Sad but true

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Well, I have finally returned from six weeks in Harrisburg at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. I spent Saturday traveling and sleeping, and I spent Sunday cleaning my apartment out from under piles of articles, creationist journals, and other assorted Kitzmiller-related flotsam.

I think it’s clear that the case has gone extremely well thus far, and that the plaintiffs achieved everything they wanted to achieve while putting on their case. But it was an awful lot of work. In a wrapup story, “What’s made Dover unique?”, Lauri Lebo reports,

On a warm Indian summer day, Matzke stopped along a central Pennsylvania hiking trail and examined the leaves of an American chestnut tree for signs of blight. […] Today, botanists say they are close to bringing back the American chestnut, by crossing it with the Chinese chestnut, which carries the blight-resistant gene.

Matzke lives in California, but he has spent the past six weeks in Harrisburg, working on the case for the plaintiffs. This was the first time he had been able to spend time outside.

Sad but true…

(Lebo finally had pity on me and took me outside to get some broader perspectives on the case.)

But I think the lack of sleep and sunlight was worth it. I was incredibly privileged to spend six weeks as the resident evolution/creationism nerd for the plaintiff legal team.

Unfortunately, my blogging also suffered during the trial – first, these lawyers work from 7 am to 11 pm, and second, I didn’t want to accidentally give away any surprises before they were introduced in court. Now that the trial is done and we will be awaiting a decision for several months, I hope to fill everyone in on some of the things that we learned during the case, and what the implications are.

For the moment, let me state that during the case, I felt like I was the courtroom avatar of the online community of creationism watchers found at places like NCSE, PT, TalkOrigins, and TalkDesign. Behe says that Darwin’s Black Box was more peer-reviewed than a journal article? Let’s see what “reviewer” Michael Atchison says. Minnich says that ID is not creationism and talks for hours about the “intelligent design” of the flagellum? Hmm, it might be interesting to bring up this 1994 Creation Science Research Quarterly article on the flagellum and irreducible complexity.

In short, I think part of the reason the Kitzmiller case has gone so well is all of the hard work people have done over the decades keeping track of what the creationists/IDists/sudden emergence theorists have been up to. Several key developments in the case were made possible only because of individual efforts. For example, a volunteer forwarded a document to NCSE in the 1980’s, to be rediscovered by NCSE’s archivist Jessica Moran years later (this was a key piece of evidence that led us to realize that not only was the “intelligent design” of Pandas poorly-disguised creationism – we’ve always known that – but that the very manuscript of Pandas must have originally been explicitly creationist: see “Why didn’t they tell us?” and “I guess ID really was ‘Creationism’s Trojan Horse’ after all”).

Similarly, the writing and posting of Matt Inlay, Andrea Bottaro, and others on the evolution of the immune system was inspirational to me, while pondering how best to show that Behe’s claims about the scientific literature had no clothes. We stacked up 10 books and 58 peer-reviewed articles on the evolutionary origin of the immune system. Whatever the judge thought, it was gratifying to see that some reporters definitely got it, for example, Mike Weiss of the San Francisco Chronicle:

The lead scientific witness for the board was Dr. Michael Behe, a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University and author of “Darwin’s Black Box,” who testified that “the appearance of design in aspects of biology is overwhelming. Intelligent design is based on observed, empirical, physical evidence from nature.”

Behe asserted, as an example, that “scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.”

Under cross-examination, the professor – whose science faculty colleagues at Lehigh University have issued a statement supporting evolutionary theory as established science – was surrounded by stacks of biology and medical texts and peer-reviewed journals piled there by plaintiffs’ attorney Rothschild, who pointed out that all the writings discussed the evolution of the immune system.

The story continues, “But in his three days of testimony, Behe did not budge.” But I think the point was made.

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Missing Link discovered! from Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District on November 7, 2005 9:00 PM

From “creationists” to “cdesign proponentsists”. And the creationists say transitional fossils are never discovered… ... Read More

29 Comments

Welcome back, Nick, and well done!

