dr. Forrest's intimation that Discovery feels ID has legal problems? We submitted an extensive amicus brief arguing that ID is constitutional, and two of DI senior fellows still participated. We don't think ID is unconstitutional.

Dr. Forrest is right that from the beginning, Discovery Institute realized that this case was a bad set of facts for teaching intelligent design: it started with a school board that didn't even understand the theory and railroaded an unwise policy past protesting science teachers while having clear religious, and not scientific motives, for passing their ID policy. These are not the kind of cool-headed school board members who genuinely care about science education that we typically encounter. But this conspiracy theory also fails.

The truth
If Forrest wanted to know what really happened and why some witnesses chose not to testify, all she had to do was ask, or look at Discovery's plain explanation on our website:

Setting the Record Straight about Discovery Institute's Role in the Dover School District Case:

Mr. Thompson blames Discovery Institute for the non-participation of Discovery Institute Fellows Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, and John Angus Campbell as expert witnesses on behalf of the Dover board. However, the non-participation of these scholars was due to Thomas More, which discharged them.

Meyer, Dembski and Campbell were all willing to testify as expert witnesses. They simply requested that they have their own counsel present at their depositions in order to protect their rights. Yet Thomas More would not permit this. Mr. Thompson has been quoted in media accounts as stating that to permit independent counsel to assert the witnesses' rights would create a "conflict of interest"--a claim for which he can offer no legal justification. When the witnesses refused to proceed without legal counsel to protect them, Thomas More cancelled the deposition of Prof. Campbell and effectively fired all three expert witnesses. After dismissing its own witnesses, Thomas More made an 11th-hour offer to Dr. Meyer alone to allow him to have counsel after all. But Meyer declined the offer because the previous actions of Thomas More had undermined his confidence in their legal judgment.

Since Meyer, Dembski, and Campbell were discharged, it has been reported that two other expert witnesses for the school board have withdrawn from the case. These two witnesses are not affiliated with Discovery Institute, and Discovery Institute had nothing to do with any decisions surrounding their withdrawal.

Final Charges of Abandonment
Finally, Dr. Forrest writes that "like Dembski, Meyer, and Campbell, neither DeWolf nor Cooper was anywhere in sight when they had a chance to defend ID in court." Is this a fair charge? Firstly, as an attorney of record for Discovery Institute, David DeWolf submitted over 80 pages of amicus briefs to Judge Jones; it seems that David DeWolf was indeed quite busy during this case. Secondly, given that Dr. Forrest admits that there was a falling out between Discovery and TMLC, one would not expect a Discovery lawyer to work on the case with TMLC in the courtroom. Thirdly, Seth Cooper was not even working at Discovery Institute during the time of the trial, as he had accepted a new job wherein he would not have been able to attend the trial, even if he had wanted. Even if Discovery was assisting TMLC in the courtroom (which they were not), Cooper would not have been there because he was no longer employed by Discovery Institute at the time the trial started.

Apart from her accurate intimation that TMLC fired John Angus Campbell, Dr. Forrest's theories are bankrupt. They contradict one-another, betray the facts, and make unfair allegations of abandonment against people like Seth Cooper who was not even working at Discovery Institute at the time of the trial. One of her theories claims that DI fellows didn't testify because they were scared of attorneys "armed with my work." Her theories seem like an exercise in ego-boosting rather than anything relating to reality.