Conflicting Explanations for Withdrawal of Dover Experts?

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I reported yesterday about William Dembski, John Campbell and Stephen Meyer being withdrawn as expert witnesses by the Thomas More Law Center in the Dover lawsuit. There is now developing some contradictory explanations for that withdrawal. The York Daily Record reported that the TMLC refused to allow the three Discovery Institute (DI) fellows to have their own legal representation present during depositions because it was a "conflict of interest":

Dembski, a mathematician and scientific philosopher, said the Thomas More Law Center, which is defending the school board, basically fired him because he wanted to have his own attorney present during the depositions...

Thompson said the problem arose in the past several weeks when the Discovery Institute insisted that its people have separate legal representation.

But last night, Dembski posted on his blog that it was not the Discovery Institute's insistence on separate legal representation that was a problem at all. In fact, Dembski says that the TMLC would allow Stephen Meyer of the DI to have legal representation, but would not allow Dembski to have an attorney with him and that it was the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), for whom he works as an editor, who insisted on the separate representation:

The Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm which had hired me as an expert witness, did not want the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, which publishes the ID textbook that under dispute in the Dover case (Of Pandas and People) and for which I am the academic editor, to provide me with additional legal counsel when the ACLU was to depose me on June 13th. I expect I would have gone along with the Thomas More Law Center, except that they were prepared to let Stephen Meyer have legal representation. This put me in an impossible situation with my employer FTE — how was I to justfiy to FTE my refusal to let their attorney be present when Thomas More was permitting Discovery to have additional legal counsel present for Stephen Meyer? When I indicated that I would need to have FTE’s counsel at the deposition, the Thomas More Law Center fired me as an expert witness.

This makes no sense for several reasons. First, because in the interview with the YDR, Dembski said that the confict was between the TMLC and the DI:

"Discovery and Thomas More have their differences," he said. "I have a lot of loyalty with Discovery."

According to Dembski's post last night, the problems were not between the DI and the TMLC, but between the TMLC and FTE. Or was he referring to some other set of problems between the DI and TMLC? Second, both Meyer and Campbell, who are also DI Fellows but do not work for the FTE like Dembski does, were also fired as expert witnesses by the TMLC. And the head of the TMLC says that he fired them because the DI insisted on separate representation for all three of them. Third, Campbell was actually withdrawn as an expert witness before Dembski was, nearly a full week before, then Dembski, then Meyer. Lastly, if the TMLC insists that it was a "conflict of interest" to have separate attorneys present during depositions, why would they insist this only with Dembski and not with the others? These explanations don't seem to be consistent with one another. Someone isn't telling the truth.

As I said, I think there are very deep divisions between the DI and the TMLC. I suspect the DI is unhappy both with the fact that the TMLC took the case, thus risking a Federal ruling that ends any chance of getting ID into schools, and with the way they're handling it. Thompson's performance so far, which has included a public letter calling for the firing of a tenured university professor who wrote a letter to the school board criticizing their policy, hasn't exactly been inspiring for their side I'm sure. So I'm sure there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than has been made public.

Incidentally, Dembski himself put a plug on his own blog for my article on PT about the situation, and left a comment in reply to that article as well. Unfortunately, he didn't clear up any of these interesting inconsistencies.

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Dissent in Dover from reality based community - scott pilutik on June 21, 2005 12:06 AM

Via Panda's Thumb (stories here and here), and as reported by the York Daily Record, the Dover School District's attack on evolution, as funded by the Thomas More Law Center, has exposed an interesting rift between Intelligent Design 'secularists' and... Read More

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To an interested outsider, it sounds like there are at least two and perhaps more strong preferences for how the “Official Truth” should be positioned. Perhaps the risk is that any ultimate court decision might explicitly rule against one perferred version of the Truth over another.

Who knows, maybe we’re seeing the symptoms of what might happen if ID were to win out and be presented in classrooms. Right now, the notion is so vague (“using unstated mechanisms, some unstated intelligence did something unspecified at some unspecified time(s) in the past”) that anyone trying to present this as “science” would face doctrinal difficulties as soon as they tried to answer any students’ questions at all. How WOULD the teacher field questions like: Who was the designer? Did the Designer create entire organisms or just tiny molecular substructures? If there was no Designer, how could we tell?

The teacher would have two choices: play dumb (“Nobody can answer any of these questions, now or ever”) or teach their own denomination’s religious position. Since neither one is suitable for public schools, perhaps schoolteachers should also ask to have a lawyer present.

I wouldn’t put too much stress on a reporter’s condensation of a phone interview with Dembski into a couple of sentences, nor assume that Dembski was privi to all the arguments between law firms.

Pete, that’s probably a fair point to make. There are inconsistencies here, but they may not be due to intentional deceit.

I find this fascination with Dembski, well, fascinating! I mean, really, who is Bill Dembski?

He’s a minor scholar, if that, who has written unremarkable books that have been discredited. He was fired from Baylor, though to be accurate, Baylor did not have the wherewithall to actually fire Dembski, rather, they let him ferment for four years until his contract ran out. Now, the Alfred E. Neuman of Intelligent Design, is employed at a minor Bible college. Also, he edits the vacation Bible school level, scientifically discredited, coffee table picture book “Of Pandas and People” which is laughingly hawked as a “textbook”, although not even the most irrational school board has approved its use.

And, yet, amid all this mundaneness, he’s the focal point of scores if not hundreds of real scientists, engineers and educators who follow his every move.

Dembski has become the Paris Hilton of Intelligent Design; unremarkable for anything he’s produced, but an object of intense curiosity nevertheless. We’ll know I’m on the right track when Dembski starts toting around a little dog. I’d suggest a Beagle.

So who’s the Nicole Richie of ID…Behe? Meyers? Johnson?

Why do expert witnesses need lawyers?

