December 10, 2006 - December 16, 2006 Archives

Mathematician, theologian, and philosopher William A. Dembski branches out, now lending his vocal talents to a Flash animation taking a low-humor poke at federal district court judge John E. Jones III. Jones is represented as a pull-to-speak doll spouting snippets of his decision in a high-pitched voice with added farting noises, and various pro-science advocates (myself included) are represented as pulling the string. Dembski read aloud various portions of the 2005 decision of the court in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, and then pitch-shifted up the result. Pitch-shifting in pop culture is most famously associated with David Seville, the stage name of Ross Bagdasarian, whose single, “Witch Doctor”, went to the top of the charts in 1958. Seville’s other pop culture contribution with pitch-shifting was The Chipmunks, the musical phenomenon that later became a cartoon franchise, with characters Alvin, Simon, and Theodore as the chipmunks and Seville as songwriter/manager/father figure.

Bwa ha ha!

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Just when you think the ID guys can’t get any sillier and more immature, you see stuff like this. Dembski admits on his blog:

Over at www.overwhelmingevidence.com there is a flash animation featuring Judge Jones spouting inanities (inanities that he actually did write or say). There’s been a design inference made that it’s my voice in the Jones animation. A disgruntled former UD commenter KeithS slowed it down and lowered the pitch. Well, it’s true, it actually is me.

Now I’m wondering if the reason we’ve seen Dembski’s writing output decline is because he is spending all his time designing anti-Judge Jones flash animations. And I’m wondering who did the grunts.

Update: see below the fold.

Lame Ducks Weigh In

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It looks like the lame ducks in Washington have decided to issue an opinion and an appendix accusing the Smithsonian of discriminating against Sternberg and politicizing science. That’s right; anti-evolution politicians are accusing the Smithsonian of being the one responsible for politicizing science. It comes as no surprise that the media complaints division is on the story. Expect WorldNet Daily and other reputable news organizations to run with the story.

The opinion was prepared by congressional staff and was commissioned by Congressman Mark Souder, the chairman of the subcommittee on criminal justice, drug policy, and human resources, and who in 2000 co-hosted a Discovery Institute briefing on intelligent design aimed at persuading congress that ID needed political support. Soon after the briefing, he even read a defense of ID, given to him by the Discovery Institute, into the congressional record. On his website you can find the typical pedestrian arguments against evolution.

So it comes as no surprise that the staff of this friend of the DI has decided that the Smithsonian violated Sternberg’s rights and that new laws need to be passed to establish affirmative action for anti-evolutionists. Because, according to them, judging anti-evolutionists on the merit of their views of science is discrimination. Next they’ll be telling us that Los Alamos should hire people who have doubts about gravity.

Yawn. Can’t they come up with anything original after their devastating loss in Dover?

Darwin, Marx and Bad Scholarship

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Edward T. Oakes may be a good teacher of theology at St. Mary of the Lake, but he is a lousy historian of Darwinism. Witness the following statement from his review of Richard Weikart's work, From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany:

Spencer might well have been the first to coin the phrase "survival of the fittest." But Darwin enthusiastically adopted it in the 6th edition of his Origin of Species as a substitute term for "natural selection." Nor did he ever demur when other advocates of evolution's social application came pleading their case. Karl Marx asked if he might dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin, which request Darwin declined only because he did not want to offend the religious sensibilities of his deeply Christian wife.

There are a host of problems with this short extract. Find out more at Stranger Fruit, where you can leave comments.

Larry Moran has a long post here reflecting on the DI’s portrayal of Judge Jones as a plagiarist. At first, Moran felt that Jones had really done something wrong, but he appears to have taken to heart the explanations here and elsewhere that judges are expected to follow the proposed findings of fact of the party whom they find most convincing. It seems like a simple, innocent misunderstanding. But Moran goes on to make comments that seem like criticisms of the legal culture’s standards of ethics and “standards of brilliance,” that I think deserve some discussion.

Read the rest at Positive Liberty

In its latest issue, New Scientist has published a story—Intelligent design: The God Lab—and an editorial—It’s still about religion—about that double-secret, DI funded research center: the Biologic Institute.

The reticence cloaks an unorthodox agenda. “We are the first ones doing what we might call lab science in intelligent design,” says George Weber, the only one of Biologic’s four directors who would speak openly with me. “The objective is to challenge the scientific community on naturalism.” Weber is not a scientist but a retired professor of business and administration at the Presbyterian Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. He heads the Spokane chapter of Reasonstobelieve.org, a Christian organisation that seeks to challenge Darwinism….

Last week I learned that following his communication with New Scientist, Weber has left the board of the Biologic Institute. Douglas Axe, the lab’s senior researcher and spokesman, told me in an email that Weber “was found to have seriously misunderstood the purpose of Biologic and to have misrepresented it”. Axe’s portrayal of the Biologic Institute’s purpose excludes religious connotation. He says that the lab’s main objective “is to show that the design perspective can lead to better science”, although he allows that the Biologic Institute will “contribute substantially to the scientific case for intelligent design”.