You wrote

The story continues, “But in his three days of testimony, Behe did not budge.” But I think the point was made.

Freud was mistaken in many respects, but his description of ego defense mechanisms is sometimes right on. Behe beautifully exemplifies denial, one of the most powerful defense mechanisms.

RBH

You are my hero. The laywers on our side really came across well from the bits and pieces I’ve been reading and I think that’s in no small part due to your efforts in bringing all the work of bloggers on the Internet to them.

Matzke stopped along a central Pennsylvania hiking trail

Was that the Appalachian Trail? It’s the only thing I miss about Pennsylvania. (Well, that and the shoofly pie.)

BTW, great job. Let’s just hope that, if the current board members get kicked out on their butts tomorrow, that the new board won’t drop the ID policy until AFTER the judge issues a ruling . … ;>

If you’re ever in Florida, the brews are on me, dude. :>

RBH wrote: “Freud …description of ego defense mechanisms is sometimes right on. Behe beautifully exemplifies denial, one of the most powerful defense mechanisms.”

No kidding! Check this out: http://www.idthefuture.com/2005/11/[…]ial_was.html

Quoting Behe: “As far as the “ordeal” goes, despite what the LA Times article makes it seem, it was actually all rather exhilirating. I rather enjoyed myself on the witness stand, because I got to explain in very great detail the argument for intelligent design, and the other side had to sit there and listen.

The cross examination was fun too, and showed that the other side really does have only rhetoric and bluster. At one point the lawyer for the other side who was cross examining me ostentatiously piled a bunch of papers on the witness stand that putatively had to do with the evolution of the immune system. But it was obvious from a cursory examination that they were more examples of hand waving speculations…”

Quoting Behe: “As far as the “ordeal” goes, despite what the LA Times article makes it seem, it was actually all rather exhilirating. I rather enjoyed myself on the witness stand, because I got to explain in very great detail the argument for intelligent design, and the other side had to sit there and listen. The cross examination was fun too, and showed that the other side really does have only rhetoric and bluster. At one point the lawyer for the other side who was cross examining me ostentatiously piled a bunch of papers on the witness stand that putatively had to do with the evolution of the immune system. But it was obvious from a cursory examination that they were more examples of hand waving speculations…” Wait a second! The ID proponant who admitted not having any experimentation or evidence to back his claims is calling the work on the evolution of the immune system “hand waving speculations”? This is a case of the pot calling the chrome kettle black.

The ID proponant who admitted not having any experimentation or evidence to back his claims is calling the work on the evolution of the immune system “hand waving speculations”?

Well, to be fair, he only did a cursory examination.

/snark

morbius wrote: “Well, to be fair, he only did a cursory examination.”

And that’s all that’s needed when you have faith. In fact, anything else could get you into trouble.

Behe thinks Denial is a river in Egypt.

He has obviously forgotten that his mind wandered off the rails into the great unknown on the witness stand, a veritable Pandora’s box of fanciful illusions and those magic thoughts are permanently on the public record before it slammed shut.

It slammed shut when one fanciful illusion overpowered the rest.

The ID’ers are all patting each other on the back because they were all shouting “its GOD you fools” and Behe confirmed their illusion. It must be comfortable when you suppress the great fear of having sex with your mother.

The power of magical persuasion over sheep is no great thing if you have ever herded sheep, believe me a child can do it.

I think if he even re-read his own testimony he would not see the pure ridiculousness of his dissembling. The sheer power of magical thought to fool its owners is one of the true enigmas of the naked ape.

I wonder what he makes of “There is no God and Mary is his mother.”

Wow. Above, someone linked to Michael Behe’s reply to news commentary on his cross-examination.

Michael Behe Wrote:

As far as the “ordeal” goes, despite what the LA Times article makes it seem, it was actually all rather exhilirating. I rather enjoyed myself on the witness stand, because I got to explain in very great detail the argument for intelligent design, and the other side had to sit there and listen.