Dembski has become the Paris Hilton of Intelligent Design; unremarkable for anything he’s produced, but an object of intense curiosity nevertheless. We’ll know I’m on the right track when Dembski starts toting around a little dog. I’d suggest a Beagle.

But I thought that Paris Hilton was seriously considering withdrawing from public life.…

We should be so lucky.

Re “Why do expert witnesses need lawyers?”

Maybe they’re afraid somebody else’s lawyer might want to ask them questions that they don’t want to have to answer? (Or was the question rhetorical?)

Henry

neo-anti-luddite Wrote:

So who’s the Nicole Richie of ID … Behe? Meyers? Johnson?

Cordova?

Let’s try and unwind this mess:

1. TMLC (looks like they’re heading to the same place that Thomas More did) does not want separate legal representation.

2. The expert witnesses and the organizations which they are employed want lawyers representing said organizations at the deposition.

3. The witnesses are fired serially and not in parallel.

4. Apparently, at the time that Dembski was fired Meyer was still thinking he could be represented by DI.

Conclusion: TMLC tries to strip each of their witnesses of their personal representation one by one and tells them multiple stories. Dembski has two organizations that could represent him and when DI is stripped, he tries unsuccessfully to have FTE represent him.

If I was them I would want personal representation because of the following.

The opinions offered at trial by expert witnesses are running an increasingly greater gamut of scrutiny. First, they are subject to the judicial scientific reliability tests of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceutical Inc., 507 U.S. 579 (1993). Once that hurdle is cleared and the opinion given, the experts can be sued by the party who hired them, both in tort and contract, if the opinion did not live up to the party’s expectations.

Dembski has become the Paris Hilton of Intelligent Design; unremarkable for anything he’s produced, but an object of intense curiosity nevertheless. We’ll know I’m on the right track when Dembski starts toting around a little dog. I’d suggest a Beagle.

Wouldn’t that beg the question of where the Beagle came from?

It seems clear that the religious right is quite comfortable with the unrestrained use of lies and deception to accomplish their goals. Maybe TMLC was worried that independent counsel, whose duty it is to work in the best interest of their client, might remind them about, say, perjury ?

Finally, a testable version of the question : “What happens to Christians who lie (under oath) ?”

“Looks like there’s an argument brewing on the Generals’ bench… Oh, my! Dembski’s just taken a swing at Thompson! You know, it’s funny to reflect that going into this game, the Generals said they really thought they could take the Globetrotters this time…”

Re “Wouldn’t that beg the question of where the Beagle came from?”

The boat that Darwin went on for his trip? Probably came from some shipyard someplace. ;)

But I thought that Paris Hilton was seriously considering withdrawing from public life …

That just means that she will try to cross her legs more often.

{I’m so bad. I am a bad poster. I should be seen to the ‘wall.}

Re “TMLC (looks like they’re heading to the same place that Thomas More did) “

Huh? I thought TMLC was Thomas More? (his organization, that is.)

Mike Walker Wrote:

But I thought that Paris Hilton was seriously considering withdrawing from public life …

Yes, but the withdrawl method is notoriously unreliable.…

EmmaPeel Wrote:

Cordova?

Very nicely done. I second that nomination.

More than likely, the TMLC lawyers are not up to the task of defending ID with the obfuscating talking points the DI has developed over the years. They seem to be honestly fanatic. The professional IDists created the Kansas Kangroo Court because the honest fanatics were showing up at the public hearings. Unfortunately, the professional IDists can’t control the TMLC and Dover school board and they’ve either jumped ship or walked the plank.

Henry J:

I like your handle.

Why not? Under Daubert, Sal Cordova is as much a recognized expert in biology as is William Dembski.

last night, Dembski posted on his blog that it was not the Discovery Institute’s insistence on separate legal representation that was a problem at all. In fact, Dembski says that the TMLC would allow Stephen Meyer of the DI to have legal representation, but would not allow Dembski to have an attorney with him and that it was the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), for whom he works as an editor, who insisted on the separate representation

Someone already pointed out that this isn’t the only conflict in the story. Dembski says that he works for FTE, but that FTE has the same address has Dembski! What a lying s.o.b. At least Dembski has a great commute to work!

Follow the money. When Dembski says that the FTE demanded separate representation, that’s the same thing as saying that Dembski demanded separate representation.

The TMLC lawyers only fired Dembski after his publishing company FTE started interfering. TMLC knew that they couldn’t carry a case whose “expert witness” has a financial stake in the outcome of the trial.

Can Dembski open his mouth without telling a lie?

This is, of course, exactly an example of what would happen if “ID won”, sleazy details notwithstanding.

There would be an immediate and viscious battle over whose specific dogma to falsely present as “science”, and nobody thinks that “unspecified ‘designer’ who had something to do with the details of the bacterial flagellum” is going to satisfy anybody for long. Especially not anybody looking to make a lot of money selling officially sanctioned books.

This already happened before. It was called “the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”. It was also rerun as “Protestant prayer forced on Catholic students in US public schools”, and in many other versions.

This is why religion belongs in the Sunday School you choose, and public school, where all the kids are allowed to go, teaches mainstream science.

Why can’t people get this? Because of their faith? No, their faith is better protected when everyone’s freedom of conscience is protected, and in their heart, they know that.

Because of their desire to use power to force others, however grudgingly, to submit to them, and because of their greed. Let’s just not mix those things up with the teachings of Jesus.

from a litigator’s perspective, the whole thing just doesn’t add up. the experts are all supposed to be on the same side, and they all purport to place great importance on winning the case. so, it’s simply hard to imagine a difference of opinion so severe it could not be easily resolved by negotiation within the ID camp.

and anyway, what’s wrong with letting one or more experts have their own counsel present? isn’t their testimony going to be consistent no matter who represents them?

