Seth Cooper is upset. Apparently unsatisfied with his attempt to smear the Dover, PA school board that replaced the “intelligent design” advocates whose ill-considered policy cost the district \$1M by blaming the replacements rather than those responsible, Cooper has another screed up to try to claim somebody, anybody, else may be guilty of something or other. Cooper is at least on board with the current target of choice: ID advocates have declared open season on Judge John E. Jones III’s character and skills. Cooper teams up with Leonard G. Brown III for this one.
Cooper is mainly mad about the Foundation for Thought and Ethics being excluded by Jones from direct participation in the Kitzmiller case last year. The result is a sob story with rather a lot of cock and bull in it. Given that I realize that I am mortal, I’ll just spend a bit of time with this segment of Cooper’s prose:
On April 28, 2005 Texan Jon Buell received subpoenas from the ACLU. Buell is President of FTE, the non-profit organization that publishes Pandas. Headquartered near Dallas, FTE receives revenues from sales of the textbook and has intellectual property ownership of its contents. From a handful of news stories, Buell was dimly aware of the distant Pennsylvania lawsuit. He had received no contact from the Dover Boardâ€™s attorneys. ACLU subpoenas demanded he be deposed in May, and that he turn over all documents related to Pandas. Surprisingly, the ACLU also demanded Buell turn over all unpublished working-draft materials for FTEâ€™s as-yet-unreleased textbook, The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems.
The ACLUâ€™s subpoenas of FTE were a broadside representing potential catastrophe for the publisher. The ACLU had secured as consultants the pro-Darwin and Oakland-based anti-ID lobby group, National Center for Science Education (NCSE). The NCSE has long been a harsh critic of Pandas, and the ACLU sought to place the important Design of Life draft into their hands.
FTE promptly filed motions in Texas and Pennsylvania for a protective order to quash the subpoenas. On May 12, 2005, Judge Jones conducted a hearing. He entered a weak protection order, denying the motion to quash. FTE was required to hand over its Design of Life manuscript and related Pandas documents. Judge Jones simply warned the ACLU and NCSE not to publicize Design of Lifeâ€™s contents prior to publication and instructed the ACLU to notify FTE attorneys as to who received draft copies.
OK, so Cooper didn’t like the fact that drafts of The Design of Life were put into the hands of the plaintiffs and their lawyers and consultants. Is that the complete story, Seth? Well, of course not.
What Seth doesn’t say anywhere in his essay is the one name that must figure largely in any complete history of this event: William A. Dembski. Dembski’s involvement is more than any missing footnote, no, Dembski’s affiliations and actions were central to this little melodrama. Moreover, once one appreciates Dembski’s role in this, the entire thesis that Jones performed as an activist judge in the release of The Design of Life can be seen to be so much poppycock.
(See also Ed Brayton’s post detailing why Cooper and Grumm are wrong on the FTE “timeliness” issue.)
In his expert report prepared for the Thomas More Law Center in the Kitzmiller case, William A. Dembski identified himself, among other things, as having worked as academic editor for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics since 1997. Dembski’s selection as a defense witness was presented to the court in early March, 2005. One would assume that Dembski had been contacted at some point prior to that in order to gain his approval to be called as an expert witness. So, what this establishes is that a representative of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics was not only aware of the Kitzmiller case by that early March date (no later than 3 March), but had a particularly close relationship with the defending attorneys of the Thomas more Law Center. Cooper and Grumm’s implication that FTE’s cognizance of their involvement in the case came so late as April 28th is twaddle. The person to be upset with over FTE’s being late-off-the-mark in pressing for an official role in the case beyond having their Academic Editor, William Dembski, serve as an expert witness, would be either William Dembski himself, if he did not communicate about the issues in the KvD case, or Jon Buell, if Buell ignored warnings from Dembski.
As to The Design of Life, take a moment to reflect on this passage from FTE Academic Editor William Dembski’s expert report in the KvD case.
7 Of Pandas and People
I have a special interest in the supplemental biology textbook Of Pandas and People.51 Since 1997, I have worked as the academic editor for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, which publishes this book.52 Moreover, since the summer of 2001, I have worked on producing the third edition of this book. Not only have I acted as the development editor of the third edition, but I have also become its principal author, rewriting substantial portions of the second edition as well as adding a great deal of new material, much of which I have written myself but some of which I have solicited from Michael Behe and Jonathan Wells (who, along with me, are now coauthors of the third edition, the original authors being Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis). The book has so drastically expanded in size and scope that the third edition is being renamed The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems. It is due to be published this year (2005).
Having worked so closely in revising, expanding, and updating the second edition of this book, I feel I know it better than anyone. It is clear that the book is now dated. Indeed, the first edition was published in 1989 and the second edition (published in 1993) involves only minor changes in relation to the first edition.53 Of Pandas and People was and remains the only intelligent design textbook. In fact, it was the first place where the phrase â€œintelligent designâ€ appeared in its present use. Since the second edition of this book, intelligent design has gone from a small and marginalized challenge confronting neo-Darwinian evolution to a comprehensive scientific research program for re-conceptualizing biology (cf. Appendix 4).
What this passage clearly shows, and what Cooper and Grumm pass over in silence, is the fact that Dembski relies upon his experience in producing The Design of Life as a reason for him to be considered an expert on the scientific status of the 1993 edition of Of Pandas and People. A basic fact of life for people writing expert reports in our legal system is that the process of discovery means that anything relied upon in an expert report may be requested by the opposing attorneys as substantiation of the claims made. And here we have Dembski saying that the reason his opinion about Of Pandas and People should be taken more seriously than someone else’s was exactly because of his work in drafting The Design of Life. The plaintiffs simply requested the referenced material that Dembski based his claim upon, as was their right. This was via the usual procedure of discovery.
When one wishes to assign “blame” for The Design of Life being distributed beyond FTE’s keeping, it simply makes no sense to claim that Jones engaged in “activism”. One could ding William Dembski for using The Design of Life as a reference in his expert report, which was the proximal trigger — and sufficient reason — for the plaintiffs’s request. One could ding the lawyers of the Thomas More Law Center, who may not have communicated strongly enough the basic rules that govern expert reports and the need to turn over referenced materials. One could even ding the various lawyers of the Discovery Institute, Seth Cooper then among them, who failed to advise the DI-affiliated experts on general procedures of discovery. The plaintiffs’s experts certainly were warned about being careful concerning what, precisely, was cited as a substantiating reference in their expert reports. In fact, TMLC lawyers requested the manuscript of plaintiffs’s expert John Haught’s book, Is Nature Enough?, but because Haught did not rely upon it in his expert report, plaintiffs’s attorneys declined to provide it.
In this case, an ounce of prevention might have been better than the reams and reams of bellyaching that the Discovery Institute and Foundation for Thought and Ethics have since engaged in over the release of The Design of Life. And the person best situated to have provided that modicum of sensible action, both to protect The Design of Life and to have properly and timely advised FTE of possible legal involvement, was FTE Academic Editor — and one-time TMLC expert witness candidate — William A. Dembski. It isn’t Judge Jones’s fault that in neither instance did Dembski do so.