Dover Article in Skeptic

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Burt Humburg and I wrote an article about the Dover trial that includes a lot of background information and behind-the-scenes stuff that most are probably unaware of. It will be in the next issue of Skeptic, but in light of today’s ruling, Michael Shermer, the editor of the magazine, decided to make it available on their website immediately. You can see it here.

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Panda’s Thumb pointed to an excellent article that was about the legal strategy employeed by the plaintiffs in winning the trial in Dover. (Scroll down a little to see the article). What found two things extremely interesting. The first was how... Read More


Great article and I hope someone is going to write a book about the trial.


Thanks, guys!

The article is an excellent reprise overall, but I think a couple of points deserve to be emphasized.

First, this behind-the-scenes look at the trial furnishes even better evidence of the pyschic powers of PT‘s Nick Matzke than does Nick’s other post here today: Nick simply did one heck of a job of intuiting the existence of, and then ferreting out, crucial evidence for presentation at trial:

Jessica Moran, the NCSE archivist, reviewed this file and found a 1987 prospectus for an early version of this book, then to be called Biology and Origins, that had been sent by the owners of the book, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE), to the publishing company Bartlett and Jones encouraging them to publish the book. That document referred explicitly to “creation,” not “intelligent design.” They also had numerous fundraising letters that had been sent out by FTE referring to this book as supporting “creation.” She gave these documents to Nick Matzke, NCSE’s point man working directly with the attorneys, and the search was on for more.

Matzke began to speculate that perhaps there might be language in the earlier version of Pandas that used creation science terminology rather than the more legally sophisticated terminology favored by ID advocates today. In an email to the Pepper Hamilton attorneys, Matzke wrote, “I am reasonably sure that the word ‘creation’ would be substituted for ‘design’ or ‘intelligent design’ at many points within that manuscript. This would prove our point in many ways. We have a couple written sources indicating that picking the words ‘intelligent design’ was one of the very last things that Charles Thaxton did during the development of Pandas.” Thaxton was the academic editor of Pandas. But did that manuscript still exist? If indeed it did refer to creationism or creation science rather than to intelligent design, one would think that the FTE would have destroyed it long ago. The attorneys decided to take a shot and subpoena any early drafts of the book that FTE might have. This turned out to be a key turning point in the case.

In the early part of July, the attorneys received the documents that FTE produced in response to that subpoena. They could not possibly have imagined in advance the bounty they would find in that batch of documents. It turns out that there was not one early draft of Pandas but several, and they had kept copies of all of them. The first was called Creation Biology (1983), followed by Biology and Creation (1986), Biology and Origins (early 1987), and two drafts with the final title Of Pandas and People, both from 1987. The final version was published in 1989, with a revised edition released in 1993. Not only did the early drafts use various cognates of clearly creationist language — creation science, creation, creationist, etc. — rather than “intelligent design,” they also used the very same definitions for both, with only the change in the word being defined. *** This was truly a “Eureka!” moment for the plaintiff’s team. Here was undeniable proof that Pandas had begun as a creationist textbook and, after the Edwards ruling ruled creationism out of schools, the creationists simply changed their terminology, replacing “creation” with “intelligent design” and giving both terms an identical definition. This provided substantial evidence that intelligent design was simply creationism retrofitted to adapt to modern court rulings and would bode well for the plaintiffs’ case.

And, of course, Nick also tracked down some “killer” material with which to cross-examine the hapless Dr. Behe:

On the stand, Behe tried to establish that his book had been subjected to peer review, one of the bedrock processes of vetting the credibility of scientific writings. He testified that his book had undergone even more thorough review than a normal journal article would have because of the controversial nature of the subject. He specifically named Dr. Michael Atchison of the University of Pennsylvania as one of the book’s reviewers. But NCSE’s Matzke remembered an article written by Atchison in which he stated that he had not reviewed the book at all but had only held a ten minute phone conversation with the book’s editor over the general content. When the plaintiffs’ attorney introduced this article during cross-examination, it was clearly a blow to Behe’s claim that his book had “received much more scrutiny and much more review before publication than the great majority of scientific journal articles.”

Well done, Nick!

The whole article is well worth reading, even if you’ve been following the progress of the lawsuit all along. Burt and Ed’s apt conclusion will serve as just one example of their sharp writing throughout:

Kitzmiller provides an excellent case study of evolution in action; ironically, in this case how the language of creationists has adapted to changing cultural environments. The defense argued that Intelligent Design is an entirely new species unrelated to creation science, and the plaintiffs expertly demonstrated both the clear ancestral relationship between creationism and ID and the selective pressure of higher court decisions that caused the speciation. With that phylogenetic relationship clearly established in the trial, the judge evidently decided that creationism had not mutated enough to survive as the new species of Intelligent Design.

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This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on December 20, 2005 9:53 PM.

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