Dembski’s view of events is doubtful, at best. instead, it would be reasonable to infer the disagreement was not a “technical” one over the legal representation as Dembski claims, but the substance of what was to be said. so the lawyers decided to dump their experts.

someone on PT will probably know the answer to this: did any of the science experts who testified against the use of textbook disclaimers last year in Cobb County, Georgia (Selman case) bring their own lawyers to depositions or the court? I would be surprised to hear that was the case.

Re “TMLC (looks like they’re heading to the same place that Thomas More did) “

Huh? I thought TMLC was Thomas More? (his organization, that is.)

Thomas More Law Center is named after Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor for Henry VIII. He ended up being executed for failing to take Henry’s Oath of Supremacy. Ironically, TMLC’s namesake was a victim of theocracy. First there was the wedge, then there was the vise, and now there is the axe.

Eh, Dembski feels he needs two lawyers.

If I had called ID a mathematical restatement of a certain part of christian theology, and yet was in court alleging ID is science rather than religion, I’d want as many lawyers as I could get.

The opinions offered at trial by expert witnesses are running an increasingly greater gamut of scrutiny. First, they are subject to the judicial scientific reliability tests of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceutical Inc., 507 U.S. 579 (1993). Once that hurdle is cleared and the opinion given, the experts can be sued by the party who hired them, both in tort and contract, if the opinion did not live up to the party’s expectations.

Indeed, the DI-ites have ample reason to fear BOTH of these potential problems. None of their crap can pass ANY “scientific reliability” tests. As for their opinions not living up to the party’s expectations, well heck, DI was blithering for YEARS that they had an “alternative scientific theory”. NOW, after the Dover-ites took them at their word and tried to push this “alternative scientific theory” into classrooms, NOW the DI-ites are changing their tune to “well, you see, we don’t REALLY have any alternative scientific theory after all — so sorry to give y’all the impression that we DID.”

Not to mention the fact that DI’s, uh, “fundraising appeal” (AKA The Wedge Document) explicitly stated that it had an alternative scientiifc theory that it wanted taught. If, indeed, they DON’T, that sounds an awful lot like “raising money under false pretenses”, which is also known as “fraud”.

Everyone who sent DI a check should sue them.

To the lawyers out there: Am I making a misapplication since Daubert refers to product liability and toxic torts? The Ninth Circuit did have an intersting comment about Daubert concerning their role as gatekeepers, though:

Our responsibility, then, unless we badly misread the Supreme Court’s opinion,is to resolve disputes among respected, well-credentialed scientists about matters squarely within their expertise, in areas where there is no scientific consensus as to what is and what is not “good science,”and occasionally to reject such expert testimony because it was not “derived by the scientific method.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. (9th Cir.1995) 43 F.3d 1311, 1316. [emphasis mine]

No, you’ve got it right. Daubert IS the test that federal judges are to use when exercising their “gatekeeper” function over the admission of scientific testimony in ANY kind of case where such testimony is in issue. It’s just that product liability and toxic torts are the kinds of cases that most frequesntly tend to raise those kinds of issues. But the same thing can happen with DNA testing in criminal or paternity cases, or really in any kind of case where a less-than-well-settled issue of science somehow becomes involved.

Some state courts follow that test too, where others continue to follow an older test having to do with whether the testifying expert is appropriately qualified and whether the scientific opinion proffered is generally accepted by experts in the field. The two tests can, at times, yield different results, but generally both tests are intended to ensure that “junk” science is kept out of the courts–of course, different experts can still reach differing conclusions starting with roughly the same set of facts…and unlike science, the courts don’t get to revisit the same observations and hypotheses again and again until they get them “right.”

Rev Flank wrote:

“Everyone who sent DI a check should sue them.”

To which I add - I’m not an attorney, but it sounds to me as if even a small number of people who did so could initiate a class action law suit on behalf of everyone else who wanted to do so.

This is a highly reasonable suggestion, in terms of Dover County and any other place where the misleading claims of the DI have led to substantial waste of public money, as well as in terms of anyone who sent the DI money because they thought that DI REALLY DID have a scientific theory.

What happened in Kansas in 1999 was different - that was literally an effort to censor evolution out of the curriculum, without replacing it with anything. It was probably legal, but proved unpopular when elections rolled around. But in Dover County, they’ve bought the DI’s claims of a scientific theory, wasted a good deal of money and time as a result, and are about to be disappointed.

And it is indeed highly ironic, even offensive, that the name of Thomas More, who died because he refused to bend his conscience to the dictates of the official state religion, is being attached to efforts to force an “official religion” onto children in public schools, regardless of their families’ wishes.

Lenny Wrote:

Everyone who sent DI a check should sue them.

If there really is a good legal basis here, this could be a very important opportunity for two reasons :

1) It would bring a lot of much-needed publicity to the fact that ID is scientifically vacuous, and

2) All the fundies who donated would get their money back to donate to other worthy causes. Like the “Christian Nation” movement, perhaps…

Flint,

The point of Landa’s book is not to reconcile scientists to the Bible, but to reconcile fundamentalists to science. In this endeavor the support of scientists vis-a-vis the cultural war going on is crucial.

Paul,

Surely you can access all the info you need for ordering the book via Bowker. But I am not here to market the book. I came here to solicit opinion.

In this era (no pun intended) of the internet, Jay El Pub has chosen to bypass the archaic book store scene in favor of direct marketing through the websites of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others. We can offer a much better price to the consumer this way. All our books are marketed this way except for bulk sales of educational products to schools, for which we don’t need book stores. Landa’s book is very recent but has already received two very positive reviews (London Chronicle and Jewish Book World magazine). Ads in various media outlets are also planned. For the size of the publisher the book is doing quite well, thank you.

Carol Clouser

The shill speaks.

Comment #36434 Posted by Carol Clouser on June 25, 2005 09:19 PM

Surely you can access all the info you need for ordering the book via Bowker.