The cross examination was fun too, and showed that the other side really does have only rhetoric and bluster. At one point the lawyer for the other side who was cross examining me ostentatiously piled a bunch of papers on the witness stand that putatively had to do with the evolution of the immune system. But it was obvious from a cursory examination that they were more examples of hand waving speculations…

Keep in mind that this is coming from a guy who has nothing better than “IDdidit” to offer as an explanation.

I’m also impressed with Behe’s ability to dismiss the work of dozens of evolutionary immunologists, all of whom know far more about the topic than Behe, all without even reading their work.

Eric Rothschild put it well in the plaintiffs’ closing argument (pdf):

Eric Rothschild Wrote:

It is not just Pandas that is faulty. It is the entire Intelligent Design project. They call it a scientific theory. But they have done nothing. They have produced nothing. Professor Behe wrote in Darwin’s Black Box that if a scientific theory does not publish, it must perish. That is the history of Intelligent Design. As Professor Behe testified, there are no peer reviewed articles in science journals reporting original research or data that argue for Intelligent Design. By contrast, Kevin Padian, by himself, has written more than 100 peer reviewed scientific articles.

Professor Behe’s only response to the Intelligent Design movement’s lack of production was repeated references to his own book, Darwin’s Black Box. He was surprised to find out that one of his purported peer reviewers wrote an article that revealed he had not even read the book. But putting that embarrassing episode aside, consider the following facts. Behe has admitted in his article “Reply to My Critics” that his central challenge to natural selection, irreducible complexity, is flawed because it does not really match up with the claim made for evolution. But he has not bothered to correct that flaw. He also admits that there is no original research reported in Darwin’s Black Box, and in the almost ten years since its publication it has not inspired research by other scientists.

Professor Behe’s testimony and his book Darwin’s Black Box is really one extended insult to hard working scientists, and the scientific enterprise. For example, Professor Behe asserts in Darwin’s Black Box that “the scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system” and “the complexity of the system dooms all Darwinian explanations to frustration.” I showed Professor Behe more than 50 articles, as well as books on the evolution of the immune system. He had not read most of them, but he confidently, contemptuously dismissed them as inadequate. He testified that it is a waste of time to look for answers about how the immune system developed.

Thankfully, there are scientists who do search for answers to the question of the origin of the immune system. For Pete’s sake, this is the immune system – our defense against debilitating and fatal diseases. The scientists who wrote those books and articles toil in obscurity, without book royalties or speaking engagements. Their efforts help us combat and cure serious medical conditions. By contrast, Professor Behe and the entire Intelligent Design Movement are doing nothing to advance scientific or medical knowledge, and are telling future generations of scientists, don’t bother.

…rather enjoyed myself on the witness stand

… and Tom Delay went smiling to his first court hearing regarding the many corruption charges being leveled at him. I saw it; it was spooky, to say the least.

I’m sure many have that famous image of AE Neuman come to mind, saying that now famous quote: “What, me worry?”

http://hypocrisytoday.com/alfred.htm

I’m sure behe is elated he managed to spew so much BS and not have the judge throw him out for contempt of court, or charged with perjury.

OK Nick, time for the trivial questions, did you have a beer with Mike, and was Lauri cute?

Really, you guys were so great! I am having major withdrawl syndrome.

Me too actually. It’s been great watching you guys fight the good fight.

I want to add my thanks to Nick and to everyone else for all the hard work. It is appreciated.

By which I further mean, it has been a great pleasure to read (albeit second- or third-hand) about the plaintiffs’ success in Dover. And that success is due in great part to the hard work Matzke, the rest of the legal team, and bloggers such as PT put into defending science against pseudoscience. Although a shout out is also due to Behe et al., whose incompetence and fake methodology made them easy targets for rational minds.

Well done, Nick and everyone else. Now let us hope that rationality continues to have its days in court.