Clearly, the Discovery Institute has established the Biologic Institute a few decades too late. The Institute for Creation Research and the Creation Research Society have been doing research to challenge naturalism for a long time. They are so prestigious in the field that they have even created their own research journals for publishing their papers. This does not bode well for the Discovery and Biologic Institutes because they will have a hard time breaking the stranglehold that those two research centers have on the industry. For decades now, the ICR and CRS have been telling us that their research is going to revolutionize science in five years time. How can the Biologic and Discovery Institutes compete with such success?

We here at the Thumb wish the Biologic and Discovery Institutes all the luck in turning the ID public relations campaign into a working scientific program. They’ll need it.

Get Out the Vote

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If you haven’t voted for us today, now is the time to do it.

Casey Luskin has a response to some of the criticisms that we and others have made against the DI's silly publicity stunt about the Kitzmiller decision. We've pointed out that courts use proposed findings of fact in this way all the time and that appellate courts are fine with it in almost all cases. But Luskin claims that, no, "[t]he Third Circuit, which governs all federal courts in Pennsylvania, has strong law discouraging judges from simply adopting 'verbatim or near verbatim' the findings of fact of parties in a case." This, as we would expect, is not really accurate.

Over at DI’s blog, John West—who, as I noted before, isn’t a lawyer—is still trying to pretend that defenders of evolution are taking his criticisms hard. Apparently we’re “in a tizzy” over the DI’s complaint that Judge Jones followed the standard procedure of adopting in large part the proposed findings of fact prepared by the side that wins the case. As we’ve noted, this is exactly what proposed findings of fact are for, and West’s claim that Jones did something improper in following a common procedure—a procedure blessed by the Supreme Court, by circuit courts, and so forth—is either profoundly ignorant or even more profoundly dishonest.

Rather than respond to these points, or to me, or to Ed Brayton, or to any of the others who have written about this subject, West cites a commenter to The Thumb—not a blogger at The Thumb, but a commenter—who makes the (correct) argument that the reason courts ask parties to write proposed findings of fact is because this procedure is more likely to avoid mistakes in the details. West responds sarcastically: “That’s right, it’s not the judge’s job to write his or her own opinion, or to do his or her own analysis. It’s better to have the experts do it. Why not just dispense with the job of judge altogether?”

Excuse me, Dr. West, but Judge Jones did write his own opinion. Even your own “study” does not substantiate a claim that the Judge did not write the opinion or do his own analysis: it only makes the (irrelevant) claim that Jones adopted large portions of the factual portion of the opinion—a portion of about 4,000 words out of an opinion about 30,000 words long—from the plaintiffs’ proposed findings of fact. Judge Jones wrote every single word of the opinion, relying heavily on the proposed findings prepared by the side that he found most convincing—which is the standard procedure in courts of law.

West even goes so far as to say that Jones made no “attribution” in the opinion (although, of course, West isn’t calling Jones a plagiarist, you know….) But Jones attributed every word of it. The opinion begins,

This Memorandum Opinion constitutes the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law which are based upon the Court’s review of the evidence presented at trial, the testimony of the witnesses at trial, the parties’ proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with supporting briefs, other documents and evidence in the record, and applicable law.

In addition, every factual claim in the opinion is supported by a citation to the record.

If West were a lawyer, we could be certain that he would know better—and his conduct would be unprofessional. (It would, in my opinion, violate Rule 8.2(a) of the A.B.A. Model Rules of Professional Conduct.) As Joe McFaul has pointed out, we haven’t heard the actual lawyers in the Kizmiller case echoing the DI’s shameful publicity stunt. I think we all know why. Since he’s not, we might have given him the benefit of the doubt that he simply doesn’t know how trial courts work. But with the rules and the cases presented to him on The Thumb, he is clearly willful in his ignorance.

I have written a comprehensive fisking of the Discovery Institute’s absolutely laughable “study” (yes, these people really do believe that using the word count function in a word processor is a “study”; no wonder they can’t put any actual scientific research) at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Comments may be left there.

The Discovery Institute has put out a press release that is flabbergasting even by their standards.

In it, they breathlessly announce that

“Judge John Jones copied verbatim or virtually verbatim 90.9% of his 6,004-word section on whether intelligent design is science from the ACLU’s proposed ‘Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law’ submitted to him nearly a month before his ruling,” said Dr. John West, Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.”

Now, Vice President for Legal Affairs John West is not a lawyer, so he may not be familiar with the fact that this is exactly what proposed findings of fact are for. They are proposed findings which a judge, if he or she agrees, then incorporates as his or her own findings. Both the school district and the plaintiffs filed proposed findings, and the judge went with the findings he found most convincing. Incidentally, the school district doesn’t seem to have ever objected to the plaintiffs’ filing their proposed findings.

My recent post on evolution and political conservatism started an interesting conversation over the relationship between science, conservatism, and libertarianism, between myself and Larry Arnhart. Here is Arnhart’s first post, my reply, his surreply, and my most recent comment.

The Science Blogging Conference has been growing quickly. It is now looking for its 100th registrant. Will you be him or her?

Remember, if you come to the conference, Prof. Steve Steve will be on hand to drink you under the table like he drank down Chris Mooney.

While you’re at it, go vote of us again for the Best Science Blog of 2006. You can vote once every twenty-four hours. Right now we are in a race with In the Pipeline for third place. Please don’t let us lose to a the blog of a big-oil executive who wants to open-pit mine the Arctic Wildlife Refuge (or whatever In the Pipeline is really about).

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