Indeed, it was only through Bowker that I was able to discern that the book existed at all. Going direct to the publisher is always possible, but the big chain stores have lines of supply and distribution specifically so that every book order does not become bogged down that way. Just for S’s & G’s I called around to my friends in the other two chain stores in my town and the two independent bookstores. All but one independent couldn’t find the book either, and of course, it was Bowker she found it in. I note that through Bowker, I could not find any books published by Jay El that were not written by Judah Landa, and there were only two of them. When I look up the publishers of other of Landa’s work they have many times the offering of other authors(sometimes many hundreds). Pending evidence to the contrary, I still think the assertian that Jay El is a vanity press of Landa’s is a pretty good one: you haven’t been able to get any chains to pick up your book, and nine months after publication you have been reduced to shilling on internet blogs…

In this era (no pun intended) of the internet, Jay El Pub has chosen to bypass the archaic book store scene in favor of direct marketing through the websites of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others. We can offer a much better price to the consumer this way.

How nice, did you copy that off a marketing brochure? I guess that explains why I can’t find your book, but nobody sneezes at the exposure a brick-and-mortar establishment gives them if they don’t have a choice. Yes, the internet sites sell ooodles of books and bookstores may be technologically archaic in concept, but we haven’t reached dodo status yet. In the past year the Wall Street Journal has had three front page articles about bookstores, and they certainly wouldn’t pay attention to a dying concern. People like to hold a book before buying it. To peruse it, mull it over, and wander the stacks. No internet site can replicate that. The crowds in my town’s five new book and four used book stores bespeak to our resilience. I have any number of people in a given day asking me to find books for them because they want somebody else to do the work for them. Something they can’t get from an internet site. If someone asked me about this book I wouldn’t be able to help them. And, except for creationist apologetics, I love helping people find books. (An aside regarding pricing; your book’s 24.50 list price on Amazon doesn’t compare either favorably or unfavorably with the prices of the books in the religious subject section of my store, which is one of the top five bestselling sections. Perhaps cutting out middleman bookstores just means you make a better profit.)

Landa’s book is very recent but has already received two very positive reviews (London Chronicle and Jewish Book World magazine).

I could be a truly cruel flaming troll and ask if you wrote those reviews as well, but I won’t. I will merely point out that, when I see a review in the New York Times Book Review, I will look for a copy.

For the size of the publisher the book is doing quite well, thank you.

If the shill does say so herself.

But I am not here to market the book.

Well let’s see,

Comment #35975: Posted by Carol Clouser on June 22, 2005 01:12 AM “Folks, there is no way around this but to read the book!”

Much easier to do if you buy it first.

Comment #36002: Posted by Carol Clouser on June 22, 2005 03:38 PM “Bottom line, Mark, you are doing yourself a disservice by jusr sniping from the sidelines. Read the book (it is easily available on Amazon, I will helpfully provide you with the ISBN # 0963971611)”

Why don’t you just fill out the order form for Dr Perakh while your at it, too. (Oh and a nitpick as well, the pound sign(#) after ISBN is redundant.)

Comment #36002: Posted by Carol Clouser on June 22, 2005 03:38 PM “we cannot discuss this intelligently in a vacuum. I have read the book…”

Implication; buy the book so you too can read it.

Comment #36070: Posted by Carol Clouser on June 23, 2005 09:41 AM For your info, Jay El Pub produces a wide array of material on a wide array of topics.…..If you would like a catalogue I will be happy to send you one.

No, that’s not marketing, in this country of capitalism gone crazy, where even high school students regard college applications as marketing tools, that’s not marketing.

All this not marketing is coming from someone who knows the book is not in bookstores and probably in very few libraries. How else could anybody read the the book except to buy it.

Am I missing something here?

Isn’t it obvious that “Jay El” is the phonetic spelling of JL, which coincidentally happen to be the initials of Judah Landa?

…of course, maybe the company founder was a Mrs. Jane Lovejoy… but somehow I doubt it.

Before I leave you to shaking your fist in the empty air, there were a few other things that rankled me, which I did not see others mention. Comment #36002 Posted by Carol Clouser on June 22, 2005 03:38 PM

Third, your argument that Judah Landa cannot possibly be right because nobody thought of it up to now, is prima facia nonsense. Had Einstein had that attitude in 1905, special relativity would not have seen the light of day.

I realize that often specific examples are used as rhetorical devices to illustrate a more general principle and that to get bogged down arguing the specific example is to forget that the point of the argument lies elsewhere. But I think your specific example is rubbish and therefore can’t support your general case. Your assertian that Special Relativity could not have been discovered without Einstein is prima facia nonsense. S. Relativity was (not to diminish Einstein’s great genuis one iota) in the cards at the turn of the twentieth century. Very specific and quantifiable problems existed in physics, everybody was thinking about them, and somebody was going to formulate S.R.’s principles. To pull just two names from the hat: Lorentz was as close as any of a score of the great physicists of the period, and Poincare practically had S. Relativity screaming at him in the face. And I think my counter-example does discredit your general case. There were 4, maybe 5, orders of magnitude fewer physicists of that period than there have been rabbis, hebrew, and talmudic scholars arguing this stuff for the last 2,000 years, and I can name two besides Einstein who could have come up with S. Relativity. Landa has not come up with anything that could not have already been argued hundred times over. The fact that he can make yet one more argument demonstrates that consensus is never going to happen, and everything boils down to cheerleading, something you seem well equipped to do.

Amiel Rossow indicated that a list of your publications is available on Google. Now, I don’t consider myself an expert at googling, but I’m no slouch either, and try as I might I can’t for the life of me find a website for your company. You would think that a company that has staked it’s existence on the internet would at least have a frig’gin webpage. In the world of selling, making things easy for the customer beats making it hard for them any day.