Behe seems like an interesting character. He testified that not specifying any mechanism was “completely consistent” with “focusing exclusively on the mechanism”, and I’m convinced that he sincerely believes that these statements are completely consistent.

When challenged repeatedly to state the mechanism he said he was focusing on exclusively, he could only say that he didn’t have any known mechanism, except that some higher intelligence was involved. But the involvement of a higher intelligence is a conclusion that can be drawn, if at all, only after exhaustive study of the mechanism in action. Starting with the conclusions, and dismissing as a waste of time even looking for supporting evidence, is the hallmark of religion and as antithetical to science as possible.

Yet Behe believes he “went into great detail” about the science! No wonder he “did not budge” for three days. Faith is impervious to mere evidence. If he *believes* the immune system didn’t evolve, then it didn’t evolve! No amount of studies to the contrary can make any difference; reading them could only reinforce his conviction anyway, so why bother?. We can hope that Judge Jones understood this, enough to recognize that what Behe is doing is not science.

And it’s my understanding that this is important for legal reasons, because if there IS any science hiding in ID, then teaching ID has a valid secular purpose regardless of the religious motivations of those pushing it. So it’s important to articulate as clearly as possible that ID starts with a priori answers, and sees no sense in looking for evidence, which could only support those answers or be “hand-waving speculations” anyway.

Behe Wrote:

I rather enjoyed myself on the witness stand, because I got to explain in very great detail the argument for intelligent design, and the other side had to sit there and listen.

This suggests that Behe likes to explain the view, so the trial wasn’t a complete wash …

Hi Nick,

Great job! Thank you.

Nice job.

Hey, whose idea was it to ask the astrology question? Was that Rothschild’s idea, or did someone else plant it? Brilliant.

as a Pennsylvanian living in Seattle, i just need to say.…. why the hell does this stuff always happen in my home state? friggin’ embarrassment. :-)

Great job Nick!

The cross examination had your fingerprints all over it. My favorite part was when Behe stated that he didn’t think research into the origin of the immune system would be fruitful, almost immediately after being presented with 50+ research articles directly refuting his claim.

This trial is even better than the time that Wells came to UCSD for a talk, and you (with help) wrote that beautiful handout rebutting everything he said (which eventually became the “icon of obfuscation” article), which we passed out immediately before the talk much to Casey Luskin’s chagrin.

Congratulations on a job well done.

well done Nick. It was a terrific case and you folks put in a lot of work.

This trial is even better than the time that Wells came to UCSD for a talk, and you (with help) wrote that beautiful handout rebutting everything he said (which eventually became the “icon of obfuscation” article), which we passed out immediately before the talk much to Casey Luskin’s chagrin.

Yeah, that was fun. Casey was desperate to find out who Nick was. Wells cut of the questions just as I stepped to the mike. That was where I met Wes as well.

The Dover experience must have been fantastic.

as a Pennsylvanian living in Seattle, i just need to say.…. why the hell does this stuff always happen in my home state? friggin’ embarrassment. :-)

As an ex-Pennsylvanian, I’d *like* to say that I improved my situation. But alas, I moved to Flori-duhhhhhhh.

;>

Me too. Moved from Pa. to Colo. We got James Dobsonfly and his organization “focus on the hellgrammite”.

Pennsylvania is a great place to be *FROM*, isn’t it. (grin)

Like I said, the only things I miss are the Appalachian Trail and the shoofly pie.

I *used* to miss the Yeungling Porter, but now I homebrew my own porter (I call it “Viking Piss”). So now I don’t miss that.

But Nick, if you could mail me a couple of shoofly pies before you leave PA, I’d be grateful beyond measure. :>

the pro from dover wrote:

Me too. Moved from Pa. to Colo. We got James Dobsonfly and his organization “focus on the hellgrammite”.

Glad to see that someone else here appreciates Megaloptera (as opposed to megalomania).

And speaking of opposing megalomania: Thanks, Nick, and everyone else who was on the front lines in Dover.