Comment #36070: Posted by Carol Clouser on June 23, 2005 09:41 AM

Then you come to his defense by looking for fraud in the messenger (me). What a great demonstration of scientific open mindedness! I wonder what your colleagues think about such behavior.

I am not one of Amiel’s colleagues (I’m just a troll) but I think his behavior was so much more appropriate than yours. Fraud may be too strong a word, but I like it. And Amiel wasn’t looking to defend Dr Perakh but to investigate a suspicious commenter. As far as your behavior is concerned: Comment #36026: Posted by Carol Clouser on June 22, 2005 08:57 PM

Folks, Before some of you get carried away congratulating yourselves on your great detective work, here are the simple facts:

You would never have disclosed your ‘simple facts’ if Amiel had not done his detective work. So we all congratulate him.

Comment #36434 Posted by Carol Clouser on June 25, 2005 09:19 PM

Flint, The point of Landa’s book is not to reconcile scientists to the Bible, but to reconcile fundamentalists to science. In this endeavor the support of scientists vis-a-vis the cultural war going on is crucial.

The dissonance that many people feel between their beliefs and the fact of biological evolution is the tool (weapon?) used by fundamentalist leaders for controlling their flocks in the cultural war. Try and remove that weapon from their armory and see what happens to the idea that a mistranslation is all that stands between us and scientific harmony. In as much as scientists have no way of using science to support or oppose one side or the other, it is proper that they stay out of such a debate. Especially if fundies try to accuse ‘Landans’ of twisting the bible with deceitful translations, scientists don’t need to be associated with them.

Comment #36002 Posted by Carol Clouser on June 22, 2005 03:38 PM

Carol is not Mark. Their approaches are VERY different.

Going back to the only real lie you can be pinned to: Comment #35941 Posted by Carol Clouser on June 21, 2005 03:56 PM

I found the book at www.Amazon.com and…

Indeed, Carol is not Mark. Having read quite a bit now about Dr Perakh’s eighty odd years, I regard him as an honest and good human being.

Shake your fist all you like now, I’m done.

Paul Flocken,

I do not run the company nor is marketing my responsibility. I came here to discuss a book with which I was thoroughly familiar ON THE MERITS. When people started commenting on the issues raised in the book without having read it, I recommended that they read it. That is all.

What all this demonstrates is that some scientists are just as human as some fundamentalists - both sides are incapable of calmly and objectively listening to opposing arguments on sensitive issues. Instead of responding to my citations of ‘yom’ meaning ‘era’ on the merits, we have people slamming doors on their way out and seeking to attack the proponent of the argument. As if that has anything to do with anything.

Your taking words of mine out of context and twisting some imprecisions in those words into major crimes, is not appreciated. But I am not shaking my fist. Instead I offer my sympathy at your predicament, which is: how do I demolish the argument without reading the book?

Yes, special relativity would most likely have been developed without Einstein over time, probably in bits and pieces. But not as a package in 1905.

The “thousands of rabbis over thousands of years” had no reason to suspect that the nuances of their translations carry heavy baggage - conflict with as yet undiscovered science. So they opted for the simplest most common translations. But they would agree that Landa’s translations constitute sound and reasonable Hebrew and, if alive today, might very well reconsider (as many rabbis have indeed been doing). At least that is Landa’s contention. And there is nothing wrong with this approach. Science always accomodates theory to fit the data. So the “thousands of rabbis” theme repeated here lately ad nauseum is an irrelevancy.

Back to sunstance: What about the five citations where ‘yom’ means ‘era’ even with a number associated with the term? There are many more, but let us focus on these. They are: Hosea 6:2, Psalms 86:3, Genesis 2:4, Psalms 137:7 and Hosea 2:2.

Carol

The point of Landa’s book is not to reconcile scientists to the Bible, but to reconcile fundamentalists to science. In this endeavor the support of scientists vis-a-vis the cultural war going on is crucial.

Then why do you wish to argue these points HERE, where for the most part contributors are concerned with science. Very few people here have any control over, or even participate in, fundamentalist interpretations of scriptures.

Let’s all hope you are right, and that fundamentalists who purchase your favorite book are gripped by Truth as by an electric current, rejoice at discarding the error of their lifelong convictions, and embrace the scientific method in all its tentative and falsifiable glory. The best way to test this hypothesis is at a fundamentalist website. Telling us at PT we don’t know what the Bible “really” says (even those of us fluent in Hebrew, which I take it you can’t read at all) and that we’re too closed-minded to listen (even those who have used their fluency to read this very material in its entirety several times) makes you no converts and no friends.

Sure, we may all be as wrong as the many thousands of native-speaking Hebrew scholars whose knowledge is so obsolete. But as I think we agree, this is irrelevant. Go preach to the fundamentalists, where your proper target audience is to be found.

Carol Clouser Wrote:

I came here to discuss a book with which I was thoroughly familiar ON THE MERITS. When people started commenting on the issues raised in the book without having read it, I recommended that they read it. That is all.

No, that’s not all. Propriety and good sense, if you had either, would have caused you to disclose your association with the publisher both here and at Amazon.com.

Carol Clouser Wrote:

Yes, special relativity would most likely have been developed without Einstein over time, probably in bits and pieces. But not as a package in 1905.

That statement is positively Hovindish. It’s amazing to me that an educated person could come to a blog run by scientists, and frequented by other scientists and science junkies, and post something so blindingly ignorant.

I have a BA in physics, and that statement (I’m seeing it entirely by itself, with no modifying context) look fine, and not Hovindish.

Flint,

First, I am quite fluent in Hebrew and science and a few other things (if that matters). One does not become a scholarly books editor on a whim, believe me.

Second, science and scientists are one side of the war. And not the winning side, despite some court victories. We (and I am one of you) need a different strategy. Beating our opponents with ridicule just causes them to come out and vote in ever greater numbers, as the last election demonstrated. It is a losing proposition.

Besides, I was just trying to have a nice discussion with some intelligent people. Why is that “preaching”? Just because the Bible is part of the discussion?

Carol

Perhaps what Jim meant was, relativity was already being developed in bits and pieces by people such as Poincare and Lorentz. Well, it was, that’s true. On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies was still a phenomenal set of ideas, though.

Beating our opponents with ridicule just causes them to come out and vote in ever greater numbers, as the last election demonstrated.

It did? Who was beating whom with ridicule? Specifics, please.

Carol:

So you think fundamentalists will “rejoice at discarding the error of their lifelong convictions, and embrace the scientific method in all its tentative and falsifiable glory” if you can get a bunch of scientists to argue about possible interpretations of ambiguous words in ancient Hebrew, on a website precious few fundamentalists would read even if all of them had heard of it? Really?

I can agree if you are implying that this is a battle of hearts and minds, and the use of brains is really useless. You really have come to the wrong place. The Bible is not a biology text. Much as you may wish otherwise, it’s not part of the discussion. And I submit that science is, very slowly, winning this battle. As a scholarly book editor, surely are aware of the difference between the role religious ritual and doctrine play in public life today as opposed to 50, 100, and 150 years ago. The trend at this 50-year-increment remove is unmistakeable.

Another indication is that we are not really fighting against the broad majority of scientifically unexposed but sensible people, but rather against those whom scientific advance has forced into rote and rigid rejection. They fight a rearguard battle, losing ground within a culture where science is valued and honored. Contrast with the Islamic world, where the very concept of the scientific method is deeply suspect, and where being primitive and backward is the only badge of honor progress has left to them.

The majority of American Christians (and Jews) accepts that the Bible was written by primitive people. Perhaps their words were inspired, but people wrote them down. And so most people can recognize that God’s Creation itself is the primary source, and what some poorly informed interpreters wrote about that Creation thousands of years ago is at best a poor secondary source. And therefore, any apparent conflict between “objective reality” and what some people once wrote can ONLY result from human error in either the original writing, or our interpretation of that writing, or both.

And so what you claim for Landa really resembles a majority position, if not with respect to the meanings of Hebrew words, at least with respect to the irrationality of most Biblical literalism. There is no prospect of “converting” any appreciable number of fundamentalist creationists. There is a very good prospect of making science “real” enough to their children to break the cycle. And to do this, scientists need to do science and try to ensure that science is presented correctly. Not discuss Hebrew.

Steve and Paul,

Special relativity was indeed “in the air” in the years just prior to 1905. Lorentz and others were staring it in the face and the expression represented by gamma (one over the root of one minus v squared over c squared) which appears so often in SR was beginning to appear in the literature. But they all (except for Einstein) failed to make the intellectual leap to the point that time and length are not invariant across inertial frames of reference and that the speed of light is invariant. Why was that leap so hard to make? Why did it take Einstein’s intellectual courage to make it? Because nobody had thought of it before! They couldn’t fathom that all the great luminaries of physics over decades and everyone’s basic assumptions about time and length could be faulty. In other words, they hesitated to go against what everyone believed!

This why my bringing up SR as an example is right on target. It is actually a perfect fit! I was told Landa cannot possibly be right because “thousands of rabbis over thousands of years” had thought differently. Besides the fact that this is not correct, it is the wrong attitude. And the story of SR demonstrates just that. And for scientists here to take that attitude just goes to show that .… (I will leave it for others to fill in the blank).

The problem actually goes deeper. Scientists are supposed to look at facts, fundamentalists tend to refer to a “higher authority”. I was actually told to desist because higher authorities disagreed with me and Landa. Scientists here sound very much like fundamentalists when sensitive issues come up.

I am still waiting for a response to my five citations.

Flint,

I can agree with much of what you said. But the bottom line is that scientists have a social responsibility as educators of all people. And it is in our interest as scientists to do so. The fact that the Bible, taken on its own terms, does not conflict with science, as Landa demonstrates, is a huge point that is just too important to ignore. I am not sure who, what or how this message is to be conveyed, but conveyed it needs to be.

Carol Clouser

Carol:

The fact that the Bible, taken on its own terms, does not conflict with science, as Landa demonstrates

The problem with the message is, it comprises only a very very small minority of all scriptural analysis. If you persist in referring this minority view as a “fact” you will get little positive attention from scientists. After all, every creationist refers to his own interpretation as a “fact”. How are your preferred interpretations any more factual than theirs? Because you believe them real real hard? And they don’t? Because your selected Biblical authorities are “right” and theirs are not? It’s a fact that Landa is in a small minority. It cannot be a “fact” that his interpretation is correct, because it’s an interpretation. You have made it redundently clear that your opinion is your measure of factuality. Try the following on for size: “Gee, some of these people know a lot more than I do, and they disagree with me. Could it possibly that I am wrong? Could it possibly be that Landa is wrong? How would I know?”

Doesn’t fit, does it? We’re pretty accustomed to people whose opinions have ossified beyond accommodation of conflicting views, no matter how well attested.

Tell you what. If you can get one noted creationist to even *listen* to you, I’ll be impressed. Even if all you can elicit from them is ridicule, at least you’ll have captured their attention momentarily, and I’ll be impressed. Meanwhile, I agree it’s the social responsibility of scientists to do and teach science. The Bible is stonkingly irrelevant.

Flint,

I need to rephrase that sentence, it didn’t precisely express what I was trying to say. (This happens when I type quickly in such media.) It should have said, “The proposition that a reasonable translation of the Biblical story of creation can be made that does not conflict with any tenet of modern science, even if the Bible is interpreted literally, is a huge point that is too important to ignore.”