I reprint this whole oped from my local paper. It makes me sick and I have to write a response.

Daniel Leddy’s On The Law column appears each Monday on the Advance Op-Ed Page. His e-mail address is [Enable javascript to see this email address.].

he wrote:

The American Civil Liberties Union scours the nation looking for what it thinks are constitutional violations, and then bullies municipalities and school districts by threatening them with costly litigation if they don’t cease the supposedly offending activity. The organization has been remarkably successful in foisting its left-wing agenda on America, exercising power grossly disproportionate to its relatively small membership. Today, it seems primarily concerned with two issues: Frustrating the government’s efforts to protect this country from terrorism and keeping everything that even hints of religion out of any government-owned landscape, including the nation’s schools. As its position in a case currently pending in Pennsylvania clearly establishes, the ACLU swallows hypocrisy as easily as it emasculates the will of the great majority of Americans. Dover, Pa., is a small, rural town that has given rise to a lawsuit that some see as reminiscent of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.” In October, 2004, the local school board passed a resolution requiring that ninth-grade biology students be told: Darwin’s theory of evolution contains gaps for which there is no evidence; intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view; a reference book entitled “Of Pandas and People” is available for students who want to gain a better understanding of intelligent design; and, as with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. DON’T MENTION IT The school board specifically reaffirmed its overriding responsibility under Pennsylvania academic standards to teach Darwin’s theory of evolution and prepare students for a standardized test encompassing it. Nevertheless, 11 parents initiated suit to stop the school from even mentioning intelligent design or the book explaining it. The ACLU, of course, is on the plaintiffs’ legal team, claiming that the school board’s action constitutes an establishment of religion in violation of the First Amendment. For too long, this organization and its sympathizers have gotten away with ignoring the corollary to their rigid concept of the First Amendment. If, as it claims, absolute neutrality is the constitutional standard, then a governmental entity may not exhibit hostility to religion. Yet, a school that adopts an unflinchingly secular approach to its every undertaking is necessarily asserting that, in the entire body of knowledge it dispenses, there isn’t room for even the possibility of a divine hand. While the ACLU wants to clamp an iron muzzle on the free-speech rights of teachers to merely mention a book like “Of Pandas and People,” it unleashes those teachers who are atheists and secular humanists to instill their beliefs in impressionable young minds. Contrary to the prevailing assumption, the absence of anything religious from school is not neutrality, nor is it reasonable to assume that children will perceive it that way. The moral relativism that permeates segments of society today springs from somewhere, and the most obvious font is a public school system shaped by the ACLU and those who foster its agenda. A DIFFERENT TUNE Interestingly, the ACLU was singing a different tune about teachers’ prerogatives in 1925 when Tennessee passed the Butler Act, making it unlawful for an educator to present a theory at variance with the biblical version of creation. The organization’s attorney, Arthur Garfield Hays, was right there in court with outspoken agnostic Clarence Darrow, defending the right of John Scopes, another recruited plaintiff, to teach evolution. Apparently, the ACLU zealously defends the free-speech rights of teachers as long as they are denigrating God or religion. In its defense, the Dover school board is arguing that certain aspects of life are simply too complex to be adequately explained without the presupposition of an intelligent designer. It is supported by the Discovery Institute which, on its website, reports that over 400 scientists from a variety of disciplines have signed a statement that they are “skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.” Hence the school’s brief statement merely making students aware of the concept of intelligent design, and the book “Of Pandas and People” should they wish to read it. The Dover Panda trial, as it has come to be known, is essentially a silly lawsuit because the proposition that the school’s statement constitutes an establishment of religion is so patently untenable. That some take the case seriously or even view it as historic is not evidence of its merit. On the contrary, according it such undue weight is merely evidence of how successful the ACLU has been in turning neutrality into a synonym for hostility.

Yep, that is a big stinker. Is this Daniel Leddy really a judge?

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on November 7, 2005 5:58 PM.

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