By the way, your challenge has already been fulfilled and you can be impressed. I myself have attended conferences where Landa’s ideas were presented, either by Landa or others familiar with them, and it gave “cause for pause” to more than one fundamentalist.

Don’t under-estimate the human mind. Despite its shortcomings it never ceases to amaze!

Carol

“Carol,” Flint’s challenge, fairly construed, would require you to provide the NAME of a “noted creationist” and the OCCASION and DATE on which they gave a fair listen to Landa’s reasoning. Just making the naked claim that some creationist at some conference at some date was in your mind given pause won’t quite cut it, at least among this group…

And, it’s again going to seem a little bit implausible that some marketing employee in this publishing enterprise would have had the time and budget to spare to attend conferences, plural, on this narrow topic involving just one of the publisher’s titles.

Carol:

I certainly wish you lots of success. I’m probably the wrong person for you to talk to, since I have no realistic hope of ever grasping what might go through the mind of the Believer. But as an outsider, I see that they don’t “believe in the Bible” regardless of which translation you present; rather they use the Bible (or more properly, their peculiar interpretations of selected verses) to support positions that seem to arise from less intellectual urges – prejudices, hatreds, early training, insecurities, fears, aversion to doubt. At least these are the motivations of the pure creationists, which may be a subset of the fundamentalists.

My understanding is that the “young earth” calculations are riddled with unlikely assumptions having little to do with any of the actual statements the Bible contains, in ANY translation. Why would anyone believe such a thing in that case? My guess is, they do so in order to deny implications about their own history they don’t wish to face. They fear their lives are “meaningless” (a term whose actual intent has always escaped me). To neutralize this concern, they “discover” that the Bible says what they WISH it to say. I simply can’t picture Landa’s interpretation alleviating these concerns anymore than assuring an agoraphobic that “there’s nothing to worry about.” The source of the problem isn’t scripture, scripture is simply a convenient rationalization.

There is a tension in all people, I speculate, between the desire to be sure, and the desire to be correct. You can have either one, at the expense of the other. Science as a profession attracts those at the far end of the curve, who are willing to entertain vast doubts to purchase greater accuracy. But many of those we talk to here cannot seem to understand even the idea of uncertainty. To them, science is just another religion, whose set-in-stone doctrines are intolerable. The ONLY way they can grasp science’s admission of possible error, is as a confession of total error. And they regard tentative conclusions as a weakness rather than as a strength. So far, none of us have found any way to communicate at that level.

So even if Landa’s interpretations are a scholarly breakthrough more soundly insightful into the minds of the ancients, we make no headway in this deeper issue. Apparently “meaning” is available to some only after all possible doubt has been dispelled. Science would make no progress convincing such people that some scientifically compatible interpretation were absolute truth instead. The goal is to discard absolute truth, not rearrange it.

Steviepinhead, The shill would have you know that she is NOT a marketing employee. SHE is the SCHOLARLY BOOK EDITOR.

Ms. Clouser a reply forthcoming, but not quickly. I compose with great difficulty, not quickly at all, and I sometimes wonder if the amyloid hasn’t started building up. Paul

Carol Clouser Wrote:

the Bible, taken on its own terms, does not conflict with science

False. Right from the beginning the bible is wrong and it doesn’t improve with distance through it nor with time nor with re-translation and re-interpretation. Since I’ve already pointed out examples for you in this very thread, you are either incompetent or dishonest. Eg:

SEF Wrote:

even re-ordering the days/eras won’t save the bible from being unscientific rubbish. It has fish and birds together in one (5) and land beasts in another (6) whereas land beasts have to come between fish and birds. Did you genuinely not know this? Was Landa similarly ignorant or just(!) careless and dishonest?

Paul, you are correct, but it was so many comments ago–and with the whole slew of intervening comments about where and how to buy the book–that I had forgotten. I won’t say the story keeps changing, but the relevant facts do seem to be doled out only under duress.

Still, this seems to me to be one heck of an ODD small scholarly publishing house, with enough of a budget to send anyone BUT THE AUTHOR to “conferences” at which the “scholarly book editor” would be rubbing elbows with creationists. But not enough of a budget to list the book with the usual outlets. And what kind of conferences? And why pay for an editor–who presumably ought to be busy with forthcoming offerings–to schmooze with the conferees?

Flint,

Thank you for taking the time to write thoughtful and insightful comments, especially the third paragraph of comment #36642. It sounded eerily like position and momentum in quantum mechanics applied to human behavior.

I guess it’s a question of attitude. You probably are just more pessimistic and cynical than I am. I prefer not to dwell on psycoanalyzing people’s motives and optimistically focus on the positive possibilities. (Which is why I will not respond to the bafoons who continue to bait me with epitephs.)The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Carol

Comment #36535: Posted by Carol Clouser on June 27, 2005 02:18 PM

I do not run the company nor is marketing my responsibility. I came here to discuss a book with which I was thoroughly familiar ON THE MERITS. When people started commenting on the issues raised in the book without having read it, I recommended that they read it. That is all.

You seem a little peeved that people here with the knowledge to do so would attack the thesis of this book without bothering to read it first. How dare they. Am I reading you right? But suppose the opposite had happened. Suppose everyone here had fallen all over themselves to heap praise, cheers, and sycophancy on this book as you have done with your endless cheerleading. But, if they haven’t read the book, would that have been any more legitimate? You came here to “solicit an opinion” and discuss this book “ON THE MERITS”, as you said, but from whom? It is practically impossible that anyone who frequents this blog would have read your book. How could uninformed opinions have any value to you or anyone else? If what you want is cheerleading and not critical analyse by people with what little information they DO have available then you are in the wrong place. Once you recommended that they read the book you could have simply left it at that. But you seem just as intent on shoving this down our throats as we do on not having it shoved down our throats. I am right now reading a book about the early bible that was recommended by Dr Elsberry some weeks back. I am not hostile to the idea of reading something new and probably no one else here is either. But your absolute insistence that we are about to be saved by this book and the Iamright/youarewrong routine has turned off even those who might have been strongly interested in it. You sound like you are on a crusade, something we have learned to recognize very quickly. Perhaps you OUGHT to go to work for the marketing dept. They may help you to realize how not to turn off a group of potential buyers. I’ll repeat something from earlier. The religion section of my bookstore is one of the five bestselling sections. If I could have found this book through normal channels it would now be on its way to my store and would eventually wind up on a shelf where I could point it out to people. Do I really care now? NOPE.

Your taking words of mine out of context and twisting some imprecisions in those words into major crimes, is not appreciated.

As I’ve said before, I am only a troll here, not a scientist, and I have probably abused the comment integrity policy more than my fair share. But let me try and get this into your eyes. YOU. ARE. THE. SHILL. HERE. Caught red handed. Who are you to demand courtesy? Especially considering, as I said above, the endless Iamright/youarewrong yammering. Enough said on that.

But I am not shaking my fist. Instead I offer my sympathy at your predicament, which is: how do I demolish the argument without reading the book?

I don’t need your sympathy. I know the thesis is wrong without having to demolish internally. Reality demolishes it externally just fine. I am an atheist, and as such I know the bible is a piece of human fiction, with no more bearing on physical reality then the Eddas, the Vedas, the Iliad, or Tolkien’s Silmarillian. It matters not one whit to me how you translate it. No translation will ever make the bible correspond to the facts of reality because it is FICTION. What is worse is that trying to make it do so is bad theology(whoever has used this phrase before, please forgive). I believe it was Michael Shermer who said it is a bad idea to try and make your theology conform to science because science changes. Let’s use Bill De(u)mbski’s little space alien scenario as an extreme example. Suppose space aliens landed on earth and showed in convincing detail and with highly advanced equipment how they created all life on earth. What translation of the bible would you turn to to square with that knowledge?

Yes, special relativity would most likely have been developed without Einstein over time, probably in bits and pieces. But not as a package in 1905.

When I first read this I pulled down my copy of On the ElectroDynamics of Moving Bodies off the shelf and thumbed through it wondering how it could be broken up into bits and pieces. Perhaps the kinematics half could have been published by suchandsuch and the electrodynamical half would have been published by soandso. Then I realized I was looking at it wrong. S.R. WAS developed in bits and pieces, as Steve pointed out. From the 1860’s when Maxwell firsted demonstrated the computational derivation of light waves, to the Michelson interferometry work of the 1880’s, to Mach’s screaming about throughing the ether bums out the window on their ear, to Poincare’s work establishing time sync. systems throughout the world, to Lorentz’s mathematical treatments. Each of these was a step to S.R. Einstein culminated all these steps with a synthesis that was genius but was yet just another step, and I should think that by definition a synthesis is not something that can be broken into bits and pieces. And Einstein was not perforce the ONLY person in history who could have created that synthesis. I think you demonstrate a poor grasp of how science works and that is what Jim Wynne meant when he referred to you as hovindlike.

But notice how your argument changed from the first Einstein assertian to the second. Your first assertian was that S.R. would never have seen the light of day without Einstein. When I countered that, you trivialized what I said without actually answering me. Do you really think that today, in the year 2005, modern science would still be hampered by the null result of Michelson’s experiment, if Einstein had never lived? That’s a very fatuous position to hold.

But they would agree that Landa’s translations constitute sound and reasonable Hebrew and, if alive today, might very well reconsider (as many rabbis have indeed been doing). At least that is Landa’s contention. And there is nothing wrong with this approach. Science always accomodates theory to fit the data.

Are we talking science here, or linguistics? Because, as has already been pointed out, the art of translation is, well, an ART not a science. And did I see you use the word contention? What Landa needs to do is get a majority consensus from the Hebrew academic world on his contention and then bring it out to the rest of the world. That is how it would work in the science world, something we can’t seem to get ID’ers to realize.

In all this useless blather over a “scholarly” book from a piddley little “publisher” that nobody will ever read anyway, let’s not lose sight of the thing that started this thread:

William Dembski wrote:

Dear Ed. I have nothing to hide in this matter. If you like, give me a call at 1-254-710-4928 (leave a message with a number where I can reach you if I’m not in). I’ll be happy to answer your questions.

I take him at his word that he has nothing to hide (and that is genuine - I really don’t think he has anything to hide in this regard). Thus, there is no reason to hold that conversation in private and then report back here on what he says. Best to have it in public in his own words than to work through a middle man.

Of course, you could ASK for permission to record and transcribe the conversation, but who wants to take a bet that the persons we’re talking about will actually agree to THAT …

Well heck, let’s find out . …

Mr Dembski, do you have any objection to having the phone conversation you have issued an invitation for, recorded and transcribed?

[sound of crickets chirping]

Dembski offered to give an “explanation”, Dembski was asked to give that “explanation” publicly in writing, Dembski ran away.

Sounds to me as if Dembski might have “something to hide” after all . … . .

Or maybe, like all other IDers, he’s just lethally allergic to answering direct questions.

Yes, it does seem to be an unusual/revealing choice of behaviour. I on the other hand prefer things to be out in public and despise the private messaging and emails - including when those are ones of support which people are too cowardly to put up on site (ie not just ill-founded views or misdirected attacks which the incompetent, dishonest and nasty people would rather keep secret for fear of other people being able to pass judgement).

It looks (rightly or wrongly) as though Dembski would prefer merely to be thought a fool (or coward in this instance) than open his mouth (in public) and confirm it. Of course that interpretation has to assume he doesn’t regard everything else he’s written as already adequately confirming the view!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on June 20, 2005 9:08 AM.

Of Form over Substance: a review of Sermonti was the previous entry in this blog.

Afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower is the next entry in this blog.

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